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James Turner
James Turner

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When programming on a laptop: Mouse or Trackpad?

While a lot of programming and actions can be strictly keyboard driven, when you don't use the keyboard, do you reach for a mouse or use a trackpad?

I'm half expecting the vast majority to be #TeamTrackpad as you do get portability benefits.

  • Do you use a Mouse or Trackpad? (Or just a keyboard shortcut master?)
  • Why do you use that? (Faster, easier, more portable etc?)

Discussion (34)

giorgosk profile image
Giorgos Kontopoulos 👀

When on a table I would use a mouse. I would use a touchpad if I am on a place where the mouse is not possible to use.

I have gone back and forth between using mouse/touchpad testing what is better and after a lot of trials I came to the conclusion that mouse is at least 2x faster to work with so I will use it most times.

palnes profile image
Pål Nes

On a ThinkPad, the track point, because I can keep my hands on the keyboard. On a Macbook Pro, the trackpad, because it's accurate and responsive. On any other machine, a mouse, since everyone is using the cheapest trackpads they can get away with.

josef profile image
Josef Aidt

I had the same thought. On a macbook the trackpad is big and glides really well, and at that point it's too much to move my hand all the way to a mouse

halileohalilei profile image
Halil Ibrahim Kayim

I use the trackpad on my MacBook Pro. I feel like it's much faster to move your hand from the keyboard to the trackpad rather than to a mouse. I know the difference is less than a quarter of a second, but it feels annoying to use a mouse after being used to a trackpad. This, of course, depends heavily on the quality of the trackpad. MBP's trackpad feels just right, so I don't feel like I'm missing out on cursor accuracy, but other laptops' trackpads may not do it for me.

ikysil profile image
Illya Kysil

Trackball - works on any surface.

Additional benefit - other people won't dare to touch your machine :)

maxart2501 profile image
Massimo Artizzu

Hahaha that's great! 😆
Trackballs were more common once (late '90s), but some still use them.
The initial impact can be brutal, so it's not surprising almost nobody use them anymore, but once you get the hang of it a trackball can be really efficient (tested myself). Not like a mouse, but still:

  • You can use it with minimal space
  • No risk of carpal tunnel syndrome
  • It hardly collects dust, so it's usually durable

I think it's a piece of hardware that deserves to be re-discovered.

scrabill profile image
Shannon Crabill

Mostly trackpad, since I'm on my laptop and it's difficult to use a mouse from the couch.

That said, using a mouse is faster and more efficient for me, most times.

rvkennedy profile image
It's Roderick!

Can't use a trackpad for more than brief non-dev purposes. And I can't use laptop keyboards.
So I always carry both a wireless mouse and a mechanical keyboard with my laptop. Given my way, I'd get a laptop with a built-in mechanical keyboard, no trackpad at all.

strredwolf profile image


My hands are big enough that I will rest it on the trackpad, and that screws up where the mouse is on screen. Since I'm in Linux and have "Focus follows mouse" turned on, moving the mouse to another window means I'm not typing where I want it to be. And that's a bad thing.

No, better to have it disable the trackpad when I'm typing, and even better just disable the trackpad when I have a mouse in there.

turnerj profile image
James Turner Author

Never heard of "focus follows mouse" before. Do you mind me asking why you use that setting?

strredwolf profile image

It's something I'm accustomed to when using PCs when I was in college. The default window manager was FVWM and it had a "where you type is what window the mouse is in" policy, aka "focus follows mouse." I find that it helps track where it is. Besides, web pages are so bloated I can hide the mouse cursor in all that fat. ;)

Windows doesn't do that, alas... well, not easily.

joshpike profile image
Josh Pike • Edited on

I actually use both. Mousing (or trackballing at the office) for most things, but the gestures (swiping between desktops e.g.) and 'throwing' (instead of 'scrolling') a page around are much easier/faster.

elgoorf profile image
Hussein Duvigneau • Edited on

Obviously the ideal end-goal is to master hotkeys, which really isn't that hard with a bit of patience. The speed difference of smashing down a hotkey combo while your hands are already on the keyboard compared to moving your hand over to grab the mouse, move it accurately to the correct area of pixels on the screen and then to the next pixels for each follow-on click is massive.

For everything else, I avoid using the laptop inputs completely. A regular keyboard and mouse is far more comfortable and ergonomic for anything but the shortest of simple tasks. Another reason is that I'd rather get dirt or spillages on a keyboard/mouse than my laptop, especially given how close the screen gets to those dirty keys when you close it.

As for on the move, if there isn't space on the train's table, I'll have the mouse on my lap or seat next to me. Not a fan of using a trackpad on a bumpy ride.

jvanbruegge profile image
Jan van Brügge

As mice (and excessive use of trackpads) cause wrist pain for me, I rarely use a mouse at all. I am using vim as my editor and firefox with a vim plugin for browsing.
If I have to use the mouse, I use the trackpoint on my ThinkPad

turnerj profile image
James Turner Author

I personally still use a mouse (Logitech M505) with my ASUS VivoBook Pro N552VW even though the trackpad isn't bad.

I do like the accuracy of a mouse and I don't think a trackpad really does that for me. That or maybe I am so use to desktop PCs I don't even bother trying with a trackpad.

schmowser profile image
Victor Warno

In the past few months, I tried out Apple's magic mouse and it felt like a hybrid of both worlds: giving you the accuracy of a mouse and the swipe controls of a track pad.

I would prefer mouse but then again I feel more 'in-the-flow' when I don't take my hands from the keyboard at all - just using hot keys and short cuts. Actually, a colleague can navigate his workspace without touching the mouse at all but for me that's utopia 😅

_shuriken_ profile image

A mouse, definitely.

Actually, being forced to use a trackpad sometimes (on the train, in meetings, etc.) convinced me to create even more keyboard shortcuts, so now I do 95% of the actions with the keyboard anyway.

The only exceptions are some actions that are not "shortcuttable" (like resizing the sidebars on the IDEs) or actions I don't do often (like clicking the "new email" or the "send" button)

vishnuharidas profile image
Vishnu Haridas

When coding: I will disable the trackpad (most laptops have a special key to disable it) and use a wireless mouse when on a desk. When on a couch, I will try to use the mouse on a nearby flat surface. If impossible to use a mouse, I will use the trackpad.

When just browsing online: anything is fine — trackpad or mouse.

ferricoxide profile image
Thomas H Jones II


Hell, even when I was still using fixed-location workstations as my primary platforms, I bought keyboards that had touchpads in them. To me, every time I have to remove my hands from the keyboard to reach or an external pointer is a waste of precious time. Not only is there the time lost to reaching for the pointer and then using it, there's the time necessary to move your hand back to the keyboard and re-home your hands. Euw.

eljayadobe profile image

The MacBook Pro has one of the finest trackpads available. It is amazing. However, even the finest trackpad created so far by the big brains in Cupertino cannot cure me of my utter disdain and loathing of trackpads.

I use a mouse. I bring a mouse with me when I carry my MBP around.

I also bring a real keyboard with me too, if I expect to use the MBP for anything useful (like... programming). The keyboard I tote around is the Razer Blackwidow X Tournament Edition Chroma. It's an okay/acceptable keyboard, not my favorite (that'd be the IBM Model M -- best keyboard ever made). But the Blackwidow has a smaller footprint because they got rid of the number pad, making it slightly more carryable, and it fits in my laptop bag (swag from WWDC 2007).

The MBP may have the world's finest trackpad, but it has to have one of the worst keyboards.

Apple only made one decent keyboard, and that was the Apple Extended Keyboard M0115. All their other keyboards have been disappointment. They're gorgeous. But not functional. I think form should follow function, not vice versa.

phillie profile image

Mostly #TeamTrackpad, since it's difficult to use a mouse from the couch, where I do most of my freetime programming. 😅 But still, using a mouse is faster and more efficient for me when working on the desk.

I'm always deeply impressed when I do pair-programming with my friend who is truly a keyboard shortcut master. Eh, I've never seen anyone using the mouse / trackpad that rarely.

mudiaimasuen profile image
Mudia Imasuen

Well it isn't a matter of opinion, a mouse is better than a trackpad and Fitts' law proves that properly already. The only time to use a trackpad is when your current location doesn't allow the use of a mouse.

dean profile image
Dean Bassett

I do a lot of gaming, so a mouse is a must all of the time for me. I still of course avoid using it pretty much everywhere outside of gaming, but since I always have a mouse attached I use that when I need to.

Also I find mice to be a bit more reliable than trackpads as long as you don't skimp out on cost.

stealthmusic profile image
Jan Wedel • Edited on

I use the keyboard for almost every shortcut that I can remember. I’m always amazed when I watch colleagues using their mouse how slow it is compared to keyboard.

When there is absolutely no way could sensibly use the keyboard, I use a mouse. Only when I’m in a meeting room, at home on my couch or in a plane, I would use a trackpad.

ferricoxide profile image
Thomas H Jones II

I use the keyboard for almost every shortcut that I can remember. I’m always amazed when I watch colleagues using their mouse how slow it is compared to keyboard.

Bingo! It used to annoy the piss out of me during the earlier parts of the window-manager wars where you'd end up with different key combos depending on which WM you were stuck with. Pissed me off when I had to move to a Mac for a few years (since, at the time, its key-combos were different from the WMs used by both the UNIX and Windows-based systems of the time). ...And don't even get me started on office productivity software updates whose primary change seemed to be in the shortcut-mappings.

arximughal profile image
Muhammad Arslan Aslam

I have a MacBook and a ThinkPad. The ThinkPad Trackpad is not so good and the palm resistance is so worse that it doesn't even work. So, I prefer a Mouse when working on ThinkPad. But the MacBook trackpad is quite good so I prefer trackpad there.

chistery profile image
Adam Tenhouse

If I'm writing more than, I don't know, 30 lines of code, it makes more sense to click around in a GUI. If it's less-than, a trackpad is probably fine.

bekce profile image
S.E. Bekçe

A vertical mouse.

hecterbonha profile image
Untung So Andryanto

trackpoint if i code while laying down on ma bed, mouse when i'm on ma desk

chiangs profile image
Stephen E. Chiang

I only have a mouse with me so that I can play MechWarrior when I need a break.

mscharl profile image
Michael Scharl • Edited on

Since I work about 2 hours daily in the train (to and from work), I use both.

Trackpad on the go.
MagicMouse and external keyboard (and a second monitor) on the desk in my office.

developarvin profile image
Arthur Vincent Simon

While I like the gestures in the Trackpad, the mouse do feel a lot more accurate and natural.

drhyde profile image
David Cantrell

Trackball. Anyone using a mouse is in a state of sin.