We all use our Macs for so much of the day, and while the best way to prevent repetitive-stress pain and injuries is to simply stand up and do something else, we’ll take any advantage we can get. So we asked this trio of experts to steer us toward the most ergonomic pointing device.
The Good: The thin design of the Magic Mouse may minimize awkward hand postures, and, according to Andre, providing users with the choice of using gestures or performing the conventional point-and-click (or drag-and-drop) action is more ergonomically sound. That’s assuming that users actually utilize these options to add variety into the movements they make.
The Bad: “The multi-touch area is small--you must use the top surface to engage the gesture. This is limiting, [so] some common, negative mouse postures won’t change,” says Andre. All three of our experts said that the low physical profile of the Magic Mouse could encourage people to continue to use the bad positions that are common with mouse use and can lead to repetitive-stress injuries (RSI).
The Good: The experts agree that the Trackpad’s larger, lower, and flatter surface should encourage proper ergonomics. The Trackpad “frees the user to adopt different postures, construct commands using their hands and arms, rather than just with their fingers as with the mouse--and to engage in fewer static holds,” says Andre. But like any interface device, the trackpad needs to be placed in an ergonomically correct position, or “it will put the hands into wrist extension and increase the risks of an RSI,” adds Hedge.
The Bad: Personal preference and work styles are the primary issue here. Hedge and his team researched multi-touch devices for Fingerworks, prior to Apple purchasing Fingerworks in 2005. According to Hedge, 50 percent of users simply dislike trackpads. If a device is annoying, difficult, or non-intuitive to use, people tend to misuse it (where do you rest your hands when using the trackpad?). That can raise the RSI risk. Plus, “considerably greater forces are required to interact with the Trackpad than when you’re working with the Magic Mouse,” said Lloyd…and the chance of injury increases with the amount of force required.
The Magic Trackpad! All of our experts slightly preferred the Magic Trackpad over the Magic Mouse. They all strongly felt, as Andre said, that both devices “offer choices to the consumer that have potential ergonomic benefits. That’s always a good thing. When users can accomplish a given task in multiple ways, they can optimize their input behavior to achieve both comfort and performance benefits.”