The Mouse

PG discovered ergonomic keyboards and ergonomic mice a long time ago.

Given how many hours he has spent and continues to spend at his computer, his hands and wrists are grateful for those discoveries.

PG has used the Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard for a very long time. Although he would still like to combine the refined key clicks of the legendary Northgate OmniKey Keyboard of the distant past with the Microsoft layout, he’ll live with the less assertive feel of the MS keyboard for now.


PG is pretty much in love with everything he’s purchased from Anker. He used now-discontinued Logitech Performance MX wireless mouse and the Logitech MX Ergo Wireless Trackball Mouse, but his initial contact with an Anker mouse was love at first touch.

He started with the original (he thinks) Anker vertical mouse and still keeps a couple of his older ones handy as backups. However, when he tried the more recent updated version of the Anker Ergonomic Mouse, he liked the somewhat more palm-filling feel even more.

In addition to feeling better (at least for PG), PG’s keyboard and mouse choices are also made to avoid carpal tunnel problems, which PG most definitely prefers not to experience.

Although he thinks he occupies the best of all present keyboard and mouse worlds, PG would be interested in the experiences of visitors to TPV with various keyboards and mice and their current favorites.


30 thoughts on “The Mouse”

  1. I also lament the end of the Northgate keyboard. I actually wore one out…

    And I never use mice. I always use a trackball or, if stuck using a laptop, the trackpad (or, when available, the old IBM joystick-thingy in the middle of the otherwise horrible keyboard). There are two reasons for this:

    (1) I’m a pianist by training and so doing intricate things with my fingers is natural and well-supported by well-trained muscles.

    (2) A trackball — especially the Logitech Trackman (which I resent being reduced to a wireless-only version, because I don’t do Bluetooth for anything and especially not for input devices) — uses musculature related to fine motor control for fine motor control. A mouse, not so much (encouraging use of arm and even shoulder muscles that are not so related). Plus, with a trackball one never needs to clear off a space over and over; it’s even happy in air or strapped to an armrest…

    • I wanted to develop speed with the Logitech track ball (you mentioned my issue of clearing a space to move a mouse), but could never do so.

      I never tried the Trackman with the larger ball you move with your fingers, however, only the one with the ball on the side you move with your thumb. I may have to give the Trackman a try.

      • I prefer the thumbball version (with three buttons and a scroll wheel), but other pianists (and two violinists) I know are split between the thumbball and the large-finger-ball versions. We generally agree, though, that Trackballz Rule!

    • I may have to give that one a try, Maggie.

      I like the height and contour of the MS Natural Ergonomic for resting the heels of my hands when I type. It looks like the Sculpt may provide the same benefits.

      I also like the Sculpt’s separate number keypad. I don’t use one all that often and like the potential to move it out of the way when I don’t need it.

    • Based on a previous PG rev, I bought an anker mouse but never quite got over the learning hump. Up until about six months ago, my preferred mouse was the trackball (thumb version). Now it’s the apple mouse. Much better control of spaces and other small things, which is especially helpful for graphics work.

      My only complaint is that it needs to be charged periodically, so it’s key to have a backup. When that happens I regress to the trackball.

  2. Circa-1987 IBM PC/AT keyboard, Logitech trackball.

    The keyboard is 32 years old, weighs more than a modern laptop computer, and works just fine…

    • Me too on the PC/AT keyboard. I was recently offered $400 for mine. “Raise that by a factor of ten and I might listen” was my answer. I’ve had several trackballs, but I have something wrong at the base of my thumb that gets irritated when I use trackballs. I love the Msft Arc Mouse. It fits my hand perfectly, although the BlueTooth version behaves erratically.

  3. Not to dispute some of PG’s assertions, but I’d appreciate any stories from readers here who can confirm that ergonomic devices actually reduce or avoid carpel tunnel. I’m starting to get it pretty bad … constant pain in my first thumb joints (inside the wrist) and the wrists themselves feel like they’ve been strained (like a twisted ankle). It doesn’t help that I’m a guitarist, and a recent exercise of building and painting a bathroom has exacerbated the problem, but as a writer and editor I usually “peck” intermittently at the keyboard all day – I’m not pounding out 5000 words. So I wonder if, indeed, the keyboard/mouse action is the culprit. I work on a Toshiba laptop with a flat, very light action keyboard, and use a standard wireless mouse. Lots of movement, but little strength involved.
    Yes, I’m going to the doctor next week. But I’m worried he’ll suggest weeks of physio’ when a change of workflow *might* help.

    • Sorry to hear about your hands and wrists, G.

      With respect to disputes, nobody needs to agree with me around here. All I ask is that everyone treat everyone else with courtesy. I try to do exactly that even if I don’t agree.

      • Goodness! I was tongue-in-cheek about disagreeing with you, PG. Actually, I was more thinking that anyone who has used ergonomic devices for so long offer a “poor” (for want of a better word) example towards my cause, because I’m hoping (see DJ’s encouraging comment below) more that someone has an anecdotal story of ergonomic devices banishing carpal tunnel Lazarus-like after a long use of normal layouts.
        Lifting a pint of beer is becoming difficult.

        • Well, not as to carpal tunnel… but a couple of decades ago, I recommended to a coworker who constantly complained of right shoulder pain that he should switch from a mouse to a trackball. His orthopedist brother agreed, so he did; the pain was gone in six weeks.

        • There is no cure for carpal tunnel except for (sometimes) surgery. Once you have it, you simply find ways to work around it.

          I don’t have carpal tunnel, but do have arthritis. I can type all day on an ergonomic keyboard, but have pain after about 1,000 words on a straight one (worse on laptops). Of course, I can hardly get through 200 words with pen and paper, so if a keyboard of any shape is available…

          On mice, I’m basically a keyboard warrior except on the net – and not there if I can tab and enter. A regular mouse works just fine for me, even for graphic work – if I can see it, I can manipulate it just fine. (It’s the seeing, though. I spend a lot of time at 1600% magnification in GIMP.)

    • Although I am a fanatic about my PC/AT keyboard, and I like PG’s Msft Ergo, my experience is that keyboard layouts are more significant than physical keyboards.

      In the early 2000s I was having problems with my hands and wrists. I was living in Redmond WA at the time, which has a rich infrastructure of hand physical therapists and was referred to some stars. They helped, but my real breakthrough was when I had a bicycle accident that mashed my left shoulder.

      It was ugly. Typing was excruciating. I lost my voice yelling at dictation software, which is just not made for coding. In desperation, I taught myself the Dvorak keyboard layout. I have never looked back.

      Before Dvorak, I had ulnar nerve entrapment, carpal tunnel, and wrist tendonitis. After Dvorak, nothing. My fingers and wrists still get tired and sore if I push too hard, but it is a different world. I was never a fast typist, but with Dvorak, my speed has improved some and the pain has gone down.

      If you don’t have hand issues, I would not suggest switching to Dvorak, but I’d give it a try if you do. The Dvorak enthusiasts say switching is easy. That is not my experience. I found the switch quite frustrating, but worth it. It’s also annoying to deal with requiring a non-standard key layout, but for me, it has been worth the annoyance.

      • That’s great to hear, although I’d prefer to skip the bicycle accident … and I have to say that a Dvorak layout after over 35 years of professional writing sounds like a daunting prospect. But it’s encouraging to hear that being forced to change bad muscle habits (by either a Dvorak or maybe ergonomic keyboard) can be effective. Thanks!

      • Same here with Dvorak. Made the switch in 1995 when CT started to appear. Took a month. No more problems. I code all day every day. Recommended, and the price is right.

    • An ergonomic keyboard made a huge difference for me. I’d been doing a lot of typing and was noticing pain in my wrists and palms, and so tried an ergonomic keyboard. The pain faded away. When I had to use a regular keyboard again, I could immediately notice a pinching in my wrists that isn’t there with the ergonomic keyboard.

      • Again, thanks for the feedback. Sounds encouraging. Being an editor I do a lot of “selection”, so an ergonomic mouse is looking just as important.

    • Ergonomic mouse and keyboard helped me significantly, but RSI in the wrists is largely a “death of a thousand cuts” injury. It’s not a single thing that does it, it’s all the many little things you do that are not ideal, over and over. Anything you can do to reduce those stresses will help.

      It does not, however, take the place of actual care, though. Wrist and finger stretches, certain kinds of massage, and ice are your go-tos for fixing serious issues, and keeping on top of it before it gets bad is essential.

      I had carpal tunnel badly enough that I couldn’t grip things anymore, and I had to stretch-massage-ice-anti-inflammatory myself back from the brink and it was painful and time-consuming. It’s better to prevent than to cure. :,

      • Thanks for this, you’re absolutely right — I’ve got to get serious about the proper exercises and stretches. I know there are several recommended to specifically target my kind of problems.

  4. I’m a die-hard track-stick fan (in the middle of the keyboard). Haven’t used a mouse in years.

    I can’t stand the inefficiency of moving my hand on and off the keyboard to manipulate locations, selections, etc. Way too slow. In my opinion, if you have to move your forearms to type, you’re doing it wrong.

    Even my high-end clickety keyboards are outfitted that way, so the difference between laptop-keyboards and external keyboards is minimized.

    • That’s exactly my problem, Karen. Because I’m using a (albeit quality) laptop I tended to “hover” over the keyboard to avoid accidentally touching the trackpad and shifting the cursor. It took me forever to think of disabling the trackpad, but the habit is there. An ergonomic keyboard will force me to lower my wrists and literally anchor my forearms.
      I’m convinced, folks!

  5. If you want the real IBM keyboard feel:
    If you want as close as possible, but brand new, with the convenience keys, look up Unicomp. They’re the successor to Lexmark, which was the keyboard and printer groups spun out of IBM.

    I use a Unicomp keyboard and an Apple Magic Trackpad, backed up by a Kensington trackball (the big red billiard ball – forget the product name).

  6. This is such a timely discussion for me. About a month ago, I developed “tennis elbow,” which I think is actually mouse elbow. I am not having the wrist/finger issues others describe. Nor shoulder. Just my elbow, primarily on the outside.

    I am going to re-read PG’s post more carefully as well as the assorted replies and follow links to learn more. In the mean time, can anyone speak to elbow issues and which if any of these keyboards/trackpads/trackballs, etc., might be worth checking out?

    I’ll just note that I went to the Apple store and Best Buy and the sales folks were singularly lacking in information or recommendations (or concern).

    • I used to have problems with my mouse wrist and elbow. Godzilla the Pain Queen, a hand therapy diva I went to for a while, was a demon for keeping wrists and elbows in completely neutral alignment by positioning the mousing surface as near the keyboard as possible, in a plane parallel to the keycaps, and the level adjusted so wrist and elbow are held identically for typing and mousing.

      At the time, I was drawing engineering diagrams with Visio, doing precision mouse work hours a day. The queen came to my office for an hour to observe and slapped my mouse arm every few minutes to train me to release tension.

      The Pain Queen was big on downward sloping keyboards positioned a bit below elbow height so the wrist is straight and elbow joint angle is greater than 90 degrees. I think that advice was helpful, although I didn’t get real relief until I switched to Dvorak key layout, which eliminated a lot of finger issues, which were contributing to the overall tension.

      Everyone’s experience is different. Keep trying.

    • I’ve dealt with tennis elbow in both elbows, primarily, I think, from typing. Switching to PG’s favored Microsoft 4000 was what did the trick. Took me about a week to get used to the slightly different key positions, but I wouldn’t go back.

      Also, as mentioned above, I found raising the height of my chair so the keyboard is just below elbow height and the wrists stay straight helped a lot.

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