Virtual OS/2 International Consumer Education

July 1998


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The IBM Scrollpoint Mouse

By: Jason R. Stefanovich

Initial Impressions:

I recently picked up the IBM ScrollPoint Mouse (model # is 12J3618) at CompUSA about a week ago for $40. The lowest price I've seen it selling for in other parts of the USA is about $28, however this just isn't happening in Hawaii.

It comes in a blue and black striped box with red and white lettering. The mouse itself shows through a clear lexan bubble in the center of the box. This is quite stylish packaging for an IBM product. The only thing they seemed to have bloopered is the picture of Netscape being manipulated by the Scrollpoint on the back cover, Netscape is running on a MAC. As far as I know, the Scrollpoint does not have a MAC version.

The mouse itself comes in two color versions. One with an "IBM white" shell and a "COBOL blue" :-> Scrollpoint.while the other comes with a flat black shell and red Scrollpoint.

An additional cover for the scrollpoint comes with the mouse. The Scrollpoint mouse comes in a PS/2 version only, and the manual advises against using a serial adaptor.

For the rest of the report I will compare the performance and characteristics of the Scrollpoint mouse to two of the most popular mice on the market. The Microsoft Mouse 2.x and the Microsoft Intellimouse. These are the two other mice I use the most. I wanted compare the Scrollpoint to a Logitech mouse also, but none was available for testing.

Because a mouse is a friction and gravity operated device, the mousing surface is extremely important. The mouse pad I use is the 3M Precise Mousing Surface. It is a very good precision mouse pad, if you have never tried one, I suggest you do. It helps prevent buildup on the ball surface and improves traction with a textured plastic surface.

Measuring in at only 11cm* the IBM mouse is slightly smaller than the MS mouse and is more conventional in shape than the MS's "kidney bean". The size of the mouse may prove uncomfortable to people with large hands.The IBM mouse is tallest at its center and slopes comfortably down to it's head. It is easily controlled from the wrist and fingers and fits the curvature of my hand well. I can navigate my entire screen without the heel of my hand ever moving while holding the mouse between my thumb and third finger. The MS mouse, due to the large bubble at it's head, almost requires me to use a wrist rest. Because the heel of my hand partially rests on the mouse, all mouse movement is from my arm, not my wrists and fingers. This becomes quite fatiguing with extended use.

The weight of the IBM mouse is slightly more than that of MS's, yet glides effortlessly across my mousepad, to be fair the MS mouse performs equally well.** They both use strips of low resistance material on their bottom surfaces to achieve this.

Opening the mice up, they both use roughly identical rubberized metal balls. The big difference is in the cavity in which the ball rests. The IBM mouse ball rests in an enclosed area, mostly separate from the rest of the mouse internals. The MS mouse ball*** sits in the same enclosure as the rest of the mouse internals, allowing any debris that is picked up by the ball to build up inside the mouse.

In both the MS and IBM mouse, buttons are responsive and give a nice little click. Those with heavy hands may wish the IBM mouse had more stiff buttons. I have found myself accidentally pushing the right mouse button, especially when manipulating the Scrollpoint.


Under OS/2 installation entails downloading the driver from the IBM DDPAK online site - It comes in a single self extracting zip. Run the install program which replaces mouse.sys with a new version and adds a couple of new DLL's. You then reboot for the changes to become effective.

Besides the above warning not to use this device with a serial port adapter, the installation readme file warns of stability problems with multi-processor systems and that if you are using this with a Thinkpad or other laptop you may need to disable the laptops internal pointing device.


Now let's get to the special features; the MS wheel and the IBM Scrollpoint. The MS wheel is exactly what it sounds like. It is a wheel positioned between the left and right buttons which protrudes a little less than half way above the mouse surface, it also serves as a third button. With the Scrollpoint you can assign it as a 3rd button in Win95, but then it only performs in that capacity. To access other functions you have to use a ctrl-stick or shift-stick combination. Somewhat of a waste if you ask me. The intellimouse wheel can do both at the same time w/o using the keyboard, of course that's only in office 97 compatible programs. The IBM Scrollpoint is functionally the same as the famous Trackpoint and is positioned between the left and right buttons. According to Robert Rose, who wrote the OS/2 driver, the Scrollpoint is mechanically different from the Trackpoint. The Scrollpoint uses a pressure pad setup where as the Trackpoint uses an expensive setup that measures resistance. Use of the pressure pads is supposed to reduce costs, but may have some effects on the life of the Scrollpoint.

The Intellimouse is limited to horizontal movement and access to most of it's features is limited to a very few MS applications such as Office 97 and IE. The Intellimouse is limited to horizontal scrolling, but pressing down on the wheel as a third button helps some. The Scrollpoint achieves much better functionality, almost like having a second mouse hooked up to my computer, this can be used in OS/2, DOS and Win-OS/2 sessions, native DOS and Win95. The cross platform capability is a definite plus for the Scrollpoint. Because I can move in any direction within the current window; it gives a freedom not possible with the Intellimouse. For those who are already familiar with the Trackpoint there is no substitute. Both mice come with good drivers which give all the gee-whiz features that anybody could want under Windows. Under Windows, the Intellimouse's driver is made by MS and the Scrollpoint's is made by Logitech. Both operate smoothly. I have not used the Intellimouse under OS/2. The Scrollpoint is a little jumpy under OS/2 with the default settings and takes some getting used to. This can be corrected somewhat by adjusting the Scrollpoint's speed settings. It is possible to overflow the keyboard buffer under certain applications. This is because the Scrollpoint emulates the keyboard and the way the buffer operates under OS/2. According to Robert Rose, this is impossible to avoid through the drivers. Once I became used to it though, I was very comfortable. You're mileage may vary depending on the application you are using. The Scrollpoint operated smoothly while running Corel WP 7 yet was almost useless for panning in WinJPG; buffer overflows are problematic with EPM.


I am eager for the next update to the OS/2 drivers which are currently in beta. The OS/2 drivers currently add 1 page to the mouse settings notebook which gives you the scrolling speed options: normal, slow, fast or screen ( I haven't figured out what screen does yet ). It also has two checkboxes for PgUp/PgDn and Tab/Shift-Tab emulation. The mouse help file has not yet been updated for these new features. Notably lacking from the OS/2 drivers are several features which are available under Win95. Autoscrolling, Zooming, HyperJump ( or jump-to ) and Cyberjump ( for web navigation ) are all missing from the OS/2 drivers. Hopefully we will see at least some of these features in the GA release of the OS/2 driver.

The Scrollpoint's ability to operate in a cross platform environment and it's solid drivers make a must-have item for my desktop. While the drivers for OS/2 do not have the same level of configurability as the Windows drivers, they serve the basic functions well. In contrast; the Intellimouse is limited by design and any person who owns both may wonder why they spent roughly two times as much for it. In all the IBM Scrollpoint mouse is a valuable addition to the desktop. I highly recommend it for any person who has limited workspace or wants added
functionality out of their mouse.

Addendum: Just thought I'd let you know that I installed the new drivers from 25 June. The notebook page still has not been updated, and the readme is the same as the old one. But the driver itself shows much inprovement. Scrolling is much more fluid than the previous driver. Still no additional bells and whistles. Also, the install program seems not to recognize that there is already a configuration notebook installed from a previous install if you move the old one off the desktop ( I put mine in the system setup notebook ). It will put a new notebook on the Desktop and I still haven't figured out how to delete the damn thing.

* All measurements are my own.
**There are several different versions of the MS 2.x mouse, they are of different weights, I tested
versions 2.0A and 2.1A.
***Although the design of the ball enclosures is different in the two versions of the MS mouse,
both are internally open.

For more information on the IBM Scrollpoint Mouse -
and an FAQ on the Scrollpoint mouse can be found at
The IBM Scrollpoint mouse OS/2 beta driver can be found at

Jason R. Stefanovich is an IS/Database manager for the US Army and has been using OS/2 since Warp 3.0 came out.


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