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Choosing a Mouse or Pointing Device – Part 2

 

Continuing in our series of blog posts about mice and other pointing devices, this time we’re looking at the different device types and connection options.

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The type of device you use and the connection method are two other things you’ll need to consider when purchasing a new mouse or pointing device, so this time we’ve gone into a little more depth about the types of device available, how they connect to your computer, and why considering these things is important.

  • Touchpads, Trackballs and Tablets

The reason we’ve chosen the term “pointing device” rather than just “mouse” for these articles is because while most users will be using a mouse, some will choose to use a touchpad, (especially on a laptop), a trackball or a tablet. There are other options you can use rather than a mouse, if you prefer!

Touchpads are becoming more advanced, with the ability to use multi-touch and gesture commands on them to perform advanced functions such as scrolling and zooming. The advancement of touchpad technology means that touchpads now are becoming extremely useful, reliable and sensitive. While they do take a bit of getting used to, they’re now a good, easy to use replacement for a mouse on mobile devices such as laptops, and there’s no longer really a need to take a bulky mouse along with you. While it’s rare to find a touchpad attached to a regular desktop PC, some tablets (which we’ll discuss later on) now offer this type of functionality, so if you’re really a fan, that’s also a possibility.

Trackballs are not particularly popular, although some people still prefer them as they involve moving the fingers instead of the whole hand. They are basically an upside down mechanical mouse, you use your fingers or thumb to roll a ball which sits on rollers or inside a bay with LEDs which judge the distance, direction and speed of your movements. Most of them also have the buttons of a regular mouse, plus a scroll wheel. They take quite a bit of getting used to, although they are better for maintaining a neutral arm position and reducing stress on the wrist than standard mice, and so can be helpful if you suffer from RSI. They also don’t need a special surface or lots of room to track on as you’re just moving the ball and not the whole device. Those who use them extensively often say they offer improved control over a regular mouse.

Tablets, until now have been the realm of the graphic designer and the artist, but with touch devices taking off so much recently, and with improvements in handwriting recognition, they are gaining a new niche market from people who prefer to hold a pen or use them as a giant touchpad to perform everyday computer tasks. Not all tablets perform the role of touchpad, though, this is restricted mainly to Wacom’s Bamboo Pen and Touch range at the moment – although the ones that do support touch have a number of programmable buttons and support multi-touch functions and gestures to scroll and zoom, etc. They do take a bit of getting used to, and some older non-touch models have a battery in the pen that needs replacing sometimes, but if you are comfortable with using a pen and like the idea of using one to control your computer, you may like to try one. Definitely something we’d recommend trying out before purchasing – but our design geek wouldn’t be without one!

  • PS/2 and USB

PS/2 is considered a ‘legacy’ connector, (meaning it’s technically out of date and has been replaced by newer technology,) but many computers still offer PS/2 ports. PS/2 connectors are small, round connectors that were the predecessor to USB connections on keyboards and mice – purple port for keyboards, green port for mice. However, in some instances, they can still be pretty useful. If your organisation needs to disable all the USB ports on their machines for security reasons, (for example to avoid flash drives being plugged in), then the PS/2 ports mean that the machines are still useable with most standard devices – a converter can be purchased to convert a USB device into a PS/2 device if necessary.

PS/2 devices can have less delay since the signal is not sent into the operating system via the USB port but instead handled directly within the hardware – however this kind of delay should not be noticeable to the average user.

With so many devices being connected via USB now, there may be a lack of ports on your machine, this is another scenario where a PS/2 port may be useful – they are specific and can only be used for certain types of device, which means you can free up a USB port for use by another device.

The great thing about USB, though, is that the basic functions of USB pointing devices will usually work if you just plug them in (this is known as “plug-and-play”). It also requires very little hardware knowledge – Most people know about the small, flat sockets on their computer, and it would be a challenge now to find a computer without a USB port – which means if it a pointing device has a USB connection, you can probably use it on your computer (depending on compatibility with your operating system of course). A lot of desktop computers also have additional ports on the front now too, so if you don’t like messing around at the back of your computer to plug in a device, you don’t need to.

 

Next time, in the final post of this week, we’ll be taking a look at the sizes and ergonomics of mice and pointing devices, and weighing up the good and the bad points of wired and wireless devices.

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If you need more information about mice and pointing devices, or guidance on choosing one that’s right for you or your business, or if you’d just like to chat to us about anything else IT-related, get in contact with us!

Call us on 0845 234 0580 or email us at info@geek-guru.co.uk

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Posted on by Emily
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