Have you seen a RollerMouse before? It’s like a mouse, but different. Instead of roaming around the right side of your keyboard, the RollerMouse sits right in front of your keyboard, within easy reach of your fingers and thumbs. It’s stationary, like a trackball, but instead of a ball you roll the bar forward and backward to go up and down, and move the bar left and right to go left and right. It feels as natural and intuitive as a traditional mouse, and provides some significant efficiency and ergonomic benefits. Let’s go into more detail so you can see what I’m talking about.
First up, efficiency. Because the RollerMouse is so close to your fingers when you’re on the keyboard, you don’t have to waste time or energy moving your hand off the keyboard, to the mouse, then back again. That only saves the work of a fraction of a second, but you might repeat that motion hundreds or thousands of times per day — and so savings quickly add up.
More importantly, there’s also a big ergonomic advantage to using a mouse this way. You’re able to keep your palms and wrists on a comfortable rest at all times, and you’re avoiding a lot of repetitive motion that can cause serious problems down the road. Whether you’re concerned about RSI in the future or you’re already suffering from it, you’ll immediately appreciate this new way of doing things.
Design and features
The RollerMouse Free3 is the latest version of this little-known mouse alternative. It provides the familiar ergonomic and time-saving advantages as its predecessors, wrapped in a sleeker package that includes an integrated wrist rest, more buttons and extra customisability. After using the RollerMouse Free3 for a week, we’re ready to deliver our hands-on review!
The first thing you’ll notice about the Free3 is that it’s actually quite sleek. Earlier versions of the RollerMouse looked a little vintage, but the Free3 has a curvier design with more generously-sized leatherette pads for your wrists and palms to rest on.
It’s also less tall than its predecessors, at less than a centimetre high. That makes it easier to fit under lower-profile keyboards. Finally, the design is much wider, allowing the bar to be much longer. That seems to allow for more precise movement, which is useful when pressing small buttons or selecting individual letters.
The button layout has also been expanded compared to past designs. As well as having dedicated left and right click buttons and a (lovely) scroll wheel, there are six more buttons: A large button below the scroll wheel allows you to double click with a single press, while a smaller button above the scroll wheel provides up to ten options for cursor speed from 600 to 2800 DPI. LEDs light up to indicate your current setting, making it easy to get back to the one that you liked. (You can also adjust the mouse sensitivity in Windows or Mac to gain even more fine-grained control.) Finally, there are four shortcut buttons that let you copy and paste, and go back or forward. For anyone used to a mouse with side buttons, this is a godsend.
As well as adjusting the sensitivity of the rollerbar, you can also customise its clickiness. This is done by a manual slider on the bottom of the RollerMouse. If you find yourself pressing too hard to click, or clicking accidentally, this is an easy way to set things right.
When you first use the Free3, it is a little odd. Although moving the cursor around the screen is intuitive, it still took me about a day to be able to mouse around the screen with speed and accuracy. Once this training period was complete though, I found I could be very nearly as accurate with the RollerMouse as I could with a traditional mouse design. (I even tried playing games with the RollerMouse… and it kind of worked! Turn-based games like Civilization were the easiest to control, but even playing shooters like Counter-Strike was technically possible!)
And what about the benefits? I definitely found that I was able to work more quickly when I was using the RollerMouse. Not having to ever move your fingers away from the keyboard is pretty amazing. It’s almost the same feeling as using console applications in Linux; you feel like you can get everything done without ever breaking your flow.
I also felt some ergonomic benefits. One prevailing idea in computer ergonomics is ‘mouse shoulder‘ — feeling pain in your neck and shoulder after using a computer for long periods. This often occurs when you keep your arm and shoulder rotated away from your body, such as when you’re holding onto a mouse. By keeping your hands within the width of your shoulders, you can avoid mouse shoulder and the unfortunate pain that accompanies it.
The RollerMouse could have other ergonomic benefits too. I sometimes get some tenderness in my tendons after working or gaming for a long stretch at a time, and that feeling was largely ameliorated by using the RollerMouse, and more so with the Free3 than with earlier iterations. It’s still early days though, so I will try to continue to use the RollerMouse and perhaps prepare another review after several weeks or months.
Overall, I had a good time using the RollerMouse and definitely found it has its advantages. If you spend long periods of time working on your PC, particularly if you’re writing or editing, I think the RollerMouse will be quite helpful to you – I wish I had the RollerMouse when I was a student! If you are playing games or editing photos, I think the benefits are less obvious, but there’s still some advantages to be had.
Either way, I’d encourage you to try the RollerMouse Free3 if you’re able, and let me know what you think! It would be fun to show some customer reviews here on the blog, so feel free to get in touch.
Links and wrapping up
There’s never been a better time to try a RollerMouse. The Free3 is currently available with a 30 day money back trial, so you can try it out for yourself risk-free. If you don’t like it for whatever reason, you can return it for a full refund, no questions asked.
The Free3 is also available as a bundle with the Contour Balance keyboard, as seen in the photo above. This keyboard is designed to work perfectly with the RollerMouse, with negative tilt so that it joins up perfectly. (We’ll have a full review of the keyboard on the blog soon!) If you’re interested, you can check out the bundled deal right here to get both items for 10% off.
That’s all for now. Thanks for checking out the article and be sure to let me know what you think in the comments below! You can also reach us on Twitter @keyboardco or at facebook.com/keyboardco. Thanks again and have a great week!