The classic, cable-trailing computer mouse is a hardware staple, on hand whether you're working, web surfing or playing games. But for those willing to take a closer look, there's a surprising variety of alternative input devices available.
These include the wireless trackball mouse and the so-called vertical mouse, as well as integrated options such as the built-in touchpad and touch screen.
But which is best suited to your needs? While technical specs are important, the ergonomics also need to be considered.
The predecessors of today's computer mouse were developed as early as the 1960s. But pointing devices didn’t make their breakthrough until the emergence of computers with graphical user interfaces, says Andreas Hentschel from computer magazine Chip.
"Since then, there have basically only been minor changes," he says.
For a long time, the conventional mouse worked mechanically. But today, they have built-in optical sensors, Hentschel explains.
"The mice have a diode on the bottom that illuminates the pad. A sensor processes the reflected light and thereby detects the movements."
But this only works if the mouse is moved around on slightly textured surfaces, he says. On very smooth or transparent surfaces such as a glass, it helps to use a mouse pad.
In addition to mice with a USB cable, there are two types of wireless mice.
"On the one hand, there are wireless mice where a receiver is plugged into the computer's USB socket," explains Hartmut Gieselmann from specialist magazine c't.
On the other hand, he says, there are mice that connect to the computer via Bluetooth, which is handy when few or no more USB ports are available.
Gamers will go for mice with cables in any event, because they are fractionally faster, says Hentschel.
"With so-called gaming mice, there are other, freely assignable buttons in addition to normal buttons," he adds.
However, the trend is that classic mice are being replaced by touch screens, says Gieselmann. But using a touch screen only makes sense if the whole operating system is also geared towards it, he says.
The pointing device of choice also always depends on how it's used, explains Hentschel. Laptops especially designed to be used on the go always have an integrated mouse device in the form of a touchpad, and sometimes also a pointing stick.
Apart from any other preferences, ergonomics play a very important role. Because while some people might get along wonderfully with a standard mouse, others might complain of so-called "mouse arm," caused by the one-sided strain.
"Depending on the input device, different strains arise for the hand-arm system," explains Sascha Wischniewski from the German Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
To prevent problems in the wrist, the mouse should be ergonomically shaped to fit the user's hand, and should be possible to operate without great effort or repetitive movements.
For anyone still struggling with wrist or joint pains as a result of repeated strains with their mouse hand, a trackball mouse might be the solution. This allows you to control the mouse pointer with your fingers using a moveable ball.
Alternatively, a vertical mouse can allow the users to shift strain of mouse clicking to different muscles in the hand. — dpa