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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?)

Top comments (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.

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

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.

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.

joshpike profile image
Josh Pike • Edited

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.

hdv profile image
Hussein Duvigneau • Edited

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

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.