Changing How Your Mac Mouse Works

Some people have a hard time using a computer mouse. If the default mouse setup doesn’t work well for you, Apple offers several options in its Universal Access Mouse & Trackpad pane, such as increasing the mouse cursor size and using the Tab key to access menus:

  • Turn on Mouse Keys: For people who have trouble using a mouse, Apple provides an alternative, where you move the cursor around the screen using the numeric keypad. After Mouse Keys is turned on, pressing any digit but 5 and 0 moves the cursor a short distance in the direction of that key (relative to 5). The 5 key acts like a mouse click. The 0 key acts like press and hold — if you want to drag a file to a folder. When you have the file where you want to drop it, press 5 to release the hold.

    Mouse Keys work best with a keyboard that has a separate numeric keypad. If you have a laptop and want to make extensive use of this feature, consider getting an external keyboard or numeric keypad. Be sure to get a USB model.

    Mouse Keys is a feature worth knowing about if your mouse or touchpad is ever unusable and you’re in a rush to finish something.

  • Increase the mouse cursor size: Another feature that’s located on the Universal Access Mouse & Trackpad pane and that’s valuable for all users is the ability to make the mouse cursor arrow bigger. Particularly at high-resolution display settings, it’s easy to lose the cursor arrow in the desktop clutter.

  • Tab to access menus: You can also eliminate the need for mouse use to access menus. Instead, you press Tab to move between control items and the arrow keys to select within menus. This option is turned on using the Keyboard & Mouse window in System Preferences, on the Keyboard Shortcuts tab. The Full Keyboard Access option is down at the bottom.

If mice don’t work for you, other options besides Mouse Keys are available for Macs:

  • Trackballs: These have a smooth, round ball on top that you roll in various directions to control the cursor.

  • Touchpads: These allow you to control the cursor by sliding your finger on a sensitive surface. Apple’s laptops have touchpads built-in, but you can buy third-party units to use with your desktop setup if you want.

  • Graphics tablets: These have a flat surface with a position-sensing pen. If you use one, you can take advantage of Apple’s Inkwell technology, which can turn handwriting into text that you can use in any application.

Again, you should buy one of these with a USB interface. More than one pointing device can be attached and active at the same time. Even if you like using a mouse, having an alternative way to enter text can reduce problems with repetitive stress.

If you use your mouse a lot and feel pain from repetitive stress, move the mouse and mouse pad to the other side of the keyboard so that you use it with your nondominant hand. It takes a little getting used to, but if you’re starting to feel fatigued in your dominant hand, it’s worth a try.

If you use your mouse a lot and feel pain from repetitive stress, move the mouse and mouse pad to the other side of the keyboard so that you use it with your nondominant hand. It takes a little getting used to, but if you’re starting to feel fatigued in your dominant hand, it’s worth a try.

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