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Here's a random thing from another post that's confused me for years: Why are mice so popular? That is, versus a trackball? Seriously, when I see a mouse, I just think you've got your trackball flipped upside-down.

I've been told "mice are great for gaming", but I've never experienced that. In fact, I originally got into a Kensington Expert Mouse (ie. the big arcade-sized monster) for gaming back in the Quake 2 days, and I've never used a mouse on purpose since.

A mouse is this relatively big hunk of plastic you have drag around on a dedicated cleared surface. When you get to the edge, you have to pick it up and haul it back over to the other side. You have to use a weird combination of fine and gross motor control (ie. fingers, wrist, and elbow) to do what you want. None of that sounds good to me for gaming.

On the other hand, a trackball stays put, it needs less space. You only need to twitch your fingers (ie. fine motor control), and there is no edge. Want to spin around in an FPS? Just snap a finger from side to side. Also, a good trackball has built-in physical acceleration and momentum: When you spin it, it keeps going for awhile, until your finger or bearing friction stops it. That's intuitive as all get-out.

The only other thing I can figure is that gaming mice are festooned with buttons and little twitchy controls. But, there's no reason why a trackball can't have the same - and a few do.

I just can't get past how silly the underlying pointing interface seems to me on a mouse.
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William Donohue's profile photoCraig Maloney's profile photoLes Orchard's profile photoRyan Kather's profile photo
15 comments
David H
 
I too have wondered this for a long time.
 
I think a large part of it is momentum.  People are used to a mouse.  When I've tried a trackball I just wasn't able to really get comfortable with it.  But I also know I never gave it that much of a chance.  I suppose it comes down to there not being enough of a need to. 
 
What +Paul Mallett said, plus the fact that I can get a mouse for $10 for my cheap seldom-used machines, but a trackball is a lot more. 

I wouldn't mind giving it a try, but I'd have to get 3 of them to get it to stick (so i'm forced to use it). One machine at home, 2 at work. 
 
If you have difficulty with fine motor control, trackballs can be a pain. Also, 10 years of learned reflexes using a mouse with Adobe apps can be hard to shake.
 
+William Donohue : Funny thing about the Adobe stuff is the last time I did a lot with those apps, I was using a Wacom tablet. So, I'm all kinds of weird.
 
I'm not a gamer, but a graphics guy, and since 1985 or so, a mouse has always felt more comfortable. I've tried trackballs and I hate 'em. I don't mind trackpads too much, probably because I've used them on laptops for so many years, but I still prefer a mouse for precision graphics work.
 
Trackpads, I like sorta, but only for intermittent casual use when I'm mostly typing. Never for gaming. How come you hate trackballs? Probably just ends up boiling down to preference / habit, but I've always felt more precise with a trackball too
 
Trackballs (and trackpads, and joystick mice) make my tendinitis worse, because it's more small movements with the same muscles that are already overworked because of my four-fingers-on-one-hand-and-two-on-the-other typing habits.  A real mouse uses an entirely different set of muscles, so I prefer it.

For gaming, I prefer a game controller.
 
+Les Orchard Tablets, especially Cintiq-style LCD tablets, are superior to almost anything else for working in Photoshop & Illustrator. I've got a deep background (from 1988) of working in page layout apps, which tablets don't help much with. Still, my mouse preference is mostly ingrained habit combined with how twitchy I find most trackballs.
 
Trackballs are OK for certain applications, but the mouse allows me to make finer motions. Especially with the more precise laser mice, which are extremely sensitive.

Also, a trackball tends to make my wrist freeze up, which is not good. 

And I don't have to reach for the buttons on a mouse: they're already there.

Also, I never got into the Logitech Trackball (whatever the hell they're called). My thumb is not that accurate, thank you.
 
Thumb trackballs are garbage; a thumb is just not made to move like that, IMO.

But I dunno, this Logitech Marble (not a thumb ball) is pretty sensitive. I've used it quite often in GIMP & etc to lasso images. I don't think it's laser, but it's definitely optical. Buttons are on the sides, and my fingers are usually resting on them, except the one or two driving the pointer.

The other Logitech wireless trackball I have has been pretty nice for my wrist. I was even using it while in a wrist brace after I trashed myself with bad habits during working on a book :/
 
Mice definitely > track balls for gaming.  

I guess the evidence would be in the pro-gaming circuits, I can't think of the last time I watched anyone in championship brackets on a trackball.  Maybe that's a sign of selection bias.  Hardware manufacturers not putting out high resolution trackballs, like they do gaming mice?  

Immediately I can think of logistical problems with trackballs for gaming.  In the case of the Logitech Marble, I'm giving up one or possibly two fingers on my hand for movement.  Worse, those fingers are my index and possibly middle fingers.  Those are high dexterity fingers when compared with my pinky which would be relegated to my right click (I'm left handed).  I don't know about you, but my pinky is not that adept at things and actually seizes up kind of locks at the joint (learned from playing bass).  With a mouse, I'm able to move with other muscles keeping my fingers free to perform.

I also think if you're lifting your mouse in gaming, you're doing it wrong.  Your sensitivity should be such that you can freely move around your 3D space (FPS example) without lifting.  I guess if you were spinning multiple times in the same direction in a circle.  I can't really think if I life, but if I do it's subconscious at this point.  Also a good mouse can have a bit of 'glide' movement to it if your surface is right and your weight is right. They actually make mice with changeable weights to adjust that glide (and or lift feel).  If interested my mouse is a Razer Lachesis, which besides the obnoxious lighting effects is excellent, IMO.
 
Hmm I should also admit I'm a relatively crap gamer, so maybe I shouldn't value my own experience as highly there :) I have been curious about what's the deal with high end gaming mice, though I game from a laptop table at a couch
 
You really should try a gaming mouse sometime.  It's one of the more noticeable component upgrades I've done.  I think only a nice monitor and an SSD rate higher.  
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