Set Your Free Scroll Free

I don't normally do technology reviews and how-tos here, but I just spent two hours doing something that should have only taken a few minutes. I thought I'd post what I learned in hopes that someone else might avoid a similar hassle.

If you own a Mac and are thinking about buying a Logitech MX Revolution mouse - you'll want to read this (and probably bookmark it too).

Years ago, I bought a Logitech MX700 mouse. I got so much use out of it that I wore the paint off where my fingers touched the buttons. When it finally died last month, I bought a Logitech MX Revolution mouse to replace it.

MX Revolution

If you're thinking about buying an MX Revolution, here are some tips:

DO IT! I've never seen a better mouse. Neither have most of these people.

BUY IT ONLINE. By searching for it first at Dealmac, I got mine for $49.99 new, with free shipping. Not bad for a mouse that retails for $100.

DON'T INSTALL THE SOFTWARE THAT COMES WITH IT! The software that comes with this mouse is absolutely awful. It barely works, it's prone to crashes, and it renders some of the coolest features of the mouse useless.

Instead, download a copy of SteerMouse. I found it HERE.


SteerMouse gives you the ability to customize the buttons, including the functions of the thumb wheel. I have mine set to zoom in and out in photoshop, and to page up and down in Safari.

Configuring extra buttons takes some figuring out though, since SteerMouse only lists the buttons as 4, 5, 6... etc.

Here's the list of which numbers refer to which buttons on the MX Revolution:

Button 4 is the forward arrow thumb-button.
Button 5 is the back arrow thumb-button.
Button 6 is the button directly behind the scroll wheel.
Button 7 is the scroll wheel, tilted/pushed left.
Button 8 is the tilt wheel, tilted/pushed right.
Button 9 is the thumb wheel rolled forward (away from you).
Button 10 isn't used...
Button 11 is the thumb wheel rolled backward (towards you).
Button 12 isn't used...
Button 13 is the thumb wheel clicked as a button.
Buttons 14, 15 and 16 aren't used...

OK! So, you've configured all of the buttons to do whatever you want them to do. There's one more important setting to set.


The MX Revolution has the most amazing scroll wheel I've ever seen. It doesn't feel cheap and plastic at all... it feels like a machine. It can scroll with a soft "click-click-click" like a typical scroll wheel, and it can roll quickly and smoothly for a hyper-fast free scroll. That's great for whipping through a long document, or for quickly scrolling to the top or bottom of a long web page. To get this working properly, you'll need to decide how you want your scroll wheel to work, and then you'll have to type code into terminal.

It's easier than it sounds...

First, here are your scroll wheel options! These are numbered from -3 to 12 (the number will be important).

-3 is Manual Shift. Click the wheel to change between free-scroll and standard-scroll modes.

-2 is Free-scroll mode.

-1 is standard scroll mode.

0 through 12 are for Automatic Shift, where the scroll wheel changes from standard scroll to free scroll when it's spun fast enough, and then back again when stopped. The smaller the number, the lighter touch it will take to shift from standard scroll to free-scroll.

For example: a setting of 2 will mean the scroll wheel will switch from standard-scroll to free-scroll with a quick spin of the wheel. A setting of ten will require a harder spin to make the scroll wheel automatically shift from standard to free scroll. I have mine set to 8 because I tend to scroll pretty quickly. A number lower than 8 means the scroll wheel switches modes at times when I don't want it to. I'd recommend starting with either -3 for click to shift, or 6 for a middle of the road auto shift.

Still with me? OK then! Log in to Terminal. If you've never used Terminal before, this will be foreign to you... but just follow along. Mac OS X is based on Unix, and Terminal is where you type Unix commands. You'll find Terminal in a Utilities folder inside of your Applications folder. Double click to open it.

Next, you'll copy the line of code below and paste it into Terminal. Then press return.

defaults write jp.plentycom.SteerMouse LOGITECH_MX_REVOLUTION_WHEEL -int 6

NOTE! That's one line of code. I mention this since it may look like two as posted here. Just copy the whole thing and paste it into terminal, only changing the last number if you choose.

If you want to manually shift the wheel in your mouse, change the 6 to a -3. Or, if you like the auto shift but find you're accidentally going into free scroll when you don't mean to, choose a higher number. Like I said, mine is set to 8.

The last thing you're going to have to do is either restart your Mac, or at least log out and then log back in (bottom of the Apple menu). Once you've done that, your new scroll settings will take effect.

Granted, this seems like a hassle, but believe me - the MX Revolution is an amazing mouse! It's worth it!

::::: | Saturday, Aug 11 2007 at 4:40 PM
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Alice said:

Isn't technology great? Glad you found something cool to share. And I don't mind reading about someone's favorite new thing. Post away.

::::: | August 12, 2007 10:46 PM

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