Adventures in left-handed mousing

I’m right-handed. I use my dominant hand for everything from scrawling my name to hurling tennis balls for my dog to brushing my teeth. My right hand also spends an awful lot of time clutching my mouse. That wasn’t a problem years ago, when I had the stamina to put in a full day working for TR and then spend hours in the evenings dealing out headshots in first-person shooters. But perhaps due to those marathon sessions, I’ve developed a bit of an RSI issue in my right shoulder. Recently, it’s become difficult to make it through the day without some mousing-related discomfort, especially if I spend a lot of time in Excel. The twinge that manifests in my shoulder toward the end of my shift is painful enough that my freshly downloaded copy of Battlefield 4 remains unplayed.

Working less isn’t really an option; there are news posts to write, articles to edit, and reviews to crank out. I could revamp my workstation, but my better half is an occupational therapist, and she tells me that my current setup is pretty close to ideal. The desk could be a bit lower—or the chair a little higher—but that’s about it. Even if I got the height just right, I’d still be reaching to the right of the keyboard to use the mouse. That’s the problem, she says.

My solution, at least for now, is switching hands.

Having done a fair amount of left-handed mousing after breaking my right ring finger last year, I’m no stranger to the off-hand approach. That initial foray involved moving my usual mouse, a Cyborg Gaming Rat 7, over the left side of the keyboard. The Rat worked in a pinch, but its asymmetrical body is a poor fit for lefties. The shape is all wrong, and the thumb buttons are on the opposite side. Pressing side buttons with one’s pinkie is more than a little awkward.

My lefty stint with the Rat 7 taught me another important lesson: I’m pretty lousy with my non-dominant hand. I can move the pointer more or less where I want it within a reasonable amount of time, but forget about hitting a precise target with any semblance of speed. This dynamic was particularly frustrating when transitioning between simple desktop tasks and more detailed work like photo editing, which often requires pixel-perfect positioning. The Rat 7’s on-the-fly sensitivity switch proved to be invaluable, allowing me to dial down the DPI to compensate for my lack of coordination.

With those memories fresh in my mind, I started looking for a suitable mouse—something with a thumb button on the right side and an easily accessible sensitivity switch. The selection of left-handed and ambidextrous mice is pretty limited, and most are uber-cheap models that lack premium features like DPI control. In the end, I settled on the SteelSeries Sensei Raw, which has an ambidextrous shell, buttons on both sides, and a high/low DPI switch just behind the scroll wheel. The Sensei is pretty affordable, too. Newegg sells it for only $48, which is less than the ambidextrous Razer alternative.

After a few days of using the Sensei, I’m already in love with its soft-touch exterior. The body is a little small for my tastes, but it’s a big improvement over the Rat, at least for my left hand. The wheel and buttons feel solid, the braided cord is incredibly long, and the feet slide smoothly on my desk. Admittedly, the pulsing internal LEDs are a bit much for me, but there are options to tone down the brightness, swap the pulsing for a steady glow, and turn off the lights completely.

Configuring the Sensei for left-handed use is easy. The drivers switch the left and right buttons automatically, but the thumb buttons must be bound manually. That’s easy enough, and thanks to built-in macro functionality, side-scrolling and other combos can be tied to any button. SteelSeries software also includes sliders for each of the dual sensitivity modes. The DPI can be set between 90 and 5760 DPI, which is plenty of range for my needs. There’s more than enough granularity, too.

After a simple initial setup, integrating the Sensei into my daily routine has proven to be somewhat difficult. The problem isn’t mousing with my left hand. Instead, it’s simultaneously executing key combinations with my right.

Despite its dominant nature, my right hand is comically inept at hitting vital keyboard shortcuts for copy, cut, paste, and undo. Not only are those shortcuts on the wrong side of the keyboard, but they also feel backward when executed with my right hand. The same functions can be performed with mouse input alone, of course. I can also lift my hand off the mouse and punch Ctrl+whatever with my left hand. But both of those solutions are slower and less efficient than a tag-team approach, especially with my mousing hand already at a disadvantage.

On the flip side, I’m used to moving my right hand back and forth between the numpad and mouse when entering data into Excel. Using the numpad with my left had never felt natural, probably because it involved twisting my body or relocating the keyboard. With the mouse in my left hand, my right rests comfortably on the numpad, avoiding the side-to-side movement that aggravates my shoulder.

Speaking of which, mousing with my left hand has definitely dampened the RSI symptoms on my right side. I’m still using my right-handed mouse from time to time, usually when something needs to be done as quickly as possible, but balancing the load definitely helps. Just days after adding a lefty to my arsenal, my right shoulder already feels fresher.

Mousing with my left hand feels less awkward, too. My speed and accuracy seem to be improving with each day, and I’m finding that I have to concentrate less to get the cursor just where I want it. Movement that was once thoughtful is becoming more automatic. You won’t find me gaming with a lefty stance anytime soon, though. I may become sufficiently productive on the desktop, but I doubt I’ll ever be as deadly with my non-dominant hand.

The thing is, I don’t have to be as good with my left hand. The more time I spend dual-wielding, the more I like the approach. I’m getting used to shifting high-priority tasks to my right hand and more casual mousing to my left. So far, I’ve been able to lighten the load on my shoulder without completely compromising my productivity. With some custom keyboard macros, I might even be able to get around my shortcut woes. Even if I don’t, my days of one-handed mousing are definitely over.

Comments closed
    • Canageek
    • 6 years ago

    You should try using emacs to write; it works on a highlight to copy, middle click to paste model, which would work better with left handed mousing. If you want to use keyboard shortcuts they are cntl-w to cut, cntrl-y to paste (among others, such as c-k to kill to end of the line, which you can then paste anywhere.) The other upside, is you can cut down on mouse work a *lot* with it, since it has so many keyboard shortcuts.

    You might also want to consider trying a trackball, so you can use your right hand without moving your arm at all.

    You could also try looking into windows programs to remake your keyboard, to use something on the right side to copy and paste.

    • jonjonjon
    • 6 years ago

    i was going to get a steelseries sensei mouse but i decided against it. i though having the side buttons on the right side of the mouse would be annoying because thats where my fingers sit. the 2 side mouse buttons don’t get in your way?

    • yenic
    • 6 years ago

    I’m left-handed. I have a mouse on the right side of my keyboard and a trackball on the left to reduce RSI.

    Being left handed usually lends you to be much better at right handed activities than natural righties are with their left. We’re forced to do many things right handed. Eg. I’ve been using the right-handed paradigm since I started computing on a Commodore 128 back in 1986. You aren’t forced to do these things as a rightie.

    Playing games left handed would be comical for me. But I’m sure I picked up using one left handed faster than a rightie would their left.

    • haugland
    • 6 years ago

    Solutions like Rollermouse or Mousetrapper are popular in offices here in Denmark. They are relatively expensive, but it looks like Rollermouse has a free 30-day trial.

    [url<]http://ergo.contour-design.com/ergonomic-mouse/rollermouse-free2[/url<] [url<]http://www.ergocanada.com/ec_home/products/alternative_1.html[/url<] I suspect that you'll get owned if you use them for gaming.

    • Bensam123
    • 6 years ago

    Interesting… Retraining your brain if you’re used to a repetitive task over the years can be quite daunting. The freshness feeling may be from more then just the physiological side to things. If you’re using a completely different setup to do the same things your brain has to use different paths to accomplish that, which may result in a ‘fresher’ feeling mentally too, since it’s so different.

    Good to know this is working out for you… The real test comes when you actually have to play games though.

    • TwoEars
    • 6 years ago

    Geoff,

    you should look into a curved desk.

    I have a curved desk with the monitor placed in the corner of a room. It’s great since I can rest my entire lower arm on the desk and there is absolutely no load on the shoulders or anywhere in the arms.

    I sometimes do 12-16h days in front of the computer and I’ve never had any issues at all.

    This is similar to what I use: [url<]http://www.nationalofficefurnituresupplies.co.uk/office-furniture/product/walnut-curved-executive-office-cantilever-workstation-and-desk-end-pedestal-bundle[/url<]

      • Dygear
      • 6 years ago

      I was about to buy one of these, because I need a new desk, but they don’t ship to the US.

    • Deo Domuique
    • 6 years ago

    I’m full-fledged left-handed and left foot. I write, I play football ( the normal football, European ) and generally everything with left. For some mysterious reason, the mouse is the only thing I use my right hand… Perhaps back then when I got mouse for first time, I decided my good left hand would be better on the ‘asdf’ gaming keys, who knows.

    Shoulder you say? I have chronic, light but annoying pain/discomfort on the wrist. The solution is at least 3 weeks resting, but still couldn’t do it.

    • brute
    • 6 years ago

    left handed ness is a diease and need to be wiped out!!!!

    • bfar
    • 6 years ago

    The Zowie AM is another amazing ambidextrous mouse. When I was looking up A grade gaming mice, the SteelSeries Sensei Raw was also on the short list.

    • Deanjo
    • 6 years ago

    Can’t lefties do anything right?

      • derFunkenstein
      • 6 years ago

      I can’t do anything left. My main mouse is a Logictech MX518 so I can’t really use it that way, but I’ve got an ambidextrous cheapy mouse that taught me I can’t mouse left-handed. No way.

    • d0g_p00p
    • 6 years ago

    Geoff, you should look into accupunture and Tui na for your RSI. I looked into it years ago when I started getting numbness in my fingers and pain in my wrist and shoulders due to too much mousing and computer useage. While I’m not 100% back to normal I can say that my RSI & CTS symptoms feel a million times better.

    Seriously look into it its a great investment and general tune up for your body. If you dig it and feel it helping you can extend that healing to the rest of your body.

      • oldog
      • 6 years ago

      Acupuncture is spelled with one “c”. It most useful in my experience for elbow symptoms particularly in anxious individuals.

      There is about a 50% response rate in the population. Some do very well (my kids) do very well and some (like me) get no benefit.

    • Dirge
    • 6 years ago

    Here is an interesting take on the mouse, [b<]Evoluent VerticalMouse[/b<], that comes in both left and right handed models. [url<]http://www.evoluent.com/[/url<] edit: by the way I am a south paw who was forced to use a right handed mouse growing up.

    • oldog
    • 6 years ago

    Based on my experience of treating many work related repetitive stress injuries I would agree with those who stress the ergonomics of the workstation over the particular input device you use on your PC.

    It seems some people are particularly susceptible to these problems and it will likely remain so for the remainder of your life. The symptoms are frequently bilateral and switching hands when using the mouse will likely shift the problem to your non-dominant extremity.

    It sounds like your current symptoms are in the shoulder but commonly these problems will go on to involve the elbow (lateral epicondylitis typically) or the wrist and hand with accompanying carpal tunnel symptoms. Carpal tunnel syndrome will often awaken people at night with numbness and tingling.

    It may be time for you to (as my patients) say “train your dragon”. Voice assisted input is the future and will likely eliminate these problems as they become more mainstream.

    By the way as a “southpaw” I have for many years used a right handed mouse without any modification at all. I place my index finger on the left mouse button and hold the mouse diagonally in the palm of my hand. It is very easy and fast to move the index finger to the right mouse button and use the middle finger for the left button.

    • MarkG509
    • 6 years ago

    A few months ago, I started looking for new mice to replace my aging Microsoft Intellimouse Optical mice, which I’ve been using for as long as I can remember. I went with the Sensei (MLG Edition) because although I’m definitely a lefty, I mouse ambidextrously, depending on the desk/workstation setup, and really like the side buttons for back/forward.

    The Sensei was as close as I could find to the Intellimouse, with higher DPI to scoot across large dual screen desktops. I use them on both Windows and Linux. With 2.x Linux kernels (like on CentOS), there’s a bug that crashes the mouse when it tries to send keystrokes, so I needed to reprogram the front set of side buttons. The buttons work fine on 3.x Linux kernels (like on Mint 15).

    About the only thing I like to change on the Sensei would be to add a way to do side-to-side scrolling. Everything else, including LCD on the bottom (to reprogram the mouse or change profiles) I make full use of.

    • LocalCitizen
    • 6 years ago

    I saw this Contour RollerMouse Free2
    [url<]http://ergo.contour-design.com/ergonomic-mouse/rollermouse-free2[/url<] It's probably the most ergonomic pointing device I've seen. It's symmetrical, so it's good for left and right hand use.At $250 it's way beyond my reach. Apparently if you complain about CTS or RSI in a big company, then the faceless system will buy this for you.

    • GodsMadClown
    • 6 years ago

    Map a thumb button to copy, and middle click to paste. You may now work like a gentleman.

    • Wall Street
    • 6 years ago

    I have found, counter-intuitively, that the mouse and keyboard often aren’t the culprits for RSI. If you haven’t already, try lowering your desk height and adjusting your seat height to the point where your forearms naturally come to rest laying completely flat on table. If your arms either tilt up to go above the edge of the desk or angle down towards the desk from above with you bending your wrists back to type and mouse, then you will likely develop RSI regardless of what equipment you are using.

      • MathMan
      • 6 years ago

      Absolutely: each time after changing jobs, it took a couple of days before keyboard trays were set up etc. And each time, crippling pain in my right shoulder came back pretty much right away. Once the keyboard tray is installed, the pain goes away too..

      I also use a Logitech Trackman Wheel Optical, which reduces right arm movement to almost nothing.

      • pandemonium
      • 6 years ago

      I’ve been going to the chiropractor for the last year or so, and the issues of muscle strain, pinching nerves, tingling in fingers, etc…can all be cured by these visits.

      Desk height, seat position, and monitor height are the culprits. You should be seated with your feet flat and knees not weighted off the chair or resting on the edge. Monitors are often place wrong, and the middle of the monitor should be at eye-level. This is where I see the majority of problems in work places…we’re always looking down, incorrectly aligning the natural curve in our necks.

      I highly recommend to anyone seeing a chiropractor that uses the “punch” method. It helps cure several other issues as well.

    • Wirko
    • 6 years ago

    I have so far managed to prevent any mouse-and-kb related health problems and that, I think, is also due to two different setups I regularly use.
    At home: trackballs only, since pre-Windows era. I’m right-handed but it’s placed on the left, with buttons reversed. It’s the symmetrical Logitech Marble, sadly it lacks a scroll wheel, but its function is replicated well enough with 3rd button+rolling. The biggest upside of this setup is that I’m much more efficient with my right hand alone on the keyboard than my left hand alone, and so I rarely have to move my left hand from the trackball.
    At work: conventional, mouse on the right. Besides, I have never used mice on laptops but rather forced myself to use and master the trackpad (mostly HP/Synaptics).

    • SixIron
    • 6 years ago

    I’m a lefty and use mice left handed (with the buttons switched). This was possible all the way back to my first mouse, purchased in the early 90’s. The habit is long ingrained and deeply embedded. A previous employer a few years ago, used Group Policy to lock down the desktops so thoroughly it would not even let me switch the mouse buttons in Control Panel. I only half jokingly told my boss and HR I would sue for discrimination. Everyone agreed with me that I should have that functionality but no one could get the restriction lifted. Asswipes! I’m glad I no longer work there.

    • truprecht
    • 6 years ago

    I’m a lefty (with no RSI issues) and I find the most frustrating thing with mice is that a majority of games ignore the left-handed “primary click” or “swap mouse buttons” setting in the mouse control panel, and revert the primary click to the left mouse button. It’s simple to specify the primary/secondary fire button in the game controls, but that almost never applies to menu selections in the game. So, it’s right-click to select an object in the game, but left click to select an item in a menu. The inconsistency is completely maddening. Had this problem with Bioshock, Skyrim, FarCry, Mass Effect, etc.

    The Razer Death Adder Left reverses the buttons at hardware level, so the right button is read by the computer as the left button, there’s no need to use left-handed settings in the control panel, and all games work perfectly. I will never use another mouse that doesn’t have this feature for gaming.

    Any so-called “ambidextrous” mouse I’ve tried is really just a symmetrical mouse, and doesn’t address the primary button issue.

    • allreadydead
    • 6 years ago

    As a leftie, I have always had problems with ergonomics of PCs. Hell, even outside PC periphials, nearly everything is optimize for right hand use.
    That forces us, south paws, to use both hands efficently. Some, like me, adapt it while some suffer for their entire life. When I hurt my left wrist badly at high school, I’ve even learned to write with my right hand. After my left hands recovery, I kept writing with my right hand and even tried to use both hands simultanously. It was just ok but was very cool to be able doing it.

    To get back to mouse and PC business, Razer mices ergonomics always fitted me well. I used copperhead, lachesis. And now, after 2 years of nagging Razer about it, I have a leftie naga. Even ambidexterous mices of Razer, satisfied my left hand with their ergonomics. I cannot say the same thing for logitech products I have used (MX510, G300, G100, G9x for a short while). I havent used Sensei but microsoft explorer and MX510 experience was very “meh” for me.

    All I can say is, your off-hand improves if you insist using it. I can use mouse/touchpad with my right hand good enough to replace my daily office PC usage.
    My right hand usage, never felt natural like my left hand but it’s doing a good job balancing the workload 🙂

    • Whispre
    • 6 years ago

    I suffer the same issues, which is why I switched to a track ball, with a Microsoft Sidewinder X6 keyboard with detachable 10key that can attach to either side… removing the 10 key reduces the angle you have to reach for the mouse.

    • PoisonJam
    • 6 years ago

    I’m in a very similar boat, Geoff! Although it’s tendons in my right hand where the pain is. I’ve also had to switch to left-handed mousing and decided to give up StarCraft II so as minimise activity to what I need to do to earn a living.

    At first I assumed the issue was excessive computer usage, even though I’ve done this day and night for years without issue and pay close attention to posture and taking breaks. I began researching vertical grip mice and made the switch to left-handed usage in the meantime. I was surprised how quickly I got used to using my left hand after an initial period of severe clumsiness and frustration. Within about two days I was speedily navigating Windows and in about two weeks I was accurately navigating Excel spreadsheets quickly and I can now switch between left and right hands (when assisting on a colleagues’ PC) seamlessly.

    I now believe it’s due to lifting weights in the gym, which I enjoy and would never want to give up. I now do split day routines so I’m doing exercises with intensive grip like barbell/dumbbell curls less frequently, and I’ve found it has alleviated things a lot. I’ve not gone back to right-handed mousing or playing SCII with either left or right hand, but I’m feeling much better about the whole situation 🙂

    • boskone
    • 6 years ago

    Regarding copy/paste/cut/etc, those are still accessible via shift+6key. Cut is shift+delete, paste is shift+insert. I don’t know about copy, other than cutting and then immediately pasting, then pasting in the copy location as well.

    At least in Windows; no clue about MacOS.

    For non-gaming purposes I prefer to mouse lefty, so I have ready access to the 10key and a writing pad where the mouse would go. But I game righty, since I don’t feel like relearning controls off of WASD.

      • PoisonJam
      • 6 years ago

      I think I might get two mice and connect them simultaniously! I can then switch between them to reduce fatigue with either and I think it’d look pretty mean on a gaming desk 😉

      • Wirko
      • 6 years ago

      To copy, Ctrl+Ins does the trick. However, Shift+Del has [url=http://windows.microsoft.com/is-is/windows-8/keyboard-shortcuts<]another function in Windows Explorer[/url<].

    • BlondIndian
    • 6 years ago

    Maybe you should get a Dual wielding +5 item or increase your dual wield skill points the next time you lvl up …

      • Philldoe
      • 6 years ago

      Or just take the Two-Handed feat.

    • bthylafh
    • 6 years ago

    If this doesn’t work out, have you considered one of those Lenovo keyboards with an integrated stickmouse? You wouldn’t have to move your right hand much at all to move the cursor around.

    [url<]http://support.lenovo.com/en_US/product-and-parts/detail.page?LegacyDocID=MIGR-73183[/url<]

      • Helmore
      • 6 years ago

      I really like those. At least on my laptop. But I wouldn’t want to have to use it for extended periods of time while doing precision work. Just thinking of doing that makes my hand cramp up.

        • siberx
        • 6 years ago

        Lenovo (and IBM before them) made a grave mistake in their default settings deployed on the trackpoints included in their keyboards that have undeservedly hampered their adoption. I am a longtime trackpoint user, and will attest that the input method is low-stress, precise and comfortable for long periods.

        The problem is two default settings that interfere dramatically with accurate and comfortable use of a trackpoint. The first is the “Enhance pointer precision” option in windows (enabled by default) that enables mouse acceleration/ballistics. While there may be some use cases where this is appropriate with traditional mice, the nonlinear time curve applied to mouse movement is unnecessary and wholly inappropriate for the joystick-like behaviour of a trackpoint, resulting in control difficulties and overshoot.

        The second is that the sensitivity slider in the trackpoint driver itself (ranging from “Firm touch” to “Light touch”) always starts right in the middle; a setting that requires an absurdly high force to move the cursor at a reasonable rate. Myself (and all the other active trackpoint users I know) move this slider all the way to “Light touch” immediately, which provides a much more reasonable force requirement and dramatically reduces (basically eliminates) any cramping associated with using a trackpoint.

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