Is the Best Ergonomic Mouse a Trackball?

The best ergonomic mouse just might be a trackball. That’s probably not what you expected. I’ve been using trackballs for almost 20 years now. I even had carpel tunnel syndrome at one time, but no longer have any pain from it.

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. — Maketecheasier

Trackball Advantages

In a traditional mouse there is a ball or sensor on the bottom that moves your cursor or pointer in the direction you move the mouse. You need a surface that the mouse can move on and enough space to move it in. If you need to move it further than you have room, you have to pick it up and reposition it. A trackball isn’t affected by that. It sits in one place, could be a desk, arm of a chair or even your leg. That is one of the major advantages.

When using a traditional mouse, you make fine movements with your wrist and arm. I’m sure if you used a mouse for a long stretch you’ll notice how your wrist feels. Now imagine that you don’t have to use your wrist, you can rest your wrist on the desk and you just move your fingers and thumb. You can maintain a good alignment with your wrist and arm. You can adjust the amount of movement you get in the settings making it possible to move your pointer all the way across the screen in just one swipe. It does take a little practice but in no time you can adjust to it–and your wrist will thank you.

Vertical Mouse or an Ergonomic Mouse

Vertical Mouse Example

As you can see this type of mouse changes your hand position but in reality it really doesn’t change all that much. Your wrist is turned but you still have to use your wrist and arm muscles to move your mouse. It can be more comfortable for some people but it still retains some of the problems of a regular mouse.

Enter the Logitech M570 Trackball

The M570 is a time-tested design. It’s designed so that you place your hand on top and your finger naturally lands on the buttons with your thumb resting on the ball. There is a scroll wheel in between the buttons which I use with my index finger. You can also press down on the scroll wheel with give you a third button. There are two additional buttons that you can reach with your index finger. This give you 3 different buttons that you can program to do what ever you want. The software is flexible.

Logitech M570 Wireless Trackball Mouse, Top View

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Battery Life

The software panel shows how many days you have left. It’s been months since I put the battery in this mouse and it shows that I still have 274 days left. I never turn it off, now that’s some battery life!

Logitech M570 Trackball Software

In the battery compartment there is a place to put the USB transmitter. Pop it in and snap the battery cover back on and toss it in your laptop case and you are good. A single USB transmitter will handle up to 6 Logitech devices.

Logitech M570 Wireless Trackball Mouse, Battery and USB Dongle

Portability

When you are traveling or using a laptop, a trackball is pretty indispensable. You can place your laptop on your lap and the trackball on your armrest, a table next to you, or pretty much any surface that it will sit on. No need for room to move and you won’t have to find a flat spot to use your mouse.

Price and Quality

I’ve had this trackball for about 3 years now and it still looks like new. I purchased a second one for my laptop. That one I do turn off as I don’t use my laptop every day. The ball does need to be removed from time to time (every couple of months) to clean the contacts. There’s a hole in the bottom, you just poke it out, wipe the contacts and pop the ball back in. The M570 is a very reasonable price when compared to some of the ergonomic mice that run over $100.

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Conclusion

A trackball is a good alternative to a regular or ergonomic mouse. Low cost, good quality that lasts.

Monkey FAQS – Answers to FAQs from around the web

I need to use this device with a Linux system. Does this mouse support “middle-click”? (i.e. works like a 3 button mouse)?

Answer: In Ubuntu 16.4, it works exactly like a 3 button mouse is supposed to work in that distribution. All three buttons and the wheel work as expected, and even the “forward/back” buttons on the extreme left edge page backward and forward through documents or through browser pages, just as they do in windows.

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Can you modify the wheel so it will freewheel instead of normal ratcheting?

Answer: The packaging does not indicate that the wheel can be changed. Upon casual inspection, it doesn’t appear to be a feature that the end user can change. The Logitech forums suggest using SetPoint software to get smooth scrolling via software.

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I have limited room on my keyboard tray–can someone tell me what the actual footprint of the M570 is?

Answer: 5 3/8″ @ Longest, ~4″ Wide

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Can this be used for left and right handed users?

Answer: This is made for the right hand.

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Can the sensitivity of the ball be adjusted?

Answer: Yes the speed of the ball movement can be controlled. It takes some effort to remember all the control you have. To go back a page the extra button allows you to do that and the same as going forward. You may notice with a lot of use over extended periods you might feel it in your thumb joint.

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What does the ball do?

Answer: The ball is used as a “location” selector — instead of physically moving the conventional mouse on a desk or mouse-pad to choose the focus and selection of the cursor. That is the benefit of the trackball vs the conventional mouse. Once used for a few hours, most would never want a conventional mouse.

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Does it include the dongle

Answer: Yes, it does. That’s the little thing you plug into your computer, it’s in the battery compartment when you receive it.

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How hard is it to use a trackball?

Answer: When you first use the trackball, you will be exercising some new muscles in the thumb. Don’t give up! So, for the first 2 days of use it will feel clumsy and you thumb will feel fatigued. On the third day your thumb muscles will get stronger and you will notice that you have more precision with the mouse pointer. After a week or two you will wonder why anyone uses a mouse that you have to move around with your hand. With a trackball you can place it anywhere you want, it doesn’t move around and you have much better control of the pointer.

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How does this work if you are using two computers in the same room? Can I use one mouse to control both of them? Do I switch the receiver in and out, or does it come with multiple receivers or something? I have a laptop that I use for streaming exclusively, and another that I use at the same time. How would that work?

Answer: The mouse comes with a tiny usb plug that catches the wireless signal from it. The mouse will only work on the computer that the usb is plugged into, so the simple answer is no, you can’t use both at the same time. And even if you could, it might get confusing if you tried to use your main one and the mouse started moving around on the streaming laptop and messing things up.

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How is this mouse for working on dual monitors (moving quickly from one to the other)?

Answer: I work across 4 monitors and do not have any issues with it being sluggish. You will need to tweak your mouse settings (at least for Windows) to speed up the acceleration a bit.

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Bluetooth or not?

Answer: USB wireless dongle, not Bluetooth (wish it was Bluetooth)

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