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Not all Mice are Created Equal

Not all Mice are Created Equal

Choosing the right mouse for 3D SketchUp modeling.

Unlock your potential in SketchUp with the right pointing device.

In this post, we'll delve into why not all mice are created equal, why small, cute mice like Microsoft's Arc or Mac's Magic Mouse might not be the best fit for 3D environments, and why opting for a typical 3-button mouse can make all the difference in your SketchUp modeling experience.

So, you are thinking of taking a 3D SketchUp course and you have your computer and a mouse. That should be everything you need right? Well, yes and no.

Many modern computers will handle small SketchUp files and I’ll speak more about this in another post. But, many ‘Pointing Devices’ or Mice do not work well with SketchUp, nor any Cad program for that matter, in my opinion.

Not all Mice are Created Equal

Small, cute, mice like Microsoft’s Arc or Mac’s Magic mouse are just not made to do what is required in the 3D environment. I actually do know folks that use these, and yes, they can work but, I also see them fumble around frustrated saying that “it’s taking too long” to do what they want… So, what should you use in a 3D computer aided modelling program? Well, for a minimum, you should use a typical 3 button mouse.

Yup, the $20 generic mouse will work better than the above two. Now you’re thinking that that mouse only has 2 buttons (well 2 buttons and a wheel); and you would be correct if you said 2 buttons and a wheel but actually those 3 make 4. How? There is a Left button, a Right button, a Scroll Wheel and, if you press the Scroll Wheel down you should hear a ‘Click’; that is the 3rd button. It is this tangible, tactile, feel of the Scroll Wheel button and click that makes this type of mouse work so well.

Precision in Cad modelling is very important and I have found that without those tactile and audible sensations, precision is often lost. So now, with this in mind, you go to your old junk drawer and pull out that mouse that has lived there for as long as you can remember. It may be a bit sticky, the tail (cord) wrapped around a bunch of other stuff. You untangle it and say: “Now I’m ready”. Hold on a minute; yes it might work but there are options that are better. Even that ‘Basic’ mouse has its limitations. It only has 4 Non-Programmable buttons (I’ll get to that in a moment) and it is not made to handle the constant, repetitive clicks of a Gaming mouse. “Did he just say Gaming mouse?” Yes I did. Gaming mice are built to withstand the abuse of hundreds of clicks an hour; where your common mouse is made for surfing the web and office data entry navigational clicks.

Gaming mice are built to withstand the abuse of hundreds of clicks an hour; where your common mouse is made for surfing the web and office data entry navigational clicks.

I found an interesting ‘Answer’ on Quora where a company did research on how many clicks and keyboard key presses various people did daily. You can read it here.

The result was:

    1. Developers make 4K clicks per day.
    2. Managers print over 23K characters per day.
    3. The designer’s mouse can travel 20 km per month.
    4. Editors make 2 times fewer mistakes than the entire team.

For our purposes we should pay attention to numbers 1 and 3.

For the geeks I stumbled onto this Track your Mouse Movements ; so cool.

Just imagine that in the space of a typical mouse pad of 8.5”(21.6cm) x 7.5”(19.0cm) the average distance travelled by the designer’s mouse was 20km per month! That’s 1 km per day or 125m per hour or 2.08m per minute! (20 days avg. @ 8 hrs /day). I remember during a very busy few years that I was going through a mouse every 8 months, but being covered under the 1 year warranty, I received a replacement.

My mice are generally between $80 and $150 each, and I tend to buy Logitech. I’m a Left Handed mouse user and Logitech has the most comfortable Ambidextrous models with programmable buttons I’ve used. My current Logitech G900 has served me for over 2 years, though I’m looking at its eventual replacement with the newer G903 which is now available.

This mouse has a total of 11 programmable buttons plus the scroll wheel.

With this I can just assign the most used commands to a button so that I don’t have to go up to the menu bar or search for the specific tool icon. You can also create different profiles for different programs.

Razor makes my next option in Ambidextrous mice. Then Pirixx makes an ergonomic mouse that is so comfortable to use and the only reason I don’t use it is due to its lack of programmable buttons. Maybe one day… The last mouse I will talk about is the Space Mouse by 3D Connexion.

The people I know that use this >$300 device absolutely love it. It was built for 3D. Much of the User Interface, of any program, is at your fingertips; keeping your monitor’s real estate wide open for your work and not the myriad of toolbars available.

Some Graphic designers have asked me if they could use a Tablet and Stylus. Again, the answer is yes; though when I tried this I had to drop the stylus every time I wanted to enter a numerical distance on the keyboard, then fumbled around finding it again. In the end, it slowed me down and I stopped using it. If the stylus could perform more like a 3 button mouse with an integrated scroll wheel I might try it again.

To sum everything up, use what is comfortable for you. But if you are going to be working in this environment everyday for extended periods of time, consider spending the money for a mouse that will last and perform the way you expect it to.

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