I’ve been a Mac user for a decade, but I’ve always hated Apple’s default one-button mouse, and I’ve never gotten comfortable with trackpad gestures. I grew up using a three-button mouse on the family Amiga. Years later, I loved scroll wheels, trackballs, and mice with thumb buttons, but I wanted more.
For the past six years I’ve used a 12-button gaming mouse. Not for gaming, and not for bizarre 3D applications, but so I can browse the web.
The default keyboard shortcuts for web browsing are anti-ergonomic. I spend most of my day in Chrome, using shortcuts like ctrl-shift-tab and option-command-left, a tabletop game of Twister that leaves me with a sore left thumb. I’ve tried custom keyboard shortcuts with Shortkeys, but every key combo still feels like a Rube Goldberg machine compared to the instant gratification of a dedicated mouse button.
This works outside a browser. Whether you spend your day in Word, Photoshop, PowerPoint, or Excel, you have a set of functions you use all the time, functions that deserve their own button. Follow me into the future of work.
Choose your mouse
Get the mouse that matches your comfort level. If you’re used to a simple two-button mouse, you might want to start out by just adding two thumb buttons. If you’re already adept with gestures, you’re ready for more. Here are the best options at each level.
A lot of mice now come with two extra buttons above the thumb, for going back and forward in history. Even the $10 VicTsing MM057, Amazon’s top-selling mouse, has a pair. It’s a nice start, but it’s just that—the start of a mouse’s potential. Plus the thin, flimsy thumb buttons on many of these budget mice are easy to accidentally click.
Mice with more than two extra buttons are usually marketed to gamers. So they cost more, they include complex sensitivity settings that you won’t use, and they tend to look like Decepticons with tribal tattoos. If you can live with all that, $40-70 will get you a reliable mouse that will save your aching fingers for years.
The optimal arrangement spreads the extra buttons out among different fingers, so no one finger has to “remember” more than a couple movements. Logitech dominates this space with several moderately priced gaming mice.
My favorite is the Logitech G700s ($68), which adds eight extra buttons: four above the thumb, three by the forefinger, and two behind the scroll wheel. Most of the buttons are heavily contoured to suggest rocking back and forth…
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