Tips for improving mouse(cursor) input

Whether you’re drawing a fine line, trying to click small buttons, or sniping your girlfriend as she learns to play team fortress (sorry!), you need precise control. Depending on the situation, you might also need to respond rapidly.  Here’s a few tips for getting the precision you need, in hybrid importance+price order:

  • Disable mouse acceleration. With acceleration disabled, moving the mouse 5 cm should move x pixels on-screen – regardless of how fast you move it those 5 cm. There are situations where acceleration is useful, so you might want to disable this in separate application settings
  • Use a better mouse mat/surface. I recently got myself a Razer pro solutions mousepad, and it’s far more pleasant than using the desk surface. It wasn’t expensive either.  After using desk surfaces for years, the upgrade is amazing. When looking for a pad try to combine a ‘glidey’ surface with a texture good for your mouse sensor.
  • Disentangle wires – you don’t want to run out of mouse cable mid stroke or while tracking your target. Prioritise the mouse cable over static cables like the keyboard, simply unplugging the mouse, moving it out of your current desk setup, and plugging it in again could gain you a good 10cm of cable. Wireless is an option if cables just won’t reach, but I prefer a cable (cheaper, less batteries).
  • Use a better mouse – Your mouse should fit comfortably in your hand, move smoothly across the surface it’s on, click easily but not too easily, and be reasonably durable. I personally ignore DPI figures, as long as they’re not depressingly low. Use a USB mouse. The old Ps2 connection isn’t as good. I use a Logitech Mx518 everywhere I use a mouse.
  • Get a mouse with variable sensitivity. This can take some getting used to, but switching sensitivity is great for changing from sweeping strokes to fine detail, or from 360° coverage to precise sniping.
  • Use a different style device (tablet/space navigator/gamepad). Mice are great general purpose tools, but they aren’t perfect for everything. Tablets offer pen control mapped to the display, mirroring your gestures exactly on the screen. A decent tablet can radically improve your digital art  quality. Space navigators are a great alternative for navigating through 3D space. Gamepads are great for driving and flying thanks to their continuous style input (you can continue to turn left infinitely without repositioning).

If you have any other tips or getting more out of your pointer, let us know in the comments!

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