Trackball mice: A bullet as an ergonomic solution?

21 November 2022
Anita Bons

A bullet as a computer mouse. Never seen one before? That may be right, as these so-called trackball mice are rarely seen at work offices. Nevertheless, they offer some advantages over normal mice. Here you can read how they work and why they can be the best solution in some situations.

Trackball mice

Those who have worked with outmoded mice probably remember the ball at the bottom of the mouse. By moving the mouse, the ball at the bottom moved with it. In this way, movements were registered and transferred to the screen. Nowadays, this system has been replaced by a single optical sensor that instantly ‘sees’ where the mouse is.

With a trackball mouse, this system is reversed, so to speak. Here, the ball is at the top of the mouse and is a lot larger. The main difference with a normal mouse is that you only operate it with your fingers and thumb. So you don’t have to move the mouse itself, only the ball inside it. 

Advantages and disadvantages

Because you don’t have to move the trackball mouse across your desk, no unfavourable rotations from the wrist are required. You can also alternate between your left and right hand (provided you have a trackball mouse where the ball is on top). Finally, this mouse is great for precision work. The ball allows you to make small, precise movements, which is handy when working with CAD software, for example.

However, a trackball also has disadvantages. Precisely because you make precision movements with your fingers only, there is a greater chance of strain in the fingers. Besides, with some variants you also use your thumb for fine motor skills, while the muscles in your thumb are actually meant for grip. And your forearm can also become overloaded because it is twisted into an unnatural position (this is called pronation). Finally: using the trackball mouse takes some time to get used to.

Suitable or not?

Does the trackball mouse sound like the solution for your client? Or are you thinking more of a vertical or central mouse? With our white paper “What is the best ergonomic mouse?”, we would like to help you compare ergonomic mice and deliver well-founded recommendations.

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