[November 25, 2023]
I bought a Contour Unimouse. The full review follows in four sections:
In my young life, I used 3-button mice. I was initiated into the mysteries of middle-mouse paste on Unix. I complained about how unintuitive it was, but I learned and used it nonetheless.
As USB support stabilized in the BIOS and the Linux kernel, other Unix
systems vanished, PS/2 ports started disappearing from PCs, and we didn’t have
ZAxisMapping 4 5 in our X11 config files… I would
eventually switch to a wheel mouse.
Fast forward almost 20 years, and it was starting to hurt to “click the wheel” for a middle button. So I went looking for a mouse with a dedicated middle button again.
There were basically two options:
Logitech makes a dizzying array of mice. There are some gaming mice with lots of tiny extra buttons, and the MX Master 3S🌎 caught my attention for having a thumb-operated side-scrolling wheel. Unfortunately, as far as I can tell, none of them have a comfortable button around the scroll wheel.
I ended up choosing the left-handed Unimouse. It’s not that I’m left-handed; rather, I put my mouse over there so I don’t have to pass over 30% of the keyboard to reach it. (I’m not willing to give up the numpad.)
Of course, as long as I was on Contour’s site, I considered the rollermouse and slidermouse. However, I wasn’t sure I wanted to invest that much (in money or time) just yet. Apparently, one uses a finger/thumb on the rollermouse like a touchpad, and it rolls (vertically) or slides (horizontally), registering that motion.
I’m not sure if the rollermouse would have any benefit over an actual touchpad, if the PC ecosystem had them. It’s very weird out there; the #1 recommended trackpad for PC is an “Apple Magic Trackpad.” Manufacturers really looked at that and said, “Huh. Let’s just cede the market.”
The very first thing I noticed while unboxing the Unimouse: the buttons are lower force. They are all, including the wheel button, easier to click than the average mouse.
Getting it set up was a breeze. Choosing the angle and positioning the thumb rest are all friction-based. There are two configuration options: pressing the DPI button alone cycles through 10 sensitivity settings (800 to 2600 in 200 DPI steps.) Holding the DPI button and clicking the middle button chooses whether the button sends middle click, double click, left click, right click, or freeze click. None of it depends on software or a specific OS.
The wheel itself is a classic “notched” type, which suits me, because I wasn’t looking forward to doing anything complicated on Linux.
In any case, the mouse worked flawlessly. The only hiccup was in my mind. When I had switched to left-handed mousing in the past, I had never reconfigured the buttons. I kept the primary mouse button on the left side of the mouse itself, because “left” means “←.” With the Unimouse, the mouse sends “left button” for the index-finger button, which is the top/right button.
I decided to try the Unimouse as-is. Just one day of using it hasn’t gotten me to stop mis-clicking yet, but this isn’t something a right-handed mouse user (or a left-handed mouse user who swapped the buttons) will have to worry about.
Two weeks in, I am liking the Unimouse so much that I unplug it from the work laptop (corporate owned) and move it to my personal desktop for the weekends. It feels great, I love the third button for middle-click, and it’s working smoothly as a mouse.
It was surprisingly easy to get used to the button layout… on the Unimouse. It took maybe two days. However, it made me start mis-clicking the standard mouse on my personal setup. I set that mouse to left-handed mode, and it’s maybe 90% there now. I also found out that it’s difficult to use Quilt Draw🌎 with a left-handed mouse, because the swatches showing the paint tool colors are right-handed. A future update is planned to stack them vertically, with “primary” on top.
Meanwhile, I also set up the standard mouse to emulate middle-click when both left and right buttons are pressed (more details in the next section.) This has also really helped with the stress.
I also try to adjust the Unimouse’s hinge and thumb rest every day. That’s an option I don’t have with regular mice, so I may as well take advantage of it.
I rediscovered an interesting option in the KDE settings: a mouse can be set to emulate middle-click when pressing both left and right buttons together. It’s less elegant than a separate button, but works with any PC-oriented mouse.
With a trackpad, middle-click is available as a three-finger tap, if “tap to click” is activated in the KDE settings. I think Gnome is the same way by default, but I don’t have an unaltered Gnome+touchpad setup to confirm it.
Finding this setting also kicked the dust off the memory that the console
gpm daemon can be used in 2-button mode. If I pass
-2 to the daemon, or never middle-click, the right button will
paste instead of extending the selection. And yes, I run gpm in 2023; if a
day requires the console, there is no point in making it even worse.
(This is getting into the weeds, but at least in Ubuntu 23.10, arbitrary
arguments can be added by the
append variable in
/etc/gpm.conf. So it would be
similar to make that happen.)