Nine Ways to Make Your Mouse Roar

Consider the lowly mouse. Even its name conjures up a small thing to be shooed away. In the early 1980’s, when people were mostly satisfied with their command lines, many pundits predicted that the mouse would only be a very temporary part of computing user interfaces. And yet, if you use a desktop computer all day, you probably spend more time with your mouse than with almost any person, right?

Here, I’m going to compile nine tips for energizing your mouse. Because it’s common for people to use mice without referring to any documentation, I’ve found that some people are very surprised by these tips.

Quickly Select Lines of Text and Paragraphs. Multiple mouse clicks in quick succession have different effects in different applications. First, go to a web page, place your cursor within a word, and click your left mouse button twice in quick succession. That probably selects the whole word. Now, put your cursor in the middle of another word and click the button three times in rapid succession. On a web page, this typically selects the whole line of text you’re in. Next, go into a document, such as a Microsoft Word file, put your cursor in the middle of a paragraph, and click three times in quick succession. This selects the whole paragraph. Hit Delete after a triple-mouse click and you’ve just ejected a paragraph as fast as possible.

Let’s Get Horizontal. If your mouse has a scroll wheel, it’s not just for vertical scrolling. For most mice with scroll wheels you can hold the Shift key down to scroll horizontally, or forward and backward, across web pages you’ve been viewing.

Use the Scroll Wheel in Productivity Applications. Many mouse users who have a scroll wheel use the wheel to quickly scroll up and down web pages, but very few use it in productivity applications such as word processors and spreadsheets. Especially if you produce a lot of large documents, go into, say, Word or Excel and experiment with using the scroll wheel to move vertically and horizontally (see the tip above) around documents and spreadsheets. Especially if you work with large spreadsheets, this is very useful.

Increase the Size of Text and Graphics. Are your eyes tired at the end of the day? If your mouse has a scroll wheel, you can easily use it to increase the size of text and graphics on a web page, in a spreadsheet, or in a document you’re looking at. To experiment with this, go to a web page, hold the Ctrl key down and lightly move your mouse’s scroll wheel down. The information on the page will increase in size. Hold the Ctrl key down and move the scroll wheel up to return to normal size. This tip is very useful when you’re giving presentations and people may not be able to see what you’re showing, or when you’re showing something on a laptop screen.

Mac Users: Scroll Through Your Applications. If you’re a Mac user, hold down the Command key and strike the Tab key to show the applications you’re running. Use the scroll wheel to go up and down to scroll through the applications left and right. Let go of the Command key when you’ve arrived at the application you want.

Who Needs the Scroll Wheel Anyway?
Did you know that clicking the scroll wheel on your mouse can give you a whole new kind of interface? To try this, go to a web page and put your cursor in the middle of it, then click your scroll wheel. Your cursor should change its form factor, and you should be able to scroll vertically and horizontally by simply moving the mouse around. Click the wheel again, or the mouse buttons, to return to normal mode. This also works in your productivity applications.

Open a New Tab in a Tabbed Browser. If you use a tabbed browser, click your scroll wheel once on a link to open it in a new tab.

Use Mouse Gestures. If you want to become a real mouse power user, I heartily recommend a completely free download you can get called StrokeIt. I wrote about this applet once before on this blog. It allows you to record mouse gestures (such as making the shape of an L) that you can attach commands to, including commands specific to any application you commonly use. It also comes with a nice library of pre-defined gestures for common applications. Try it, you’ll like it.

Upgrade to a Tres Cool Mouse. I swear by the Logitech MX Air mouse–the Lamborghini of mice. It costs a little under $150—fairly costly for a mouse—but it has ultra-sensitive motion sensors that let you wave it in the air for tasks like hyper-fast browser scrolling–even from across the room. Here’s a photo:

Do you have any good mouse tips or tips on good mice to buy?

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