Getting a mouse pad for your optical mouse

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Technology
January 21st, 2004 • 7:47 am

One of the big selling points of optical mouse peripherals is that they do not require a mouse pad and can be used on any surface, provided that it’s not too reflective (like glass).

My personal experience with the Apple Pro mouse, however, is that, even on a regular, slightly varnished wooden desk surface, optical mouse movements can sometimes be unpredictable, with the mouse pointer jumping all over the place.

This is due to more than just optics: optical mouse peripherals also have acceleration curves that adjust the speed of pointer movement in response to slow or fast mouse movement. Unfortunately, the acceleration curves for the Apple Pro mouse are not adjustable. You can just adjust the “Tracking Speed” in the Keyboard and Mouse control pane in System Preferences, and that’s it.

A couple of weeks ago, I decided that I had finally reached the limits of what my Apple Pro mouse had to offer and that I deserved a better peripheral. I researched a few products, and decided to go for the Kensington Mouse-In-A-Box Optical Wireless Rechargeable mouse. I bought it from, a Canada-based vendor that appears to have a wider selection of stuff than the usual Canadian suspects, i.e. MicroWarehouse and TigerDirect.

I got it very quickly, and installation was a snap. When I started using the mouse, however, I soon noticed that I was struggling to get the pointer to go where I wanted. Some of it was just a matter of adjustment to the new device, but some of it was all too familiar: pointer jumping all over the place instead, etc.

I found that the MouseWorks software that comes with the mouse does include adjustable acceleration curves, and I was able to obtain better results with some adjustments to those curves. But I still wasn’t satisfied.

I then put a old vinyl record sleeve on my desk surface and tried to use that instead of the desk surface directly. In spite of the awkwardness of the arrangement, I noticed a definite improvement. This is when I first started thinking that maybe, contrary to the hype, an optical mouse does need a mouse pad to be fully operational.

The record sleeve was far from ideal, obviously. It was big, which was good, but it was also not heavy enough and didn’t adhere to the desk surface underneath, which means that it tended to move too easily.

Then the next week-end I was in the FutureShop store in Dartmouth, NS and happened upon a display of “optical mouse pads” especially designed for use with an optical mouse. Ha ha, I thought.

I found one that looked particularly well suited. It was in the traditional mouse pad shape, but was made in a very rigid material, with a metallic frame, it obviously weighed a lot, and the surface underneath was made of some kind of rubber that would definitely adhere to a desk surface and prevent the pad from moving. For $19.99 CDN, I thought it was well worth a try, and brought it home.

What a difference it has made! The mouse pad is so heavy and this rubberized surface sticks to the desk surface so well that, once in place, the pad doesn’t move at all. And the optical mouse obviously loves the non-reflective surface. With this and the adjustments to the acceleration curves, I now have an excellent mouse pointer device, and the Apple Pro mouse had been quickly forgotten.

(The fact that the mouse has several additional programmable buttons doesn’t hurt either, of course.)

The moral of this story is: Don’t believe the hype. If you have an optical mouse and are not quite pleased with the way it’s tracking your movements, maybe you should try one of these mouse pads especially designed for optical peripherals.

My mouse pad is made by Allsop and the $19.99 CDN price tag is well worth it.

2 Responses to “Getting a mouse pad for your optical mouse”

  1. Warren Wiley says:

    I’ve also found that removing the fabric cloth from a rubber backed pad also works well. I have a telephone resting on the top right corner, which anchors the pad & doesn’t get in the way of the mouse. (the pad is on a smooth laminate surface) Another anchoring method would be to put a little dab of silicone cement under the pad to stop it moving.

  2. trel1023 says:

    panther DP1.25 MDD.

    i’ve had this jumping problem for a while as well. i couldn’t decide if it was the mouse or the USBness or my desk or the OS.

    your answer seems to make the most sense. my desk is a wood laminate with a pretty defined wood grain. i’ve read that the parallel light/dark grain in this type of desk is a problem for all optical mice – not apple’s in particular.

    the solution of a non-reflective, stable mouse pad seems most promising.

    thanks for the post.

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