Mouse and Trackball Product Guide

Mouse and Trackball

Pointing and cursor-moving devices have simplified our lives today more than we realize. Can you imagine what our lives would be like without being able to "point-and-click" like we do on the Internet?

Like many great inventions, the creation of the mouse was kind of a mistake. While working on a larger project in the early 1960s (on "augmenting human intellect", go figure) pointing instruments were thought up by Doug Engelbart, then a scientist at the Stanford Research Institute in Menlo Park, California. Forty years later and millions of mice after, most of us wouldn't dare operate a computer without a mouse, trackball or touchpad. Some pointing and cursor-moving may work work better than others when doing various tasks, like gaming, programming or designing. This guide will help familiarize you with all pointing gadgets available.

Mouse Overview

Ever since we started using "mice" with our computers, the word "mouse" has become friendly. The traditional "Eeeek! There's a mouse under the bed," has been replaced by "I love this mouse. It feels so smooth and works so well." A mouse is a little gadget that connects to a computer and simplifies the navigation process by freely moving the cursor on your screen. Mice make it easy to "point-and-click". They are called mice basically because most models are shaped like mice (and the wiggly little wire that comes out of it and connects to your computer looks like a mouse tail, so there.) A mouse is a standard piece included with the purchase of any desktop computer, and fits snugly into the bottom of your right or left hand. A little ball underneath a mouse is what provides motion of the cursor. Notebook computers usually have the mouse built-in to the keyboard as a small rubber dot that you can move 360 degrees, or as a touchpad or trackball.

Optical Mice

Optical mice are pointing utensils that look like normal mice except without a ball. New optical mice can glide smoothly on any surface, not just your mousepad. Because optical mice have no ball and no moving parts, you really don't have to worry about cleaning the unit. Some optical mice come with a built-in scroll wheel. Apple has the Apple Pro Mouse, which basically has no ball and no buttons. The whole mouse is a super-sensitive button.


Trackball cursor controls operate much like an inverted mouse. Instead of moving the mouse with your hand, the trackball allows you to move the cursor by rotating a ball with your fingers. With desktop computers, trackballs are fairly large for easier maneuvering and come sitting inside some kind of a holder. Trackballs are hardly ever found on current notebook computers. Most notebook computers use integrated touchpads or pointers. The base of a trackball device doesn't move so there is less strain on your wrists and hands, and less desk space that needs to be used to control the pointer.


Touchpads are more often found on notebook computers than as external devices with desktop computers. A touchpad is operated by gently swiping your fingers across a flat screen usually no bigger than 3" x 3", resulting in the arrow moving on your monitor. Touchpads also come with buttons for maneuvering.


Most standard mice for PC desktop computers come with a left button and a right button. Macintosh computer mice usually have just one main button. Trackballs and touchpads can have up to four buttons. You might not need all of them, in fact you'll probably use only one of them. More sophisticated trackballs and touchpads come with software that allow you to program the different buttons to perform certain functions and shortcuts. This comes in handy when gaming or designing.

EZ Scroll

You'll find a scroll wheel on many newer model and pricier mice today. The scroll wheel is controlled vertically, and usually located between the left and the right click buttons on a mouse. The scroll wheel allows you to maneuver up and down a page by simply moving the button with your finger. Instead of dragging your mouse to the scroll arrow on your screen to view more content, this feature saves time and energy. While gaming, the scroll wheel may allow you to switch weapons or perform some other task by rolling the wheel.

Cordless Mice

Cordless mice do exist and prove very handy to many people. Some mice use infrared technology. This would require your mouse to be relatively close to your computer as a clear line of sight is always required. Some mice also use RF technology, which does not require a clear line of sight between your mouse and your computer. Cordless mice work great at presentations or simply at home. Some of them can function up to six feet away.


Chances are you already own a mouse. You shouldn't have much trouble replacing it, if need be. Mice and other pointing devices normally connect to a PS2 or Serial port on PCs and some higher-end models have a USB connection option. With Macintosh computers, a standard connection would be to an ADB port (for older Macintosh systems) or USB (for iMac and current Macintosh systems).


For desktop computers, pointing devices are very different for PC and Macintosh. Some are compatible with both computer systems. Make sure you read the compatibility details before purchasing.

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