mouse killer.

No, this isn’t another post featuring imagery of small, furry dead things what got their necks broke.  Today, I will introduce you to the thing that saved my wrist:

That’s a Logitech Trackman Wheel.  As you can see, it’s a trackball.  Unlike most trackballs, it has a very mouse-like shape, and a ball that’s operated with the thumb, not the fingertips.

This is by far the most comfortable and precise pointing device I’ve ever tried, and I’ve tried just about everything out there.  My wrist pain has completely disappeared since I’ve started using the trackball.  It took me about a day to get used to it, and two or three days to get really precise with it, but now going back to a regular mouse feels like trying to draw a picture with a sharpened fence post.  My hand stays put on the thing, and just the small movements of my thumb drive the mouse pointer.  There’s no need for a mouse pad, since the trackball is stationary on the desk, along with the hand.

I swear, I didn’t know how much a regular mouse sucks from an ergonomic standpoint until I finally tried a decent trackball.  I have no more pain or discomfort in my wrists and fingers.  At first, the trackball feels odd, but once you get used to it, it’s much faster and more precise than the mouse.  The increase in comfort and efficiency is well worth the effort of getting your hand used to the new device. I’ve tossed my mice into the Bin O’ Spare Computer Parts in the attic, and it’s trackballs for me from now on.


26 thoughts on “mouse killer.

  1. Marko,

    I’ve been using this trackball for several years now and I love it. Glad to see you’ve got one now. I’ve been afraid that they’re going to stop making it and perhaps I should buy a half dozen next time I need one. Not that I’ve had many problems with them. I’ve bought four I think and two are still in use. Probably would last longer if I could convince my granddaughter not to eat while using it.

  2. If you have a computer hooked up to your TV, a trackball is the only way to go. I have the very same one you pictured but wireless for my TV/Mac Mini.

    I agree, the one you have is the best. The design where you use your fingers to move the ball and your thumb to click is nowhere near as precise.

  3. NPB says:

    Back in the early 90s, we had a home computer and bought one of the first trackballs. It was shaped like a hand, with the ball at the thumb. I loved that thing, and I’m suprised that the trackball hasn’t yet taken over from the mouse.

  4. Seth says:

    I have one of those, but don’t like it as much as the older, flatter, white ones.

    There’s the three-button, no-scroll-wheel model (Trackman Marble), which is my favorite, though it’s ps/2 only, which necessitates the use of an adapter.

    There’s also a scroll-wheel version (Trackman Marble Wheel), which leaves the fingers in the same position as a three-button mouse or trackball, unlike the newer model you have. The scroll-wheel one was made with both ps/2 and usb models, though you won’t have much luck finding the usb one, and if you do, it’ll be horribly expensive, like many retired Logitech trackball models.

    Microsoft also made a five-button, scroll-wheel trackball (Trackball Optical) that’s similar, except both the ball and the entire unit are larger. This one’s higher resolution than the older Logitechs, so it’s better for playing twitchy shooter games.

  5. Chris says:

    I’m addicted to using mouse gestures to drive firefox, do these translate well to a track ball?

    • Seth says:

      I’ve been able to do some of the Opera gestures with the trackball, but it’s not easy. I was never able to reliably use the gesture-based casting system in a couple games I tried with the trackball either.

      You may have better luck than I did, however, since gestures sort of annoy me, and I gave up pretty quickly. Though I have been using trackballs exclusively for the last 15 years, so you’d think if anyone could do, it would be me.

  6. BUFF_dragon says:

    I have used trackballs for YEARS, I am a Mechanical Designer and use a mouse CONSTANTLY for work, and at home…. I can’t stand to use a regular mouse anymore, I’m tons more accurate with my trackball in Solidworks and I can leave my mouse sitting on a spot and hit the buttons without the damned thing moving (my work computer is slower than ……………………………………crap………………………….)

    Glad to see that you have joined the group.

  7. Windy Wilson says:

    I’m going to have to look into this. My main question will be how does it adapt to left-handed use?

    • Marko Kloos says:

      Not at all…this particular model is right-hand only. They don’t make a left-handed version due to “lack of demand”.

      Logitech does, however, make an ambidextrous model where the ball sits on top of the mouse, and the thumb and middle finger do the clicking. There are plenty of other trackballs out there that are southpaw-friendly, too.

  8. Tam says:

    My ex had one of these back in the day. I never really got the hang of it.

  9. aczarnowski says:

    Love mine – been using them since the PS/2 only white version. Coupled with a IBM Mod-M space saver, it’s the most compact input system I can make that doesn’t suck.

  10. Leit says:

    Tried one for a while. Didn’t mesh with gaming. Absolutely zero transfer of learned skills, and it confused my muscle memory. Discarded it pretty quickly.

    Another minus for gaming: trackballs don’t seem to come with the utterly insane array of buttons that some gamers – especially strategy players or hardcore mummorpergers – find indispensable.

  11. irish red says:

    i used one of those for about a week and it killed my thumb. i’ve had the mx400 for a year now and it’s great. the shape feels good and the extra buttons are handy.

  12. Al T. says:

    Serious trackball user here. I don’t game, so take that into account. One thing – if it gets slow, pop the ball out and clean underneath. Q tip works fine.

  13. Wraith says:

    I’ve been using the same thing for about a decade, and I frankly can’t understand why anyone uses a mouse any more. I’m so used to it that even the Marble Wheel drives me nuts.

    My only problem with it is that no store I’ve found carries a replacement–they’re all about the mouse, it seems. I’ll have to order about half a dozen just in case they stop making ’em.

    Welcome to Trackball Anonymous! ;D

  14. Tam says:

    Two things have kept me a mouse user:

    1) Optical mice. Now that the ball is gone, I’m a much happier camper.

    2) Modern zillion-d.p.i. mice. My wrist no longer gets much of a workout, now that less than two inches of travel will move the cursor completely from one side of the screen to the other; my wrist stays pretty motionless and all mouse movement is done with my fingertips.

  15. Bill says:

    Well, I’ve been using this model for years:

    and I’m on the 4th one, I have worn all the paint and insignias off of 3 of the 4 before they quit. With 4 teenagers, and now 3 grandkids, they have taken more than their share of abuse!

    I have also used this model and like it, but wish it has a scroll button:

    I, too, have never figured out why people are still using mice!!

  16. joe says:

    Welcome to “the dark side”! I, too have been a trackball convert for well over a decade. My brother first introduced me to them on a road trip (try using a regular mouse in a moving car). I have bought 4 of this same model over the years. One became a gift to a family who needed one, one stays with my desktop, one with my laptop, and one with the computer at work. If Logitech’s “wireless” model was, indeed, wireless and didn’t require a wired transceiver, I would probably have one of those, too.

    I’m not an intense gamer, but do use them for some simple, older FPS games with much more success than I would have with a regular mouse. I have no trouble with gestures in Firefox, though that may be because I was using this thing for a LONG time before Firefox even came out.

  17. James Nelson says:

    I switched to a trackball years ago and haven’t looked back. No more arm, wrist, etc, pain is a definite plus.

  18. TheAxe says:

    How easy is it to game with compared to a mouse?

    • Marko Kloos says:

      The only game I play with any sort of regularity is World of Warcraft, which actually works better with the trackball than it did with the mouse. (Spin shots with my hunter are much easier, for one.)

      Valve is coming out with a Steam client for the Mac next week, and I own a bunch of Steam games. I’ll report on the trackball’s suitability for L4D and Team Fortress.

  19. allan says:

    OTOH, this one has served me well for 5+ years of daily abuse (CAD included): (Expert Mouse)

    The ball has nice momentum and a big scroll ring. It’s easy to clean and still as slick as new.

    Only addition I’ve had to make is additional wrist/forearm support to lengthen the ramp. Zero RSI here.

    • Michael G. says:

      I have the same one. Bought mine to ease wrist pain and it worked perfectly. I love the size of the trackball itself (I’d say almost billiard ball size).

      However I found I don’t like playing FPSes with it, I still prefer the mouse for those.

  20. Sarah says:

    I wore my first Trackman Wheel right out not too long ago, so I replaced it with…another Trackman Wheel. This mouse is definitely the most comfortable that I’ve ever used – even though it’s cheaper than the nice Kensington trackball I used to have.

  21. Jared says:

    Microsoft makes (used to make actually) a similar pattern optical track ball. I found it to be much superior to the Logiteck version. Primarily because its larger…more a man-hand sized device. But also because it uses a bigger ball which I found to be easier to move precisely. I suppose that’s a result of the larger heavier ball having more inertia.

    You can still find them on ebay.

  22. Nomen Nescio says:

    trackballs haven’t taken over from mice, i think, because there are too many possible options (which also makes it hard to pick the trackball that fits you best).

    f’rinstance, Marko and i clearly disagree on what finger(s) should operate the ball. one of my few honestly bought genuine Microsoft products is a trackball, precisely because most Logitech ones are thumb-wheel, and i don’t want those. don’t think MSFT makes that model anymore, either; thankfully it’s not wearing out so far.

    then there’s the handedness issue. handed mice just look silly, and there’s no real downside to ambidextrous mice, so most mice are ambi; trackballs work noticeably better if they’re handed, which makes accommodating left-handers trickier.

    and then, finally, there IS the ball-cleaning issue. modern mice you can get away with never cleaning, and they always work. trackballs DO need to be wiped down once a week, or the gunk builds up to where even optical ones start tracking wonky.

    gaming… twitch gaming is impossible with my fingers-operated one. or at least that’s my excuse and i’m sticking to it. the MMORPGs i play work fine with it, as does anything not really dependent on very fast high-precision movements. getting high precision with a trackball isn’t hard, even for me; i just can’t do it reflexively.

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