As availability of the remaining Microsoft Trackball Explorers is waning on eBay (or perhaps you’d like to buy a new device rather than a vintage piece whose bearings have worn down, buttons stick, etc.), I have been considering the alternatives. There are few options, although their ergonomics is not quite as spot on as the venerable TBE‘s which fit like a glove.
But they are workable, and human beings adapt. There is an interesting point I just realized, and I thought of sharing it. Kensington’s misleadingly named Expert Mouse works very well in situations where the work surface is low (as it should be for decent ergonomics) so that it is possible to use a third party arm-rest (my preference is “330 000″ series ErgoRest forearm support) with it. When your hand ‘floats’ above the trackball, it is quite pleasant to use for extended periods of time.
However, in many situations the desk height is too high and Expert Mouse suddenly becomes much less pleasant to use. Its own wrist support is not that comfortable, especially when more of your arm’s weight is on it. In such situations Logitech’s wireless M570 (for some reason “M570″ sounds like a model of Mercedes-Benz to me ;)) works reasonably well. M570 is like a TBE in reverse. For some reason Logitech opted to place the ball at the thumb and button/scroll wheel controls at the forefinger/middle finger. I wish Logitech introduced a model with the controls (trackball/buttons+scroll wheel) reversed and we’d essentially have a new TBE… but even as it is, it works reasonably well. If you haven’t used a thumb-controlled trackball before it will take you a week or two to become fluent with it, and even then the accuracy is not quite as good as it would be with a forefinger-controlled trackball. But it’s close enough for M570 to work well. And M570 is small enough to lug along with your laptop – a lucky co-incidence since I think M570 works better in less-than-optimal ergonomic settings which you are more likely to encounter while on the road.
While both manufacturers provide drivers/utilities for their respective devices, be sure to check out X-Mouse Button Control software as it is able to teach your trackball cool new workflow-improving tricks!