Question: I was wondering if anyone had any thoughts on way of reducing mouse usage, or more exactly reducing injuries from mouse usage. Mice tend to be worse than keyboard for hand strain. One way of dealing with this is by using better mice, or trackballs etc, but another way is by finding alternatives. Most of the hardware solutions (such as touch screens) have their own disadvantages, so a possible line of attack is to look at software. This could mean using keyboard shortcuts, for example.
Another thought on this is that the mice are not the problems. Instead, it could be that point-and-click style interfaces tend to make people stressed and/or physically tense. Why? Because they encourage an “instant gratification” view of software, where each user action is immediately followed by a response.
So if you have a slow or overloaded machine, or you are doing something across a network, you wait with bated breath and tensed shoulders for the response, which takes time to happen. So another idea is to encourage people to use software which allows typing ahead, or which somehow separates action and response. I’m not convinced by this, but I’d like to look into this area.
Answer 1: Learn your keyboard shortcuts is the simple answer. Almost all Windows programs are fully usable via the keyboard. Alternatively, use a voice-recognition package (I use Dragon Dictate), which can cope with not only dictation, but driving the Windows interface generally.
Currently, I’m experimenting with an ALPS Desktop Glide point. It looks like a little hand-held electronic game, and is essentially a touch sensitive tablet with three programmable buttons around the outside. One of the best features is the ‘tapping’. You can program it to treat a tap of your finger on the tablet as a mouse click. You can alter the velocity needed, and what mouse action occurs (i.e. left or right click). This is particularly handy for drag-n-drop.
I’m not totally convinced it’s the gadget for me, but I’m giving it a few months.
Answer 2: Yes, I agree that the windows-type interface itself is not ergonomically sound, especially when combined with the keyboard or mouse.
I remember an interview a few years ago in which he said “the thing I hate most about computers is that they use so little of your body” which he found “imprisoning” – he has a good point. The keyboard carries a very narrow “bandwidth” of information – but the mouse bandwidth is even smaller because you’re just supplying a few numbers each time you click. Don’t just think of the bandwidth into the computer, but the bandwidth out of your body, if you see what I mean – the keyboard uses both hands and up to ten fingers but the mouse only one hand and one or two fingers.
Visually the windows-type interface has lots of things going on in parallel, but your input into it is highly serial – point, click, point, click, click – it’s almost like you’re talking to your computer in Morse code or something. Humans don’t like this – can you imagine if the interface to driving a car was this way – say, a scroll bar to steer, a push-button to brake and a drop-down menu to select what speed you want to go at?
It’s very indirect, too – think of scrolling a document. Your hand moves the mouse, the mouse moves the pointer, the pointer moves the scroll bar and the scroll bar moves the document – that’s lots of levels of indirection.
How about a separate “scrolling track-ball” built into the keyboard that scrolls the document directly? You could then scroll with one hand while moving the pointer with the other.
One final note: blame Bill Gates for the double click! I don’t think you get it in other OSes. But I hear they’re getting rid of it in future versions of windows after years of extensive user trials showed that there is no point having it.
Answer 3: On the advice of an ergonomically trained physiotherapist I replaced my mouse with a Logitech Pilot trackball – that model was particularly recommended because my worst pain is in my thumbs, and it requires no use of thumb at all; in addition you can ‘click’ with e.g. the side of your hand (it has large paddles instead of buttons) instead of finger movement. Plus it’s programmable – e.g.: program the right paddle so that 1 click = double click: and lots of other options. In fact I haven’t programmed it because my wp software has lots of quick tasks programmed into the right mouse button anyway.
I find it much more pleasant to use than a mouse and it somehow invites slower use, less irritable/irritating movements.
I don’t recognize the ‘tense waiting’ syndrome you suggest – do people really feel like this? I’m also trying to remember to use more keyboard options rather than mouse moves, and generally doing everything (including walking down the corridor) more slowly, with more constant awareness of my posture/muscle use (Alexander Lessons are helping here) and so on.