How to Use a Trackball Mouse

Get the hang of this ergonomic tool

What to Know

  • Try trackballs in different styles and positions at the store.
  • Connect trackball to PC, and adjust settings according to your comfortability.
  • Trackball mice use different arm muscles and are better for inflammation or repetitive stress injury.

This article explains how to use a trackball mouse and why it might be a better option than a traditional mouse.

What is a Trackball?

On a standard mouse, the pointer represents the mouse. You move the mouse around, and the pointer follows the mouse.

A trackball mouse with a tablet and keyboard
mashuk / Getty Images

On a trackball, it's as if the pointer is just above the ball. As you roll the ball, it moves the pointer on top of it. Trackballs also have a different sense of momentum. A standard mouse only moves when you give it a nudge. You can spin a trackball like a marble.

The pointer moves as fast as your hand, which can be a bit disconcerting.

How to Use a Trackball

Follow these tips to help you acclimate to a trackball mouse.

  1. Try trackballs in different styles and ball positions at the store. Smaller balls that rest under one finger are best for day-to-day use. Larger balls that use more than one finger or the palm of your hand are better for more precision and larger or dual-monitor setups.

  2. Once you have a trackball connected to your computer, find the pointer on the screen and fix your eyes on it. Slowly roll the ball back and forth gently until you get a rough feel for it.

  3. Change the settings using the included drivers and software. A trackball can be more sensitive than a typical mouse. Dial back the sensitivity until you're comfortable with it.

    If you have trouble with precision work, slightly increase the magnification on the monitor or inside the app.

  4. Experiment with the buttons to find what feels natural for your purposes. Decide which you prefer for left-click, right-click, and other mouse functions. Different trackballs have different input options. Some let you click by pressing the ball in a specific direction, for example.

  5. Gradually use the trackball for different tasks. For example, use it for gaming at first, so you can practice and get a sense of how it feels. As you get more comfortable, use it for other tasks and phase out your traditional computer mouse.

Why Use a Trackball Mouse?

The trackball is a free-floating ball resting on rollers that spin in any direction. As you use it, the mouse pointer moves toward the spin. Trackball mice don't require as much movement from as many parts of your body. Depending on the design, you can manipulate it with a finger, letting your hand rest on the device and using other fingers to click buttons and turn wheels. It's also handy when you have limited space because you don't drag the mouse across a surface. Also, you can use a trackball on the go more quickly.

Other designs, where the ball sits at the center, let you use your wrist or the palm of your hand to spin instead of your fingers. These designs have the added advantage of being suited for either hand. It's more physically comfortable but takes some getting used to.

Repetitive Stress Injuries and Mice

The computer mouse and the trackpad are suitable for many tasks. However, these devices can cause serious problems, especially if you have inflammation or a repetitive stress injury.

Familiarize yourself with the signs of nerve pain or damage, even if you use a standard mouse. The symptoms include tingling, numbness, burning or shooting pains, and fatigue or weakness.

Moving a mouse requires engaging an entire set of muscles, from your shoulder down to the small muscles of your hand. You may know how much this can hurt if you have an injury or inflammation anywhere along the arm or have a limited range of motion.

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