One of the mouse replacements I tried during my blogging hiatus in 2006, is the Evoluent VerticalMouse 2. That was before I got the trackballs.
Evoluent’s web site shows they’re at version 3 of this mouse. Judging the differences with version 2 as explained on the web site, I would expect to have the same overall experience with v3 as I did with v2. Since Evoluent didn’t bother to upgrade the left hand version, I’m sure they agree.
Essentially, the VerticalMouse is a regular optical mouse placed onto its side. Instead of laying your hand flat on top of the mouse, you hold it with your hand on its side, like you’d shake somebody’s hand. The claimed benefit is that this way your arm doesn’t get into a twist, and your wrist doesn’t have to bend as much.
The VerticalMouse’s learning curve is about five minutes. Opening the box and plugging it in took longer than getting used to it. As a mouse, it’s simply excellent. The sensor is extermely precise. I had to turn down the sensitivity in the control panel, as I was used to a much slower mouse. The term “gamer grade” on Evoluent’s web site is no exaggeration. The handshake position does not make it any harder to move the mouse pricesely.
Furious clicking can be a problem though. The force of your finger striking the mouse button can move the mouse if your grip isn’t tight. And tight gripping is not recommended ergonomically. This isn’t a problem for office or even graphics work, though.
As a mouse, the VerticalMouse gets a perfect 10. Unfortunately, as an ergonomic mouse, it didn’t feel any better for me in the long run than a regular mouse.
At the time I was feeling quite some discomfort in my wrists. That did subside when switching to the VerticalMouse. Though I had already purchased the DataHand, I still mostly used the Microsoft Natural Keyboard at the time. So the relief I got was mainly from switching the mouse.
However, after using the VerticalMouse for several weeks, I started feeling discomfort in my right hand itself. When holding the VerticalMouse, my hand tended to rest on its side on the mouse pad, carrying the weight of my lower arm. In the long run, this gave me the feeling that the bones and tendons in my hand were being slightly crushed together.
After that, I actually bought a new traditional mouse that had the same precision as the VerticalMouse. I alternated between the new mouse and the VerticalMouse for some time. When I began using the DataHand full time, I eventually stopped using the VerticalMouse in favor of the traditional mouse.
I’m not at all convinced that input devices that require the palms of your hand to face the desk pose an ergonomic risk for the typical person. The DataHand and trackball I use now both require this position, yet I no longer feel any significant discomfort. With “significant” I mean waking up in the morning and feeling I worked too hard the previous day.
What does have an ergonomic impact is keeping your wrist constantly bent. When your hands are flat at the keyboard or mouse, your lower arm needs to form a straight line with your hand. If you don’t, you’re putting stress on your wrists. And if the bent wrists rests on a surface, you risk pinching the nerves that go through the wrist. The book Itâ€™s Not Carpal Tunnel Syndrome I reviewed last year explains all that. By keeping my chair low enough, I can use the DataHand and trackball with straight wrists, giving me no discomfort.
So while the VerticalMouse is an excellent optical mouse, I don’t feel it’s significantly more ergonomic. Unless you happen to have a particular medical issue that makes it hard for you to keep your arms extended horizontally while using a mouse. Then the VerticalMouse would be a solution. But you’d still need a vertical keyboard. Those exist, but not sold by Evoluent.
Evoluent does sell a “mouse-friendly keyboard” which has the numeric keypad on the left. This allows you to place the mouse closer to the keyboard. At least when you use the mouse with your right hand. That is definitely a good idea. Keeping your arm extended to the right to hold the mouse for long periods of time puts unnecessary strain on your shoulder. This strain can cause discomfort not only in your shoulder, but also further down in your arm (as all the nerves go through your shoulder). The DataHand also allows the mouse to be placed close by (left or right). This certainly makes a significant difference for me.