2.2. Mouse Basics
Invented in 1963 as a scrappy wooden box with two wheels, computer mice now live in sleek, molded plastic cases. Every mouse style lets you push a little pointer across the screen, but manufacturers found many different ways to do it. Today's mice are either mechanical, optical, wireless, or upside-down ( trackball ), as shown in Figure 2-9. Each type of mouse has its own benefits and drawbacks, all described below.
Figure 2-8. To clean a keyboard of sticky beverage residue, pry off the keycaps. Working from the bottom row, wedge a small screwdriver beneath a cap, slowly twist the screwdriver, and the cap should jump off. Don't try to pry off the spacebar, as its special attachments are easily damaged. Remove as much stickiness as you can from the keys and keyboard to avoid future problems with trapped dust. When the keyboard's clean and dry, push the keycaps back onto their pegs, using Figure 2-10 as a memory jog.
Figure 2-9. From left to right: Right-side up mouse, upside down mechanical mouse, upside-down optical mouse, and trackball. Whether they're mechanical, optical, or wireless, most mice resemble the one on the far left. The big differences lie in their bellies. Mechanical mice sense the rolling motion of a ball, which needs to be removed and cleaned every month or two. Optical mice dump the ball in favor of a tiny lens that detects texture changes as it's moved. Trackballs work like upside-down mechanical mice, but since you roll the ball with your hand, it doesn't become dirty or require cleaning as often.
Many mice now include a scroll wheel , a small wheel rim protruding from the mouse's top. The mouse on the left in Figure 2-9 contains a scroll wheel between its two buttons. By resting your finger on the wheel and rolling it forward or backward, you can quickly move up or down a document either line by line or page by page. You can adjust the scroll rate in the Control Panel's Mouse area (Section 22.214.171.124).
2.2.1. Controlling Windows with only a Mouse
Stuck with a broken keyboard? Wireless keyboard lose its battery power? Spilled a Coke on the keyboard with a project deadline in 20 minutes? A mouse lets you finish your work without ever touching a keyboard. The trick is the Windows On-Screen keyboard, shown in Figure 2-10.
Figure 2-10. The Windows On-Screen keyboard is handy for controlling Windows in an emergency should your keyboard die. It places a keyboard on your screen that lets you "mouse and peck" your way through your current work.
The On-Screen keyboard won't win any speed awards, but it works fine in a pinch . To put it onto the screen, click Start All Programs Accessories Accessibility On-Screen keyboard. The keyboard remains visible while you work, staying on top of all open windows. Click the On-Screen keyboards letters to type; every key works just as if you were typing it on a real keyboard.
Tip: Should your mouse die before your deadline, Section 2.1.4 shows how to continue working in Windows XP using only a keyboard.
2.2.2. Installing a USB or PS/2 Mouse
The vast majority of mice sold today hook up to your PC using a USB connection (Section 1.8.1). Push the USB mouse's plug into a USB port, and Windows XP recognizes it immediately. USB mice are hot-swappable, meaning you can unplug your roommate's mouse and plug in your favorite mouse without turning off the computer. You can even plug in two mice and use one with each hand. (Only one mouse controls the arrow at a time.)
Older mice come with the less versatile PS/2 connector (Section 1.8.6), which you can't plug in until the computer's off. Plug the mouse into its own PS/2 port (the keyboard's PS/2 port won't work), and Windows XP recognizes the mouse when you turn on your computer.
Note: A few USB mice come with a converter so you can plug them into PS/2 ports. That converter's often linked to that particular brand of mouse; don't expect it to work with all other mice, or to let your USB keyboard plug into a PS/2 port.
Windows XP always recognizes a mouse's basic functionsmoving the pointer and clicking menu items, for instanceas soon as you plug it in. In fact, Windows XP offers more than a dozen options for fine-tuning your mouse's performance (see Section 126.96.36.199 for details). To adjust these settings, you first need to install the drivers packaged with your mouse. (Usually you can find the drivers on the CD that comes with the mouse; if that's gone missing, visit the manufacturer's Web site, where you can typically download the driver from the customer support area.)
2.2.3. Troubleshooting Mice
When mice are sick, they always complain through the pointer: the arrow freezes , disappears, doesn't move smoothly, or jumps erratically across the screen. When your mouse pointer misbehaves, try the following tips to bring it back to life.
Tip: Don't fret if your firewall (see Section 15.7) alerts you that "pointer32.exe" is trying to connect to the Internet. That's just a message indicating that Microsoft's Intellipoint mouse is contacting the mother ship, checking for updated drivers. Tell the firewall to deny it access, unless your mouse isn't working properly. Many programs, including mouse software, periodically visit their manufacturer's Web site to fetch software or driver updates.
188.8.131.52. Plug it in all the way
First, make sure the mouse cord is plugged all the way into its jack, be it USB or PS/2. Sometimes unplugging a USB mouse, waiting five seconds, and plugging it back in does the job. Don't unplug it and plug it back in too quickly, as Windows XP needs time to notice that the mouse was removed, and then notice that it's plugged back in again.
184.108.40.206. Cleaning the mouse ball
If you're using an older-style mouse that rolls a ball across your desktop, the mouse pointer will eventually begin jumping indiscriminately around your screen. That happens because the mouse ball picks up dirt from your mouse pad and swabs the goo onto its internal parts . To fix the jumping pointer, clean the mouse.
Turn your mouse upside-down and scrape off any dirt stuck to the bottom. Rotate the little round plate around the ball in the direction of its arrow until the mouse ball falls out, with an unsatisfactory mini-bounce. Wipe off any visible crud, and blow any dirt out of the hole using a compressed air canister, sold at most computer and hardware stores. Don't clean the ball itself other than wiping off any stray hairs.
Look inside the hole for the rollers; you'll probably find dark lines of built-up crud along the center of them. Scrape this muck off with an alcohol-moistened cotton swab, as shown in Figure 2-11. When you've removed all the dirt from the rollers, push the ball back into the hole, and then rotate the round plate back on. The mouse pointer should stabilize.
220.127.116.11. Cleaning a mouse's optical sensor
Optical mice are easier to clean since they have no moving parts. If the mouse pointer doesn't move smoothly, try cleaning its lensthe little round spot on the bottom of the mouse near the bright lightwith a cotton swab. Sometimes a stray hair interferes with its tracking ability, throwing the pointer off course.
Most optical mouse problems aren't related to cleanliness, though, but rather to the surface it's currently trackingthey don't like shiny surfaces. Before blaming the mouse, try reverting to an old-fashioned mouse pad.
Figure 2-11. The rolling ball inside a mechanical mouse picks up dirt and leaves it sticking to its internal rollers. When the mouse pointer doesn't move across your screen correctly, it's time to clean inside the mouse. Remove the mouse's bottom plate and wipe off any goo sticking to the rollers by using a cotton swab. The dirt usually looks like a thin line sticking to the middle of the roller . Sometimes you must scrape off the most persistent dirt with a fingernail or credit card. Be sure to remove dirt from both rollers to keep the mouse pointer moving smoothly.
18.104.22.168. Adjusting a mouse
Windows XP offers only three small adjustment options for huge 104-key keyboards, yet it offers nearly a dozen options for a mouse's mere two buttons. Many optional third-party mouse drivers install even more options, doubling or tripling that number. Don't bother exploring every option; most offer only minor cosmetic enhancements.
But if your mouse doesn't feel rightthe pointer doesn't move at the right speed, or the buttons don't click consistentlyclick Start Control Panel Mouse to make any of the adjustments described below.
Tip: Sometimes messing with the mouse's options makes things even worse than before. If that happens to you, head back to the Control Panel's Mouse setting pages and choose the Default option. That resets the mouse to its commonly used settings, letting you start from scratch.
22.214.171.124. Buttons tab
Used mostly by lefthanders and slow-clickers, the Buttons tab (Figure 2-12) lets you change how your mouse's buttons respond to your touch.
Figure 2-12. Most people don't need to bother changing any of the many options available on the Control Panel's Mouse window. However, the Button Configuration option comes in handy for lefthanders, letting them switch their mouse's left and right buttons.
126.96.36.199. Pointers tab
Although most people find the humble arrow works just swell as a pointer, the settings here let you replace the arrow with jazzier icons. To revert to the run-of-the-mill pointer when you're tired of playing around, choose the (None) scheme.
188.8.131.52. Pointer Options tab
Whereas the Pointer tab changes your pointer's appearance, these settings offer more practical control over your pointer's motion, making it more visible and easier to move. Ignored by the masses, these settings come in handy for people who constantly work with one hand on the mouse.
184.108.40.206. Wheel tab
Many mice have a scroll wheel a little wheel protruding between the two buttons. Usually, rolling the wheel with your index finger moves the currently viewed page's text up or down a few lines. Here, you decide exactly how many lines, from the piddling one- line-at-a-time to the supersonic 100 lines per flick. Click the "One screen at a time" option for quick page flipping. Most people stay in the neighborhood of one, two, or three lines, but "One screen at a time" comes in handy when speed-reading a large document.
220.127.116.11. Hardware tab
Most people click this tabuseful for diagnostics and upgradingfor quick access to their mouse's drivers (the software that lets your mouse's hardware communicate with Windows). Click the Troubleshooting button for a robotic walkthrough of common mouse problems and their solutions.