Let me begin by describing the writer's meme – and by all accounts it is a meme, particularly for fiction writers.
You sit in front of a computer for blocks of hours, but you're not really "present". Your body is there in front of your computer, but your attention, your vision, your emotions – are carrying on in a world inside your head. This world is the place where your characters reside. There's a time warp that's almost indescribable. You feel as though you've been writing for 30 minutes but the clock shows you've been at it for hours. Quite often, the only thing that pulls you out of this world is a numbing in the wrist or a sharp pain in the back.
Enter the benefits of ergonomics for writers. ANYTHING that helps you stay in "that world" is a good thing. That world is where you are at your best. In that world you are not creating, you are an observer…a journalist. Your character’s thoughts, feelings, actions and dialogue are coming through you, and the keyboard and onto your computer screen. The longer you stay in that world, the better writer you become (remember my article on Outliers?).
So often when purchasing computer equipment, ergonomics is considered an afterthought – and ergonomic mice – well they are like the "after” gadget. Just like the backup hard drive "after" your system has already crashed. Or the protective eyewear "after" you've scratched your cornea. Or the brain bucket “after” you have spilled your brains on the asphalt. I have been using the ergonomic mice described below for over a month, and I realize the mindset surrounding ergonomic mice should not be an “after”thought at all. They should be more reflective of seatbelts. What I mean by this is, “Would you buy a new car that didn't come with seatbelts as standard equipment?” Heck no!
Contour Design – Contour Mouse
This mouse really is as big as it looks in the pictures. It is purposely designed with a wide base to allow your hand to rest comfortably atop the mouse while eliminating "gripping" and "pinching". There is no strain or discomfort to your wrist or forearm, because the mouse slopes at a natural 17 degree angle. This thwarts the stress that "palm-down" can cause on the wrist joint.
Scrolling through a 120-page screenplay is a breeze with the location of the scroll wheel located next to the thumb. The Contour Mouse was a big hit around the office, because the design conforms to your hand. It's almost the same result you would get if you were to press your hand into wet cement. It is perfect for the writer spending long Googling hours preparing for their next screenplay or manuscript.
• Available with or without the scroll wheel
• Select from four right-hand mouse sizes and three left-hand mouse sizes
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At $219.95 this was the most expensive mouse we tested, and much like the TrackBar Emotion, it took about a week to fully acclimate to the hardware platform. But once we had the hang of two-handed mousing, we loved it! Yes, two hands! When you distribute navigation and other mouse functions to both hands you further eliminate the stress that comes with solely using the dominant hand. Who knew!?
• Perfect for both desktop and laptop users
• Slim design with removable palm rests
• Seven buttons for clicking, scrolling, copying, pasting, etc.
• 2008 National Ergonomics Conference Attendees Choice Award for best new product
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I really wanted to test Euro Office's claim that the TrackBar Emotion works on multiple operating systems. We tested the mouse with a desktop Mac and PC as well as a PC laptop. It performed flawlessly inside of XP, Vista and OS X. The Mac operations required a 3rd party software (SteerMouse) to operate all of the buttons, but I was able to program in the F9 (exposé), Dashboard, ⌘ + shift + 4 (snipping) functions, and easily access these additional keyboard functions with one click of the button. Compared to the RollerMouse Free it is bulkier. I think the thickness is part of the engineering so that it remains level with most desktop keyboards. Euro Office is coming out with the successor to the TrackBar Emotion, but was unable to get it to our office in time for testing. You know what that means? This already great ergonomical mouse is only going to improve.
• Small and portable
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Humanscale – Switch Mouse
We can see why Humanscale has taken home a lot of top design awards with the Switch Mouse. Like the Contour Mouse, the Switch Mouse is designed to fit the curve of the human hand. The V-shaped base keeps a writer's hand in a more natural position with less stress and repetitive motion. This allows for extended Googling without causing pain in the wrist or forearm (not to mention carpal tunnel).
The scrolling feature on the Switch Mouse is really cool. It is a “four-way button” called a navigation dish and it is placed strategically on the top of the mouse. It was convenient for me to use my middle finger to scroll and keep my pointer finger on the left-click button. Simply slide your finger over the top of the navigation dish to scroll in all directions. This was the only mouse we tested that allows the user to adjust the size of the mouse on-site (see pics below). The key is to allow your entire hand to rest atop the mouse. Using the slide-out mechanism, you can adjust the length of the mouse so that it fits the full length of your hand – palm extended. Again, this is to thwart the constant "pinching" and "gripping" of mouse buttons that causes stress on the joints. Humanscale are the folks that make that great ergonomic chair called Freedom. They also sell flat panel monitor arms, keyboard trays and other ergonomic gadgets. For Mac users you are limited to the plug-n-play functions of only two out of the four buttons – the right and left click, plus the navigation dish.
• Four-way scrolling
• Programmable buttons
• Winner of numerous design awards including: 2007 Good Design Award, Best Ergonomic Solution Mixology07, Best of Neocon
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Update – Wow-pen.com does not have a download available for programming the mouse on a PC. Use a 3rd party software.
• Very reasonably priced
• Four different color choices: black, blue, silver or red
• Designed for optimum wrist comfort