Perhaps at one time, you could operate a computer without touching a mouse. However, times have changed with Windows and Macintosh systems and the mouse is used as much as the keyboard for commands and games. Using a mouse may cause repetitive stress injuries—such as carpal tunnel syndrome—as can typing on a keyboard. That’s why it’s so essential to choose a device that meets your computing and physical needs. Luckily, today there are many options.
A trackball is a stationary mouse input device operated by rolling one’s hand across a ball to move the cursor. The drag and click are accomplished by pressing buttons. There are many options to evaluate including the ball size, programmability, button location and feel.
The Kensington Orbit Trackball is one product that many computer users with spinal cord injuries find easy to operate. The trackball moves smoothly and the software allows for locking the drag button. Once pressed, it is locked until pressed a second time.
The Mini Trackball by IBS Electronics is a handheld trackball measuring 1″ x 2″. The Mini has three buttons: a trigger button for left clicks and two top buttons for right clicks and scrolling. The thumb controls the trackball and can be used with either the left or right hand.
The Kensington Expert Mouse has a larger ball surface and additional buttons that are programmable to automatically start programs or complete commands.
Similar to those used to operate wheelchairs, a computer joystick is operated by a lever held in a socket joint. It allows the mouse to move in any direction. Dragging and clicking are controlled by dwelling over an area or by switches.
JOUSE is a joystick-operated mouse controlled by the mouth. Moving the joystick moves the cursor. The farther the joystick is pushed, the faster the cursor moves. Mouse button activations are made with the sip, puff and bite switches built into the JOUSE.
Penny & Giles Joystick sold by Don Johnston is operated mainly by the hand. Joystick Plus 11 is three inches high and requires 2 1/4 oz. pressure to operate the buttons. It is capable of running at five different speeds.
A head pointing system emulates mouse movements by utilizing a sensor placed on the user. Normally, mouse clicking and dragging is accomplished through software and dwelling over objects. Typing is possible by adding a screen keyboard.
Tracker by Madenta allows the user to smoothly move the computer’s cursor simply by head movement. Tracker 2000 sits on top of the computer and tracks a tiny reflective dot that is worn on the forehead or glasses of the user.
The Boost Tracer by Boost Technology is a head pointing system based on a gyroscope and provides smooth movement on the computer screen. The user wears a headpiece. One advantage is the user does not need to be lined up for it to work correctly.
A pen input device makes using a mouse similar to writing. There are two parts to the system: the pen and the writing surface. The common name is a graphic tablet.
Wacom Graphire2 Tablet is a pressure sensitive pen which provides mouse operation by moving the pen across the tablet. The pen is accompanied by a wireless mouse giving the user a choice of which instrument to use based on the activity to be performed.
There are many mouse features to weigh such as number of buttons and wireless capability. It is also important that the mouse is comfortable in your hand. Then there are types to consider, such as the optical mouse and the wheel mouse.
An optical mouse is where I show my “techie” side. It is a pointing device that uses a light-emitting diode (LED), an optical sensor, and digital signal processing (DSP) in place of the traditional mouse ball. Movement is detected by sensing changes in reflected light, rather than by interpreting the motion of a rolling sphere. In practice, an optical mouse does not need cleaning, because it has no moving parts. If the device has a smooth surface in one color, sensing is more precise than is possible with the ball design. This is an asset in graphics applications, and it makes computer operation easier in general.
A wheel mouse has a roller between the right and left buttons. The wheel is used for scrolling and is easy to operate and position.
In the beginning, I stated that the mouse is essential to operation of a computer. However, the Windows and Macintosh operating systems can be totally operated without ever having to touch a mouse.
Mouse Keys is built into Windows and Macintosh systems. It turns the number pad into a mouse emulator. By pressing the keys around the number 5, the mouse cursor moves. Clicking and dragging use different keys.
Another option is keyboard shortcuts for commands. Some examples are [control + B] for bold and [control + escape] for the start button. Using the alt key and an underlined letter on the menu selects that option. Additional shortcuts are listed in the menu and Help window.
- A touch pad is operated by sliding a finger across a small surface. Clicking and dragging is accomplished by tapping the surface or the buttons on the frame.
- Mouse performs common mouse functions using eye gaze tracking. Using an infrared light spot reflected from the pupil of the eye, a sensor translates the position to X and Y mouse coordinates.
- The Cyberlink senses electrical responses from eye, muscle and brain activity. It is able to translate the signals into a mouse movement. With the addition of a screen keyboard, a user with extremely limited movement is able to independently operate a computer.
- The TouchWindow by Edmark provides a touch screen for a monitor. The user touches and taps objects to click. Swiping across the screen produces a drag action.
- Foot Mouse operates similar to the pedals in a car. Pressing the pedals in a certain direction moves the cursor.
This article contains many of the options available today. However, there are more vendors and other choices. The first step in finding the right option is research and testing. Whatever your need, there is a mouse for you!