Computer Mouse vs. Touchpad: 20 Pros And Cons

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by Jack Taylor | Last Updated:  February 25, 2019

When the personal computer was first introduced, people used the keyboard as their primary means of interacting with the computer. Today, the most popular way in which we interact with our computer is by using either a computer mouse or a touchpad mouse. What are the pros and cons of each?

Both the computer mouse and the touchpad have served us well for over 30 years. Each device has its strengths and weaknesses, and one device may serve you better than the other, depending on the use. Clearly, both devices are here to stay, but the ultimate decision comes down to personal preference.

After briefly looking back at the the history of the computer mouse, we will take an exhaustive look at the pros and cons of both the computer mouse and the trackpad. By the end of this article, you will be able to determine which device is the best solution for your computer needs.

A Brief History of the Computer Mouse and Touchpad

In 1974, The first workstation computer, known as the Xerox Alto, was created by Xerox. The computer included a fully functional keyboard, display, and mouse. Even then, it could display windows, menus and icons as an interface to its operating system.

In 1984, Apple released the first successful mouse-based computer, but people still used DOS until Microsoft developed Windows 1.0 in November of 1985. 10 years later, Microsoft released Windows 95 which cemented mouse-based computing to this day.

On the other spectrum, the touchpad is an input pointing device where the surface allows you to move the cursor on your screen by simply using your finger. It was invented by George E. Gerpheide in 1988, and Apple was the first to implement the touchpad in its Powerbook laptop in 1994. To this day, the touchpad is the primary cursor controlling device in laptop computers.

What follows are 20 pros and cons that I have provided for you regarding both the touchpad and computer mouse. After finishing this article, you will be able to determine which device will work best for you, given the way that you use a computer. There is no right or wrong decision, and what works well for you won’t necessarily work well for another person.

Touchpad Pros

  1. A huge advantage of using the touchpad over the mouse is that the touchpad is built into the laptop, so you never have to remember to bring a mouse. It’s always there for you. There is no need to plug anything in, as it is instantly available as soon as you boot up your laptop.
  2. When using a touchpad, you don’t tie up one of your USB ports, like you would when using a mouse.
  3. There is no cost to using the touchpad, as it is already built into the laptop, so you won’t have to buy a separate mouse.
  4. You can easily use the touchpad anywhere, including while you are in bed or sitting on the couch.
  5. With the touchpad, you get the same functionality of a mouse, without the hassle of carrying or plugging in a mouse.
  6. Some mice require you to install software specific to the mouse in question, however, there is no such need when using the touchpad, as everything is built in and ready to go.

Touchpad Cons

  1. The touchpad has a bit of a learning curve, especially if you are used to using a computer mouse. In fact it will feel just down-right awkward at first, (ok, maybe for a while), and understand that it will take you some time to become proficient in using it.
  2. The touchpad can be a bit sensitive, making it difficult to get the mouse to go where you want it to go. It’s definitely harder to control the cursor than when using a mouse, because you can accidentally touch the touchpad with the palm of your hand. If you do this, your cursor may jump to a different part of the screen without you even realizing it.
  3. If you own a laptop and a desktop computer, it can be difficult going back and forth between the two, unless you have a dedicated trackpad for your desktop computer.
  4. If using on a laptop, you are limited with the amount of space that you have to work with, usually just a couple of inches, but if you need to move your mouse across the screen, you will find yourself swiping your finger again, and again, until it reaches the desired position.

Computer Mouse Pros

  1. You can take the mouse with you and use it on different computers. If you have a wired mouse, you can simply un-plug it and take it with you. If you are using a wireless mouse, you can simply pull the dongle out of the USB port, turn the mouse off and take it with you.
  2. Scrolling up and down using the mouse wheel is a lot easier and faster, especially when reading or editing a document, or when reading an article such as this on the internet!
  3. Some computer mice have additional buttons on the side allowing you to program them to launch specific applications. This is very handy and can save you time, especially for frequently used applications.
  4. With the mouse, there are some applications, (Microsoft Excel comes to mind), that allow you to work a lot faster, and be more efficient.

There are ergonomic computer mice that can help alleviate stress in your hand. Some of these mice allow you to turn your wrist vertically, instead of horizontally, which can help those who suffer from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

Computer Mouse Cons

  1. If using the mouse on a laptop, you have yet another device to carry with you, and if using a wired mouse, it can get tangled and in the way. If using a wireless mouse, unless you keep the dongle in the USB port on the laptop, you risk loosing it.
  2. The computer mouse requires the use of one of the USB ports on your computer . . . always. If you only have two USB ports, you only have one left to use, unless of course you purchase a USB hub . . . but now you are out more money.
  3. The mouse can (and will), get dirty with grime, especially on the bottom side near the four corners of the mouse, and will require that you clean it periodically.
  4. The mouse can be a germ magnet, requiring that you clean it frequently. You won’t see the germs, of course, but they are there. To prevent yourself from becoming sick, never use someone else’s mouse without cleaning it first, as you will be introducing their germs to yourself. You can, however, keep it germ free by using hand sanitizer and then using your mouse before the hand sanitizer completely dries.
  5. The mouse requires a flat surface to function, and optical mice do not work on glass, should you have glass covering your computer desk.
  6. Using your mouse while in bed or while sitting on the couch is very difficult to say the least, as you are constantly looking for a flat surface so that the mouse can function.

If the pros and cons above still leave you wondering it the mouse or touchpad is a better solution for you, read on, as we take a look at different fields of work that each device may do a better job with.

Who Can Benefit from the Computer Mouse?

If you find yourself doing any of the following types of work, you may find that a computer mouse works better for you.

AutoCAD Engineers

AutoCAD is a computer-aided precision drafting software application tool. Because it is necessary to draw diagrams, one would probably be much more proficient in using a computer mouse than a touchpad, given the intricacy involved. Additionally, this type of work does not require a lot of typing, but rather use of the mouse.

Professional Business Environment

OK, I have worked in a professional business environment where desktop computers were everywhere. Now, granted, there are a LOT of users who have laptops as well, however, I never see people using a trackpad (a trackpad is a touchpad for desktop computers) in the business environment.

When someone needs their “mouse” to be replaced, (because it went bad or they lost it for whatever reason), they always ask for a mouse replacement, not a trackpad.

Of all industries that use a pointing device, the business (office) environment is the largest of them all, and I have to believe that if people were convinced that the touchpad was more efficient than the computer mouse, they would purchase trackpads instead of computer mice.

Accountants

Accountants are copying and pasting numbers all day long, from one cell to another in a program like Microsoft Excel. Double-clicking, right-click to COPY and place the number somewhere else, right-click to PASTE.

At the same time, they have to enter in formulas throughout the spreadsheet. Have you ever known an Accountant to use a touchpad over a mouse? I’m guessing not, but if so, they may be the exception.

Who Can Benefit from the Touchpad?
If you find yourself doing any of the following types of work, you may find that a touchpad works better for you.

Graphic Designers

Having asked a graphic designer which device he thought a graphic designer would prefer, and he conveyed that graphic designers would probably prefer the touchpad over the mouse because the finger is a more natural pointing device than a tool, such as the mouse.

Take painting or drawing in Photoshop for example. It’s much more natural for one to draw with their finger than it is to try to draw with a computer mouse.

Authors / Bloggers

Again, because the user needs to type AND use pointing device, the author / blogger *may* benefit from mastering the touchpad given that they might save time by simply using the touchpad instead of moving their hand over to the mouse.

College Students

I can’t begin to tell you how many college students I have seen use the built-in touchpad on their laptop computers. To be honest, I don’t know if this is due to laziness on their part (to use a mouse), or if they just find that a mouse gets in the way, but I challenge you to visit a college campus and take a look around to see how many students are using a computer mouse. My bet is that you will find that the majority of them are using the built-in touchpad.

Conclusion

Is there anything preventing you from using both the touchpad AND a computer mouse? Why is it that you must only use one and not the other? There is no rule saying that you can’t use both.

You may find that there times that you find the computer mouse easier to use based on what you are doing at the moment. Then again, you may find that you are more proficient in using the touchpad for certain tasks, (like gesturing), where the touchpad is easier to use.

As stated at the beginning of this article, it really comes down to personal preference. You may find that you are more proficient in using one device over the other, and that’s OK. There really is no right or wrong here. Technically, you can use the built-in touchpad and at the same time, plug a computer mouse into your laptop and use the one for some things, and the other for other things. No one will judge you, I promise.


Related Questions

How Long Does It Take To Become Proficient With the Touchpad?
The more you use the touchpad, the more proficient you will become, so it really depends on how much you use the touchpad, and in what programs you use it in. You will become more proficient if you use it in a variety of programs, because different programs require it to be used differently.

How Often Should I Clean My Computer Mouse?
You would do well to clean your computer mouse once a week, in order to keep it free from grime and germs. You can either use wipes or even hand sanitizer. Just be sure to wipe all areas of the mouse, including the bottom of the mouse and the side where you thumb rests.

How Do I Disable The Touchpad in Windows 10?
Simply click the START button, then SETTINGS, and in the search field at the top left, type TOUCHPAD. Now the Touchpad settings will display. From there, you can toggle the TOUCHPAD to the OFF. You also have the option to “Leave Touchpad on when mouse is connected”.

Jack has been helping people with computers needs for several years, and he loves to help people succeed. He brings a wealth of wisdom and insight from an entrepreneur's perspective and enjoys freelance writing. In fact, when he's not writing an article or working on his YouTube channel, you might find him binge-watching Suits or formatting his computer . . . again, just for fun. To learn more about Jack, click here.
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