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Manufacturer: Microsoft
Min OS X: 10.1    Requires: USB Port

Microsoft Trackball Explorer
April 14, 2004 | Trevor Buchanan

Click to enlarge
The trackball is perhaps the most easily overlooked of peripherals, maybe due to it's seemingly alien interface to those born and bred on the mouse, but it is a control mechanism that has proved its mettle over years it simply refuses to die, and its proponents concur. Though it seems unwieldy, those who have the perserverance to adjust to the change are often well served in their effort.

With this in mind, I undertook the job of learning and using the Microsoft Trackball Explorer.

My Mac experience comes from the publishing industry, where trackballs though rare are not completely uncommon. A trackball can provide for much more precision at slow movement speeds than a mouse, I've found, especially when every pica is of the essence. In the hands of the untrained or impatient (or both), its use can easily result in frustration.

After a month of heavy use, the Microsoft Trackball Explorer has served me well. I find however that most of my time has been spent getting used to it, after years away from such devices.

As always, installation was simple. I went to the trouble of installing the drivers, but found that Microsoft uses the same drivers for all their optical devices. It simply saw the trackball as though it were the Microsoft intellimouse Explorer my previous device which was fine by me.

The Finger Feel
The ovular unit about the size of one of those stupid mini footballs leaves a significant footprint on one's desk but without the need to move the device as one would a mouse it becomes a small detraction. That having been said, my small hand had trouble with the unit. The base slopes downward by design, making it easy to lose your grip, and accuracy. Rubber feet keep it firmly in place on one's desktop.

The trackball about the size of a golf ball sits in the center of the device. The left side of the unit houses the primary and secondary buttons with the scroll wheel between the two, I had trouble reaching all the controls consistently, but those with larger hands may have a different experience. To the right of the trackball are back and forward buttons for web browsing. The resourceful will find other uses, depending on the application. The trackball is placed so that it makes it easy to inadvertantly press to hard on it, invoking the scroll seizure syndrome in browsers, but I got used to it fairly quickly.


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