Kill Your Mouse
Test and Monitor | Posted November 20, 2008

If you are a professional software developer, I implore you to kill your mouse. No, not the rodent living in that stack of mostly-empty Dr. Pepper cans piled up next to your desk. I'm talking about the mouse that lives on top of your desk, subtly stealing your productivity and your future. Wean yourself off the mouse and you will be a healthier, more productive computer user.

Jeff Atwood and others have written about the increased productivity that you can get from reducing your mouse use. Put simply, it boils down to efficiency of motion. If you don't have to reach for the mouse or feel around to get your fingers back on the home row (you are a touch-typist aren't you?), you simply accomplish more in the same amount of time. Less time driving your computer and more time thinking.

However, there's another reason to reduce your dependence on your mouse: repetitive strain injury (RSI). Since you use computers all day, you probably already know about RSI, but if you've never experienced the symptoms, you don't know RSI. If you're not in the know, count yourself lucky, but understand that you're not invulnerable. That's what I used to think. Not so anymore. The tingling and numbness have got to the point that I had to do something. So, I bought myself a wrist brace. As soon as I put it on I realized something: with the wrist brace on, using a standard mouse is very awkward. You have to contort your arm and shoulder to get your hand aligned with the mouse. If the wrist brace is holding my wrist in a "proper" position and I cannot "naturally" use a mouse, then that implies that "naturally" using a mouse puts your wrist in an improper position. That's enough evidence for me to recommend killing your mouse.

One last reason to kill your mouse. Killing your mouse will make you focus on keyboard accessibility in the applications you write and in the ones that you use. That will lead to products better suited to the ever-growing population of people with RSI. As that population grows, keyboard accessibility will go from mostly inessential, to significant differentiator, to absolute imperative. Get out ahead of the curve — for me — please!

On that note, I'll close with a note to Code Collaborator users out there. Since attempting to quit the mouse, I've noticed several keyboard accessibility issues in Code Collaborator. Firefox's keyboard navigation features help pick up the slack in some cases, but I will try to sneak some fixes for some of the issues as I come across them.


Update: Not being able to quit the mouse cold-turkey, I went out and bought myself a Microsoft Natural Laser Mouse 6000. Much better, but I'd still love to kill it entirely.


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