Best Ergonomic Mice 2009

September 13, 2009

Image Courtesy of Contour Design
Image Courtesy Contour Design
Update:  See Wow-pen

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!  

Here at LitCentral we have gathered and tested six of the best ergonomic mice on the market.  Listed in alphabetical order, come discover our findings after the bump:

 

Contour MouseContour Design – Contour Mouse

We were fortunate enough to test two of Contour Design's ergo mouse products – the Contour Mouse and the RollerMouse Free.  Both products are truly unique solutions, with the Contour Mouse taking a customizable approach to ergonomic mice design.  The team of ergonomic engineers at Contour Design have taken into consideration that hands come in different sizes, and left-handed people need love too.
 
 

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.    

•    Comes in both black and white color options
•    Available with or without the scroll wheel
•    Select from four right-hand mouse sizes and three left-hand mouse sizes
•    Contour Design offers a 30-day no risk, product refund  
 
Price:$109.95
Purchase Here

 

Contour Mouse 

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RollerMouse FreeContour Design – RollerMouse Free 
 
 

The RollerMouse Free is truly a unique option in ergonomic mice.  The mouse is positioned just under the keyboard, where wrist placement is natural and comfortable. When I first looked at the RollerMouse Free via the web I was confused as to how to navigate the pointer.  I'm guessing many of you may experience the same, so let me make it very clear:  That long, black, horizontal bar (see pics) navigates the pointer.  Simply roll and slide the horizontal navigation bar (up-and-down or side-to-side) with your fingers or thumbs.  The bar itself is also clickable (left click). The buttons are programmable on a PC via Contour's software.  The RollerMouse Free came with "extension feet" to raise the keyboard so that your hands don't inadvertently hit the horizontal bar while typing.
 
The design of this mouse allows writers to keep their hands on the keyboard, and to work in a designated area.  In addition, the layout completely eliminates the tension on joints that comes with "pinching" and "gripping" the mouse.  There's absolutely no twisting of the wrist.  If you've ever surfed the web for long hours like me, with the lower padded area of your wrist/palm wresting on the desk, you may have experienced redness and numbing.  The detachable wrist pads completely eliminate that kind of discomfort because your palms never touch a hard area. 

 

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

Price: $219
Purchase Here

 

 

 

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TrackBar EmotionEuro Office – TrackBar Emotion
 
The good folks at Euro Office are excited about their product and it shows in the sound ergonomic engineering they've put into the TrackBar Emotion. As soon as the  ergonomic mouse arrived at LitCentral we began using it thinking it would present more of an acclimation curve than the traditional mouse design.  And, it does.  However, once you get used to two-handed mousing this ergonomic design really proves beneficial.  Using the TrackBar Emotion in "full Googling mode" (90% mouse 10% keyboard), my web surfing was noticeably faster.  The "clickbar" is a speedy pointer and also has a built in left-click function.  None of us experienced any pointer-sticking or discomfort in the wrist or forearm.
 
Euro Office sent us several colorful coverings for the TrackBar Emotion (green, purple, orange and mocha).  These rubber covers offer a little splash of color to your desktop while providing a tad more grip when your palms are at rest.  You can turn the TrackBar Emotion 180 degrees and operate the "clickbar" with your thumbs, or disengage the "click" function entirely within the horizontal bar via a button located on the bottom. *Note: If you use the mouse inverted with the clickbar closest to your body, you'll need to go into your control panel on the PC and set the mouse function for left-handed use, as it will reverse the right and left-click buttons.
 

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.

•    Six programmable buttons
•    Built in Mic for Vista speech recognition
•    Palm rests
•    Small and portable
•   Attendees Choice Award – best new ergonomic product – National Ergonomics Conference and Exhibition 2007
 
Price: Between $79 – $99 (depending upon where you purchase)
More info here 
TrackBar Emotion

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VerticalMouse 3Evoluent – VerticalMouse 3
 
The design of the VerticalMouse 3 keeps your arm straight, and forces your wrist to rest on the desk – preventing unnecessary stress and discomfort in both the wrist and forearm.  This is especially great for writers who often lose track of time (not to mention proper body positioning).  In addition to the wrist and forearm comfort, the contour of the mouse fits comfortably in the hand, and the buttons are easily accessible. 
 
 
 
Another plus with the VerticalMouse 3 is the smooth tracking technology.  This mouse literally glides across the mouse pad!  This ease of use reduces the constant repetitive side-to-side movement that comes with excessive mouse usage.   There is also a lip or a shelf at the bottom of the mouse to prevent “little fingers” from rubbing on the desk or mouse pad. The top button is basic click, middle button accesses the menu, the bottom button activates the backward function, and the thumb button advances the window forward.  All buttons are programmable on Windows XP, Vista and Mac OS X (via 3rd party app).  Also available is the VerticalMouse 2 for left-handed users and a wireless version for an additional $40.

 

•    Five programmable buttons
•    Designed to fit various hand sizes
•    Ultra-fast response
•    Right-hand use (left-handers, check out the VerticalMouse 2)
 
Price: $80
Purchase Here

 

 

 

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Switch MouseHumanscale – 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.

•    Size adjustable for a perfect fit
•    Four-way scrolling
•    Programmable buttons
•   Winner of numerous design awards including: 2007 Good Design Award, Best Ergonomic Solution Mixology07, Best of Neocon
•   Compatible for both left- and right-handed users
 
Price: $120
Purchase Here

 

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Wow-Pen JoyWow-Pen – Joy

Update – Wow-pen.com does not have a download available for programming the mouse on a PC.  Use a 3rd party software.

This was probably my favorite mouse. My only wish is that it were wireless with some padding around the palm rest.  The mouse is tilted at such an angle it allows for an organic grip, and the padding on your lower palm is where the majority of your weight rests.   Wow-Pen did a great job designing the Joy to fit within the natural resting position of your hand.  To use the mouse, place your hand on your desk as though you are reaching to shake hands.  Now, relax the tension in your hand and imagine the mouse resting in your grip.  With the Joy, your  hand and the mouse become one – pure synergy, like yin and yang.
 
There are 5 clickable buttons including the scroll wheel.  I like the positioning of the forward and backward buttons next to the thumb, but the forward button was an awkward reach for my small hands.   The Wow-Pen Joy was the most economical of all the mice we tested with a cool factor to boot.
•    Very reasonably priced
•    Four different color choices: black, blue, silver or red
•   Designed for optimum wrist comfort
•    Buttons are programmable via download at www.wow-pen.com (Mac requires a 3rd party software like SteerMouse)
 
Price: $27.95
Purchase Here

 

 

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