Section 2.2. Mouse Basics

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.

  • Mechanical . If a little rolling ball protrudes from your mouse's belly, it's a mechanical mouse, commonly sold with older computers. Mechanical mice work best when rolled over a mouse pad (found at most computer and office supply stores), since the pad's soft rubber gives the ball the needed grip for smooth rolling. Most people remember mechanical mice as the ones that needed cleaning every few months (Section, and they're quickly being replaced by optical mice, described below.

  • Optical . Several links up the technological chain from mechanical mice, optical mice replace ball mechanics with a tiny camera and light. The mice glow eerily as the light reflects off your desktop. The camera views the illuminated textures passing underneath, and adjusts the pointer's onscreen position accordingly . Most people love optical mice because they banish both the pad and the monthly cleaning ritual . Optical mice work well on any textured surface (even on cloth, like a pants leg). If you have a glass or polished metal desk, you should place a traditional mouse pad or a plain sheet of white paper underneath the mouse to steady the pointer.

  • Wireless or cordless . Wireless mice are often sold in tandem with a wireless keyboard, both of which send signals to a receiving unit, usually plugged into a USB port (Section 1.8.1). When a wireless mouse misbehaves, reach for a new battery pack: low battery power is the prime suspect. These little rodents are almost always in motion, and, consequently, they send more information than a wireless keyboard, which means they consume batteries much more quickly. Count on replacing batteries every month or so unless you own a newer unit that "sleeps" when you're not using it. A few wireless mice take mercy on their owners ' budgets and recharge when resting on their receiving unit.

    The latest wireless mice communicate through Bluetooth technology (Section 14.10.5) instead of radio waves. Bluetooth gadgets don't require receiving unitsif your computer is already "Bluetooth capable," that is. (The newest laptops come with built-in Bluetooth.) If your computer lacks Bluetooth support, pick up a Bluetooth adapter from Amazon for about $30 to $40. Plug the adapter into your PC's USB port (Section 1.8.1) to talk to any Bluetooth-capable mouse, keyboard, cell phone, printer, or other Bluetooth-embracing gadget.

    Note: Wireless mice don't use the same technology that powers most wireless networks (Section 14.1.2), so don't worry about potential interference.
  • Trackball . Some people prefer rolling a ball, instead of a mouse, across the desk. A trackball looks somewhat like an upside-down mouse, complete with a ball protruding from the top (see Figure 2-9, right). Rolling the ball controls the cursor, but leaves the trackball in one place, perfect for computing on a messy desk. They also reduce wrist movement and strain.

  • Programmable . All mice come with two basic buttons (left and right). Other mice speed up common tasks by tacking on extra, programmable buttonsclick the fourth button to load your Internet browser and start searching the Web, for instance. Other multibutton creatures aim to replace game controllers (Section, letting gamers shoot with one button, kick with another, and scurry to the next level with a third.

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

Trackpoints, Touchpads , and You

Any desktop mouse works fine on a laptop, but that means you need to toss something else into the laptop bag. To reduce baggage overflow, most laptops come with their own built-in gadgets for moving the pointer, shown below.

  • Trackpoint . The Trackpoint (shown on the left, in the illustration) began life on IBM's ThinkPad series of laptops, but quickly spread to laptops by many other manufacturers. The Trackpoint's little red nub pokes up between the keyboard's b, g, and h keys; push the nub with your index finger to move the mouse pointer without removing your hands from the keyboard. Should your Trackpoint's little red cover wear out, TrackCap ( sells replacements for many different styles.

  • Touchpad . Rub your finger across the top of a touchpad's little rectangular pad (seen on the right), and the mouse pointer moves along in the same direction. Most touchpads come with two adjacent buttons that serve as the left and right mouse buttons. Two quick taps on the touchpad also mimics a double-click. Most touchpads come with third-party software for changing their sensitivity settings, usually accessible through a Touchpad icon in the Control Panel or taskbar.

Even touchpad-equipped laptops don't mind if you plug in a mouse, steering the pointer with whichever seems handiest at the time. But if you prefer handling the mouse exclusively, disable the touchpad using its Control Panel or taskbar icon. Otherwise, an inadvertent brush of your wrist on the touchpad could send your pointer scurrying in the wrong direction.

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 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.)

A Mouse for People with Hand Tremors

Most operating systems contain a wide variety of controls for adjusting a mouse's speed and accuracy, but may not help people with hand tremors. If hand tremors keep you from controlling the mouse as efficiently as you want, consider IBM's mouse adapter, which works much the way a video camera's "stabilizer" smoothes out your video footage.

Plug your mouse into the adapter and plug the adapter into your computer; you don't need to install any special software. An adjustable dial on the adapter lets you customize it to your own abilities .

Montrose Secam Ltd. ( sells the adapter for less than $100.

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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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.

  • Button configuration . Lefthanders sometimes head here to reverse the actions of their mouse's left- and right-mouse buttons, making the mouse work more efficiently in the left hand. Be careful here, though, as the button switch takes place immediately Windows doesn't wait for you to click the Apply button, as it does in most other windows. If you accidentally click in this box and reverse your mouse buttons, click again with the opposite button to set things straight.

  • Double-click speed . If you find yourself double-clicking several times before Windows finally opens the icon or folder, adjust the difference between your single clicks and your double clicks. Change to a slower setting, and then practice double-clicking on the adjacent test folder, fine-tuning the setting until it matches your finger speed.

  • ClickLock . People with large monitors often drag items long distances. If your finger tires of constantly holding down the button, turn on ClickLock: hold down your mouse button on an item for a few seconds, and the cursor locks on it, letting you remove your finger and drag the item. When you get the item to the correct location, let go of the mouse button to release the lock and drop the item in place. Click Settings to adjust the amount of seconds of hold-down required before the lock kicks in.

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. 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.

  • Pointer Scheme . Windows XP comes with dozens of pointer designsalternatives to the standard arrow/ hour glass combination. Small children and herpetologists may prefer pointing with small dinosaurs or reptiles , for instance.

    Tip: If you have trouble locating your mouse pointer, check out some of the schemes near the bottom of the Pointer Scheme list. They darken , magnify, or invert the pointer for easier visibility.
  • Customize . Whip up your own pointer scheme by picking and choosing from several schemes. Stick with the standard arrow, for instance, but substitute the walking dinosaur for the hourglass, displayed when Windows is working on something in the background. Click Save As to save your new scheme under a new name for finding again later.

  • Shadow . This purely cosmetic touch adds a barely visible little shadow beneath your pointer. 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.

  • Pointer Speed . Head here if your work involves precise control of the pointer. Moving your mouse halfway across your small mouse pad usually moves the pointer all the way across your large screen. The Pointer Speed option adjusts the ratio of hand movement to screen movement. If you're constantly pawing at your mouse pad to move an arrow across the screen, slide the control toward Fast. If the pointer zings across the screen with a mere nudge, slide the control to Slow.

    Tip: If your mouse pointer jumps around the screen when you move it, try slowing down the Pointer Speed. You may have it set faster than the mouse can handle.

    The Enhance Pointer Precision box, normally selected, allows for more precise control, so leave it on. When it's turned on, impatiently flicking the mouse one inch causes the pointer to fly across half the screen. Nudging the mouse slowly and carefully for one inch, by contrast, moves the pointer slowly an inch or two.

  • Snap to . Many times you don't open settings to change them, but to double-check them. Click this box, and the pointer automatically hovers over any newly opened box's OK button. That lets you check your settings with a quick click without having to physically move the pointer to the OK button.

  • Visibility . Turn on the "Display pointer trails" checkbox to turn your pointer into a long string of pointers, which helps keep the cursor in view during presentations. Turning on the "Hide pointer while typing" box keeps the pointer out of your sentences when composing. (Nudge the mouse to revive the pointer.) Finally, turning on "Show location of pointer when I press the CTRL key" places radiating rings like an earthquake map around a lost pointeragain, handy when a mouse disappears on a large display or during a presentation. 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. 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.

PCs: The Missing Manual
ISBN: 0596100930
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2005
Pages: 206
Authors: Andy Rathbone

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