Let’s first be clear: I don’t hate my mouse. I sure use it a lot — moving between one of many active programs on my computer, from Slack to Outlook to Basecamp to a small army of active browser tabs. And, yes, on those long days where I forget to look away from my computer, let alone leave my desk, my wrist will ache a bit. But I don’t suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome and I’ve not been driven to radically disrupt the way I point and click — that is, until we received a Penclic at the office.
It’s one of those things you might have seen a touch-up artist using — you know, people whose jobs it is to work all day drawing and coloring on the screen. But for a regular multitasker like myself? I decided to give it a try.
Day 1: The Learning Curve
Right off the bat, this thing is sleek and offers up an air of professionalism — it’s a product that says, “I work so hard my mouse doesn’t keep up with me.” The pen itself is a relatively cheap plastic, and on close inspection you can see the innards of the pen through the buttons. This is no Apple-designed product. But it does set up like one. You can watch the instructional video (I did), but you don’t need to. Connect the Bluetooth and it is ready to go.
Now for the hard part: This thing feels awkward. I found myself curving my wrist around, just like the video said not to do. I found the right click to be useful, exactly where it should be; the scroll wheel is a bit out of reach for my fingers; and the left click button is a total encumbrance — why wouldn’t you just hold down Control and click? That button would continue to plague me. By the end of the day my form did improve immensely, although tasks like highlighting or clicking had me reverting to the awkward handshake.
Day 2: Getting Back on That Bicycle
It took me five tries to open a link this morning. You see, when you click on something you need to keep your wrist perfectly still. If you don’t, you end up dragging the link, rather than clicking to open it. You learn something every day.
Everything else, however, is improving. This is bicycle learning, and I picked it right up from where I left off yesterday. Once I went into the mouse settings in my computer’s Preferences, turning up scrolling and cursor speeds — all the way up — the benefits started to become clear. The pen is more precise, easier to grab, and, whether it’s because I’m now paying attention or the product is that good, the ergonomics are in fact better. My wrist is in a flat, comfortable position that could keep going all day.
By end of business, I’m still slower than I was to navigate, and sometimes use my middle finger to click (it’s what I need to do to avoid accidentally hitting the right click button by my thumb). But I’m beginning to see the light.
Day 3: One Step Forward…
Perhaps that was tunnel vision. The Penclic didn’t, well, click today. I now notice that the jump from Penclic to keyboard is pretty awkward. The keyboard needs to be kept closer to the body while the Penclic further than a mouse, so when I’m editing a line in an email or story, it’s disruptive.
That’s one step back for a nice hop forward, though. I’m not nearly hitting the right click button with my thumb as much now, and while I wish they had an option without that button on there, I will definitely get used to it. I can even begin to see the advantages of having a right-click option right under my thumb (copy and pasting with one thumb click? Perhaps one day.). The efficiencies promise to come with time. No one ever said radical disruption happened overnight.
The Bottom Line: Is a mouse a horribly inefficient way to navigate your computer, a burden on your wrist and productivity that you just never gave a fair thought to? No. If it were so ergonomically awful, working with a Penclic would be much more of a revelation. But if you are a serious multitasker — the kind of person who works in more than four programs at any given time — your mouse may well be holding you back.