This blog post is written by Chris Hinkins, a full-time music setter since the 1970s and a Sibelius user from the earliest Acorn days. Based in the UK, Chris works with Sibelius 7 on Windows 7, mainly for Schott and Chester, currently processing works by Peter Maxwell Davies, John Tavener, Gavin Bryars, Simon Holt and others. Here’s his story of a voyage into the world of computer ergonomics.
I work with Sibelius many hours a day and am also a busy pianist and organist. Thus started my search for a replacement for the traditional mouse as I frequently suffered from pain in my right arm which was affecting my playing.
A sucker for new gadgets, I was intrigued by the concept of Contour Design’s RollerMouse, and jumped at the chance of a free trial, which the company offers through its web site. The device consists of a cylinder mounted on a bar and the whole sits in front of the computer keyboard.
Fingertip movements of either hand guide the cursor up and down by rotating the cylinder, and left and right by sliding it along the bar. There are five buttons below which send left and right click, double-click, copy and paste. Centrally is a scroll wheel/middle click button. Depressing the bar itself also sends a left click; the amount of pressure needed for this is adjustable.
There are several different models, but as far as I can see the RollerMouse Red is the one that does the business. It is superbly engineered and responds to the lightest touch. The physical benefits of this are obvious as the right hand is now in a more natural position, but what really delights me is how much more efficient my Sibelius technique has become.
Many of the keys essential to Sibelius (arrows, delete, return and the number keypad) are unhelpfully situated on the right hand side of a QWERTY keyboard, forcing the user to reach over with the left hand, or remove the right hand from the mouse to use them. I have tried various strategies to combat this: a gaming mouse with the extra buttons programmed with useful shortcuts, and latterly a gaming keyboard with extra keys on the left hand side. However, the right hand was still not being used efficiently. The RollerMouse leaves both hands free to use the keyboard, enabling greater speed and flexibility.
The middle click button is infuriating – impossible to use without the cursor skidding around from accidental movements of the scroll wheel. To overcome this, I have redefined the right hand window key on the Windows keyboard to send a middle click – something I should have done years ago, as it speeds things up to no end.
The device covers the ground as well as a conventional mouse. I work across three monitors and the two ends of the roller bar automatically correspond to the margins of the outer screens, so all in all the experiment has proved a great success. It must be said that it has taken several weeks to relearn working methods, but then maybe that’s my age — my 6-year-old granddaughter picked up the technique in seconds.
The RollerMouse Red is not cheap by any means. At the time of this writing, Amazon had it on sale for $265 in the US, and £251 in the UK. However, I reckon it will soon pay for itself through increased productivity.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to have improved my piano playing; maybe I should just practice more.
Full details about the RollerMouse Red can be found on Contour Design’s web site.
Chris Hinkins can be contacted at [email protected].