Where should a mouse be? Close to the keyboard would be good.

Written By: Peter Abrahams
Content Copyright © 2007 Bloor. All Rights Reserved.

When using a computer we spend a lot of time with our fingers on or near the keyboard and the rest of the time moving the pointer device, commonly the mouse, which is over to the right of the keyboard. The problem with the standard keyboard, for desktop machines, is that to the right of the letters are control buttons and to the right of that is the numeric pad and only then do we have desk space for the mouse. I recently moved from a laptop to a desktop machine and found this extra stretch was a real issue, which aggravated my nascent RSI. I was beginning to have real pain in my shoulder and fingers and was not convinced that longer breaks and better exercise was going to solve the problem. I started looking at solutions and was considering buying a new compact keyboard when I came across the RollerMouse Pro, which is marketed by the Osmond Group in the UK.

The RollerMouse solved my problem by providing a palm rest with all the mouse functions in the middle. The basic mouse movements are controlled by a cylindrical bar that sits just below the space bar. Move it left or right and the cursor moves left or right, spin it around and the cursor moves up or down. The great things about this design are:

  • There is very nearly zero resistance to the movement so moving the cursor is very easy.
  • It can be used by either or both hands, so reducing the strain on both.
  • It is surprisingly precise allowing easy accurate positioning of the cursor.
  • Most importantly it can be reached without stretching to the right at all, as it is just under the keyboard.

To compliment the roller bar there is a scroll wheel and five other buttons that can be configured to suit different usage. Mine are set up as:

  • Left button (the same effect can be generated by clicking the roller bar).
  • Right button
  • Double-click button, press it once is the equivalent of left button double-click, this is really helpful as it reduces one of the worst causes of RSI symptoms and is so easy to use as it can be hit with either hand and any part of the hand including a closed fist.
  • Click and drag button, so instead of holding the left mouse button down to drag you just press the button once drag the object then press it again to release. This reduces tension in the hand and is also great for people who cannot keep the button pressed and move the mouse at the same time. This makes precision dragging much easier.
  • The last button opens the dashboard on my machine, but can be configured to do other things if desired.

I am not suggesting that the RollerMouse Pro is the answer for everyone; for example it is not the right answer for anyone who avoids using or cannot use the keyboard. However for anyone who uses the keyboard and the mouse a lot it is a really interesting option and a significant improvement over the standard mouse. It should be attractive to anyone suffering from RSI or similar disabilities as it improves the accessibility of the computer.

This should not be just an individual’s choice but corporations should look at this as an option to provide to their staff as one way of reducing the strain and RSI.