A blue keyboard with a "Confused" key.

Why is change so bloody hard?

You’d like to think that this post is about Change, capital C. Like, changing your career. Or making new friends. Or just finally making the jump from water to carbonated water because you can add those squeeze-flavour thingies to the carbonated water and it almost tastes like pop (that’s soda for my American friends).

Oh, no, no, no, no… nothing like that.

I’m talking about something really big and important.

I’m talking about something that can make or break your day.

I’m talking about trying to make the switch from a regular computer mouse to a trackball.

Duh, duh, duh, DUHN!!!

Wait, where are you going? I’m totally serious. (Serious, not serious?) This has been my challenge of the week, to be honest. You’d think that it wouldn’t be a big deal, right? But it is, if you do design work of any kind.

Using a mouse or trackpad or trackball or flicking with your finger on an iPad seems rather intuitive when you’re web browsing or answering an email. Most of those activities don’t need a lot of fine motor control — well, it needs fine motor control in the sense of using fingers rather than larger muscle groups,  but finer motor control, I suppose. Like having to be able to put the cursor in precisely the right spot on the screen at precisely the right moment, or hell breaks loose.

If you’re a designer and use any kind of graphics program (like I use Photoshop, for example), when you’ve been using a mouse for decades and suddenly you decide you’re going to try a trackball, suddenly you find yourself in Bizarro World where Superman isn’t Superman, but some weird, demented version of himself. (I don’t know if that’s quite right. I’m more of a Marvel-girl anyway.)

Using a mouse uses whole-hand and -arm movements with fingers just clicking. The fingers don’t do anything except click-click-click. Oh, and scroll forward and back. Unless you’re using a Mac mouse, then you’re also scrolling left and right. Your arm/hand control the movement of the mouse cursor itself and if you’ve been doing it that way for decades, hitting a single pixel on the screen (or within a few pixels of it) isn’t too hard.

With a trackball, suddenly, it’s like being without a limb. You can’t move your arm or hand. All movement and clicking and scrolling is done with your fingers and thumb.

WHOA, WAIT A MINUTE. THUMB??

Yes, suddenly, the thumb is involved in navigating on the computer. All it’s doing is clicking the left button, but still. That’s new.  And where, on a mouse, I’d normally right-click with maybe my middle finger, now I’m having to right-click with my right ring finger and pinky… when did they get called to this party??

So, movement and scrolling is now handled by my forefinger and middle finger.

This just feels wrong.

But I said I’d give it a try for a while, as a compromise between missing my Mac mouse which could scroll horizontally with a swipe of the finger and having to use a regular PC mouse — I had to switch to PC from Mac at work when my iMac finally took a dirt nap, you see.

In fairness, this trackball is likely several years old. We found it sitting on a shelf at work, being unused. It’s a Kensington, which is a decent brand as far as I know, and it’s pretty responsive, though I keep having to make settings adjustments because I’m still not used to it.

I’ve been trying it out for three days now. I want to give it a few weeks to see if I acclimatize to it. But getting that cursor to be as precise as I need it is hard because my fingers are not used to doing the driving. My hand and arm are in the back seat taking a nap, and my fingers who are just on their learner’s permit, are freaking the hell out right now.

I’ll give it another week and a half, if possible. Then I’ll see if I’ve gotten any better. So far, however, when I open Photoshop, I have to switch back to my mouse for the finer work and adjust the mouse settings yet again. If I don’t get acclimatized, I’m going to have to go back to no horizontal scroll — which I need because one of the services we use at work scrolls off the  far end of the monitor all the time. It is a horizontal sprawl of sorts. And grabbing the scroll bar at the bottom and dragging it is, well, a drag. And time consuming. You wouldn’t think it was. But it really is.

Wish me luck. And if you lasted this long through this post, at the very least, I hope I gave you a chuckle. 😉

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