capsule review

The Quill

At a Glance
  • Designer Appliances The Quill

    Macworld Rating

Every time you reach for your mouse, you force your body into an unnatural posture that might cause pain -- or even permanent damage. Designer Appliances' The Quill aims to relieve this physical stress by letting you point and click with your hand and wrist in a relaxed, neutral position. Unfortunately, however, the Quill's generous footprint -- about as long and almost half as wide as a conventional mouse pad -- sometimes gets in the way.

You don't hold the Quill so much as rest your hand on it. A sculpted trough on the right or left side, depending on which hand you use for mousing, gently cradles the edge of your palm. You operate the Quill's two large buttons and single scroll wheel with your middle and index fingers. The upper button works like a standard mouse button and the lower one control-clicks. But unlike many mice and trackballs, the Quill doesn't ship with software that lets you reprogram its buttons and scroll wheel.

Designed for average- to large-size hands, the Quill may be too bulky and uncomfortable for kids or adults with small hands. While I wasn't able to verify the vendor's claim that the Quill can help reduce the risk of injury, I did notice an almost immediate decrease in tension in my forearm, hand, and wrist. If you're already experiencing pain, the Quill may help relieve your symptoms, but it's no substitute for professional medical advice and treatment.

To move the cursor, you glide the Quill across your desktop, as you would a regular mouse; however, because the Quill is larger and heavier than a mouse, simply moving it from side to side requires more effort. And even with the tracking speed at its fastest setting (in the OS X Mouse Preference panel), I occasionally reached the edge of my workspace and had to lift the Quill to reposition it. But the Quill is designed not to be gripped, so it's more awkward to pick up than a mouse. (Software that lets you fine-tune the Quill's cursor response would help by reducing the need for repositioning, and Designer Appliances says this software is in the works.) The Quill's size also prevents you from using it with a standard mouse pad -- you must instead place it directly on your desktop. Although the Quill's optical sensor worked fine on most surfaces, it functioned erratically on a light-colored wood desk that didn't faze mice from Apple and Microsoft.

Macworld's Buying Advice

The Quill isn't the perfect ergonomic solution, but it's clearly a step in the right direction. If you're concerned about repetitive strain injury (RSI) and have plenty of desk space, The Quill merits your serious consideration.

At a Glance
  • Macworld Rating

    Pros

    • Cradles hand and wrist in neutral position

    Cons

    • Large footprint
    • Erratic tracking on some surfaces
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