|Friends in computer-related industries, particularly graphics industries, spend an inordinate amount of time on their computers. Actually, that's being gracious. Pasty-white skin, eyes akin to dark, moist cave-like basements, offices or cubicles, these computer-loving souls have worn a mouse-arm groove in their wooden table where they work so incredibly much. It's inevitable something happens that halts that stoic, ever-loving desire for computer work.
It starts as a slight twinge in the shoulder, or a prickle in the wrist, a dime-sized knot in the forearm or a tingling somewhere up and down the arm. Whatever the symptoms, the cause is usually the same - RSI or repetitive strain injury or its widely publicized brother, carpal tunnel syndrome. Several factors aid in developing this condition, from posture and the kind of office furniture used, to the type of keyboard and mouse available. Perhaps the largest culprit of RSI is the mouse and that will be the focus of this article.
For more information regarding carpal tunnel syndrome, refer to links such as this.
A company called "Evoluent" has developed what's called a vertical mouse - not the first in its industry although arguably the best. This mouse is basically a normal 5 button optical mouse (a "true" 3-button mouse with thumb button and scroll wheel / button) but standing on its side so as to allow the user to hold their hand in a "neutral" handshake position while in use. This allows much less strain on the wrists and forearm (and less pressure on the shoulder ultimately) and perhaps just as importantly, offers a different position on the hands and wrist than what normal keyboarding subjects you to.
Today I'm reviewing the Evoluent VerticalMouse 3. It has a long and interesting story spanning more than thirteen years and multiple designs to get version 3 to where it is today.
Installation is a snap of course, like any other standard mouse, once you plug it in windows installs it. And like many other non-standard mice, their "extra" features don't function until you install the mouse drivers. The driver was downloadable from their website (www.evoluent.com) and installation was quick, no reboot required. Once installed its software functions are similar to that of other mice, but perhaps offering more in the way of programmability in its buttons. I've included screen captures below to illustrate what its menu looks like, at least in the version I have installed (v. 3.7).
One note is that this mouse doesn't like to be plugged into the PS/2 connection (even if you use the USB to PS/2 adapter). This may be particularly important to those of you using KVM switches or if your CPU resides in another room than your keyboard & mouse do (using PS/2 to ethernet cable extensions to make the run between the two). What I'm getting from the documentation is that there may be intermittent problems and the software drivers will not function correctly. If you don't have the option of plugging this mouse into your USB port, this will be a big concern. However, I currently have a normal belkin 3-button optical mouse plugged into my PS/2 and they seem to be co-inhabiting quite happily. I did see mention in the included literature to uninstall any previous mouse drivers you have before installing this, so it's possible that your PS/2 mouse drivers may conflict (if you have any other than the default loaded). A quick call to their tech support line may provide an answer you're looking for.
Compatibility: PC has full functionality with the installed drivers, Mac has basic functionality but button programmability is available through a shareware driver at usboverdrive.com, Unix is not compatible, Linux has 5 buttons in XFree 4.0.1 or higher and Knoppix Linux 3.9 or higher without a driver. This was grabbed directly from the evoluent website, visit often to see updates on your OS.
Here are some highlights of the driver set:
The windows driver’s first screen gives you the option of reprogramming each of the 5 buttons to your liking. It will give you over 50 options to reprogram with.
Also, an option exists to program the buttons by application.
Choose among 3 pointer speeds selectable by a mouse click or keyboard shortcut. This is a very cool feature that will allow you to switch to a higher dpi instantly for those fine tuning moments.
My regular PS/2 mouse seems to be peacefully co-existing with my new vertical mouse.
This offers click lock and auto click functions. Click lock will simulate a depressed mouse button after you’ve already clicked to make dragging a less arduous task.
Auto click will click (or double-click) an item for you if the mouse is hovering over an item.
An interesting feature, this window allows you to configure reminders to both stop and start work.
A requirement of RSI symptoms is to continue repetitive tasks over a prolonged amount of time. Short, frequent breaks help tremendously with repetitive-related injuries.
On to perhaps the most important feature of the mouse is the feel. Repetitive mouse-clicks, movement and twisting on top of a slab of wood all day is bound to present problems down the road, so it was important for this mouse to "feel" good to my aching limb and joints as well as be easy to use so my productivity didn't drop. I noticed a positive difference almost immediately. It was definitely more comfortable than the standard mouse position and I seem to adapt to the "new" position rather quickly. For giggles I loaded up my 3D shoot-em-up (Quake) and promptly got my backside handed to me so clearly I'm not as accurate with it yet as I am with my normal mouse, at least not yet. :-)
I really love the buttons - they're not too easy to click but not hard enough that I have to move my mouse to push them. It's obvious great care was taken in its design as a mouse standing on its side could encounter problems applying pressure to only one side of the unit. I went back to using my old PS/2 mouse that was still hooked up to see if my arm could tell a difference (it could) and the buttons actually seemed a bit harder and more arduous to press. 'd concluded from this that in only a few hours operation my arm and hands had adapted to the vertical mouse that quickly.
One other especially important note about the buttons, at least especially important to me, is that this is a "true" 3-button optical mouse with a thumb button and a scroll wheel. A real 3-button mouse (not two buttons and a scroll wheel) seems in short demand nowadays and it's particularly sought after by those who build and design 3D work, in my own case using Autodesk's Maya software. Not only am I getting a great mouse with all the buttons I need, it's good for my arm and wrist as well. I think 3D artists and editors in general will find this interesting as the middle mouse button often has its own function in their software (it zooms in and out of the timeline in my editing software Velocity, which is something I do -very- often in conjunction with the pan tool for my long form editing work).
The fact that it has an accuracy cycle button on the very bottom (recessed to prevent accidental pressing of course) is a handy feature. With an accompanying light that changes its color depending on the setting, you can set your mouse anywhere from 800 dpi for those smaller monitor setups to 2600 dpi for large 2 to 3 monitor setups where a lot of screen real estate must be traveled to achieve the same motions (or a large canvas needs traversed in order to paint or draw). I'm using 2560 x 1024 screen res on 17" monitors (below average these days) and I'm using the 2nd to lowest setting, the 1300 dpi - once again color-coding this so I know.
It is wired which may or may not be a disappointment to those of you who like battery-operated mice. I don't. Battery mice tend to be heavier which aids in hand and arm problems (defeating the purpose of this mouse) and also tend to require their batteries replaced often.
Even if you don't currently experience problems in your back, neck, shoulder, forearm or wrist and fingers from a repetitive stress problem, this mouse should be a consideration for your next mouse purchase as a preventative maintenance measure, as well as a great true 3-button, 5-button programmable mouse for 3D and graphics work. A computer graphics or video career can put us behind the desk for the next thirty to sixty years. For most of us, it will be our full means of support. Products like this will help us take care of our most valuable tool while providing some variety in an otherwise repetitive and stressful environment.
According to the website, you have 30 days in which to return the product if you don't like it (of course, amazon or another dealer may have their own stipulations). I encourage you to take advantage of that option and see for yourself whether or not this is something that might help you!
One feature request I personally have are with the software drivers. For one, it should fully support Macs out of the box. I'm not a mac user, but even though the mac platform has risen to become useful in other areas, it's still best known and most widely-used in the graphics and video industry. Macs not only come with a standard, twist-your-arm mouse, they often offer only one mouse button. Having an ergonomically-friendly, multi-button mouse should prove extremely useful on the mac platform, particularly for those 3D users who have an even more limited number of true 3-button mice to choose from. Secondly, 'd like to see this mouse supporting menus, popping up at the touch of a button to add even more capabilities to the 5 programmable buttons. This is a similar function to the logitech keyboard menus that can pop up when programmed. I hit the F6 key for example and a custom but simple menu comes up, asking if I'd like to open Sony Sound Forge or Vegas, Adobe Audition, ProTools, etc. This would offer a greater range of movement savings by keeping the mouse and still performing tasks, rather than running a program or function directly from a mouse click. This is admittedly not as common a function in mouse drivers but something I wouldn't mind seeing.
Although listed at $80 on the evoluent website, it appears as though you can get them for $60 or so on amazon.com. If you keyword search "evoluent" under the electronics option, you'll see several mice come up, including a left-handed version as well as some older verticalmouse 2 mice, keyboards, wrist supports, etc.