I don’t remember where but somewhere I heard the term “pen mouse” and I was surprised to see that there were a number of inexpensive ones available. I added the least expensive one I could find to my Amazon Wishlist and received one a few weeks later from my mother on my birthday.
This was excellent because it was a completely experimental selection. I had no idea whether or not I would like it so it was unlikely that I would every buy it on my own. This is what I consider the perfect conditions for selecting a gift.
There’s not a lot to say about the device in terms of setup and use. The mouse requires one AAA battery and comes with a small plastic stand and a USB adapter. Once the adapter is inserted into a USB port, the operating system on every device I tested on immediately recognized the pen as a mouse.
Using the mouse comes naturally to me (and I would assume anyone else whose done any handwriting). It takes a little getting used to to get grip where the mouse buttons fall under the thumb and finger easily, and I imagine the comfort of this can vary depending on the size of your hand and length of your fingers.
One thing that’s nice is that the position of the pointer on-screen “tracks” fairly accurately with the position of the pen on the table (even if you lift it). This doesn’t let you “scoot” the pointer the way you might by picking up and setting-down a mouse, but I found it made it a lot easier to make predictable, precise movements with the pen vs. a standard mouse.
It takes a little getting used to, but after about 20 minutes I found myself enjoying the pen mouse more than a standard one, and I imagine for tasks that involved drawing or writing it might be very useful.
The big downside for me is the lack of a third button, which is a big deal for Linux users. Unlike most “wheel mice”, the wheel on the pen can’t be depressed to produce a third button click.
I also found it difficult to double (or especially) triple-click with the mouse. Depressing the “left” mouse button is done with the forefinger near the point of the pen and tends to disturb the mouse position enough that the second and third clicks don’t register in the same location as the first. There is a DPI adjustment button that might help with this but I haven’t noticed a significant difference in the different DPI settings myself.
My last complaint is that it’s a bit awkward switching between the mouse and keyboard with the pen mouse. It has to be returned to its stand if you want to switch to two-hand typing which feels more time consuming that lifting your hand off a standard mouse. This is even more pronounced if you’re used to using a trackpad or trackpoint that’s built right into the keyboard.
Alternatively you can just hold on to the mouse while you’re typing, which worked better than I would have guessed (the mouse doesn’t go crazy when you hold the pen sideways) but it definitely takes a bite out of your typing speed.
While the complaints outnumber the praise above, I have to say I recommend this mouse. When used for mousing-around it’s very pleasant to use and if you don’t have to switch between mouse and keyboard it’s a lot of fun. If it were more expensive I would give it a harder time, but for about $10.00 it provides enough value to be worth a purchase, and I think that as I use it for more appropriate applications (drawing, etc.) I’ll like it even more.
No third mouse button is a bummer, but the fact that it worked with Linux at all was a pleasant surprise. I don’t know how long the battery will last, but so far it’s held up and replacements are cheap and available. It also fits in a pocket a lot better than a standard mouse.