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A Comprehensive List of Alternat ...

Posted Dec 13 2008 11:35pm

A Comprehensive List of Alternative Pointing Devices

Friday, November 16, 2007 13:58

Say goodbye to your mouse! If you want something drastically different than the mice I listed in the last post, take a look at the options below the cut here.


Joysticks have the benefit of keeping your hands in a vertical, natural posture rather than the palm-down pose of the standard mouse.

  • If you have a USB or other joystick already just lying around, there is software available to convert it into a mouse.
  • 3M Rennaissance Joystick — Built to work as a mouse, with two buttons under the thumb, and no wrist movement required.


Trackpads, or touchpads, are like those found on laptops, but more portable–you can put them where ever is most convenient, move them around or put them in your lap. Some peripheral keyboards are also sold with touchpads.

  • Cirque makes a few with different levels of customizability.
  • Many external keyboards also come built in with a trackpad or a little trackball mouse

Remote Controllers

These let your hand move around more naturally rather than hovering over the keyboard tray, plus hold the device in a more natural position.

  • The WiiMote is a remote control like device for the Wii game console, but there are hacks available (see the link) to transform it into a mouse device for Windows.
  • Fry’s Electronics and other computer supply stores sometimes offer remotes for sale, especially ones designed for power point presentations.

Pen Style Mice and Digital Tablets

These are devices that simulate the experience of using a pen, so they are good for doing a lot of drawing or writing, but maybe not be as well suited for extended web browsing and point-and-click activities.

  • Wacom and other Graphics Tablets — Wacom recently came out with a new tablet just for basic functions like mousing and writing basic documents, the Bamboo tablet. The company also sells tablets geared for graphics editors and designers, like the Graphire and Intuos.

    Mini review: I love my tablet (intuos 2) for drawing and occasional mousing, and it definitely helps me twist my arm into a more natural position. I use it for graphic illustration, and it’s great for that. But I wouldn’t use it as a mouse substitute entirely. I tend to put it in front of the keyboard, so I can’t draw and type at the same time. It also makes me hunch forward, which can be uncomfortable after a while.

  • Logitech Writing Pen — allows you to write naturally and translates your digital writing into text. May work more as a keyboard than a mouse substitute.

Hands Free Devices

These are different kinds of devices you can use without needing your hands. If you’re disabled or your arms are just too tired, or you want to be able to mouse and type at the same time, they might help you out.

Foot switches –

  • Kinesis sells one, two or three button customizable switches. You can get them with a controller or plug them into a contoured keyboard. You still need a mouse or trackpad to move the cursor but these allow you to click the mouse or perform functions like pressing the shift button or switching to a number pad.

    MiniReview– I have a single button footswitch from Kinesis that works with my AdvantagePro keyboard. It’s great when I remember to use it, but too often it gets kicked around and I don’t think about plugging it in!

  • NoHands Mouse — These are foot switches that also allow you to move the cursor with your feet and can be used with other keyboards and mice also.
  • Head movement tracker — NaturalPoint has a series of optical tracker devices that track your head movements. My understanding of the device is that you place a dot on your head for it to track and then move your head where you want the mouse to go. I imagine you could also place the dot on your hand or on a handheld device if you preferred.

If you know of anything I have missed or have hands-on experience, please feel free to leave a comment and let us know.

You can also check out a list compiled by MIT that has some of these along with pictures, though some of their info may be out of date.

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One Response to “A Comprehensive List of Alternative Pointing Devices”

  1. Carilee Moran says:

    May 21st, 2008 at 9:39 am

    FootTime Foot Mouse
    I have been using a foot mouse for six months. I could use the right foot for cursor control and the left for single left and right clicks or double clicks. Foot can also scroll. For me the most useful thing is just being able to left click with my foot, and that’s mostly what I do with it. Do enough clicking and your calf and hip muscles will get tired, so switching off with a reguar mouse is useful.

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