Increase Your Productivity, Efficiency, and Health With a Pro Mouse, Trackball or Vertical Mouse
We all get tired hands and arms after a long computer session. Whether you’re using 3D design software, editing a video or just playing DOTA 2 for 12 hours straight!
If you design using CAD software for any length of time you really should know how much more comfortable and productive you can be if you invest in the right mouse setup for your workflow.
Investing in a good mouse setup won’t just benefit your design productivity. You can also improve the comfort and speed of your gaming sessions, video editing, and general computer use.
And most importantly, using a mouse for extended periods of time can have serious health effects. From Carpal Tunnel Syndrome to Rotator Cuff Tendonitis.
Using a standard mouse makes us all more susceptible to these painful conditions. Switching to a vertical mouse or trackball mouse can help reduce the chances of you suffering from such conditions.
Why Should I Upgrade My Mouse?
You hold your mouse in your hand for more hours every day than any other object in your life. And yet we often overlook it as a mere piece of the furniture in our modern world.
Unfortunately, the average computer mouse is not designed to be the most productive, comfortable, or good for your health. The average mouse is designed to be cheap to manufacture.
Thankfully, beyond the world of the average mouse, there is a whole world of well-designed performance mice that are ergonomically designed to keep you comfortable and injury-free and efficiently designed to give you maximum productivity.
Although we use one every day, most mice aren’t designed with the ergonomics of your body in mind. If you place your hand, palms down on your desk as if you’re holding your mouse, you’ll see just how unnatural this position is.
Comfort isn’t just about not getting tired. Using a poorly designed mouse for extended periods of time can result in long-term injury to not only your hand and wrist but even your shoulder and neck.
You may have heard of RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury), but there are plenty of other injuries you can pick up from using your mouse.
‘Mouse Shoulder’ is caused by using your mouse too far away from your body. This can be solved by using a trackball style mouse.
Pain in your forearm and wrist can be caused by your wrist constantly resting on your desk as you use your mouse. This can be alleviated by using a mouse that fits your hand better, preventing your wrist resting on the desk.
When you think about it, most of the time your non-dominant hand is usually getting bored doing the occasional keyboard shortcut, while your dominant hand is doing all the hard work with the mouse.
Go to any professional design office, and you’ll see a Space Mouse next to every CAD station. Left hands and right hands sharing the workload.
The other easy way to improve your productivity is to get a professional mouse that has some shortcut buttons on the side. You may be surprised at just how much quicker you can be when your favorite commands are an instant click away.
There are several types of mouse available that can increase your productivity and reduce your chances of pain and injury. Let’s take a look at what each one can offer:
Pro Mouse Benefits
A Pro Mouse can be a CAD mouse, an ergonomic mouse or a gaming mouse. Each offers various enhancements over a standard mouse.
Pro mice are often designed to improve your comfort and health with an ergonomic shape that fits in your hand much more naturally than a standard mouse.
Size is also important, and pro mice models are often available in several sizes so you can choose the one that fits your hand the best.
Pro mice offer additional buttons, whether just a proper middle button or an array of programmable shortcut buttons.
They also give you much-improved accuracy and precision over standard mice significantly reducing the number of miss-clicks you make and avoiding the frustration you may have experienced when trying to select a tiny piece of geometry.
Best Pro Mouse
3Dconnexion is the leader in space mouse design, so I was very interested when they introduced their first CAD mouse in 2015.
The 3Dconnexion CAD mouse is ergonomically designed and fits in my hand very well. It is a large sized mouse that most people will find comfortable.
My bugbear is when my mouse doesn’t slide smoothly on my desk. Thankfully the CAD mouse has some nicely shaped PTFE feet that give it a very pleasing almost frictionless movement.
Middle Mouse Button
Although you won’t notice at first glance, the CAD Mouse has three proper buttons in addition to a scroll wheel. On most CAD packages you will be used to pressing down on your scroll wheel with your index finger to pan and zoom. But with the CAD mouse, you press the separate middle button, keeping your first three fingers on their respective buttons at all times.
On most CAD packages you will be used to curling your index or middle finger to press down on your scroll wheel to pan and zoom. But with the CAD mouse, you press the separate middle button, keeping your first three fingers on their respective buttons at all times.
This doesn’t sound like much of an advantage, however, after a week of using the proper middle button on the CAD mouse, you will never want to go back to pressing the scroll wheel as you do on a standard mouse!
There are three additional buttons, two thumb buttons on the side that are programmable to carry out whichever function you like them to. I like to use one for ‘fit to screen’ and the other for ‘hide/show.’
The top button brings up a small menu on screen from which you can select any one of four customizable buttons.
Accuracy & Sensitivity
The CAD mouse is very accurate with a laser sensor giving you an impressive 8200 dpi at 1000Hz. In the gaming community, anything over 4000 dpi is considered more than enough. You definitely notice the accuracy when trying to select a small piece of geometry in CAD.
With a standard mouse, I often find myself maxing out the sensitivity setting in Windows. But with the CAD Mouse sensitivity is very good with plenty of headroom left after setting it to my preferred fast pace. I like to be able to go from one side of the screen to the other in one small flick of the wrist.
Build quality is excellent, with a very nice quality feel to the whole mouse. 3Dconnexion is a trusted company that have been making industry standard space mice for years. So I have no reason to doubt the CAD mouse will be equally as hard wearing.
The 3Dconnexion CAD Mouse is wired, which I haven’t found to be too much of a problem, but you might not like it if you want to use it as a travel mouse.
The Razer Naga is one of the most popular and highly regarded mice amongst gamers. But its 12 programmable buttons and high precision spec have made it a popular choice for CAD users too.
The Naga is a very ergonomic mouse, with contoured sides that your fingers naturally rest in. Whether you use a claw grip or a palm grip, it should suit you well.
With dimensions of L4.68″ x W2.95″ x H1.69″ it tends to suit average to large male hands best. If you have smaller hands you may find it a little too large.
The buttons are all perfectly spaced so you hardly ever need to reposition your grip to reach them. They require just the right amount of pressure from your fingers so you won’t suffer fatigue and misclicks will be rare. They also all have a satisfying mechanical click when used.
The mechanical button grid on the side of the Naga is designed to be easy for you to recognize each button through touch as each button is a unique shape. This saves you from having to look down to see which button you’re pressing.
The underside of the Naga has ultra-low friction feet, so you feel almost no resistance or sound when moving it.
You’ll find 12 programmable mechanical buttons on the side of the Razer Naga. Each one can be programmed to map a key or even a macro.
You can map any number of key presses, allowing you to perform whole workflows at the touch of a button.
This feature is great for everyday tasks, but it can also be revolutionary for repetitive tasks.
Imagine you have to make the same correction to 200 drawings, rename them and export all of them. This might involve 10 or 15 button presses with dismissing dialog boxes and typing the new name.
With the macro record feature on the Razer Naga, all you have to do is carry out the task once on one drawing and then assign that macro to one of the programmable buttons.
You can then open each drawing and simply press the assigned button on the Razer mouse. Suppose this saves you 50 seconds on each drawing. That’s nearly 3 hours of time saved by the time you’ve done it to 200 drawings!
While this feature is designed for MMO games, because of its versatility CAD users find it a handy feature for setting up shortcuts to design features.
You’ll never find yourself searching for batteries as you can charge the Razer Naga as you’re using it. You can use it continuously for 20 hours on one charge. The cable is a very nice 7′ braided USB cable.
Accuracy & Sensitivity
You’ll find the Naga to be one of the most sensitive mice you’ve ever used. The Laser sensor gives a maximum 16000 dpi resolution that you can adjust to any setting you want.
It works equally well on almost any surface you can throw at it, from a multi-colored fabric mouse mat to glossy laminate Ikea desk. It’s even usable, although not optimal, on a glass surface.
Combined with a 1 ms response time and 50G acceleration you’ll never reach the limits of this mouse.
You can personalize your Razer Mouse with the Chroma multi-color feature. This allows you to change the LED colors to any color of your choosing from a palette of 16.8 million options! It’s a bit of a gimmick, but the effect is well implemented and quite appealing.
The Razer Naga gaming mouse has become a popular choice for CAD users of all disciplines. Its programmable macro buttons can allow you to perform several tasks at the push of a single button. And your most used commands can all be programmed in to be available too.
Not only that but it is hard to beat in terms of accuracy, precision, and reliability too.
You will supercharge your productivity with the Razer Naga.
Vertical Mouse Benefits
Vertical mice are perhaps the oddest looking member of the mouse family. However, their design is the most sympathetic to our bodies.
When you use a standard mouse, you rotate your wrist 90° from its resting position. Think about how often you naturally find your hands in a palm down position!
This standard mouse ‘knuckles up’ position will promote internal rotation of your shoulder which makes you much more susceptible to a severe shoulder injury.
The vertical mouse solves this by just allowing you to use your hand in the more natural ‘shaking hands’ position.
When you first use a vertical mouse, you’ll find it very odd and difficult to use. But surprisingly it only takes a few hours use before it suddenly becomes natural.
Vertical mice are also good at relieving Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, which is often caused by constant pressure on the underside of your wrist. When using a vertical mouse your wrist rests on the bony side rather than the soft tissue underneath.
Lastly, when you move a vertical mouse, you use the large muscles in your forearm and elbow joint rather than the small muscles in your wrist. Thereby putting less stress on the smaller muscles and bones in your arm.
The biggest productivity benefit from using a vertical mouse is in the fact that you can use it for so much longer before your hand becomes uncomfortable or painful.
Secondly, you will find that a vertical mouse allows you to be much more accurate in your movements. Because of the more natural hand position, you’ll find it much easier to pick small points accurately and draw freehand shapes.
Best Vertical Mouse
If we could go back in time to the advent of home computing and ship a vertical mouse with every new PC, there is no question we would all be using vertical mice now.
The conventional mouse forces us to twist our arms to an entirely unnatural position. As an ergonomic design, the standard mouse is a failure.
So, if you suffer from any form of fatigue, pain or injury in your hand or arm when using your computer. I urge you to try a vertical mouse and feel the difference.
There are a few vertical mice available, but the original and most highly regarded are those from Evoluent.
Evoluent launched their first vertical mouse in 2002, and the VM4 is the latest design in this proven range.
There are a few Evoluent models in my design office, used by people with various health issues such as Carpel Tunnel Syndrome or Rotator Cuff injuries and even some people who just prefer to use a vertical mouse.
The first thing I can say about the Evoluent Vertical Mouse is it is tough! Some of those models in my office have been around for a decade and show no signs of wearing out soon.
The latest version from Evoluent is the Vertical Mouse 4. It’s available in both right and left handed versions as well as standard and a smaller version.
VM4R – Right-handed, Regular, Wired
VM4RW – Right-handed, Regular, Wireless
VM4RWS – Right-handed, Small and Wireless
VM4L – Left-handed, Regular, Wired
VM4S – Small, Wired
The primary purpose of the vertical mouse is to put your hand and arm in a more natural relaxed ‘shaking hands’ position.
The hardest part of using the VM4 is getting used to holding it. After a few hours use you tend to relax more and it starts to feel more natural.
Even if you don’t think you suffer any problems with a normal mouse after a few hours use with the VM4, you’ll notice your arm is considerably less tense.
The main body of the mouse is coated with a rubberized finish that gives a nice surface to grip without needing any excess pressure or force to move it.
On the left-hand side is an ergonomically shaped dish that your thumb naturally sits in quite comfortably.
The pinky side of your hand sits on top of a lip that protects it from your desk while moving the mouse. Unlike a standard mouse, you’ll never end up with that red mark characteristic of rubbing your wrist on the desk.
The Evoluent Vertical Mouse 4’s ergonomic shape fits most hands perfectly.
If you have small hands and you’re used to using a small mouse then helpfully there is a small version of the Evoluent Vertical Mouse 4 available. So make sure you buy that version if you think you would prefer it.
While most other ergonomic mice have nothing to offer other than their improved shape. The VM4 gives you increased productivity and efficiency with a selection of extras.
In total there are six programmable buttons on the Vertical Mouse 4.
On the right-hand side, your fingers sit comfortably over the three main buttons. Each of which has a satisfyingly tactile click, requiring just the right amount of pressure to be easy but prevent misclicks.
The ‘extra’ third mouse button can be programmed to perform any function. It defaults to ‘Enter’ which is quite handy, but if you’re using it for CAD or video editing, you might find a better use for it.
As it effectively has a standard three button mouse setup you can use the Middle Mouse Button as intended by many CAD packages to toggle rotation and panning commands.
A standard scroll wheel is fitted, and again it feels like a quality mechanism with a nice solid click action that is not too hard or too soft to operate.
Behind the scroll wheel, you’ll see the first extra feature. A pointer speed button controls the four speed options which you can see indicated on an LED scale marked HI, MD, LO, XL.
And your thumb sits between two further programmable buttons. One of which can operate as a ‘secondary function’ or shift button effectively doubling the number of functions this mouse can toggle.
Accuracy & Sensitivity
Like all vertical mice, because of the orientation of your arm, you move the vertical mouse less than a conventional mouse.
This means sensitivity adjustment is very important. This is one of the areas where the Evoluent VM4 beats out its rivals.
Not only does the sensitivity adjustment in the software more than cover the range you will need. The addition of easy to reach hardware buttons makes sensitivity adjustment as easy as can be.
Once you’re used to holding the VM4, you’ll find the more natural vertical hold allows you to be much more accurate than with a conventional mouse. Straight freehand lines are a breeze.
It’s easy to dismiss the VM4 on looks alone. It’s not elegant, and we’re so used to seeing conventional mice that it’s always going to look just a little odd.
However, if you can get over the looks this is without a doubt the most comfortable mouse you’ll ever use.
If you suffer from any mouse-related fatigue, pain or injury like RSI, then you have no excuse not to try the VM4 other than your own vanity.
Trackball Mouse Benefits
Where you move a standard mouse around on a surface, a Trackball Mouse stays stationary, and instead, you move a small ball with your hand, thumb or fingers.
This removes all the stress from your wrist as you fingers, and thumbs now do all the work.
Trackballs are often used by professional CAD users because they offer greater precision compared to a conventional mouse.
Because you do all the fine control with your fingers, Trackballs are much better than standard mice when you need precise control.
The other benefit of a trackball is because it remains stationary, you can use it where you have limited space and on any surface.
You may have used trackballs before, for example, the Apple Mighty Mouse or on an arcade machine. But the pro-level trackballs I’m recommending here are a different beast altogether.
Best Trackball Mouse
Kensington is a trusted brand who have been the leaders when it comes to trackballs for over a decade. The Expert Trackball is a refined version of their proven design. As with previous models, it feels sturdy and is backed by a 3-year warranty.
The Expert Trackball is a refined version of their proven design. As with previous models, it feels sturdy and is backed by a 3-year warranty.
Despite having the word mouse in the name the Kensington Expert Trackball is just a trackball, and that’s a good thing.
Because rather than just sticking a red ball on the side of a conventional mouse, Kensington has designed it from the ground up.
This has allowed them to include many features that make it stand above its rivals regarding usability and comfort.
The most obvious feature that makes the Kensington Expert better than the average trackball is the four large programmable buttons that surround the trackball.
The bottom two buttons serve as normal left and right click. While the top two default to a middle mouse button (MMB) and a browser back button.
Of course, you can change any of these defaults in the included software.
When using CAD, you may well have a good use for an MMB, but maybe the default browser back button isn’t so useful.
The buttons are all easy to access, with no stretching required. And the click action is just right; you’re unlikely to experience many misclicks.
Sitting around the trackball is a very well designed and precise scroll ring that works in the same way as your standard scroll wheel.
It has a very satisfying mechanical feel to it as you rotate it. In fact, it’s a bit addictive!
The large trackball makes the Expert more comfortable to use compared to its rivals as it feels less like you’re rotating a ball and more like you’re rubbing your finger on a flat surface.
The main comfort feature of the Expert Trackball is the removable cushioned pad that your wrist sits on. It’s very well designed and provides just the right amount of support.
Because your hand isn’t moving around on the desk like when you’re using a conventional mouse. The cushion never seems like a burden or gets in your way.
If you’re left-handed, then the Expert will work just as well for you as it is an entirely symmetrical design. You will just need to customize the programmable buttons to your preference.
Accuracy & Sensitivity
One of the main selling points of the Kensington Expert is how big the trackball is. This makes the trackball very accurate and much easier for you to be precise with it.
Compared to a conventional mouse it’s a lot easier to be accurate with a trackball. This is because you’re using just the tips of your fingers to control the movement of your cursor rather than your whole arm.
There is both a wired and wireless version available for little price difference. Personally, I always go for wireless as I’m a bit of a neat freak.
Usefully, the Kensington Wireless works on either the included wifi dongle or Bluetooth. Both of which seem to work well and so offer a useful compatibility that might allow you to free up a USB port.
To initiate Bluetooth pairing, you simply hold down all four buttons at once and wait for the blue LED to show you it’s in pairing mode.
The Kensington Expert is hard to beat. It’s designed from the ground up as a trackball rather than a hybrid mouse. And this is why it’s such a popular choice among CAD users.
If your previous experience of trackballs was one of those that looks like a regular mouse with a small red golf ball stuck on it. Then you should definitely give the Kensington Expert a trial.
The M570 takes over from the long-running and popular Trackman series.
You’ll notice straight away that the M570 is designed to be as familiar as possible to conventional mouse users. This makes it the polar opposite of the Kensington Expert.
However, if you’re a trackball skeptic, I think the Logitech M570 is a very good gateway to the real deal trackballs like the Kensington Expert.
As the M570 is so mouse shaped, it immediately feels familiar. It is, however, a much more ergonomic shape compared to most conventional mice.
Being a budget model, it only has a hard plastic finish. It doesn’t feel cheap by any means though.
In use, the M570 feels very nice to use. The trackball is smooth and easy to control with precision.
The downside to an asymmetric trackball like this is you’re limited to only using your thumb to control the ball.
And so you will never get the high precision that you can with using your fingertips on a center held trackball.
You get a couple of extra buttons on the M570. To the left of the standard buttons. They default to back and forward but, like all the buttons on this trackball, you can program them to do anything and set profiles for different games or software.
The scroll wheel performs well although it’s a bit soft with no positive clicks.
A special note to the 18-month battery life! User reviews back this up as a fairly good estimate, which is quite impressive from a single AA which is included.
I included the Logitech M570 in my recommendations because it’s probably the cheapest way to try out a competent trackball.
If you give it a go and like it, then you should seriously consider upgrading to the Kensington Expert as that really does offer another level of control and precision.
You can further improve your comfort and productivity by investing in some accessories. From mouse pads to gamer gloves there are many products available to improve your mouse use.
3DConnexion CADMouse Pad
This 3DConnexion mouse pad is designed to complement their highly regarded CADMouse. But you’ll find it equally beneficial to use with whichever mouse you have.
The main surface is an ultra smooth hard polymer. If you’re used to soft, flexible mats, then this will be a revelation.
The surface is designed to be perfectly smooth and flat with no imperfections. You will find your mouse moves in an entirely effortless way compared to how it performs on a desk surface or conventional mouse mat.
This gives you much better control than you will be used to. Not only does it improve the speed and accuracy with which you can whizz across the screen from your geometry to the menu bars.
It also gives you much better control of fine movements. The perfect surface helps your mouses laser sensor to track tiny movements, allowing you to design fine detail effortlessly.
The CadMouse Pad measures 250mm x 350mm which is quite large for a mouse pad. But this is a good thing as you will never find your mouse running off the edge of the pad.
Speaking of good design, the underside of the CadMouse Pad is made of a grippy silicone that ensures the pad stays still on your work surface.
And the Pad features a rigid middle layer, sandwiched between the main surface and the grippy base, that prevents the mat from curling up or otherwise becoming uneven.
As with all 3DConnexion products, the CadMouse Pad is designed for professional use, and so is designed to last a long time even with intense daily use. For your peace of mind, it comes with a 2-year warranty.
Razer Vespula Dual-Sided Gaming Mouse Mat
Again I’ve reached out to the world of gaming, this time to find the best mouse mat.
What I like about the Razer Vespula is that it offers two distinct surfaces. A Speed surface that gives you very low friction fast movements. And a Control surface that is higher in friction to give you precise control of smaller movements.
The two different surfaces are on either side of the mat, so you simply have to turn it over to whichever you prefer for the task at hand.
The Speed surface is similar to the 3DConnexion MousePad reviewed above. I think it’s very suitable for most everyday CAD tasks and general computing.
But it’s the Control surface that sets this mouse pad apart from others.
You will be amazed at how precise you can be when using the Control surface. The friction level is just perfect for you when carrying out fine, fluid movements.
If you’re designing anything by freehand, for example sketching or drawing polylines and splines then the Vespula is a Godsend.
The mouse mat itself is very thin, so you don’t have that awkward step like you do with some mats.
Additionally, there is the unique feature of a detachable wrist pad. The pad is quite firm so may feel uncomfortable at first. But you will find with time it molds to the shape of your wrist and offers a good amount of comfortable support.
This is a great feature, as wrist fatigue is one of the most common problems when using a mouse for a long time, whether, for gaming, CAD or video editing, I’m sure you know it’s all too easy to lose track of time.
If you don’t like the wrist rest, it’s completely removable.
Imak Smart Glove
If you use your computer for 8 hours or more every day, then you’ll think these gloves are a lifesaver. Especially if you ever suffer from wrist strain or carpal tunnel symptoms.
The smart gloves are ergonomically shaped to ensure your hand and wrist maintain the correct posture to help prevent fatigue.
It also has special bead pads built in to protect delicate areas like the underside of your wrist from excess pressure which can lead to Carpel Tunnel Syndrome.
The material is breathable so your hands won’t get sweaty. And the craftsmanship is excellent, with good quality stitching holding everything together. Most owners report that these gloves last a long time of daily use.