Double Your Productivity with a Space Mouse
Every time you use your computer you tend to use your dominant hand for the vast majority of tasks.
If you’re a gaming or CAD master then you may well have memorized a long list of keyboard shortcuts. But that’s about the most work you can find for your non-dominant hand.
A Space Mouse solves this issue quite simply by making your non-dominant hand do all the navigation tasks. Rotate, Pan, Zoom, are all carried out with a joystick that can move in six directions.
In addition, you get an array of shortcut buttons under your fingers. These can be programmed to carry out any command you want them to.
A Space Mouse immediately makes your non-dominant hand do its fair share of the work. Not only does this drastically increase your efficiency and productivity. It also gives your dominant hand a bit of a break, so it can concentrate on selecting commands and be less prone to fatigue and injury.
Using a mouse every day makes us all susceptible to some serious health effects. From Carpal Tunnel Syndrome to Rotator Cuff Tendonitis.
A Space Mouse can increase your productivity, efficiency, and reduce strain on your usually over-used dominant hand.
Space Mouse Benefits
A Space Mouse is used in your non-dominant hand (i.e. left hand if you’re right-handed) in conjunction with a standard mouse in your dominant hand.
When you use a Space Mouse in conjunction with a standard mouse, you share the workload of movement between your two hands. Rather than your left hand doing all the work all the time it now has short periods of rest that can help prevent you suffering from RSI.
The easiest way to increase productivity is by investing in a space mouse. Using a Space Mouse immediately almost doubles your productivity by making use of your normally idle left hand.
Once you’ve used a space mouse you’ll never go back to a one mouse setup again. It’ll seem so slow in comparison!
Your space mouse can be programmed to carry out almost any task. But it’s usually used to move geometry around on your screen by taking care of the rotate, pan and zoom controls.
The great thing about using a space mouse is once you’ve had a little practice you can easily use both your space mouse and your standard mouse at the same time.
For example, as you’re using your space mouse in your left hand to rotate and zoom into an area of your model you want to edit, you can simultaneously select commands and menu options with your standard mouse in your right hand.
Most Space Mice also have programmable buttons on them, giving your usually bored left hand a whole host of additional powers!
You may be surprised at just how much speed you gain from being able to copy/paste or center screen at the touch of a button. Even if you’ve already memorized numerous keyboard shortcuts, it’s so much quicker to press a button that’s right under your finger.
Best Space Mouse
3Dconnexion is the go-to brand for space mice. They’re used in design offices all over the world because of their reputation for good design, sturdy build quality, and software compatibility.
They each come with a 3 Year Warranty for your peace of mind. If you work in a design office you’ve no doubt seen plenty of 10-year-old 3Dconnexion space mice still going strong!
The 3Dconnexion range goes from the SpaceNavigator, a simple joystick with just 2 programmable buttons, up to the impressive command center of the Space Mouse Enterprise. This top of the range model is kitted out with no less than 30 programmable buttons and an LCD screen.
The Space Mouse Pro is my favorite 3D space navigator and it’s the one that currently sits on my desk happily being used with Solidworks and CATIA.
The Space Mouse Pro is fitted with 3Dconnexion’s unique 6 degrees of freedom sensor that detects input as small as 4 micrometers!
You’ll find moving geometry around the screen with the joystick (or ‘controller cap’ as 3DC prefer to call it) a very natural feeling.
The navigation mechanism has a very classy solid feel to it. Like driving a sports car, you feel directly connected to the CAD model on your screen.
Once you get used to using it you’ll feel like you’re reaching into your screen and rotating the part with your hands.
To the right of the joystick are 5 ‘QuickView’ keys. These give you instant access to 12 views. These make it easy for you to quickly change the context of your view to say an assembly or overall view to check for errors or packaging constraints.
A rotation toggle key allows you to quickly switch from 2D to 3D modes so you can navigate easily in drafting or sketching views.
The Space Mouse Pro has a total of 15 programmable buttons.
At the top are 4 large soft keys that can be programmed to perform any function you wish.
You can easily reach these and all the buttons on the Space Mouse Pro with very little repositioning of your hand from the joystick. So you can continue navigating while pressing commands.
Keyboard Modifier buttons on the left of the space mouse give you quick access to Ctrl, Alt, Shift, and Esc.
On Windows machines, there’s a virtual Numpad available that can appear at the tap of a button and you can then input data using your standard mouse.
This allows you to keep your hands on your mouse and space mouse and is particularly handy when using alt-key shortcuts like ° and ø.
The Space Mouse Pro is very ergonomically designed. It’s quite a large size at 8″ x 5.6″ x 2.3″ but as you’re just resting your hand on it it’s suitable for all hand sizes.
The upper surface that your wrist rests on is a very nice soft rubber-like material that prevents any sort of pain or fatigue.
The positioning of the buttons is well thought out and you should have little trouble memorizing their placement with a couple of days use.
Although the Space Mouse Pro isn’t the top of the range in 3Dconnexion’s lineup, I think it offers the most bang for your buck. With an ample number of programmable buttons and a perfect ergonomic design, there’s little to leave you wanting.
The best thing about the 3Dconnexion products is their space navigation, which is unbeatable. You get the feel of a real connection to the geometry you’re working on.
Whether you’re into architecture, mechanical design or more artistic pursuits, if you want to double your CAD productivity then the Space Mouse Pro is a perfect choice.
The Enterprise is a top of the range Space Mouse and you can see why as soon as you open the box.
At the top of the mouse is a very impressive full-color LCD screen that shows the actual icons of your favorite commands from whichever design software you are using.
The 12 soft buttons can be programmed to carry out any command you wish. But having the familiarity of your software icons at your fingertips really does take this Space Mouse to the next level.
The LCD menu and soft buttons can be further customized to change depending on which workbench you are using. For example, if you switch between drafting and sold modeling you can have two completely different sets of shortcuts programmed.
Enterprise vs Pro
The rest of the Space Mouse Enterprise is a slight upgrade on the Pro model reviewed above.
To the left of the joystick are the keyboard modifier buttons. Featuring the addition of the Enter, Space and Tab keys alongside Shift, Ctrl, Alt, and Esc seen on the Pro model.
There really is now little reason to lift a finger from your space mouse.
The Space Mouse Enterprise is an impressive piece of kit. The LCD screen could easily be a gimmick but 3Dconnexion have integrated it so well with your standard CAD environment that it has become a game changer.
If you want the best then there’s no space mouse out there that comes close to beating the Enterprise.
If you want to jump-start your productivity, the easiest and best value for money way is with the 3Dconnexion SpaceMouse Enterprise Kit.
This kit combines the powers of the SpaceMouse Enterprise, CAD Mouse and CADMouse Pad. Each of which will supercharge your CAD productivity, and combined forms an unbeatable package.
If you’re set on upgrading your CAD input devices, this is the best value for money way of doing it.
The Space Navigator is the entry-level model in 3Dconnexion’s lineup.
You get exactly the same 6 degrees of freedom sensor as used on the higher end models. So you can pan, zoom and rotate with the same superior accuracy seen on the Pro and Enterprise.
What’s missing compared to the other models is the comfort of a built-in wrist rest and the large array of programmable buttons.
The joystick or ‘controller cap’ is perfectly shaped and weighted. Using the Navigator feels natural and responsive.
Because there is no wrist rest to keep the Space Navigator steady, the base is made of heavy stainless steel. This gives the Space Mouse a satisfyingly weighty feel. Combined with the grippy rubber feet it does a good job of preventing it moving across your desk as you use it.
There are two programmable buttons that sit under your thumb and ring finger as you navigate. These are easy to use without thought and further increase your productivity by putting your favorite commands at your fingertips.
If you’re on a tight budget then the Space Navigator is definitely still worth investing in. The productivity benefit of being able to navigate your 3D CAD models with your non-dominant hand cannot be underestimated.
The Navigator is compatible with a wide array of software and games including Solidworks, Autodesk Inventor, 3ds Max, ArchiCAD and Photoshop.