Trackball, mouse, or other?

Hello Everyone,

After wearing out another mouse, a few of my programming friends have suggested using a trackball instead of a mouse. I am not sure what is better and I am looking for your opinions. Here are a few points that I have heard and am not sure how relevant they are.

  1. your shoulder doesn’t get sore with a trackball. Moving a mouse all day gives your shoulder a good workout.
  2. don’t use a wireless trackball, as there is a delay when the mouse sleeps
  3. use an ergonomic trackball and not a trackball that is for both right-handed and left-handed people, as it doesn’t work well for both.
  4. you get what you pay for. An inexpensive trackball will not last long.
  5. you need to clean the ball of a trackball to remove the dirt that accumulates from your fingers.

Any other thoughts from those who use either or both?

Thanks. :slight_smile:

I’m a trackball fanatic. Love this one:

However, the gestures provided by the Magic Mouse made me give up. The kinetic scrolling is just too good. I wish Kensington offered a trackball that could give me those gestures. I’d very happily switch back.

to each his own… I hate trackballs and trackpads… prefer a real mouse… (wired, never BT)
but I also hate the Magic Mouse, and replace them with a $20 Logitech mouse every time.

somewhere I have a few “Magic Mice” (mouses?) and a Appletrack pad (wireless)… make me an offer if you’re interested

Well I very often work from a laptop, so I’m pretty used to a trackpad. I have a magic trackpad for my desk that I don’t use as I find it bothers my wrist. Not sure why. Otherwise I’d use it over the magic mouse as it gives even more control options. The magic mouse is definitely not perfect, but the gestures are just too important.

If the Apple options weren’t available, I would definitely have a wired trackball on my Mac. No reason for wireless on a device that doesn’t move. On my PC where I play games, a trackball is… would be interesting actually. I should try it. But I use a Razer Mamba, easily my favorite non-Apple mouse. When combined with their Firefly mat, the thing feels like it is hovering. Friction is astonishingly low. If I spin the mouse, it’ll do a roughly 1080° spin before stopping.

So long story short, there are so many options out there, our advice can’t really help much. I grew up on trackballs and absolutely love them, but they’re lack of gestures is a dealbreaker for me. When I used the magic mouse for a few days, realizing how much I loved it was a very bittersweet feeling.

Trackball for me, Has served me well for years. I have no real use for gestures on my Computer or iMac. Have used a trackball for many years and not yet suffered any wrist or arm ache.

[quote=297792:@Eugene Dakin]
After wearing out another mouse, a few of my programming friends have suggested using a trackball instead of a mouse. [/quote]

As a long time sufferer of tendonitis (persistent for 20+ years) I’d use a trackball
Some things I’ve learned from phsyio therapists & various ergonomics consultants that I’ve worked with at various places …

Mice encourage habits that can lead to tendonitis (as do keyboards but voice input sucks so …) and RSI’s in general
Esp ones that have the scroll wheels and even the magic mouse
You tend to grasp the mouse, and then while your muscles are already tensed up you over stretch them to roll the wheel or make some other gesture. Bad bad bad
And you tend to use you wrist to move them a fair bit. Again your muscles are already grasping and now you over stretch by tilting your wrist left or right to move the mouse a bit.

Track balls, because you don’t grasp them, don’t encourage these habits
You use your arm more to manipulate them so you dont tend to get wrist issues with them

Now thats not to say you cant learn to use a mouse better so you dont encourage these types of injuries
But you have to set out to deliberately use them differently than you’re used to
And it takes practice and thought to learn how to NOT do things in a way that is injurious to yourself

All this said I am NOT currently using a trackball
I have decent ergonomics at my workstation and I have learned how to use a mouse in a way that will not aggravate my tendonitis.
I literally move the mouse, let it go, then click or swipe whenever I can but there are some things you cant do that with (ie click & drag)
It keeps me from getting back to the point where I cannot feel my fingers & arm at the end of a work day

EDIT : this is the trackball I have used previously
And I will get a new one :slight_smile:

My new favorite unnecessary censorship example :stuck_out_tongue:

you mean this forum censors base balls, basket balls, and foot balls?


You provided good comments! Do you typically use your thumb on a trackball or do you use your fingers? It looks like the Kensington trackball will allow both.

I agree with your wired comment. I am sure that bluetooth has improved over the years, but the mouse seems to be more responsive with a wire.

This trackball looks like it is thumb only. Do you find that you have good control over the position of the cursor on the screen?

So far there are no wrist issues, but my shoulder is definitely tender at the end of the day. I like the way you describe your office setup, and ergonomically friendly is definitely the way to go.


With thumb control no issues at all with precise movement in my experience.

[quote=297815:@Eugene Dakin]So far there are no wrist issues, but my shoulder is definitely tender at the end of the day. I like the way you describe your office setup, and ergonomically friendly is definitely the way to go.
I’ve spent way more time with physiotherapists and ergonomics consultants than I care for
I have learned a great deal but I’ve also had my share of time of with paid leave because of RSI issues
I used to bowl 5 pin but gave it up at a couple of points in time because I literally could not feel my fingers or arm at the end of a work day
And when the doctor doesn’t believe you and you take a pin and jam it into your fingers without even flinching, but bleeding like crazy, I think they get it

Some companies I’ve worked for in Calgary are very cognizant of these issues and others completely oblivious.
They just have staff that has to take medical leave because they hurt so much
Its worth learning a LOT about to make sure your work doesn’t end up hurting you
Its the #1 reason for workers comp claims in Alberta

TouchPad on Mac (becaus eof lack os space), Mouse prefered on both Mac and WIndows.

I never really used the trackball (at Macintosh Portable prototypes / released Macintosh), first PoserBooks, then I sticked with a cable Mouse, then wireless mouse.

Later years, as I wrote above, I stopped to use the Mouse to really use the built-in TouchPad.

Note: on my 2in1 Windows laptop, I stopped to use the TouchPad (bad one) to use a 27MHz external wireless Mouse / then a stylet (pen) when I forgot the Mouse, the radio usb em/re or both and of course, this laptop’s monitor is touch screen, so I use it for browsing the internet.

No Carpal Tunnel symptom with my 8 to 16 hours a day use. Apple design of his laptop was a real winner (everybody copied the palm rests / central TrackPad / TouchPad / etc.).

OH !
And make sure you have a properly fit chair
If you have a pan that is too narrow or too wide that case actually make you move your arm more than you need to and can lead to issues

And one that is too deep will lead to back issues

Never would have thought that a poorly fit chair would be an issue but it can be
Herman Millar Aerion chair was the first one I ever got “fit” for - that was at TCPL ages ago when the moved from Petro Can square across to their new building next to James Short
Everyone went for a “sizing” to get the right size chair and it made an immediate difference for lots of people - including how they used their mouse

I use the Magic Trackpad 2 (and Magic Trackpad before) for a couple of years now and I’m very happy with it.
No pain and tired symptoms anymore.

Yes, I have one of these chairs and they are fantastic! I didn’t know that ‘sizing’ was available for chairs. I’ll have to look into that a little more. What a great tip!

Thanks everyone for your comments. I am going to order a trackball and give it a try. :slight_smile:

With that trackball I linked, I would use most (if not all) of my fingers. The ball is rolled with my fingers, primary click with my thumb, and the other buttons with whichever finger happens to be closest.

A friend of mine, who spends hours and hours daily doing CAD drafting, has been using a trackball for years, and would never switch back to a mouse. I don’t recall which brand (probably Kensington). It’s one that’s the size of a billiard ball.

I’ve had problems with my wrist from using a mouse over the years, but I’ve never tried switching to a trackball. What I found that worked well for me was to reverse the left and right mouse buttons. Now that the right button is the primary clicking button, I hold the mouse differently, which is much easier on both my wrist and my fingers.

As for trackpads, I wasn’t impressed with the first versions, but I’m very impressed with the ones on Macbooks since implementing 2 and 3 finger gestures. So much so, that I don’t even bother taking a mouse when I’m travelling.

Dunno who TCPL acquired their furniture from but it was a service from the suppliers
Until then I had no idea about deep pans vs wide pans etc and what effect it had on your overall posture & health
After that it was amazing
Seems like most positions I’ve ever held I’ve learned more about good ergonomics and revised my home workstation to conform better each time

I’ve now got a lot of things in my office that make me a much happier & healthier worker

Just learning how to not “death grip” the mouse is a good start for most people
Some I’ve seen hold it so tight they’re literally white knuckled

I began to get a little pain in the wrist some time ago and tried a vertical mouse. Couldn’t be happier :slight_smile:

Since my wrist isn’t twisted when holding the mouse the pain I had went bye bye :slight_smile: