Using an auto-click feature will help reduce the chances of developing a repetitive stress injury. As most of us know, if you spend eight hours a day at your job, typing away, and at night you’re clicking a remote on the TV, then over time you can develop a repetitive strain injury, like carpal tunnel syndrome, or something of that nature. Especially if you have really small wrists, like I do, and there’s not a lot of room in there for the tendons, then you can easily develop a repetitive stress injury, and feel discomfort, and things of that nature. So what I want to talk about today is a really cool feature, and you can probably look up auto-click on Google, and there’s probably a whole bunch of programs that are available out there today that allow you to do this.
But before I get into that, a couple of things you can do that are well-documented: one is, obviously, stretch. It’s important to take breaks, and instead of taking a few long breaks throughout the day, it’s better to take many short micro-breaks throughout the day. In addition to that, there’s this feature called auto-click that’s really cool. It allows you to not click as much throughout the day, because what happens is, as you move the mouse, wherever the mouse pauses for a certain length of time, it’ll click once for you. You can set it up so that if it’s on your desktop it’ll double-click instead. It might not seem like a big deal, but if you add that up throughout the day – if you work on websites, or surf the web a lot, or use applications where it requires a lot of clicking – over time, that can save you a lot of strain and wear on your muscles and your tendons.
The program I have on my computer is called RSI Guard, but again, there are plenty of programs out there. You can try to use this one – I forget how much it was, like thirty bucks or something when I bought it, it might be more now. This program that I have it allows you to auto-click, but you can also set up break timers, like if it sees you typing a lot it’ll suggest that you take a break, and it’ll even show you stretches that you can do. I only have the auto-click feature turned on right now, and I’ll demonstrate that in a second. In addition, it’ll take a day or two – or a few hours if you really focus on it – to get used to the auto-clicking feature, so in the beginning, I wouldn’t turn it on if you have any real critical applications, or applications where it’s really easy to delete something really easily by mistake, by making a single click. But once you get used to it, you kind of forget that you’re even using it, and it’s just a really great tool.
I want to talk about stretching; there’s this really good book that I got a long time ago, and it’s full of great ideas for stretching. I really like the beginning; I’ve kind of ripped this book apart. In the beginning, I really like how they make this analogy between a bank account, and how strained your tendons are. “In trying to determine how often to stretch, it’s helpful to think about a bank account. Imagine that when you’re injured by repetitive strain, your body is like a bank account that is overdrawn. Your muscles and connective tissues have worked beyond their capacity, they are more than fatigued, and need more help than simple resting. When you stretch, it’s like adding funds back into your body’s overdrawn bank account. If you stretch too hard, your body does not regain much of its working capacity,” etc. It’s called “Conquering Carpal Tunnel Syndrome”, so if you’re looking for a good book on stretching (specifically for repetitive strain injuries, carpal tunnel or otherwise), I highly recommend this book. The reason I destroyed it is, I took it apart because I wanted to take out the stretches that were most useful to me, and sort of made my own mini-book out of the larger book.
So now, let me show you RSI Guard. Right now, the mouse is in the middle of the screen, and I’m not going to click at all. All I’m doing is moving the mouse, so if I move it and stop, it’ll select what it’s hovering over. What you can do, I just realized, you can set up certain programs where it doesn’t autoclick, so if I’m using this application and I don’t want it to click automatically, I don’t want a mistake made, and that’s what I did for this RSI Guard application. But if I go down here, and hover over Internet Explorer, it brings it up; I’m going to navigate throughout this website just briefly, and I’m not going to click the mouse at all. So I’m going to hover over “Rational” (it clicks for me), hover over “Forums and Community,” and then from there I’m going to hover over “Rational Software R&D Community”. Now I’ll just put the mouse over to the side. So hopefully, I explained it easily or simply enough for you; it’s really quite simple, you turn the autoclick feature on and it clicks for you. It’s been really beneficial to me, and I hope that it’s beneficial to you and anyone you share it with.
In the context of RSI, the expression “work management” is used to encompass a whole range of factors, including body posture, work rates and rest breaks, and most importantly, the monitoring and management of these. The gold touch RSI Guard is a suite of software, timing prompts and video-style instruction, with which the user can become his or her own work management expert. RSI Guard contains a number of elements, all of which are fully customizable for an individual user, or companywide. These include intelligent break timing, to remind you when to take breaks, and for how long. If you’re in a hurry, you can of course skip them, but they’ll pop up again soon. Shortcuts allow you to avoid unnecessary mouse clicking. For instance, I can use any key – say, my function keys – instead of the mouse buttons, just to get a change of finger. Or even autoclick – let the software take the strain. Data logging automatically measures your computer use and behavior, and suggests ways to work more efficiently and monitor your long-term health. Forget-me-nots and ergo-hints are customizable mini-breaks, and suggestions for stretching exercises. The starter-level ergonomic training has been designed to ensure that you get a good workout while still seated at your desk. Dynamic work restrictions can be used to ensure that safe working practices are adhered to. And because all your mousing and keyboarding is logged and graphed, you can begin to better understand your own limits as you work, and manage your own computer workflow to reduce future problems.
We’re going to talk about an important feature of RSI Guard called autoclick. First, I’ll give a brief description of the problem we’re trying to solve with autoclick; then, I’ll explain how autoclick can help you solve the problem. Finally, we’ll spend some time demonstrating how to use autoclick effectively; first, looking at some of the basics, and then looking at some of the more advanced features. Then, we’ll finish with a quick review of what we’ve covered. These days, we frequently hear the phrase, “So simple it’s just a mouse click away”. But if you’re one of the many people who suffer from pain from using the mouse, this cliche seems quite inappropriate. For many people, using a mouse causes discomfort to the degree that it affects their ability to use a computer. Whether or not you presently experience pain, mousing is, oddly enough, a potentially risky activity. How can that be?
Let’s start by looking at some typical pointing devices. All pointing devices share certain things in common; each one lets you use your body to indicate where you wish to point, and then lets you use your body to somehow indicate that you wish to click. The most common device, the mouse, lets you move the pointer with your hand and arm, and lets you click by pressing a button with a finger. Trackballs are similar, but the pointing happens more with your hand and fingers than with your arm. Touchpads let you do the pointing with subtle arm and finger motions, while clicking may happen by pressing a button, or performing a gesture with your finger. Some pointing devices are variations of these devices, but allow you to hold your hand, fingers and arm in a different posture. Some devices even let you control the mouse with your eyes, head and feet, and clicking might come from a foot tap, or even a puff of air from your mouth. But they all share a basic pattern; first you do something to point, and then you do something to click.
Because clicking is so frequent, we tend to hold a static posture, preparing for the next click. Then, we perform some repetitive action to click the mouse, sometimes thousands of times a day. The combination of static, sometimes awkward postures, repetition, and long exposure times can potentially lead to significant discomfort. Often, people will try switching pointing devices, or switching from their injured to their other hand. The problem with this technique is that the repetitive action is simply moved to a new location. Although it may alleviate symptoms for a period, it often leads to a spreading injury, that affects both hands, or several fingers.
Now let’s look at what autoclick does. Autoclick is a software tool that eliminates the need to click your mouse or other pointing device. It does not replace your current mouse; it will work with any pointing device you presently use. Whereas normally with a mouse, you move then click, then move then click, and so forth, with autoclick, you move the mouse and pause; then, autoclick will click for you. You move and pause, move and pause, and after each pause, autoclick clicks for you. Because autoclick clicks for you, you no longer need to click the mouse. You also no longer need to grasp the mouse, and you no longer need to keep your hand in the static, ready-to-click posture. Instead, you can comfortably hold the mouse in one of various, more relaxed postures, because the mouse becomes a pointing device only, and you don’t need to physically click it because autoclick does that for you.
Watch as this user performs word processing tasks, like making text bold and copying and pasting. Notice how the mousing hand is relaxed on the mouse; notice how he does not need to hold a finger over the mousing button, and does not need to click the mouse. When he moves the mouse to a new position, autoclick clicks for him. At first that might seem odd; what if you don’t want the mouse to click where you moved the mouse? Well normally, you only move the mouse somewhere when you want it to click, so it’s not normally an issue. When you first start using autoclick, you will occasionally move the mouse only to realize at the last moment that you don’t want to click there. Just move the mouse somewhere neutral, away from buttons, and the mouse click will be ignored. In time, however, you will learn a new pattern of working, and extra clicks will become very rare. Thousands of users are testimony that autoclick is easy to use if you give it a chance.
Here’s another tip for getting started; some people use the mouse to point at whatever they’re looking at; they constantly move the mouse to wherever they are looking on the screen. This pattern isn’t good for them because they’re doing a lot of extra, unnecessary mouse work, but it also doesn’t work if you’re using autoclick, because the constant, unnecessary mouse movement would trigger unwanted autoclicks. If you have this behavior, autoclick can help you unlearn it. It will take you a little longer to get used to autoclick, but the benefit will be even greater.
The basic idea of autoclick is you move the mouse over what you want to click on, you pause; autoclick clicks for you. How long do you have to pause before autoclick clicks? Well you can change the autoclick delay in the autoclick settings window. To view that, click on the setup menu of RSI Guard, and click Settings. You can set the time to match your personal preference; autoclick starts by waiting 8/10 of a second before it triggers a click. As you get used to autoclick, you may want to lower the trigger time so that you can work faster. If you have trouble with autoclick clicking too fast, or if you have a hard time controlling the mouse pointer, you may wish to increase the trigger time, to say 12 or higher, to make autoclick easier to use.
Now that we know how to do a single click, you might be wondering how you can do double clicks, right-clicks, and drag-and-drop operations. The most common method is to use RSI Guard’s key control feature, and assign those functions to hotkeys. If you don’t use the numeric keypad, for other purposes, it makes a great place to create hotkeys for mouse functions. You can use the 1, 2, and 3 keys for single, double, and (if you use it) triple-click.
Why would you want a single-click hotkey? Two reasons. The first is, sometimes you want to click right where the mouse is pointing. You could move the mouse and bring it back to the same place, but it’s easier to tap the single-click hotkey. The second reason is that autoclick has intelligence, in that it knows many situations in which a click would not be appropriate. If you get into one of those situations, and autoclick just doesn’t think it should click even when you want it to, you can press the single-click hotkey, which is still usually easier on the body than pressing the mouse button. The 0 key on the numeric keypad makes an appropriate “skip next click” hotkey. When you press this hotkey, moving the mouse will not trigger an autoclick until the next time you manually click the mouse. This is useful if you need to move the mouse around for some unique situation where you don’t want clicks.
The decimal point on the numeric keypad makes a good hotkey for right-click; pressing this key will trigger a right-click. Probably the most important of the mouse-related hotkeys is the drag-lock hotkey, which is often placed on the numeric keypad’s addition symbol key, although some people prefer to place it on the tilde key, which is just to the left of the 1 key, because then it’s easy to use with your left hand. The drag-lock hotkey lets you do drag-and-drop operations and selection operations. You tap the hotkey once to start the drag-and-drop; next, you move the mouse to the end of the drag, and because you don’t need to actually hold down the mouse button, you can relax as you move the mouse and take your time. When you’re at the right spot, let go of the mouse, and tap the hotkey a second time to finish. Drag-and-drop mouse selections are the most straining activities you can do on a computer, so this hotkey makes a huge difference in reducing your strain.
Together with the basic operation of autoclick, a large percentage of your mousing strain can be eliminated; not just moved to another finger or hand, but eliminated. There’s a lot more to autoclick, and one of the best ways to understand all of the advanced features is to look through the autoclick settings screen. That’s where we adjusted how long autoclick waited to do its click. Here, you can control the trigger distance; that’s how many dots, which are also called pixels, that the mouse needs to move before autoclick will trigger another automatic click. If your mouse sometimes wiggles on its own, and therefore causes autoclick to click, you may want to increase this number. Also, if when you let go of your mouse the cord moves it a little bit, increasing this number can help prevent unwanted clicks. Cordless mice and trackballs are another great way to avoid that problem.
It can be nice to have feedback as to when autoclick is clicking, and when you are doing a drag-and-drop operation using hotkeys. If you enable audio clicks when autoclick clicks, you will get this audio feedback. If you’re left-handed, check the left-handed mouse configuration; this will set autoclick (AND Microsoft Windows) to be in left-handed mouse mode. If you click on “Edit Autoclick Filters,” you can create rules that tell autoclick to behave differently in certain situations. You can define rules to not click in certain programs, or on certain buttons, or to tell autoclick to do double-clicks in certain windows. You start with two default rules; the second one, displayed here, tells autoclick not to click on buttons named “Delete” unless the user does so via one of the hotkeys you set up in the key control feature. Additionally, in rare situations, the special autoclick filters can be used to prevent autoclick from clicking on certain standard Windows buttons, like Close, Maximize or Menu items. If you click on the advanced settings button, you’ll see a few more subtle controls for autoclick. Although most users will never need to adjust these settings, advanced users may wish to explore the options they have available here.
Although a lot of attention is wisely focused at the ergonomics of keyboard use, for many people – possibly a majority – the mouse is an even greater culprit. Static postures and the rapid, repetitive fine-motor motions associated with clicking a mouse can cause discomfort over time. Autoclick can dramatically reduce the strain associated with clicking the mouse, and many people tell us that they simply cannot work without autoclick. It does take a little getting used to, but the small investment of time is well worth it. We hope you’ll try autoclick, and let us know how we can improve it. For further information, please consult the online documentation for autoclick which you can access by clicking on the Help menu and selecting the “RSI Guard Help” option.