A trackball is a type of mouse that performs the same tasks as a regular mouse but works differently. Trackballs have rotating balls on their tops or sides that you roll when you want to go somewhere or do something. Depending on the model you choose, you might control it with your thumb, fingers, or even the palm of your hand. Before making the switch to the trackball, it’s worth considering the advantages and disadvantages. Today we will discuss the benefits of trackball mouse.
Benefits of trackball mouse
Using a regular mouse can cause physical strain. You have to move the mouse to make it work, using your hand and arm to make repetitive and sometimes unnatural movements. A trackball mouse has ergonomic advantages because you move the ball and not the mouse itself. The Occupational Health & Safety Administration’s recommendations on safe and comfortable computer use state that trackballs may be “less fatiguing” for some tasks. They may also better suit people with conditions that affect mobility such as arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome.
Precision and Control
A regular mouse works only in a finite space. If you run out of room, you have to stop what you are doing, reposition it, and start over. This isn’t an issue with a trackball as the ball runs independently within the mouse casing, enabling precise and fluid movements and control. You don’t have to rely on hand movements to complete actions and you don’t have to deal with accidental mouse twitches or jerks that mess up what you’re doing. Being able to control the ball with your fingers or thumb gives you finer manipulation control. This extra precision makes trackball popular in certain applications, such as computer-aided design and gaming.
Space and Positioning
A trackball may be bigger than a regular mouse, but it has a smaller footprint. A mouse needs clear and flat space to work effectively. All a trackball mouse needs are space to stand. It doesn’t need to be on a flat surface, making it a useful solution if you want to use a mouse with your laptop but aren’t close to a desk or table. You can put trackballs on couches, beds, legs and even hold them up like a remote control — they’ll still work as long as you can roll the ball.
If you usually use a regular mouse, it can take a while to get the best out of a trackball. You may also find that a trackball doesn’t perform as well on some simple activities. For example, you may find it harder to cut and paste and click and drag. If you use a mouse with a central trackball, you may find finger combination clicks are less easy than on a regular mouse because you may need to keep one finger on the ball.
The larger size of a trackball mouse can cause some problems if you have small hands. You may find that you can’t use the mouse without stretching your hand or fingers, making it harder to control effectively. Although trackballs have ergonomic benefits, they may also cause some physical issues, especially if you use them for long periods. This may be a particular problem with thumb trackballs, which require you to use your thumb repetitively.
Cost and Availability
You have less choice when you’re buying a trackball compared to the options available when buying a regular mouse. A limited number of manufacturers produce these devices, and their costs are typically higher. For example, you can pick up a basic mouse for just a few dollars. At the time of publication, the cheapest trackball mouse from Kensington, one of the main manufacturers in this field, retails at $29.99 with its most expensive model costing $129.99.
How Does a Trackball Work?
A trackball is essentially a different kind of computer mouse. It is a plastic case containing a ball on the top that moves a computer cursor around on the screen. The user can move the ball with their thumb or fingers, and sensors inside the case detect which direction the ball is moving. Unlike a mouse, however, the case doesn’t move. The user simply rests a hand on it and uses the thumb to move the ball around. Buttons on the side allow users to click on things on the screen.
While the standard mouse has replaced the trackball for the majority of home computer users, a lot of specialized work environments still use trackballs due to their precision. Trackballs are used in a variety of fields, from air traffic controlling to operating equipment to drafting and design work. They are considered more durable than a mouse and more precise, which is why they are still used in these fields.
Compared to older mice that still used a ball and sensor on the bottom of the device to direct a cursor, trackballs had a definite advantage in that the ball was in contact with the user’s hand as opposed to a mouse pad or desktop. The user’s hand would always be cleaner, which would drastically cut down on the ball getting dusty or dirty or any other setback that would obstruct the sensor.
There are several advantages a trackball has over a mouse.
THEY ARE AMBIDEXTROUS
Unlike a mouse, a trackball can be used in the same way whether you’re left-handed or right-handed. And the buttons can also be programmed to suit your needs no matter what hand you’re using.
THEY DON’T NEED TO MOVE ACROSS THE DESK
Half the battle with a mouse is moving it across the surface of your desk but the trackball remains in one spot with the rolling trackball within the device moving the pointer around your screen.
THEY CAN BE USED IN A SMALLER SPACE
Because the trackball doesn’t need to move the only room you need on your desktop is the space it takes to fit the device in your workspace. Each of Kensington’s trackballs is less than 13cm wide. This is handy for those working in tighter spaces.
THEY ARE MORE ACCURATE
Trackballs have been around for a while and they have been favored by graphic designers because they have more precision and accuracy than a mouse. Trackballs are also being used by gamers because they offer fluid consistent movement.
When you’re using a mouse, your hand needs to move it across the desktop to reach the desired position of your cursor on the screen. That’s a lot of repetitive wrist movement for hours a day and this could lead to pain, discomfort, and injuries. Trackballs are seen as less fatiguing for some tasks and can be used by people with conditions like arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome. For our use we found the ability to move the cursor effortlessly across the screen – we have two screens on our computer – a movement that requires a fair bit of wrist movement.
On the scrolling side, it took us a little while to get used to the scroll ring of the Kensington control expert Wireless Trackball but we preferred the SlimBlade Trackball which allowed us to scroll by twisting the ball itself. It took us a little while to get used to moving the trackball over a button before hitting the button. With a mouse this is a quicker movement to start with – we have been doing that for years after all – but it wasn’t long before we were matching the mouse’s select and click speed with the trackball.
And we were also able to customize the buttons to our needs with buttons to left-click, right-click and go back a page on a browser. There are so many more options for assigning tasks to these buttons which is made possible by Kensington’s Trackball Works application. Kensington conducted a study among users who made the switch to a trackball. The top three reasons were speed and accuracy (58 percent), ergonomics (45 percent), and lack of space (38 percent). And it took less than a week for 76 percent of users to adjust to a trackball while 42 percent said they would never go back to a mouse.