Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board




Mouse Alternatives?

Does anyone out there have experience with mouse subsititutes like the Fingerworks iGesture pad?  If so, did you like it and how long did it take you to adjust to it?  The common commands as finger gestures looks very intriguing

I've got some wrist and forearm pain that I'm hoping a change of devices might help.  I've already switched to a Gyration cordless mouse that can be used off-desk.  I like it better than my previous mouse now that I've reduced the sensitivity a bit.  I can switch hands with it more readily and for when I'm just reading or browsing, the ability to use the mouse off the desk is useful (though I don't use it that way as much as I thought I might).

Bruce Perry
Thursday, July 10, 2003

I cannot say enough good things about a trackball.  I am partial to the Logitech models.

Mitch & Murray (from downtown)
Thursday, July 10, 2003

Even better, get a thumb-operated and finger-operated trackball mouse.  They stress different muscles, so rotating will help a lot.  As in the previous post, I strongly recommend logitech.

Anonymous
Thursday, July 10, 2003

I'm seriously considering an iGesture pad.

Brad Wilson (dotnetguy.techieswithcats.com)
Thursday, July 10, 2003

Wacom tablets are great. The A5 Graphire is a terrific mouse replacement.

Frederik Slijkerman
Thursday, July 10, 2003

I mean A6...

Frederik Slijkerman
Thursday, July 10, 2003

I actually had the iGesture pad and sold it.  If you have pain, it might be a good solution.  It definitely feels easier on the hands.  But I was just looking for something that was more ergonomic and faster.  It is definitely slower than a mouse.  Forget about typing with it, the fact that you have no tactile feedback is key.  You have to look and pay attention to make sure you are hitting the right keys.

Also the scrolling gesture did not work right.  It was very jerky, so as to be unusable.  Going back to using scrollbars is not fun.

I hate the mouse too but it is definitely faster than most alternatives.  I haven't found a good one so I just stick to the mouse.

But again, if you have pain, it's a different story.

Roose
Thursday, July 10, 2003

I have an MS trackball (they were out of the logitech when I was shopping) the kind where you move the mouse with your thumb and click with your fingers. I use it all the time and it's really cut down on some pain I was having in my index and middle fingers - as a bass player, i was concerned that this would lead to serious injury.

Well, the pain is only there when I'm on the computer for hours on end doing really mouse-intensive stuff, graphics for example. It's really down by like 99%.

I don't know about the Logitech, but the MS one is always detected by Windows, so I never have to install drivers, which is nice.

I've never tried one of those gesture things, but they look interesting... Do you always have to keep your hand hovering over it though?

www.marktaw.com
Thursday, July 10, 2003

Switched to a trackball years ago.  Love it.

I recommend an OPTICAL trackball b/c it's easy to get dirt from your finger on the ball.  (Not a problem with an optical).

I use the Logitech marble mouse.

Entrepreneur
Thursday, July 10, 2003

Does anyone think the trackball is faster than the mouse?  I always thought it was slower, but maybe you have to get used to it.

Roose
Thursday, July 10, 2003

Even after about a year or more with the trackball, I still think a mouse is probably easier to use. The good thing about the track ball is you can SPIN it across the screen at a moment's notice. I'd say it's around 80% as good as a mouse, but with a 200% improvement in my sore fingers.

Optical Trackballs are great. Do they come any other way now?

www.marktaw.com
Thursday, July 10, 2003

For those who've had pain issues with mice - what were you using?

I'm susceptible to CPS (got it from laptop typing), and I mouse a LOT, but I've never gotten pain from mousing. *But* I use a logitech mouseman (the ergo-shaped one) and a gelpad (soft rubber mousepad with a gel pad for my wrist)

For mousing I use both my fingers and wrist to use the mouse.

Not sure if that's "the" answer, but it hasn't caused me any problems...

Philo

Philo
Thursday, July 10, 2003

I don't think it matters. I tend to use my fingers to do everything - push it around, click, everything. By the end of the day, they would hurt. With the trackball, the heel of my hand rests on the mouse and my fingers just sort of rest on it.

www.marktaw.com
Thursday, July 10, 2003

Logitech Marble Trackball man here.

I got some serious shoulder pain from using a mouse. I blamed my workplace, but to be honest, I'm pretty sure it was caused by Diablo II. (And no, I did not claim workman's comp for the injury) Switching to the trackball made the pain go away.

The model I use is the one with the ball in the middle; you use your fingers to move the ball and your thumb to click the buttons. I'd prefer a more ergonomic model, but nobody makes left-handed trackballs. Heck, I'd be happy to find a hand-neutral one with a scroll wheel or more than two buttons.

Chris Tavares
Friday, July 11, 2003

Whew, don't you guys ever play games?

Phoenix
Friday, July 11, 2003

I tries a trackball (Logitech) for a (admitedly short) while. Never liked it. I love the cheap MS mouse (the bend soapbar one with just the two buttons and the wheel).

Just me (Sir to you)
Friday, July 11, 2003

I think the only reason I gave the trackball as much of a go as I did was because I was really worried about my fingers. After a while, you just get used to it, though your friends never do.

One cool advantage is that you can click & drag, and when you click and un-click, you don't accidentally move the mouse, so you can get pixel-perfect precision.

It's awkward to start, but I don't use a regular mouse. My girlfriend's computer is a laptop, and the only time I ever use a mouse now is when I'm at a friend's house. Most of the time, I'm not really aware of what I'm using, they all become ingrained after a while.

www.marktaw.com
Friday, July 11, 2003

http://www.mousetool.com/

It clicks the mouse for you. Takes some getting used to, but I found it very useful and after using it for about 18 months my fingers feel a lot better.

That, and switching to dvorak keyboard layout, solved a lot of my pain-from-typing problems.

Tom
Friday, July 11, 2003

Tom - how long did it take you to get used to Dvorak. My finger memory is so strong, I don't know that I'd be able to make the transition easily.

www.marktaw.com
Friday, July 11, 2003

"Don't you guys ever play games?"

Yep, I still do. It took a little while, but I'm as good with the trackball in Diablo as I was with the mouse, only without the shooting pain in the shoulder.

Chris Tavares
Friday, July 11, 2003

Thanks for all the responses.  It's clear that the trackball is another good option.  I'm still leaning toward the iGesture pad (higher cool factor), but I'm happy to know there are other options in case the pad doesn't work out.

Bruce Perry
Friday, July 11, 2003

I wouldn't like to say how long it took me to get used to dvorak, because I kept using qwerty at work for about 5 months. Eventually I started mistyping a lot on both, so I switched wholly to dvorak.

A friend changed too and it took him about a week of typing only on dvorak layout to get to a usable speed. It probably won't take as long as you think, but it is very disconcerting at first.

Tom
Saturday, July 12, 2003

My question with typing Dvorak is laptops. Who makes a laptop w/ a Dvorak keyboard? Is it just a matter of popping off the letter caps and rearranging them (in combination with a different software driver, of course)? For that matter, do people who type Dvorak seek out Dvorak keyboards, or just rearrange the letters and get new driver for their Qwerty keyboards?

Brad Wilson (dotnetguy.techieswithcats.com)
Saturday, July 12, 2003

Judging from various websites I've visited, it seems most people just leave the qwerty keycaps as they are. This doesn't take long to get used to.

I used marker pen on my home keyboard, and covered each key with a bit of sellotape to prevent smudging. With laptop keyboards you should just be able to rearrange the keys, as they're probably all the same shape.

Tom
Saturday, July 12, 2003

Not to rain on anyone's parade, but I think it's accepted now that dvorak superiority is questionable.

http://reason.com/9606/Fe.QWERTY.shtml

I have read several articles on the subject, all explaining why dvorak superiority is a myth, but that is the best one I could find through google in 5 seconds.  Try "dvorak myth".

Is the goal to relieve pain or to increase typing speed?  I think that most of the articles focus on typing speed.  I don't know anything about the pain aspect, though I would think that the act of typing is the thing that causes the pain, and the keyboard layout is a relatively small factor.  Probably the split keyboards would help more with the pain aspect than switching layouts.  Maybe the initial loss of pain with dvorak is explained by the loss of speed when you're switching.

BTW I have never tried typing on dvorak, but its argument seem to make sense, on first thought.  However, even though my hands are just average sized for a male, the idea of separating common letter pairs (as qwerty does) seems like a good thing.  The dvorak strategy of putting the common letters on the home row makes seems like it would cramp my hands.

If I could change the keyboard layout, I would make it so the modifiers (shift, alt, ctrl) can be done with the thumb.  I think that would eliminate some strain.  I see people all the time contorting their hands in odd ways because for some reason they don't like to use their pinkies when typing (though I do).

Andy
Saturday, July 12, 2003

I use al lof the fingeres on my left hand, and most of the fingers on my right hand - not the pinky, I think it's because I play bass and bass requires all the fingers on te left hand and only a few on the right hand.

I was thinking of switching to that layout that lets you type with just your left hand, which would help with switchng between the mouse & keyboard, and I could type while eating, or when my cat jumps on my lap, which is convenient.

I imagine switching between keyboard layouts is kind of like alternate tunings on a guitar, or going from bass to cello, or guitar to mandoin. All the tools you need are there, it's just a matter of remapping things, so how long it takes probably depends mostly on your own internal ability to deal with frustration, which kinda brings us back to Philo's question about learning new languages.

Thanks for all the info on Dvorak.

www.marktaw.com
Saturday, July 12, 2003

----"Not to rain on anyone's parade, but I think it's accepted now that dvorak superiority is questionable."----

No; the urban myth is actually the myth that Dvorak is not superior.

If you check your Goolge references more carefully you will see that they nearly all refer back to articles by Margolis.  He is one of these "Chicago boys" who believe that it doesn't take anybody to change a lightbulb because if the lightbulb needed changing the mareket would do it of its own accord.

The Qwerty keyboard stands as a thorn in the side of these people who believe the free market always produces the best of all worlds, and so Loebowicz and Margolis do their best to trash it. Their argurments have been convincinlgy answered here http://www.mwbrooks.com/dvorak/dissent.html
but  the rabid right doesn't believe facts or arguments should spoil a good dogma.

Conspiracy theorists among you can have a field day here because Margolis is/was a paid consultant for MS in its case against the DOJ. Suggestions that the continued peddling of falsehoods provides more lucrative consultancy fees than admitting that sometimes market dominance is not the result of optimal design are probably very close to the mark.

Stephen Jones
Sunday, July 13, 2003

Point taken, but after skimming both articles again there doesn't seem to be any clear evidence either way.  The guy debunks the dvorak debunking, but I haven't really seen any evidence that dvorak is superior beyond logical arguments, not empirical ones.

IMHO I would guess that dvorak is significantly superior for about x percent of people, where x is close to the percentage of people who actually use dvorak, and thus probably less than 1.  For the rest of the population, typing isn't that big a deal, and they have no reason to switch.  If dvorak was 5 times as good, I think you'd see a lot more people using it (since we've had PCs for a good 20+ years now, making it free to remap).  But it's probably more like 1.1 times as good for a certain segment of the population.

As far as pain goes, everyone I know with RSI was helped a lot more by using a microsoft natural-style keyboard.  Well, not that they tried dvorak, but that seemed to be an easier solution.

I don't know who Margolis et al are, but it their theories about economics seem like poor justification for slandering the dvorak layout.  It seems a little odd that they would care that much.  Nothing in these "soft sciences" are really laws; there are always exceptions.  Their laws are more like generalizations.  I would just say that things that involve muscle memory are an exception.  It's pretty obvious that muscle memory is very strong and lives in an deep intuitive part of the brain, e.g. if you learned piano as a kid, you probably still have some melodies lingering around in your fingers, even after a decade or more of not playing.  Ask anyone who has tried to change their tennis swing or their golf swing after a number of years playing.

Also there have been alternative piano keyboard layouts that never made it.  The current keyboard is pretty bad because transposition is a pain in the ass, e.g. C major falls much differently on the hand than E major or B major.  This is a pain if you want to transpose something for someone's voice, since there is no way to quickly retune a piano.  There have been a number of alternative keyboards over the years that never made it.

Also, the dvorak logic seems faulty as I already mentioned before.  Do an experiment here: most people have their keyboard and mouse centered around the monitor, maybe with the mouse side sticking out a little more.  Either way, your center is at about the right alt key or even further to the right -- so you're hands are not centered about the g and the h.  Also note that if you just relax your fingers, they fall in a curve.  These two facts combined IMHO make it very clear that typing with 8 fingers on the home row is extremely uncomfortable.  I have never seen anybody actually type like that.  I just tried it, and my wrist hurt after about 2 minutes.  Normally, I (and I think most people) type with their arms roughly at a 80 degree angle to each other, and their wrists straight, and their fingers relaxed and curved.  Doing this makes the home row seem pretty arbitrary.  I can hit any key on the keyboard just as easily as I hit one on the home row.

Anyway, that's just my opinion, to each his own.  I don't doubt that dvorak has its advantages; whether they outweigh its disadvantages is personal.

marktaw: I saw some software that lets you type with one hand.  I think it used the spacebar as a "reflection" modifier: space+A = L, space+S = K, etc.  In this way you can type with one hand, and supposedly the mirroring idea makes learning it faster, because you still type the letter with the same finger (theoretically).  It seems like a good idea, but obviously it would be slower, and if you have to type ctrl-J you would have to type ctrl-space-D which seems painful.

One thing I plan on doing someday is just switching my mouse to the left hand.  I'm left-handed anyway, and it would solve the problem of your hands not being centered around G and H.  Also then you can use the numeric keypad for macros and navigation in the IDE more comfortably.  This is similar to the original Xerox PARC design where they had a chording keyboard on the left hand, and the mouse on the right hand.  What ever happened to that thing.

Andy
Sunday, July 13, 2003

The reason Margolis and ilk want to slam Dvorak is that it is key example of the "network effect"; that is QWERTY's continued dominance is the result of its dominance and not because it is superior. Other examples sometimes given are Apple v Wintel or Betamax v VHS but those examples have been discredited. Dvorak/Qwerty however is there and rather than admit the network effect Margolis prefers to twist the facts. He has never replied to Brooks either to refute or retract.

You are evidently not a touch typist.  If you were you would know that your fingers are always resting on the home keys, and return to them after every keystroke; old-fashioned typing tutors would go round with a cane and rap you in the knuckles if your fingers didn't do this. It is much faster to type using the home keys.

The problem now is the time taken to retrain. You have to start from scratch and this means doing no work at all for the time taken to learn, which at a couple of hours a day is probably a month. If schools taught it initially, then it would be a different matter; the conservative nature of typing teachers is amazing though.

You are quite right about Dvorak/Qwerty having no effect on RSI. The Microsoft Natural is the best for this, and I'm realizing this all the time as I type this on the laptop keyboard. The number of my postings to JOS plunges when I'm on holiday because of how uncomfortable laptop keyboards are.

Stephen Jones
Sunday, July 13, 2003

Long post, not very informative, feel free to skim. I've stuck *asterisks* around interesting ideas.

I'm not a typist and have a lot of bad typing habits, including almost never using the pinky on my right hand and instead using the middle and ring fingers to cover that area, but I do type pretty quickly - around 50-60wpm, including time for backspacing type-o's.

A year or two ago when I was interested in dvorak, I did a little research and it seemed to make sense, but never took the leap.

What I'm trying to say is, yes my keyboard is to the left of the monitor and the mouse to the right (I never noticed until you brought it up), but *I do type with my fingers on he home row*, and they pretty much remain there as I'm typing, even if my right hand shifts back and forth a little bit to make up for the fact that I don't use my pinky, so the presumption that you type with your fingers on the home row is accurate for a lot of people... certainly anyone who types with more than just a couple of fingers hunting and pecking.

Again, as a musician, I know the importance of knowing where your hand is. On a guitar or bass, it's not enough to know which fret & string you're pressing, you also want to know where exactly you are in that inch or two of space or else when you move you might miss the next note by just enough to let the audience know you've screwed up. On a fretless instrument it's even more important to have a feel for the space your finger is in because there's basically no room for error. So you rely on finger memory and various subtle clues...

Typing is the same way. *Those little knobs on the F and J key really do come in handy to let you know that your fingers are on the home row. Typing a special character like the ampersand & is a mild interruption because it's out of the scope of what you normally type.*

Regarding the MS Natural keyboard, I experimented with it around the time I started experimenting with the trackball, and never could get used to it. Part of it is because I don't type right and use my right and left hand to type characters on the other side of the keyboard... My left hand types "Y" while my right hand types "B." *Mostly, though my fingers felt WORSE when I was using it... Maybe because I as more self conscious of my typing, but I think it has to do with the fact that though the keys are slanted "stadium seating" style, when you hit them, they still go straight down... So you attack them at an angle, and they don't follow that angle, they go down instead.*

www.marktaw.com
Sunday, July 13, 2003

Oh yeah, *MouseTool* looks cool. I've been playing with it for the past few hours and it really works... I turn it off when I'm doing something important because I don't want to have to think about what I'm doing with the mouse, but I expect that I'll become as used to it as I am the regular mouse in no time.

It's true, basically any time you rest your mouse somewhere it's to click on something, so why not have your mouse click automatically every time you rest your mouse?

I have to figure out a way to map special functions near the left CTRL key now so that I can work with both hands quickly.

www.marktaw.com
Sunday, July 13, 2003

I understand the network effect, but I find it hard to believe that they would argue it doesn't exist at all.  Also, I would argue that QWERTY has other things going for it besides the network effect.

My understanding of the network effect is compatibility -- it is a pain for me to switch th dvorak, because if I go to work, everyone is using qwerty.  Same thing if I try to use a Mac, everyone else is using a PC, and it is harder to share my files with them.

There is also the initial cost up front, which is distinct.  I'm sure they have a term for it, but I don't know what it is.  For dvorak it is quite high (or at least perceived as quite high, which is what matters).  For switching to mac, the cost is buying a Mac, the idea of dealing with higher upgrade costs, and learning Mac applications, etc.

If you have a market leader, like qwerty was, and like the IBM PC was, then whether the "superior newcomer" will win out is simply a function of how superior it is.  It must be superior enough to overcome the initial cost, and the network effect.  Denying that the network effect even exists seems to be a bit naive, and I doubt they are doing that.  They probably think it is not important, and the free market will always converge to the best solution.  But that is just a matter of degree.  I would say it converges to the Best +- x%, where x is some factor that takes into account the fact that it is not worth it to switch to something 1.1x better when it has a high initial cost and the competitor has a near-monopoly (like qwerty does).

Also as I noted, the dvorak retraining cost is perceived as extremely high because muscle memory involved, and I gave the examples of athletic skills and musical instruments.  If the cost is so high, then it doesn't seem to have any bearing on one academic theory or another.  Obviously if we are switching electrical socket standards, and it is not backwards compatible, the cost will probably be near $10 billion for the country.  The new socket better be about a million times better, at least.  No matter what academics believe, that is still true. : )  And the same can be said for qwerty.

Anyway, I definitely am a touch typist.  I type 95-100wpm, making me pretty much faster than anyone in the room at a given time.  For some reason I don't need to keep my fingers on the home row to touch type.  I mean, surely my fingers are closest to the home row on average, but I don't need to keep them there to know where I am.  Keeping them squarely on the keys seems make your wrists become parallel, which is very bad for the hands.  I tend to keep my wrists in the same configuration that people do on an MS natural-style keyboard, but I always use a regular keyboard.

Anyway, the point is that dvorak proponents argue that it is easier to type a key on the home row, which I find untrue in my experience.  Maybe if you're starting out though, I dunno.

Andy
Sunday, July 13, 2003

If anyone was inspired to try mouse tool, there is an alternative version available from my website. I just got round to uploading it now.

Full details are at:

http://www.tomseddon.plus.com/mousetool/

I think it improves it greatly.

Tom
Sunday, July 13, 2003

The problem with the network effect theory is that it's been debunked so many times. I am *still* blown away by how fast CD's became the standard - I watched it happen in my college bookstore. When I started in '85, the music racks were all vinyl. By my graduation in '89, they were all CD's. The contents literally flipped around 86-87.

Look at DVD's now - VHS is dying fast.

I think the network effect isn't about the cost of change. I think Joel hit it on the head - the network effect is about the COST OF CHANGING BACK.

CD's and DVD's succeeded so well because you could have both a CD player and a turntable, or a DVD player and a VHS deck. (and a cassette deck and a videodisc player).

Philo

Philo
Sunday, July 13, 2003

Philo, CD's succeeded because they had several major companies behind them. Yes the size (small/portable) and quality (good) had a lot to do with it, but I think the main reason the switch happened is that most of the major players backed it.

I think it's Sony that's the only company behind the MiniDisc, and it never went anywhere... caught between CD's and MP3's and of course, only one company backing it.

www.marktaw.com
Monday, July 14, 2003

DivX (the DVD thing) had several companies behind it and died stillborn. Digital satellite only had two companies (in competition) behind it and is a dominant competitor in the TV marketplace.

It's about offering desirable features, and a reason to change (and a path back to where you came from). DivX was a solution looking for a problem.

Philo

Philo
Monday, July 14, 2003

Sorry - my point was that I think most of the time "network effects" is simply sour grapes - "oh, we failed because [x] is supported by network effects" instead of "oops, we failed to properly evaluate the market and offer a compelling alternative; instead we were peddling something we thought was kinda cool but apparently nobody else cared"

Philo

Philo
Monday, July 14, 2003

Does anyone have a good site about how these work?

Doug Farquhar
Monday, July 26, 2004

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home