What is a Trackball?

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Updated November 18, 2022

Finding the best computer mouse for your needs can feel like a challenge. However, there are a ton of options on the market for you to choose from. Whether you’re looking for vertical mice or something more traditional, it helps to understand the differences between the models. If you’ve been asking, “What is a trackball?” then keep reading. We’ll go over everything about them below.

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • A trackball is the part of your mouse that senses movement and tells the computer where your mouse is supposed to be moving. Trackball mice have these on top instead of on the bottom.
  • There are some considerable pros to using trackball mice. One of the biggest is that you’re less likely to get repetitive strain injury from using your mouse too often.
  • Naturally, trackball mice also have their downsides. The biggest issue is that they can be challenging to learn how to use and are a huge change from traditional mice.

What Is a Trackball Used For?

In “normal” old-school mice (not optical mice), the trackball is on the bottom and is the part that tells your computer where you’re trying to move the mouse. In a trackball mouse, this ball is moved to the top of the mouse. You use your fingers or thumb to turn the ball, which moves the cursor on the screen. While you have to move a normal mouse across your desktop, a trackball mouse is stationary. Since they come in many different shapes and sizes, they often are much larger than a typical desktop mouse.

Insider Tip

If you’ve never used one before, try a thumb trackball first, as it’s the easiest version for beginners to operate.

Understanding how a computer mouse works will help you understand things a little more deeply. We have a great article on the topic if you’re looking to compare a trackball vs. a mouse.

Pros of Using a Trackball Mouse

You’ll find plenty of reasons why people love trackball mice so much. They aren’t as popular as a traditional mouse, but they still have diehard fans. Here are a few reasons why:

  • They cause less wrist pain
  • They require fewer repetitive motions
  • You won’t use as much desk space

Of course, there are other reasons why they make excellent input devices. These are just the main points that make trackball mice so great. For further reading, look into when the computer mouse was invented.

Cons of Using a Trackball Mouse

Naturally, there are also reasons why you might want to avoid investing in any of the types of trackballs available. Here are a few reasons why you might not like this style:

  • They take some getting used to.
  • You must clean them regularly.

If you’ve decided that trackballs aren’t your style, check out what an ergonomic mouse is.

Warning

Keep in mind that trackball mice can create an added strain on your fingers due to the precision movement they require.

STAT: Between the years 2016 and 2020, peripherals consecutively maintained the largest segment of revenue for Razer, with its most significant segment contribution of 773.2 million U.S. dollars in 2020. (source)

What is a Trackball FAQs

Are there different types of trackballs?

Yes, you’ll find two main options when it comes to trackball mice; thumb-operated trackballs and finger-operated trackballs.

What should I do if my scroll wheel is sticking?

If you find that your scroll wheel is sticking, you might need to clean your mouse. Debris can build up on this part of your mouse, so it’s essential to keep it clean. If that fails, it may be time for a new mouse.

Which fingers operate the trackball?

That depends on which type of trackball you get. With finger-operated trackballs, you’ll find that your middle fingers do most of the heavy lifting. With thumb-operated trackballs, it’s your thumbs.

Are larger trackballs easier to use?

When investing in a new trackball device, try leaning toward those with larger types of trackballs. This will give you more surface area, which is easier to use than smaller versions.
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