04 March 2009

Non-mouse mice

Okay, so you have a keyboard and you have a mouse, but neither really seem to be the tools you need for what you do. There are too many clicks, you are moving your pointer too far across the screen. I know how you feel. Actually, until a short time ago I just thought it was something to grin and bear. That is, until I installed my Griffin Powermate.

When I was a kid using an Apple ][ all we had to play with was the keyboard for "real" stuff, and the joystick for games. Graduating to the PC, the keyboard-mouse combo took over and it has pretty much been the way things have been for the last two decades. Then a couple o fyears ago I was given a Powermate for Christmas. It was treated as one of those Christmas presents which you think, oh lovely, I always wanted one, but which actually ends up in the shoebox at the back of the cupboard.

Anyway, I was clearing my stuff out when I chanced upon it and thought, well, now is the time to test it out. The Powermate is a beautiful device: it feels heavy and has a blue LED which pulses organically when it is on. The question is, what does it do? Well, it is a programmable dial and button. So you can program it to do one thing when you press it, another when you dial it in either direction, and another when you do a combination of the two - not actually as easy as it sounds. The function also changes depending on what program you have in focus.

It all sounds like it will liberate you completely, but to be honest it hasn't done all that much for me. I use it extensively in Firefox with the dial to scroll up and down a web page, perfect for Google Reader, and the press dial is good for switching tabs. That, essentially, is that. Your mileage may vary.

I was looking at the Powermate though, and thinking it would have so much more functionality of you could squeeze it or use it as a joystick, which is when I had a look at loads of other gadgets which are not mice, but function as accessory input devices. Never even seen any of these in the flesh let along had a chance to play with them, but they may be something to keep an eye on for the future.