Valuable Input (AKA, That Trusty CAD Sidekick, Your Mouse)

26 Nov, 2013 By: Nancy Spurling Johnson

In a job that requires constant computer use, the little mouse plays a big role — and must be used wisely.

This issue's cover story, "Playing CAD and Mouse," reviews a variety of input devices and offers advice for selecting the one that's right for you. We had a great time choosing which models to review and putting them to the test in Cadalyst Labs; for a tool whose functions come down to pointing and clicking, the options run the gamut! And that's a good thing, because each of us has unique needs when it comes to the software we use, our budget, and our personal preferences.

One thing we all have in common, however, is the need to use an input device safely. If you're a CAD user, chances are you spend nearly your entire day at the computer, using your input device the entire time. If you're doing so without proper attention to ergonomics, sooner or later you could face discomfort, or worse — working with your hand or wrist in an unnatural position can lead to muscle and tendon strain and repetitive-stress injuries. Following are a few reminders about how to minimize that risk:

  • Find a good fit. Choose an input device that feels comfortable — not too small or too large — and supports your hand in a relaxed, neutral position. Your wrist should be relaxed and unbent as well.
  • Place it correctly. Keep your mouse close — both to the near edge of the desk to minimize forward arm extension and to the side of the keyboard to reduce lateral arm extension. Keep your forearm horizontal and even with the mouse and your elbow close to your body.
  • Take it easy. Hold the mouse lightly; don't squeeze or grip it. Release the mouse frequently and even consider alternating between different devices to reduce repetitive motion. Use keyboard shortcuts instead of mouse clicks whenever possible. Remember to take breaks from computer use at least once an hour. And did you know that cold muscles and tendons are at greater risk of injury? Keep warm!

For me, a thumb-operated trackball is the answer for minimizing physical stress and strain. It replaced a standard mouse when I was doing extensive web operations work that caused pain and numbness in my hand and shoulder — and I'm still using it, almost a decade later.

This trusty device has served me well, and never given me a reason to change. But when a new-fangled trackball came through the office, with a low-profile design and fancy new features, I thought I should try it. I put it to use for the better part of a week. But it just wasn't a natural fit for me, so for now, I'll stick with Old Faithful. I hope our cover story helps you find a mouse that's the right fit for you.

A New Chief and a Big Birthday for Cadalyst

This editorial is my last as editor-in-chief of Cadalyst. I'll stay directly involved in Cadalyst affairs, but my responsibilities are broadening to oversee all content development for our parent company, Longitude Media. Cyrena Respini-Irwin, currently the senior editor, will take over as editor-in-chief — a natural move for her, having been a part of the Cadalyst editorial staff dating back to 2006. Along with managing editor Lara Sheridan and the rest of our editorial staff, Cyrena and I are devoted to Cadalyst and to you, our readers.

We're honored that you have made Cadalyst a trusted resource — especially now, as we celebrate 30 years of serving the CAD community. Happy birthday, Cadalyst!

About the Author: Nancy Spurling Johnson

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