20.3 Choosing a Mouse
Use the following guidelines when choosing a mouse or trackball:
- Get the right size and shape
Mice are available in various sizes and shapes, including very small mice intended for children, the formerly standard "Dove bar" size, the mainstream ergonomic mouse, and some very large mice that have many buttons and extra features. Most people find nearly any standard-size mouse comfortable to use for short periods, but if you use a mouse for extended periods small differences in size and shape often make a big difference in comfort. Although oversize mice like the Microsoft IntelliMouse Explorer provide attractive features and functions, people with very small hands often find such mice too large to use comfortably. Pay particular attention to mouse shape if you are left-handed. Although Microsoft claims that their asymmetric ergonomic mice are equally usable by left- and right-handers, many lefties find them uncomfortable and so resort to right-handed mousing. Other manufacturers, including Logitech, produce symmetric mice for which chirality is not an issue.
- Get a wheel mouse
Although few applications support the wheel, those that do are the ones most people are likely to use a great deal Microsoft Office, Internet Explorer, and so on. Using the wheel greatly improves mouse functionality by reducing the amount of mouse movement needed to navigate web pages and documents.
- Consider a mouse with extra buttons
Standard two-button mice (three, counting the wheel) are adequate for most purposes. However, the new five-button mice are ideally suited to some applications, such as games and web browsing. For example, the two extra buttons can be mapped to the Back and Forward browser icons, eliminating a great deal of extraneous mouse movement.
- Make sure the cord is long enough
We have seen mice with cords ranging in length from less than 4 feet to about 9 feet. A short mouse cord may be too short to reach the system, particularly if it is on the floor. If you need a longer mouse cord, purchase a PS/2 keyboard extension cable, available in nearly any computer store.
- Consider a cordless model
If your desktop is usually cluttered, consider buying a cordless mouse. The absence of a cord can make a surprising difference.
- Buy an optical mouse
Old-style optical mice were a pain in the begonia. They required special mousing surfaces with fine embedded wires and frequently malfunctioned. A couple years ago, Microsoft introduced their IntelliEye series of optical mice, which we call red-eye mice. These mice use a red LED light source and do not require any special mousing surface. We have used them on such featureless surfaces as a beige computer case and a plain sheet of paper. Basically, they work fine with anything other than a mirror or similarly reflective surface.
Because they are sealed units, IntelliEye mice do not require the frequent cleaning that mechanical mice do. Robert had to take his mechanical mouse apart and clean it literally every few days, but the IntelliEye mice can go for months at a time without any cleaning other than a quick wipe with a damp cloth. IntelliEye mice are very precise and extremely durable. Robert has one on his den system, and he drops his mouse to the hardwood floor several times a week. After more than a year of this abuse, the Microsoft IntelliEye mouse continues to work perfectly. Other companies, including Apple, recognizing the superiority of this technology, have begun shipping optical mice. All optical mice that we've seen are superior to mechanical mice, but we still prefer the original Microsoft IntelliEye.
- Try a trackball
Trackballs have never really caught on, probably because most require using the thumb to move the pointer. At least one newer model, the red-light Microsoft Trackball Explorer, resembles a mouse and allows using the index finger to point. In our experience, about one of every ten people who try a trackball becomes a trackball convert. But trackballs sell probably only 1% the volume of mice, which says there are a lot of people who don't know what they're missing. Trackballs are also available in red-eye versions, and we prefer those to the mechanical versions for ease of maintenance.