Why You Need a Trackball Mouse

The vast majority of computer users get by with a standard mouse, but a select few absolutely adore trackballs. There are some good reasons for that love! If you are wondering if you need a trackball mouse, here is why a trackball mouse is the perfect tool for you.

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In recent years the conversation about healthy ergonomics in the work place has grown. More workers are aware of the health risks and problems associated with long periods of sitting daily. It’s supremely unhealthy, and many companies have made a serious effort to help modern office workers reduce the risks of desk-bound work. While standing up will help your health, more ergonomic input devices can protect you from an RSI, or repetitive strain injury. These injuries are caused by repeatedly straining your body in the same way, over and over again. These injuries can cause numbness, tingling, and pain, and they won’t go away until you stop the stressor.

Trackball mice can be a blessing for workers suffering from a wrist-based RSI or carpal tunnel. The benefit comes from the trackball’s stable position. While you move your wrist and arm to manipulate a traditional mouse, you only need to move your fingers to use a trackball. If you use a wrist rest with your trackball, your wrist will be at a healthier angle. This frees it from the strain associated with sliding your mouse around. Because your hand stays in one place, your arm and wrist won’t be strained by the constant back and forth movement of a mouse.

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My computer’s mouse is easily the most failure prone device I own. A mouse is one of the few components of your computer that still requires moving parts, and those kinds of parts wear out and fail over time. Cheap mice fail most quickly, but even high-quality mice are subject to wear and tear. Part of this is due to entropy and the planned lifespan of things like click sensor. But your mouse’s lifespan can be shortened by constant, aggressive movement. I’ve seen plenty of people slam their mouse down in frustration, or accidentally track it right off the edge of their desk. Because trackballs are stationary, they’re spared the potential stress of aggressive moments or drops. Provided the buttons stay in good shape, a trackball can outlast a high-quality office chair. A well-cared-for mouse might last just as long, but they seem less common.

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You might need a little time to become comfortable with a trackball. But once you get used to it (perhaps a week or so), your cursor’s accuracy can increase significantly. This is especially true for small, precise movements, to which trackballs are typically more sensitive. Trackballs also make it easier to “whip” the cursor from one edge of the workspace to the other, requiring only a roll of the fingers. The one caveat is gaming: accuracy in FPS games actually benefits from engaging more of your body, allowing you to develop unconscious muscle memory and “snap” your crosshair to the right point on the screen. That’s certainly not impossible with a trackball, but it might be more difficult.

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If you want to make the most of limited desk space, a wireless trackball frees up a chunk of desk formerly dedicated to your mouse’s movement. Even if your mouse doesn’t require a mousepad, you still need room to slide it around. Since trackballs stay in one place, you can reclaim desk space for whatever you’d like.

Every laptop on the market today has a track pad for cursor movement. Some track pads are large and responsive, while others are miserable and frustrating. And even the best ones are limiting: try using Photoshop’s lasso accurately with a track pad. Travel mice are helpful, but they require room to maneuver. Trackballs are perfect for precise work while traveling. You can replace your track pad with a better pointing device without requiring an extra tray table for your mouse. A small trackball is an exceptional travel companion.

If you’re ready to explore the world of trackballs, the Kensington Orbit and Logitech’s M570 are both excellent inexpensive choices. After a week, you’ll probably never want to switch back!

Images by Kensington K72359 Trackball, Toniosky2

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