UNIX Mouse Shootout

While most hardcore UNIX users prefer keyboard shortcuts over anything else – and I often align with that view – I really do appreciate good mouse on my UNIX system. In the end its close to impossible to edit images in GIMP without mouse for example. This ‘shootout’ will definitely be subjective as it will be limited only to mice that I own(ed). I will not bore you with all the technical specifications of these devices – you can check them on your own.

Besides – UNIX has two copy/paste buffers instead of just one like in most systems. There is PRIMARY and SECONDARY buffers in X11 for mouse. One is used when you use Copy/Paste options from menus and/or keyboard shortcuts like [CTRL]+[C] and [CTRL]+[V] ones. The other one is used when you just SELECT the text. After releasing the left mouse button (and finishing the selection) you have that text stored in your SECONDARY buffer. You may now paste that with pressing the third/middle mouse button. But the PRIMARY buffer did not changed during that operation so you can also paste the other text you had in your PRIMARY buffer from the earlier [CTRL]+[C] operation. This makes mouse on UNIX more useful – definitely bigger then in other systems.

While Bluetooth is widely used on most mobile phones/tables and even cars now I do not find it desired as the only protocol for the mouse. I do not have anything against it when it comes as an additional possibility like with the Logitech M720 Triathlon mouse – its even nice that way – but I would not use mouse that the only possible way to connect/operate is by Bluetooth protocol. Maybe on a macOS UNIX but definitely not on FreeBSD UNIX πŸ™‚

AMIGA ‘Tank’ Mouse

The first mouse device that I used was the oldschool AMIGA ‘Tank’ Mouse which I used alongside my first computer – AMIGA A600. When I used it or played Cannon Fodder it felt more then up to the task but using only two buttons mouse (without any scroll and third button) in 2021 feels almost impossible for me.

mouse-amiga-tank

It was possible to run AMIGA UNIX (also known as Amix) on AMIGA hardware. That was an AT&T Unix System V Release 4 developed as alternative to default AmigaOS but you needed Amiga A3000UX hardware for that.

amiga-unix

Unfortunately the AMIGA A600 was not supported 😦

Lenovo and ThinkPad Twins

One of my older/earlier mouse models that I used were quite ‘identical’ mouse models Lenovo Wireless USB Mouse (0A36188) and ThinkPad Wireless USB Mouse (0A36193) – both made by Lenovo for the record. They have the same size and work mostly the same but the older one – ThinkPad model (0A36193) – had more responsive third button (the one under the wheel) – the Lenovo (0A36188) kinda needed real strength to press it – that was its downside.

mouse-thinkpad-lenovo

I still own the ThinkPad one (0A36193) and use it from time to time when I travel – the two AA batteries allow quite long operation of more then a month – which is more then enough for my standards.

Its my first mouse that got additional buttons on the scroll wheel for left and right operations – I used it for volume control on my UNIX system which was (and still is) VERY convenient.

While I really like its/their small size – but after some longer use I really miss some more ergonomic shape under my hand. That means that it ‘will do’ for short periods of usage in travel situations but for long work use something more ergonomic then these.

Logitech Marathon M705 (GEN 1)

I got it after more then a year of using Lenovo and ThinkPad mice. It was real upgrade with quite nice profiled shape to the right hand. It was also quite heavy – but that was good – it felt really good to operate in hand. It was branded as very long to use without changing or charging the batteries and it really did provided in that department – I needed to change/charge the batteries maybe once a year or less often. It was also more precise then simple ThinkPad/Lenovo mouse.

mouse-M705-GEN1

The volume buttons from the wheel that I used on the Lenovo and ThinkPad mice was not quite possible here. While the mouse have these left/right buttons on the wheel they were clumsy and not very precise – so you loss more time trying to press them properly then doing it the other way. With Logitech M705 I ‘moved’ my volume controls to other two buttons that were available under the thumb button. Fortunately there are two of those additional buttons so it was perfect for volume up and volume down actions.

This is also the first mouse that allowed to toggle the wheel to be ‘clickless’ – you can literally spin it for several seconds without any resistance – it just keeps rolling itself – and to be honest – that is one of the features I now DEMAND from any mouse. It makes life so much better (and faster). Instead of scrolling many – many times to get where its needed – you just spin it once and wait till you get there – and even a lot faster then with ‘traditional’ clicking mouse wheel.

Another advantage of that approach is that tip of your finger does not hurt after all day long of scrolling … and if you need precision clicking wheel – then just toggle it and you can click-scroll as usual.

With LogitechΒ Marathon M705 mouse I also grow another ‘useful’ habit (or need) in a mouse. I started to use the lower thumb button to toggle between pause/play for my Deadbeef music player. Before that I used to switch to Workspace 3 where it plays music and press [C] key to toggle pause/play. After adding additional deadbeef --play-pause action to my xbindkeys(1) config now all I have to do to toggle between play and pause is to just push my thumb mouse button. Way faster πŸ™‚

Logitech Performance MX

After reading many comparisons with Logitech MX Master generations I finally settled on the Logitech Performance MX mouse. It is really big and that is really big advantage. It handles/lies really nice in a hand and being quite large and heavy it is very precise and you got ‘good’ feeling and confidence of using it. I really liked it till I got to know its two big downsides … first was the battery time. I needed to change/charge battery about once a week. That was REALLY disappointing. The other downside was that it was not able to properly operate on a flat WOOD surface (like on the photo below). Plain simple flat wood. All other mice worked well on this surface while this one did not. The marketed Darkfield sensor was useless. These were the two reasons that I got rid of it.

mouse-logitech-performance-MX

Same as with M705 the left/right buttons on the wheel were not very precise so I used the additional thumb buttons for volume management. The Logitech Performance MX mouse also comes with micro USB port at the front so you may use the mouse while you are charging it. Its real pity that Logitech did not used two (or even three) AA batteries for this mouse to make it last longer … but that would not resolve the Darkfield sensor not able to cope with movement on the wood πŸ™‚

Logitech Marathon M705 (GEN 2)

I have read a lot of hate and disappointment about the latest generation of Logitech Marathon M705 mouse. Also the lower thumb button is missing and currently it uses only one AA battery. It still provides very long time without the need to change/charge and its lighter now. Its neither bad nor good – its just different. The precision is similar but after using Logitech Performance MX you really miss that big size.

mouse-M705-GEN2

The second generation of M705 did not improved the left/right buttons on the wheel so I decided to stick with additional thumb buttons for volume management.

I also really missed that lower thumb button that is gone from the GEN 2 Logitech Marathon M705 mouse – needed to go back to my [C] routine …

Logitech Triathlon M720

I recently got the possibility to check and use the Logitech Triathlon M720 mouse and I must say that I am positively surprised. Its both Bluetooth and USB dongle mouse so you can choose which way you would like to connect it to your computers. The plural form is intended here as the Logitech M720 allows you to switch between 3 computers with additional dedicated button. It also got ‘back’ the lower thumb button that was missing on the latest generation of the Logitech M705 mouse. The light/white lower bottom of the mouse looks little strange though … but its kinda not visible when it is laying on the table.

mouse-M720

The M720 has more precise left/right buttons on the wheel but I got so used to manage volume with my thumb that I currently keep these ‘wheel’ buttons unused.

Having the lower thumb button again I was also able to get back to my toggle play/pause Deadbeef operation. Yay!

Missing

I never owned Logitech MX Master mouse. I used version ‘3’ for short time as one of my buddies own it and it felt quite similar to Logitech Performance MX in operation but not quite the same. Similar but different. I think that it would be comfortable but not sure about the precision on wood and battery time. Maybe I will got it some day and add an update here.

mouse-MX-master

… but given the fact that Logitech MX Master mouse also has micro USB port at its front for charging I would suspect that battery time is also not that great. Similarly like the Logitech Triathlon M720 it also allows to switch its presence between 3 computers. There is also additional wheel for vertical scrolling. Never used that but maybe it would be useful in GIMP for example.

Summary

So what does a good UNIX mouse feature? I would summarize all the needed (or at least useful) feats in a list below.

  • needs to be at lest a little ergonomic
  • allows to toggle wheel between click and clickless operation
  • have additional buttons for custom actions
  • allows more then one month of work on batteries
  • works on different surfaces without a problem
  • has a USB dongle so Bluetooth is not needed

What other features you desire in mouse? I also thought about ‘vertical’ mouse type/shape and also about trackball. I tried my neighbor Logitech trackball several times but I am not sure I would get used to it after so many years of ricing the mice πŸ™‚

External Discussions

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9 thoughts on “UNIX Mouse Shootout

  1. Fwirt

    I went through this recently and ended up with a Logitech G605, which I would endorse. It ticks all of the author’s boxes (ergonomic, scroll click toggle, extra buttons, long battery life on one AA, works on glass, included USB dongle and bluetooth support) and goes above and beyond:
    – It’s very difficult to find a mouse with a wheel that lets you choose what mode it’s in. Most of the recent Logitech mice (e.g. MX Master) try to detect it and have fragile mechanisms. This one has a big hefty metal wheel that still spins even in clicky mode, and can be switched to frictionless with the button behind the wheel. The last mouse I had that could do that was my trusty G500, which was a worthy successor to the MX518.
    – It has a ton of buttons, but it doesn’t feel like too many. (6 under the thumb, which feels more reasonable than the side-numpad on some mice, two next to the left index finger, and two on the “wheel tilt”) The 6 under the thumb are reasonably easy to distinguish by touch, and if you lay them out right you can even press multiple at once for common chords (e.g. Ctrl-Shift, Command-Alt) which leads me to…
    – All of the buttons, including the wheel tilt buttons (except for the bluetooth pairing button) are remappable to keyboard keys and there is a mappable shift key that reassigns all of the buttons, which allows for rudimentary chording. I have one layer for modifiers and one layer for OS commands. My wheel tilt switches desktops left/right, which is tremendously useful.
    – It has 5 onboard memory “slots” for different mappings for all of the buttons, DPI levels, etc. that are OS independent, which means you can preprogram them and then use them on whatever OS you connect the mouse to. I have settings for MacOS, Windows, and application hotkeys that I use that can be toggled between with a button press. The programming application is Windows only, but you don’t have to install Logitech’s bloatware, you can use their standalone “Onboard Memory Manager”. https://support.logi.com/hc/en-us/articles/1500000915041-Onb

    The shortcomings are:
    – It’s a big hefty, although I tend to prefer that
    – The wheel is sometimes easy to scroll while pressing it, and the detents feel a little shallow.
    I don’t have my muscle memory trained yet, but theoretically you could press all the Emacs modifiers without taking your hand off the mouse.

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  2. A Friend

    Linux mouse user here. The Evoluent vertical mouse (large) is the only mouse for me. It ticks all boxes except for clickless wheel toggle. It adds one feature that I prefer though: A third button right next to the wheel, between the left and right buttons. By default this middle button is used for middle clicking and autoscrolling just like clicking/holding-down the wheel might do by default with other mice. The other 2 configurable buttons are on the thumb rest and I typically use those for the default back/forward navigation behavior.

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