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I've been using basic mice for a long time but have been thinking of moving either to an ergonomic mouse or trackball. Trackballs seem like they may be better for me, but it seems like manufacturers have neglected the trackball market for a long time and there aren't that many good options available. Something like the Evoluent vertical mouse looks interesting as well. So what exotic pointing device do you use, and why do you like it or not like it?


I ended up going the trackball route and chose the Logitech Cordless Optical Trackman:

Optical Trackman

It was the closest thing I could find to the physical form factor of the Microsoft Intellimouse Trackball Explorer, which was the best reviewed trackball I found in my search, but is no longer manufactured (though for a few hundred bucks you can get old ones on Ebay):

Old MS trackball

I would have preferred a USB wired version but the only one Logitech makes in this form is cordless, with a huge wireless USB dongle. Actually, this trackball doesn't even show up on Logitech's site anymore, I wonder if they are discontinuing it. It's available at Office Depot and Staples as I write this, I've had mine for several months now.

The reasons I chose the trackball, and this one in particular, were:

  1. Similar physical layout to the Microsoft model I mentioned. That MS trackball has legions of rabid fans online and they will spend hundreds of dollars to replace their dead Intellimouse Trackball with a new one. I didn't find any currently-available trackball with as dedicated a fan base.

  2. It requires no more desk space than the unit itself occupies, unlike a mouse which needs a mousepad. This also means that if I'm digitizing something big, I never run out of mousepad and have to pick up a mouse, move it, and put it back down again, which can be a pain and cause errors.

  3. Very little force is required to get the ball/pointer moving, much less than getting a mouse to move on a mousepad. It makes fine pointer movements a lot easier.

  4. This particular one has the ball mounted on the top, unlike the Logitech jvangeld has, or the M570, another Logitech trackball. Both of those require you to use your thumb to move the ball, which seemed to me like it would get more tiring over time and also that finer movements would be harder than with the ball on top (where I can use 3 fingers to move it).

  5. It has 5 extra buttons beyond Left/Middle/Right mouse buttons, those can be programmed to do whatever using the included software (or AutoHotKey).

A few Cons I've noticed:

  1. The small pegs that keep the ball centered in its socket need to be cleaned regularly. I've been doing it only when I noticed the wheel not rolling as freely but it should probably be done once a week at least. It seems like those pegs are going to wear out long before anything else does.

  2. The mouse wheel's scrolling action is a bit stiff, so is the left mouse button.

  3. It's apparently an old model and the USB wireless dongle is very big: several feet of cord with a dongle about 3" square on the end of it. It's not travel-friendly.

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Are you looking for a new pointing device or are you just asking people's opinion's on what they like? The former would need a criteria for the device that you want. The latter would deal more with opinion and would serve the community better as a wiki. –  R.K. Feb 10 '12 at 3:28
    
I'd love to just use my hands :] –  radek Mar 29 '12 at 12:35
    
converted to edit and not community wiki, based on original user's request. –  Mapperz Jan 28 '13 at 21:17
    
there is no community wiki status on the entire question or answers now, refresh your browser. –  Mapperz Jan 28 '13 at 21:31
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4 Answers

I use a trackball sometimes, but nowadays I use a touchpad/tablet.

Wacom makes some nice models like the new Bamboo Connect.

I like this model because it only activates from a pen input, finger touch is not part of this model. I found I was just disabling the finger touch/input altogether and using solely the pen.

PROS:

  • They are cheap and prices have kept going down.
  • Wired (no batteries!).
  • You can place it in two modes absolute (cursor position is relative to pad, so placing pen in top right corner is the same as the top right portion of your monitor) and relative (cursor moves as pen moves, position on pad is ignored so that direction and distance are the only things affecting cursor movement).
  • Extremely relaxed, no tension during operation (pen tip moves cursor on screen when 'hovered' over touchpad, not actually touching, though you can drag and draw)
    • Trackballs and mice can lead to repetitive motion sicknesses/illnesses (ie, carpal tunnel)
  • Pressure sensitive (lots of apps have ways to integrate this via toolbars and extensions)
  • Productivity increase! Because you can operate the device with little to no tension in your arms, wrist, elbow, etc, you literally 'fly' over the screen from one end to the other and I find that after some practice (had to learn to be relaxed...z..z.z.zzz...) navigating menus and windows in programs is a breeze.

CONS:

  • Some applications (like GIMP/Inkscape) will not respect the "relative" mode and give buggy results (cursor is offset, jumps all over the screen, random clicks, etc) This seems to be related to a GTK bug. Supposedly resolved in Inkscape with latest version.
  • Pen nibs wear down - sometimes too fast (easily replaced) and the surface can wear (irreplaceable, supposedly less wear in the newer models where the pen nib wears down faster intentionally)
    • You can cover the surface with a piece of paper secured with tape to lessen the wear-and-tear
  • Clicking precision can be jeopardized because of the 'hovering' effect. When hovering and clicking, it is difficult to click without altering the on-screen cursor position. (ie, when digitizing, you may rely heavily on snapping and inputting absolute values more than you use to).
  • Because of the drag like motion of hovering over the pad surface, items (like folders and shortcuts) can be accidentally 'dropped' somewhere else...

    example of pad wear on wacom bamboo cth-460
    Example of pad wear on Wacom Bamboo CTH-460. This particular pad was used on a dual display setup where the wear down the middle of the pad has resulted from repetitive motion from using the scroll bar on the first monitor! This amount of wear does not affect performance of the device in anyway whatsoever. Switching to relative mode prevented this fixed-position-syndrome.

    Wacom tablet pen nib with slight wear
    Example of pen nib wear on Wacom Bamboo CTH-460 after 12 months consistent use.
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+1 for being relaxed, that is the key to comfort with whatever input device you prefer. –  jvangeld Jan 17 '12 at 23:33
    
My brother has one of these I might give it a go. –  Nathan W Jan 18 '12 at 0:24
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I use an old Logitech Trackman like the one below, only white. To the best I can tell, manufacturers have neglected the trackball market because the old Logitechs work well and never break. No reason to compete with the best.

As far as why I like this trackball, it mostly comes down to the fact that I like to be different. I also type in Dvorak and I prefer CRTs to LCDs. That should give you an idea of where I am coming from. But trackballs do have some decent advantages:

  1. Inertia. When you spin a trackball, it keeps going. Of course, an old-style mouse does the same, but all of those that I have ever had have gone bust after awhile. Anyways, the inertia in a trackball is a huge help when you are navigating multiple wide-screen LCDs. Instead of moving your mouse hand all over the place, just flick the ball and let it come to rest in the monitor you want.
  2. Finger Movement vs Hand Movement. It is quite a bit easier to move your fingers or thumb instead of your whole hand. Of course my thumb gets tired after a full day on the ball, but that is why I use different mice at work than at home. Varying your movements is a huge help against RSI [yup, citation needed, other than the fact that RSI stands for Repetitive Strain injury].
  3. As noted in the comments below, you might be able to be a bit more precise with a trackball. My normal mouse skills are such that I haven't seen much of a difference in the year I have been using my trackball. But there are probably a lot of variables contributing to that which I am not aware of.

enter image description here

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What advantage does the trackball+mouse give you over a standard mouse? –  Nathan W Jan 17 '12 at 22:37
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@nathan You never run out of mousepad and when you hover your mouse over a point and click, the pointer does not move because you do not roll the ball. On a conventional mouse, clicking can inadvertently cause the pointer to shift ever so slightly. –  SaultDon Jan 17 '12 at 22:43
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There is a easy solution to all this: connect the computer to the brainz!! Look ma, no hands :) –  Nathan W Jan 18 '12 at 0:26
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I have one of these trackball mice. I also have a "normal" mouse next to it, for when co-workers try to show me something on my computer - it takes a while to get used to it ;) –  Stephen Lead Jan 18 '12 at 5:42
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I also recommend trackballs but I feel the finger-operated ones are much more ergonomic than the thumb-operated ones. I use the Kensington Orbit at work and the Kensington Expert Mouse at home. –  blah238 Feb 16 '12 at 20:38
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I'm using one that you originally suggested - the Evoluent Vertical Mouse 4 (medium right handed). One of the best purchases I've made for my PC in ages;

PROS

  • Comfortable to use - you wrist is in a more neutral position, and it has nice rests for the thumb and the pinky finger. Particularly after an extended session using the mouse my wrist feels a whole lot better than it did with a standard mouse.
  • Arm movement over wrist movement - particularly for people that tend towards RSI this is a big win
  • Adjustable mouse cursor speed on the mouse itself
  • Extra buttons that you can use the drivers to program to different functions (6 button mouse)
  • Wired - as @SaultDon said above, not having to worry about batteris is a big bonus

CONS

  • Can be hard to find anywhere that stocks them. The only place I found in Melbourne that carried them was Stretch Now (who (free plug - I am in no way involved in their business) were extremely helpful when I went in)
  • Only one handed, so if you regularly switch wrists, you'd need two mice

Evoluent Vertical Mouse 4

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I can highly recommend the Evoluent mice too - see flickr.com/photos/ianturton/3775287386/in/set-72157603663284639 for the reason I switched. –  iant Jan 19 '12 at 8:47
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I use the Cintiq 24HD from Wacom. My desk

(I also use the little Wacom Bamboo Touch on my other computer).

The retired cartographer i replaced was visiting the other day, he was impressed by the ressemblance with his old drawing table :)

I'm using pen tablets since a long time, it's AMHA very precise and natural to draw with.

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