• United States

Don’t skimp on the mouse

Jan 27, 20033 mins

High-end keyboards and mice enhance productivity, decrease clutter and protect your health.

High-end keyboards and mice enhance productivity, decrease clutter and protect your health

One of the best ways to improve time spent on your computer is under your nose – literally. Chucking the cheap keyboards and mice that come with most PCs in favor of high-quality devices can help keep your hands and arms healthy, improve productivity and keep your desk neater.

Keyboards now offer improved layouts to protect against repetitive stress injuries and extra buttons to save you time performing repetitive tasks. Mouse improvements include optical mechanisms rather than the old rubber ball, leading to smoother and more precise performance. Many people, including me, have swapped their mouse for a trackball, some of which also include optical components.

One more cool improvement? No cables. Wireless keyboard, mouse and trackball models mean no cable clutter on your desk. Those using keyboard drawers or pull-out desks will really enjoy not worrying about cords.

I’m writing this column using a new Logitech Cordless Elite Duo (mouse and keyboard). The pair is a Cordless Freedom Optical keyboard combined with a Cordless MouseMan optical mouse ($99.95). Logitech also provided me a Cordless Optical TrackMan trackball ($69.95) for testing.

The Cordless Elite keyboard includes Logitech’s iTouch software and extra buttons, along with multimedia controls. There is a small scroll wheel on the far left side of the keyboard, twelve special buttons across the left side and top, and seven controls for Windows Media Manager across the top of the keyboard.

Frankly, I was skeptical about all those buttons. After a week, I don’t use them all, but I find they speed things along, and I would rely on more of them if I used Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and Windows Media Player rather than alternatives.

Tied heavily into Windows, the Cordless Elite’s extra keys each launch e-mail (Outlook, Outlook Express or Lotus Notes), instant messaging, Webcam software, and search, shopping, favorites or home inside Internet Explorer. The multimedia keys launch media programs, control PC system volume (including a mute button), and control tracks (play, next, previous, stop, pause). If you play Internet radio or use your PC’s CD-ROM player, the mute button works great when the phone rings, and is easier to find than the control onscreen.

Logitech also adds a row of “F-Lock” function keys, which when enabled, turn the twelve function keys across the top into Microsoft Office shortcut keys. One touch can open a new file, reply, forward or send mail, undo, redo, print, save, or open My Computer, My Documents, My Pictures, or My Music folders. Although not special keys, Logitech handily labels all the standard Office Control Key combinations on the keyboard, including find, paste, cut, new, bold, copy, underline, italic, bold, open and print. I was amazed how much time I saved using those keyboard shortcuts rather than the mouse.

The Cordless Optical Mouse is smooth on any surface and precise, and I’m getting spoiled by the scroll wheel. The Cordless Optical TrackMan also includes a scroll wheel, along with excellent button placement including forward and back buttons for faster Web page navigation.

A USB plug receiver unit must sit at least eight inches away and works up to several feet. I put my receiver on top of the computer under the desk, getting rid of all cables. And, yes, batteries for the mouse, keyboard and trackball are included.