The computer and mouse were invented for productivity. The health of the user was never considered. That’s why we wound up with monitors that cause eye strain and mice that cause hand, wrist, and shoulder pain. Mice have been especially problematic since in order to hold your hand over a regular mouse, you must twist the arm and wrist into an abnormal position. This puts undo pressure on tendons and the medial nerve that runs from the forearm to the hand through a small space in the wrist called the carpal tunnel. Repeated use of regular mice can cause Carpel Tunnel Syndrome, the symptoms of which include tenderness, tingling, numbness, weakness, and pain in the hand and wrist.
In 1994 Jack Lo invented and patented a new type of mouse. This was the first mouse to support a hand in a fully upright handshake position which eliminated the pressure and twisting caused by ordinary mice. Lo’s invention, called the Evoluent VerticalMouse took a while to catch on, but is now in its fourth generation. So in this article I will be referencing the Evoluent VerticalMouse 4.
Design & Build of the Vertical Mouse
As you can see, the Evoluent is a peculiar looking mouse. Because it is 3” tall, it hardly looks like a mouse at all. Yet, its height allows you to use it with your hand in a vertical hand-shake position eliminating wrist strain. Although made of plastic, the build quality is excellent and by precisely piecing together several different types of materials, Evoluent has given it a stylish look and feel. The main body has a mat black rubberized finish which allows you to easily grip the mouse without any pressure on your wrist or fingers. There is a well for your thumb on the left side made of shiny two-toned silver components. The front and buttons on the side are finished in a shiny purple plastic. In other models, the colored area is gray, brown, or blue. All-in-all, the Evoluent is lightweight yet quite durable.
Above and below the thumb rest are two easy-to-access buttons. On the right side of the vertical mouse are the three main buttons with the scroll wheel between the top two buttons. Scrolling is smooth and the buttons have a good click, not too hard or too soft. There are two lighted areas on this mouse. There is a blue or green backlit Evoluent logo on the front and the pointer speed is shown with red lighted indicators on the left above the thumb well. These are controlled by a pointer speed button on the right side of the mouse near the three main buttons and are marked HI, MD, LO,XL.
Physiotherapists and orthopedic surgeons recommend the vertical mouse form factor because they consider it better for your overall hand health. A vertical mouse is often recommended for those with carpal tunnel syndrome, repetitive stress syndrome, tendonitis, swollen finger joints, and even elbow problems from tennis and golf. Ergonomic experts also advise using a keyboard drawer about 3” lower than the average desk. When keyboarding and mousing your arm should be parallel to the floor. Even with a vertical mouse you may find that you need to adjust the level of the keyboard and mouse. Also a wrist pad can help. I personally have a lowered keyboard shelf and a chair with adjustable arms that allow me to properly position and support my lower arm while using a mouse. Evoluent also has an ergonomic keyboard available, but I haven’t tried it yet.
If you have never used a vertical mouse before, you can also expect that any vertical mouse will feel unusual for a few days as you get used to it. So give yourself some time. Remember that your computer can handle two mice at one time, so you can always keep your old one hooked up right next to the new one until you are fully comfortable with the new one.
Pointing Accuracy & Customization of the Vertical Mouse
I’ve tried other vertical mice and found none as accurate as the Evoluent Vertical Mouse. I can use it not only for web browsing, but for detailed Photoshop work. In fact, I’ve even used it for gaming with good results.
While the Vertical Mouse is useable right out of the box, the customizable software makes navigating with it even more enjoyable and productive. You can easily download the Mouse Manager software at the Evoluent web site. This software gives you an array of options which will let you use the mouse for things that you normally need the keyboard for like moving around a web browser or Word document.
All of the buttons are fully customizable. For instance, I found it difficult to use the lower button for right-clicking, so I simply programmed the middle button for that function. Since I use copy and paste a lot, I programmed the two thumb buttons for those actions. The software interface is easy to use so you can play with it until you reach your own level of satisfaction.
Within the software you can also adjust pointer speed, how many lines one click of the scroll wheel will go through, and several other functions. You can even program the buttons to act differently in different programs. While this sounds like it might be a bit confusing, in use, it becomes extremely convenient.
This type of customization can be a godsend for those with finger or hand difficulties. Because there are buttons in a variety of locations, any one with weak or non-functioning fingers can map the buttons that are easiest to access with their strongest fingers. If you have trouble clicking you can even program the Vertical Mouse to perform an auto click when you hover over a link.
Variety of Vertical Mouse Models
The Vertical Mouse comes in a variety of different models, there are both right- and left-handed mice available. There are also versions made for smaller hands (I use one of these). You can choose either a wired and wireless Vertical Mouse. Wireless versions have either a USB receiver or built-in Bluetooth which is Mac-compatible. The wired version comes with a generous 75” long cable.
If you do use a keyboard shelf you may find that because of its height, this mouse will not fit between the desk and the shelf so you will not be able to close the shelf with the mouse on it. Luckily with either the wireless version or the wired version you can easily place the mouse on top of the desk when you need to push the shelf in. I actually chose the wired version so if I accidently close the shelf and the mouse gets knocked off the shelf if will not go crashing to the floor.
The Evoluent Vertical Mouse’s form factor is different, but don’t let that deter you from trying it. The comfortable ergonomic design, plug-and-play capabilities, on-the-fly dpi switching, and customizable software will give you a very comfortable navigation experience. I can highly recommend it for anyone has hand, wrist, or elbow problems In fact, I would advise anyone who uses the computer and mouse on a daily basis to consider using a vertical mouse like this to prevent these types of problems.
The wired Vertical Mouse 4 that I reviewed is $89.95. The USB and Bluetooth wireless versions are selling for $109.95. All are available at the Evoluent website.
With some tablets now selling for $50, this mouse is fairly pricey. You definitely can purchase a cheaper vertical mouse. If you don’t need any precise accuracy or customization, some of these like the Anker vertical mouse, which is currently selling for under $20 at Amazon, may be suitable for you. If, however, you want the best ergonomic design, accuracy, and customization, the Vertical Mouse 4 is worth the extra money. And if you use a mouse on a daily basis, it may eliminate future pain and/or medical costs.