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The humble mouse has become a ubiquitous part of our daily lives. Anyone who works with a computer every day probably spends many hours with a mouse in their hand, clicking icons, opening drop down menus and selecting tools - the mouse is an integral part of pretty much every operating system and application. Of course mouse technology has moved on massively since the early days of rubber balls and sticky buttons, and most "serious" PC users will have a specific choice of mouse - the TR office is generally split between Logitech and Razer users for instance. But one thing remains constant, your mouse does pretty much everything.
Having suffered in the past from mouse-induced RSI, I'm well aware that the amount of mouse work you do can have very nasty results, so being able to cut down on the amount of mouse movements can only be a good thing. The most obvious solution is to adopt an encyclopaedia of keyboard shortcuts, thus cutting down on all those drop down menu selections. But even keyboard shortcuts can't save you from having to use your mouse for navigation as well as editing in an application like Photoshop.
This is where 3Dconnexion comes in - a company dedicated to make heavy mouse users more efficient with its range of 3D mice. 3Dconnexion is actually an arm of Logitech, which is no real surprise considering Logitech's standing in the mouse market. Most of 3Dconnexion's products are aimed at the high-end CAD or computer animation user, by combining the 3D mouse technology with a range of buttons that can be mapped to keyboard shortcuts. The result is a setup that requires almost no use of the keyboard, and leaves the standard mouse free to handle editing duties while the 3Dconnexion device deals with all the navigation and selection duties.
But the underlying technology behind 3Dconnexion's products can also bring benefits to general users, or keen hobbyists. As such, the SpaceNavigator is a far more affordable option, pretty much doing away with all the shortcut buttons and offering just the 3D navigation. OK, so you do get two shortcut buttons, but you're not going to be mapping all your keyboard shortcuts to those.
Unlike a conventional mouse, the SpaceNavigator doesn't move. In fact, you'll have a tough time moving it, since the solid metal base makes the device very heavy. The base needs to be heavy because one axis is vertical - so you can pull the SpaceNavigator up away from the desk, and push it down towards the desk. You also get complete movement on a horizontal plane - forwards, backwards, left and right. Add to this tilting movement across the same four axis, and a twisting movement left and right, and it's clear that there's a lot of functionality squeezed into that black rubber dial.