As a Computer Professional™, I have disliked mice (as pointing devices) practically since day one of being coerced to work with them. I consider it unnatural to push a soap-shaped piece of plastic around on a level surface to point at things on a screen. Here are some of my reasons:

  • With some notable recent exceptions, mice don't operate well on just any surface. Thus, to push your pointer around the screen you need not just a mouse but a mouse pad as well.

  • Even on a mouse pad, mechanical mice pick up dirt. As someone else once put it, mice don't roll well with dirty balls. After a while, their operation becomes erratic. Your motion no longer translates linearly into cursor motion until you clean or replace the mouse.

  • Mouse pads are limited in size. When mousing around, you need to be aware of the edges of its real estate because if your mouse "falls off", you have to interrupt yourself to pick it up and bring it back on to the playing field.

    To be fair, optical mice go a long way toward solving these last three problems. If you insist on using a mouse, do yourself a favor and get an optical one! There is also something to be said for the "coolness factor" of having a red glow underneath your rodent.

  • The amount of space on your screen usually doesn't map 1:1 to the amount of space on your mouse pad. Context switches often bring your mouse position on its pad out of sync with your cursor position on the screen. As a result, people find themselves interrupting their motion to pick up their mouse and dropping it on a more suitable spot before recommencing the motion. In the extreme case, I have seen people repeat this motion four or five times for a single wide-angle pan across the screen. Viewed objectively, this activity looks downright spastic.
  • Even if you have an optical mouse and don't need a mouse pad, you may experience similar problems due to the limited length of your arm, the limited size of the uncluttered area of your desk or the limited reach of the cable.
  • The mouse cable comes with other problems too: when dragging the mouse, you always end up dragging the cable as well. Depending on the weight of the cable and where it's snagging, this can be annoying. Your brain doesn't like to deal with the fact that the same act sometimes takes more force and sometimes less, depending on how the cable happens to be positioned.

This is my main gripe: you can't push the mouse any appreciable distance just using your wrist or fingers. Therefore, the force to move the mouse around is coming from your elbow and shoulder. Much computer work these days requires positioning a pointer with an accuracy of one or a few pixels out of (on the order of) one thousand. The muscles of the elbow and shoulder are designed for heavy lifting, not precision and accuracy.

Again, all is not bleak: Mouse and software manufacturers have invested considerable effort into inventing a better mousetrap. The "acceleration" setting provided by many mouse drivers allows you, with some training, to cover more space with quicker motions while maintaining accuracy for detail work. And then there are now cordless mice, of course.

  • Maybe you have a cordless mouse. Although it doesn't come with cable irritation, it means you have one more pet to feed – with batteries! Also, in a busy office you may find that the limited number of radio channels causes your mouse to interfere with those of your colleagues.
  • Double-clicking the mouse is stressful, since the user must be sure not to move the mouse while the mouse button is depressed – because this is interpreted by the software as a drag. Consequently, the user learns to press the mouse to the mat, stabilise it with the thumb and little finger clamping the mouse and pressing against the mat, and then clicking the button.1 Needless to say, although not as obvious, I find this motion pattern borderline spastic as well.
  • These problems affect both the brain and the body:

    This is not just my personal opinion; while I've cited only one reference for this WU, I have over the years heard and read plenty of testimony from others to with the same standpoint and based on intersecting sets of the same arguments. The mouse may have been a great invention in its time, but that doesn't mean there are no alternatives with fewer drawbacks.

    The enormous market dominance of mice as pointing devices is proof of its great popularity, not of its suitability for the purpose. I see a certain parallel in the popularity of Microsoft products, which are perceived to dominate because of more aggressive marketing and greater appeal to people who (for whatever reasons) give preference to technical products with a minimal learning curve.

    My personal solution for most, if not all of these problems is to use a trackball. Stay tuned for my upcoming WUs on the benefits of trackballs!


    1. Ergonomics - Trackballs vs. Mice. Robin Whittle,

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