Too Clumsy for a Trackpad?

It’s a bit amazing to me that what was intended to be just a funny tale turned out to have inspired so many interesting and useful comments about trackpads and mice.

Nice work folks.


Sacrebleu! La remède est pire que le mal!

1 Like

Gotta luv dem kitties! :kissing_cat:

I have been a Kensington trackball devotee since they once made a Mac-specific (ADB) “TurboMouse”. Today, and for many years before, it’s been a corded (USB) ExpertMouse. I even bought a replacement some years ago - so far, never used - as a hedge against the day when it might be discontinued.

I have tried every pointing device and, after each one, returned to the ExpertMouse. I like the four buttons arrayed around the the large ball as well as the scroll ring. Every now and then I remove the ball, blow the dust out of the “cup” and, using cheap furniture polish, clean the ball. Once laid back in its cup, the solid heavy ball works virtually effortlessly.

The “driver” software, while a bugger to install (for me, no thanks to the Mac’s ever-“improving” security), is worth the effort. It provides a wide variety of customizations including scroll speed, acceleration and, holding a keyboard key modifier, single-axis and VERY slow (accurate) pointer movement. “Chording” - clicking two of the four buttons simultaneously - enables one of various other functions including the delivery of a text string/macro.

This is ridiculous: I should own stock in ACCO Brands. (For all I know, I already do. I’d have to ask “my $ person”.)

Although I have not tried it myself, I expect this device is all but kitty-proof. S/he might even have fun trying to spin the ball.

Never underestimate a determined cat. :smile_cat:

I used that trackball for years at work, and (with the optional wrist rest) it did wonders to alleviate my growing elbow and shoulder pain from using a traditional mouse. But I bet that ball will pop out of its cradle if kitty gives it a sharp swat…and if s/he gets ahold of the cord…fugeddaboudit.

I never liked mice (computer or otherwise), couldn’t deal well with trackpads, and have been using Kensington’s trackballs for decades now (tried Logitech’s, didn’t like it). Only hitch (bitch): their recent software didn’t work as well as SteerMouse, but I switched to that and I’m completely satisfied.

Logitech Trackman Marble has become standard in our household.

Years ago I had a desk job where I was on the computer most of the day. After a few years I started developing pain in my right wrist when using my standard Apple mouse (I am right-handed). This was with a highly ergonomic setup (lower keyboard tray, proper desk height, good multiple-position chair, etc.). I shifted my mouse to the left side, learned to use my mouse with my left hand, and everything was fine for close to a year until I started developing pain in my left wrist. I started talking to co-workers who used trackballs and was able to test out many different versions to see how they worked and how they felt.

The trackball I ended up buying (and using for many years) was the ‘evolution MOUSE-TRAK’ by Itac Systems. It seems very large, but it’s designed to rest your hand on the big pad on the body resulting in your fingers & thumb naturally falling onto the 6 programmable keys with the ball directly under your index and second-finger fingertips. This position allows your wrist and arm to be straight in line with your hand, unlike some trackballs that require you to bend your wrist up to reach the ball and keys. It’s not cheap, and it’s a little strange at first, but it immediately solved my wrist pain.

I could sit with my arm supported on the arm of my chair or on my desk and rest my hand on the trackball. The 6 keys (3 on each side) can be programmed for left or right hand use and any key can be programmed for any of the available functions. Many of ITAC’s products are designed for industrial use, so they use high quality, long life components. As a result, the rollers that support the trackball use steel ball bearings which make a soft rattling noise when rolling the ball. That was a small price for me to pay to have no more pain (and avoid RSI surgery) for the balance of my working career.

This is such a well-known cat behavior that there are a million memes about it. They are inveterate gravity experimenters.

1 Like

You’ve probably already done this, but I set up a lot of computers for people and one of the first things I do with a laptop is go into the trackpad settings and turn off almost all the alternate gestures – after, of course, first checking with the owner to see whether they use any of that. I have never ever found anyone who uses many those gestures.

That’s also the first thing I look at when someone calls me up and complains that their computer seems to be possessed, with stuff flying around unexpectedly. Usually it’s trackpad gestures being inadvertently invoked. Sometimes, of course, it’s the battery swelling up and pressing on the trackpad from underneath.

Personally I’m a special case because I have some manual dexterity handicaps, including tremor, that really make a trackpad miserable to use. I love my Magic Mouse. I’m always careful to push the keyboard tray in when away from the computer. Another thing that helps is to have a rug on the floor where the mouse would be pushed off by scientifically inclined felines.


Interesting observations. Oddly, I have no trouble with trackpads on laptops. I have an ancient 2010 MBA and and equally ancient white MacBook. On both of those machines I have the full gamut of gestures enabled and I’m good with it. I suppose that’s because with the laptops I’m not resting my hand anywhere near the laptop’s trackpad. With the standalone trackpad it sits on the keyboard tray right next to the keyboard and I rest my hand on the tray very close to the trackpad which causes the seemingly phantom gestures.

In any event, I’m now very pleased with the multi-buttoned Logitech mouse.

And, I seem to be remembering to close the keyboard tray when I’m not around. So far, the cat has not Isaac Newtoned the mouse.

I still miss my dearly beloved thumb ball. It was a tiny (~ 1.5"x1.5") hand-held trackball used with the thumb and had two buttons. No need to keep my hand or arm anywhere in particular at all. It was ADB, but worked fine through an ADB to USB connector when that became necessary. I wish I’d bought a few spares, because when it finally wore out, they were unobtainium. I don’t remember who made it, it might not have been a name brand. I just did a quick look, and found mice with thumb/finger balls, and a couple of hand held thumballs, but they all look clumsy compared with the one I had.

For the cat ‘problem’, often catering to their inner physicist is helpful. I have several bookshelves where I put things they’re enticed to knock off. Golf tees, toy mice, pecans and hazelnuts (in the shell), ping pong balls, wool puffs, kinder joy toys, clear film cans with things inside… Past kittenhood, they’ve (mostly) been willing to stick to that instead of my stuff. Most cats also love to learn new things; check out clicker training and agility for cats.

I have been doing the same for years with people. And I also tell them what I’m doing and why. And show them the videos.

But these folks rarely call about files vanishing, apps switching out from under their typing, all the windows vanishing till they tap again, etc…

Try and keep in mind the first line of the OP.

I think he was kidding. ;-)

Ah, but the difference there is that you know about the gestures. A lot of fairly unsophisticated computer users have no clue the gestures exist, and therefore are completely mystified by unexpected behavior. I think it’s terrible that those things are enabled by default.

What completely mystified me was that I was unable to transfer my skill with those gestures on laptops to using those gestures on a Magic Trackpad. I knew what was going on, but I was too clumsy to fix it.

(I’ve never solved the problem of butt-dialing my iPhone either. When it comes to manual dexterity, I just don’t have what it takes.)

I consider myself reasonably dexterous, but I still have fits trying to get the trackpad to on my MacBook Air to work properly. It’s latest trick is to suddenly expand the text or image on screen and not respond to my efforts to close the space between my fingers to shrink it. My wife now uses a mouse when using a laptop for similar reasons. I try to avoid any gestures, but the trackpad invokes them anyway.

The key is to keep your wrist high and use your fingers only to attack the trackpad (and your keyboard).
After I had carpal tunnel surgery I was advised to find some way to avid gripping the device. I found a Craayola KIds Trackball ideal — big as a grapefruit so no way to grip it tightly. ADB though (sigh) and I never found an adapter that would work with USB.

Then they discontinued the damn thing, and never came out with a USB model.

The ITAC evolution MOUSE-TRAK trackball I discussed has a ball you can’t hold. It’s designed for your fingers to comfortably rest on the ball while your hand rests on the palm rest.

Glad to see that I am not the only guy that keeps his computer for a long time… Both my iMac and Powerbook are from 2012 and still working well. They just do not accept the updates any more. Having fully retired in 2017, I no longer need the latest and greatest. I do want them, tho!