Of mice and men – how a left-handed computer mouse drove me up the wall

Of mice and men – how a left-handed computer mouse drove me up the wall

Kevin Hofer
Kevin Hofer
Zurich, on 19.02.2018
Translation: Eva Francis
Life as a left-hander is no easy business: We always need to make sure we’re not left out. Not to mention that we might be accused of making left-handed compliments or having two left feet. Even when it comes to computer mice, we’re at a disadvantage. Here’s my (not so) scientific and serious analysis of life with a left-handed mouse.

My parents bought our first computer in the early 90s. I was a young boy who thought he knew everything about computers, so I was more than keen to have my say. When my parents announced that I was allowed to choose the mouse, I was over the moon! I was very impressed with ergonomic mice, so I went for a right-handed ergonomic mouse. I’m left-handed, by the way. This naive decision is why I, to this day, am a left-hander who uses a computer mouse with his right hand. This might be strange, but it means that my «better» hand is free to do whatever it likes – taking notes, for example.

This is kind of what my first mouse looked like ¬– just more ergonomic.
This is kind of what my first mouse looked like ¬– just more ergonomic.

Discrimination all over

The choice of mice for left-handers is limited, to say the least. At digitec, we have a range of three left-handed mice – right-handers can choose from about 200 different models. Considering the fact that 10-15% of the European population are left-handed, the proportion of left-handed mice is extremely low. This might be part of the reason why I never switched to using the mouse with my left hand.

VM4L (Cable)
Evoluent VM4L (Cable)
Hippus Handshoe
BakkerElkhuizen Hippus Handshoe
Hippus HandshoeMouse
BakkerElkhuizen Hippus HandshoeMouse
Our rather limited choice of left-handed mice.

Why did I never switch to using the mouse with my left hand? I ask myself this question every time I arrive at a new work place – as I did a few weeks ago. Maybe because in a new work place, the mouse is always placed on the right hand side of the desk? This wasn’t a problem at digitec, as I had to was allowed to set up my own workplace. Maybe because I was supplied with a right-handed ergonomic mouse? Jackpot! In my case, this was the right choice, as I’m used to working with my right hand. But strictly speaking, being a left-hander, it was discrimination. There are loads of ambidextrous ergonomic mice, so why did I get a right-handed one?

Enough of that, no need to make all left-handers look like victims any longer. It’s quite possible that equality isn’t that far-fetched. After all, there are over 200 ambidextrous ergonomic mice in our shop. Speaking of our shop, this is where I ordered the left-handed ergonomic mouse I used for my little experiment this article is about. Let’s see how easy switching to my left hand turned out to be.

«Tiny turd»

The mouse I chose for this experiment is the Evoluent VM4L (Cable). It’s one of the most ergonomic mice I’ve ever seen, but it’s definitely no beauty. In fact, its shape reminds me of those small brown piles you might see if you’re taking a walk in the forest or on a field path. For this reason, it got the nickname «tiny turd». One thing’s for sure: Tiny turd puts functionality over design. Its vertical shape prevents or eases carpal tunnel syndrome. Apart from that, this mouse has seven buttons (one of them to adjust dpi) and a scroll wheel. Six buttons are programmable and maximum sensor resolution is 2600 dpi.

Evoluent 4 product video – take this Oscar-worthy performance with a pinch of salt.

Day 1 of my experiment – a trial of patience

At first, I installed tiny turd in addition to my usual mouse, the Logitech M500 Refresh (Cable). I soon realised this wasn’t going to work, as I caught myself reaching for the right mouse again and again. We're all creatures of habit. Thus, I decided to remove my usual mouse. Tiny turd might be no beauty, but it sits comfortably in your hand – unlike its outdoor counterpart.

«Tiny turd» on my desk.
«Tiny turd» on my desk.

My status report after a few hours: Using the mouse with my left hand feels weird. It feels wrong and I can’t stop reaching for it with my right hand. I assume this will stop happening once I get used to using my left hand. What’s far worse, though, is that I miss having my important left hand available. I’m used to taking notes with my left hand at the same time as I’m navigating and scrolling with my right. My handwriting is almost illegible as it is, let alone if I’m forced to write with my right hand. On top of that, my accuracy with the mouse is horrendous. I hardly ever manage to put the pointer where I want to at the first attempt. Plus, I’m making slow progress; my productivity really is suffering. According to a study by Merrimack College in Massachusetts, left-handers are more prone to negative emotions than right-handers. Maybe that’s why this experiment is starting to make me angry and impatient already?

Day 2 of my experiment – losing the trial of patience

On day 2 of my experiment, I find myself reaching for the mouse with my left hand without thinking. I’ve made progress! This might be due to us lefties being known to be more intelligent than righties – a theory that, sadly enough, isn’t true. As a study by University College London revealed, left-handers and right-handers are equally intelligent on average, but there are more statistical outliers among left-handers. For the sake of this article, let’s say I’m one of them – an outlier on the highly intelligent side.

I can’t help it, the keyboard shortcuts for copying and pasting feel wrong with my right hand.
I can’t help it, the keyboard shortcuts for copying and pasting feel wrong with my right hand.

As good as day 2 with tiny turd begun, it took a turn to the worse rather quickly when I faced a task that involved a lot of copying and pasting. As the Ctrl + C and Ctrl + V keys are on the very left on the keyboard, I have to reach across the keyboard with my right hand, while I leave my left hand on the mouse. How am I supposed to copy and paste like this? Shall I press Ctrl with my thumb or my index finger? I try it with my thumb, but have to stretch my arm so far to the left that it hurts. What about the C or V key? Do I use my ring finger or my little finger? I try pressing Ctrl with my index finger, but it doesn’t make things easier. This experiment is driving me up the wall! Whatever I do, it feels wrong. I get tense and angry and start feeling the need to throw tiny turd out of the window and onto the field path where it belongs. But then I remember that it’s not tiny turd’s fault. It’s my own. I’m acting clumsily. After all, I could just copy and paste with my left hand, as I always have. But that would mean switching from mouse to keyboard all the time, which isn’t going to boost my productivity either. Plus, it’s not comfortable. Whatever I try, it doesn’t work.

Day 3 of my experiment – reconciliation

By day 3, I’m starting to get used to working with my left hand. I’ve set tiny turd’s pointer speed all the way to maximum and my accuracy is (mostly) fine. Sure, I’m not as fast and as accurate as with my right hand, but I’m getting there. And my left hand and arm don’t feel any different. No sore muscles, no pain. This might be due to tiny turd’s super-ergonomic vertical shape – I can’t tell, as I have no experience with other left-handed mice to compare with. However, I still have no clue how I’m supposed to copy and paste. I’ll probably never figure out. Plus, I still find it hard to accept that I can no longer use my left hand to take notes.

As I begin to fall into some kind of routine, I finally have time to write more about tiny turd. At first, I wasn’t impressed with its design. You might have guessed by the nickname I chose. I can’t say that I’ve changed my mind, but I’ve got used to tiny turd’s look. It makes me think of chocolate ice cream: It looks crap, but tastes delicious. With tiny turd, it’s all about the inner values.

Watch out – don’t tread on it!
Watch out – don’t tread on it!

One of these inner values is its ergonomic shape. Even after a full day of work, this mouse sits comfortably in my hand. Our customer ratings underline this: Most users state that the ergonomic shape helped their wrist pain subside. On the downside, if you have your hand on the mouse for a long time, your fingers will start slipping downwards, putting unpleasant pressure on your little finger. For this reason, I wouldn’t recommend the Evoluent mouse to anyone who uses the mouse non-stop. Yes, gamers, I’m talking to you (knowing that you wouldn’t consider this mouse anyway because of its design). However, it’s suitable as an office mouse, as most office work involves typing on top of browsing and clicking. Another aspect I don’t like about the Evoluent mouse is the scroll wheel – to be more precise, the irritating sound it makes. Although it works just fine, it sounds as if the mouse is about to break in two. Apart from these two aspects, this mouse can’t be faulted. I give tiny turd four out of five stars.

However, I’m not going to get rid of my «usual» mouse and replace it with tiny turd. Why? Maybe because I’m a creature of habit; maybe because my gut feeling is telling me to stick to my usual mouse; maybe because this experience has taught me that working with a left-handed mouse will never be more than what it was: a 3-day experiment.

Conclusion: Lefties aren’t more intelligent than righties, but more productive

This title applies to those left-handers who use the mouse with their right hand, as their «better» hand is free to take notes or perform other tasks. At least, that’s the impression I got during my experiment. There’s no way I’d want to go without this productivity boost. But hey, right-handers, don’t despair: There’s a huge selection of ambidextrous mice. I recommend everyone to use the mouse with the «wrong» hand for a few days and see how much more productive you can be. After all, right-handers’ dominance will be over quickly once the news gets about that lefties are more productive. It might even happen earlier as expected: According to a study by University College London, left-handers are on the rise. In Great Britain, the proportion of left-handers has increased from three to eleven percent in the last 20 years. Yet, the reason for this might be that left-handers are no longer encouraged or even forced to convert from left-handedness to right-handedness as they used to be.

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Kevin Hofer
Kevin Hofer
Editor, Zurich
From big data to big brother, Cyborgs to Sci-Fi. All aspects of technology and society fascinate me.

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