Clean the Mouse

I know it sounds faintly ridiculous, but cleaning your mouse can make a real ergonomic difference for your wrist and forearm. I’m often amazed at what people will put up with in a mouse. It seems like this is the most basic connection you make to the computer. Many of us are dragging and clicking on it non-stop, and it ought to feel as good as it can.

I’ve got a Microsoft Intellimouse Optical, which I love for it’s low profile (easier on your wrist), very smooth travel, flexible software, and the presence of five, easily distinguished buttons. It only touches the surface on four small feet, but they can get gummed up. The deposit can be nearly invisible, but it can produce a noticeable increase in the effort needed to move the thing precisely.

I’ve been working pretty hard lately and thought I was feeling resistance in the mouse. The feet seemed okay on quick inspection, but a couple of minutes of scrubbing made me realize just how bad they were — it felt totally different. I use rubbing alcohol for this purpose, available for a buck or two at any drug store. It’s best to get the concentrated, 91% version, which contains less water and makes it safer on equipment. And be sure to unplug the mouse before you start!  It’s tempting to just turn the thing over and look at it, but you don’t want to be looking into the laser.

Your mousepad is also critical. They may look similar but small differences in the surface texture can dramatically change the way a mouse will track and feel. There’s some kind of alchemy that occurs between the composition of the mouse feet and the surface of the pad. A pad that works best for one mouse may not work so well for another.

You may not be as persnickety about this as I am, but if you’re having wrist or forearm pain, you might be surprised by how much a good mouse — or a clean one — will help. Go to your favorite computer or office store and check them out.

Finally, a suggestion: I program one mouse button as a double-click (a single click on this button has the effect of a double-click). It seems like a small thing, but I do an awful lot of double-clicking to load source clips and this has made a very noticeable difference in the way my arm and wrist feel at the end of the day. It’s also more positive — when you hit the double-click button your clip loads every time. Not all mouse software can be programmed this way, but the Microsoft Mouse driver makes it easy.

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Explore posts in the same categories: Avid, Avid Technical Tips, Quality of Life, User Interface

7 Comments on “Clean the Mouse”

  1. Judith Allen Says:

    Back in the olden days, when mice had small balls which moved as you dragged your mouse, I’d always amaze people by taking the ball out and scraping the inside of their mouse with my fingernail.

    It was practically a party trick, seems like people had never considered that there could be something they could DO about it. Whereas having taken the ball out of the bottom was the first thing I did when I first saw a computer mouse, so that I could figure out to some extent how it worked. When it stopped working, the solution was intuitive to me.

  2. AndrewK Says:

    I know these aren’t for everyone (and it’s a bit more expensive then some rubbing alcohol), but after switching to a Wacom tablet I’d never go back to a mouse again. It took me a few hours to get used to it but after that I was in love. :)

  3. David Helfand Says:

    Man, after years of discomfort from using the basic mice and chairs that came with the Avid rental/room, ergonomics is a subject I’m every bit as persnickety about as you are. (In fact, your name came up while I was sharing carpal tunnel advice with Sidney Wolinsky recently). As professional 15 hr/day butt-sitters, I think the eqpt editors use in front of the Avid is as critical as the eqpt inside the rack and I’ve spent years searching for the best options. Double-click programming was one of my first epiphanies and there is great Mac or PC shareware to do the job if your mouse’s software doesn’t cover it (the basic OS mouse settings aren’t nearly as good). I’ve especially like timeline zooming (ctrl+M)with a click. Apple’s mice have always been cool but lame and now I rely on an Evoluent Vertical Mouse which rotates my wrist 90 degrees into a much more stable, healthy position. Took a little getting used to, like anything else, but it’s made a tremendous difference. Besides 5-button programming it has direct adjustment of the optical tracker which is further beneficial for negotiating large desktops with minimal movement than software adjustments alone. Other best investments of my career include an articulating keyboard tray (3-D angle adjustments relieve shoulder stress), a footrest (relieves leg stress and circulation) and a serious ergo chair (relieves everything else). I’m not old, but I know a lot of cutters who’ve suffered what I’ve suffered and have the chiropractor bills to prove it. Companies like Evoluent and Humanscale have great ergonomic info on their sites, but there’s a lot of info on the web that’s worth looking into.

  4. Steve Says:

    Yea — great suggestions. The angle of your wrist on the table is critical.

    All this stuff costs some money, but when you compare it to the orthopod, chiropractor, acupuncture, and (banish the thought) surgery bills, they’re a bargain.

  5. Andy Says:

    I’ve been experiencing some pretty serious wrist pain as of late. Since one instance where the pain shot up my forearm almost to my shoulder, I’ve made it a priority to fix the problem.

    An cheap IMAK ergobeads wristpad seems to help, and the vertical mouse looks promising, Thanks.

    I like my Wacom, but I’m a lefty so using it in Avid really screws up my keyboard commands…I’ve half a mind to totally reverse my keyboard to suit my right hand, e.g. Ctrl-? for undo instead of Ctrl-Z. But even if I can’t change my ways in Avid where speed and intuitiveness is key, using the tablet or wacky ergo mouse for file browsing/email/etc. is enough to keep my body guessing.

    And let us not forget, simply taking regular breaks to walk around and stretch things out can make all the difference—including taking a moment to focus your eyes on something further away than your monitor.

  6. Steve Says:

    Good luck, Andy. This stuff only gets worse if you don’t deal with it. I hope you find something that works for you.

  7. AndyDV Says:

    UPDATEZ! got myself an evoluent vertical mouse…two days strong and feeling fine.

    Getting the mac shareware for button programming is crucial. I’ve got both double -click and the return key mapped to my 4th/5th buttons and it’s pretty slick. It’s the little things, folks.


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