How to pick the right computer mouse
February 07 2015 10:10 PM

By Till Simon Nagel/Berlin/ DPA

Just about every user of a desktop or notebook computer will need a mouse at some point. If you don’t use one at work, it’s probably waiting for you on your home computer.
Getting the right mouse for you can be a blessing. But if you have to use the wrong one, it can turn into a painful experience. After all, holding something in your hand and clicking it all day can be a nightmare if you’re gripping something that feels uncomfortable.
Buying a mouse should be like buying shoes: a question of fit. But not a lot of people invest time in what should be one of their most important computer purchases. A bad mouse can lead to repetitive strain injury, which means pain in the forearm and wrist.
That means a little care should be taken when shopping. But how to pick the right one for the jobs at hand?
“A standard mouse is good enough for office work,” says Gerald Himmelein of German computer magazine c’t. He says most people seem to prefer a flat mouse with an elevated rest for the palm.
If the mouse moves smoothly, it will aid navigation. If you need to work especially precisely, consider one with varying sensitivity levels. Two buttons and a good scroll wheel - sometimes with one of two thumb buttons - are enough for office work.
Of course, ones with programmable buttons can make it easier to get through often-repeated tasks.
It’s important to pay attention to quality, advises Himmelein.
Broken scroll wheels, buttons that stick or clicks that aren’t executed are common problems with cheaper models.
“You should just forget cheap mouses that only look good,” he says, noting that a low price usually means the quality of the mechanical parts isn’t up to standard.
But it’s hard to recommend certain types, since every hand is different, says Hartmut Wandke of Berlin’s Humboldt University.
“The better it sits in the hand, the more comfortable the work.”
That’s why it’s important to feel the device before buying. Take your time and don’t be surprised if most models feel strange at first, advises Anette Wahl-Wachendorf, vice president of the German Association of Occupational and Workplace Medicine.
“There is an acclimatisation effect.”
Wandke says there are two main criteria when it comes to the shape.
“If you switch a lot between the keyboard and the mouse, you should pick a flat model,” he says. That makes switching back and forth less of a bother and keeps users from holding their wrists uncomfortably.
But, if the mouse is your main tool - like for a graphic artist, for example - then it’s important to find one that conforms well to the thumb and allows a secure grip, not just for precision, but to reduce strain.
Wandke notes that he’s an avid user of wireless mice.
“Wireless mice allow a lot more freedom of movement,” he says.
If a mouse feels comfortable, but there are still problems, it’s not a given that the mouse is the cause, says Wahl-Wachendorf. The problem could be tension in the way one sits or a keyboard that isn’t ergonomic enough.
If one already has health problems - like a rheumatic complaint - it might be best to consider a trackball or an upright mouse. They allow users to work without twisting their arms at a 90-degree angle. But, again, it’s necessary to do some testing before settling on one model.
“There’s just no one single mouse,” says Wahl-Wachendorf.
Gamers have completely different needs to those of office workers when it comes to a mouse. They need precision.
“For shooter games, you need a mouse that will register as few false clicks as possible,” says Himmelein.
Most players can get by with two buttons and a good scroll wheel. If you’re playing a game that requires special precision, consider getting a button that allows for different sensitivity levels.
Role players might also need a few extra buttons, since they’re always casting spells or summoning armies.
“A good mouse can be a major advantage when playing,” says Himmelein.
A good mouse for shooter games will cost about 40 euros (around QR166), but one with multiple, programmable buttons might run to 120 euros (around QR500).
Those who play a lot might be interested in mice that can have expansions attached or have variable pressure points to align with one’s hand or the way one holds one’s hand.
“That’s very helpful for people with big hands,” says Himmelein.

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