4

I take some medication that causes a constant tremor in my fingers. My old mouse recently died, and I had read that people with essential tremor do better with a trackball, so I bought one. However, it turns out that, at least with the Logitech M570, which has a fairly small trackball, the tremor in my thumb actually makes the trackball considerably harder to use than the regular mouse. Specifically, it is hard to place the mouse pointer exactly, to hit a small button or to place the cursor to a location in a word. Highlighting a small section of a sentence is particularly difficult - this was true with the regular mouse as well. If I slow the mouse down enough to easily hit a small target, even with mouse acceleration on, it takes 11 complete revolutions of the trackball to get from the left edge of my left screen to the right edge of my right screen.

Now, I could go back to a regular mouse, or try a make of trackball with a larger ball. Or I could shell out $150 for SteadyMouse, which might do what I want, or might not, but in either case seems to be priced on the assumption that the consumer's insurance will pay for it. But this seems so obviously a problem that should be amenable to basic settings adjustment or an open-source solution that I am frustrated that I have not yet been able to find one.

Here are some things I think might work, if I knew how to implement them:

First, it seems like mouse acceleration might solve the problem if it just accelerated enough. Some earlier versions of Windows had an acceleration slider like the speed slider, but if there is anything like that in Windows 7 (desktop) or 10 (laptop) I have not been able to find it (an acceleration parameter in the registry, maybe?).

Second, if there was a smoothing setting (as opposed to the "enhance pointer precision" setting, which oddly turns off acceleration) that did averaging over either small movements or short periods of time, I suspect that would provide sufficient stabilization to let me use a pointer speed that is reasonable for large movements.

Finally, I think the basic structure of mouse acceleration, mapping trackball speed to pointer acceleration, misses the point somewhat for people with tremor. Tremors are not slow motions - not at all. I think my thumb tremor moves the trackball faster than I can move it intentionally, for very short distances. What I think would be most helpful is exponential amplification, not of speed, but of distance. I'd like to be able to get across my screen with two or three turns of the trackball, but map a quarter turn to about an inch. But I am pessimistic about this being available in settings or in any other way easily available to me.

I'd be very grateful for any solutions that anyone might suggest.

UPDATE: I have learned that the M670 has its own mouse settings, that override the Windows settings. Start menu > Mouse and Keyboard settings (installed by the M670) > My Mouse tab > Pointer left-edge tab gives you more control over both pointer speed and acceleration. With acceleration at max, I can get all the way across two screens with two quick flings. With speed at minimum, I can usually hit medium-sized buttons from, say, a fifth of a screen to an inch away. Which is some progress.

In addition, I was surprised to learn that Windows has no problem with multiple mouse devices connected at the same time. My old mouse, at its slowest, is considerably slower than the M670 at its. So right now I am keeping both mice beside my keyboard, and using the wired mouse when I need fine control.

But I can not say this seems like a good final result. It takes up a lot of desk space I'd like to have for other things. Going back and forth between two mice is one more thing slowing me down, and I'm plenty slow enough without it. And when I end up a quarter of an inch from a tiny button or the edge of a window I want to resize with my hand on the M670, it makes me crazy that I can not just nudge the cursor that last quarter inch. Small nudges have a half-inch random uncertainty disk added to them. I'm actually better of moving two inches away and hoping to hit the target with a larger motion.

I think I could just use the M670 by itself if I could reduce the minimum speed by half. I think I'll write to Logitech and see if they have some equivalent of registry settings that would let me slow it further.

  • I don't know if it exists but perhaps there is software where you could have mouse acceleration higher - to move across the screen - but when you want finer detail a key you can hold down to modify the sensitivity. Move normally, and when you need detail hold a key and move? – headkase Oct 18 '18 at 2:04
  • 1
    With a large trackball, you can use your palm instead of fingers. You can click the buttons on the trackball base independent of the trackball, versus having to keep a mouse steady/still while clicking. – sawdust Oct 18 '18 at 4:58
  • Can you use a pen comfortably? If yes, then you might try pen tablets. I could give pair recommendation, but maybe you have already tried? – Mikhail V Oct 18 '18 at 20:22
  • I'm just throwing something out here that might be of any use. It could provide you with the mentioned mouse acceleration. There's a tool called X-Mouse Button Control (I'm not using it anymore, so I couldn't check for you), available at x-mouse-button-control.en.uptodown.com/windows – reben Oct 22 '18 at 17:09
3

I have never used this on Windows, but I know it from being a very useful Mac feature, so I went in search of a Windows equivalent..

Mouse Keys turns your 10-key numeric keypad into a 'mouse tracker' giving movement up/down/left/right using 8 2 4 6 , diagonals on 7 9 1 3 & a click on 5 [with modifiers * - or + ]

It doesn't remove your actual mouse functionality, it's enabled in addition, so as it's a little cumbersome for large movements you can use either or both methods to get near your intended target, then fine-tune that with the mouse keys. One tap is one pixel, just about; press & hold for larger movements.

2

Consider a Steam Controller (or at least Steam as software managing other controler, see down below). Its rich configuration options make me think it may work for you. Please note I cannot really say how would it work for you on a basic "mechanical" level (my fingers are fine). Anyway let me point out some software options that may help.

  • Its desktop configuration lets you use the controller as a system-wide controlling device.

    enter image description here

  • Left touchpad, right touchpad, a gyro(!) and an analog stick – any of these "subdevices" can be set up to emulate a mouse; even all of them at the same time, no restrictions.

    enter image description here

  • Each of these "subdevices" has its independent configuration. E.g. you can make one touchpad act as a trackball with relatively high sensitivity for "global" cursor movement, the other as a mouse with low sensitivity and different acceleration for precise cursor manipulation.

    enter image description here

  • You can make triggers (analog buttons under your index or middle fingers) act as mouse dampeners to get even more precise cursor movement. No trigger, any trigger or both triggers; independently for any touchpad or gyro. A fully pressed trigger can act as a mouse button at the same time, this can make highlighting small sections of text easy.

    enter image description here

  • Any button (except the "Steam logo" master button, I think) can be configured to pass a keystroke or a mouse button.

    enter image description here

    enter image description here

    There are about 15 buttons total, including analog stick and touchpads that can be pressed (clicked), bumpers (for index fingers), fully pressed analog triggers (for index or middle fingers) and pads under the controller (for middle or ring fingers, or even little fingers, depending on how you grip); analog stick or touchpads can be configured to provide additional "buttons" (when not emulating mouse). One of the screenshots above (where you can see a controller) gives a general overview of how many buttons/axis/controls there are.

  • It's not all, there are other options (action sets, action layers, mode shifting, …). They will probably be less important for you so I skip them, the answer is commercial-like enough. When I bought my Steam Controller I thought I would admire the hardware. The hardware is OK but it turned out fast it's the software that makes the controller great.

  • There are options to allow Steam manage other controllers.

    enter image description here

    I have tested Steam with Xbox compatible pad, its analog sticks can be used to emulate mouse as well (although in this mode dampening with triggers seems to be unavailable, be warned). Maybe a large arcade controller will fit you better. Note I don't know whether you can use these controller options of Steam without Steam Controller or you must register some Steam Controller to enable them (even if you intend to use another controller only). If you have any controller, install Steam and investigate.

Other information:

  • Steam Controller is intended to be held with both hands, you may consider this a disadvantage. Still I can imagine two different ways for operating with one hand only:

    1. You hold it with one hand and use just one half of the controller. In this case mouse dampening with a trigger will be useful.
    2. You place the controller flat on your desk. Two touchpads, analog stick (with possibly different sensitivity and acceleration settings for mouse emulation) and few buttons are available. It's possible to configure e.g. A and B buttons as two mouse buttons, X and Y as the same mouse buttons in toggle mode (press once and the mouse button sticks; press again and it gets released). This way you can emulate mouse even with just one finger.


    You can even have two action sets to cover both operation modes (and maybe a third set for two hands) and switch between them.

  • My screenshots are from Kubuntu. I believe the same functionality is available under Windows. Knowing that Steam is a platform for video games and most games (and gamers) use Windows, I expect the functionality in Windows is at least as good.

  • When configuring the controller itself (moving around these blueish config screens), it behaves like a gamepad, i.e. your previous configuration (e.g. mouse emulation) temporarily doesn't count. This may be an obstacle in your case, that's why I mention it; but once the controller is configured for good, the problem is no more.
  • Steam client acts like a driver, it needs to run. I'm not sure you need to have a Steam account (but even if you do, it's free). I'm sure the controller works regardless if your Steam is in online or offline mode. You don't need to buy any game to use the controller for desktop.
  • Steam Controller can be used as wired (USB) or wireless device (dedicated USB dongle included, Bluetooth Low Energy supported).

Disclaimer: I have no connection with Steam or Valve other than being a (rather casual) gamer who uses Steam and Steam Controller.

  • Wow! What a wonderful resource! It seems to me like this might be a perfect solution, and it might not -- I don't think I can tell without buying one and trying it out. In some ways it seems like too much of a solution. I spend most of my day with both hands on the keyboard, and have deactivated the third key and scroll wheel on my current mouse. I may well buy one of these to test, and if I do and it works I'll report back. In the meantime I am giving you an upvote rather than an accepted answer – andrewH Nov 9 '18 at 0:44
0

I don't currently use Windows 10 but do recall in previous releases that the vendor supplied driver software often offered more extensive control over things like acceleration curves than the stock Windows settings. Also, while you might be able to find a combination of mouse speed/acceleration settings alone that will work, you might want to also look into combining the mouse settings with other accessibility options. i.e. maybe for coarse control the trackball is the best but for things that require more precision mouse keys, voice control or some other mechanism might work better for you? After a couple of quick searches, it doesn't seem like there's a one-size-fits-all solution and it's likely a matter of experimenting to see what best suits your workflow.

  • I've actually concluded, contrary to my prior belief, that the speed and acceleration settings are, or could be, adequate to address my issue, if they only supplied a little more range. Logitech acceleration gets me to 11, no problem. The difficulty is that the pointer speed only goes down to slow, and I need it to go down to even slower. – andrewH Nov 9 '18 at 0:45

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.