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December 2000

IBM ScrollPoint Pro Mouse

By: Jason R Stefanovich ©December 2000

Scrollpoint Mouse: http://www-3.ibm.com/ibm/easy/eou_ext.nsf/Publish/530
VOICE review - "The IBM Scrollpoint Mouse":
Scrollpoint Mouse Driver:

IBM introduced it's ScrollPoint Pro (SPP) Mouse into the market in February of this year but it has received little coverage in the computer media. Of course there has been absolutely no review of this product as it relates to OS/2. I just found out about this product in September and rushed to place my order. The SPP mouse is available from several online retailers, including ShopIBM, and has a retail price of $39 US. I bought mine at OnVia.com which was the only reputable company I found that could beat IBM on price and shipping (free). Some nut at IBM even made a flash presentation for it...which doesn't even show the product one time, but this is not unknown it the IBM marketing world. (1)

The rest of this review will concentrate on the differences between this (SPP) mouse and it's predecessor, the ScrollPoint Mouse, since the SPP mouse is really a refinement of the original product. (2) The packaging is very similar to that of it's predecessor and includes the standard IBM multilingual manual and a driver CD (Windows only). Out of the box, the SPP mouse has several differences from it's predecessor. The first new thing that I noticed is the ergonomic shape and the sleek styling. The SPP's shape closely resembles that of the Logitech MouseMan, strictly for "Rightys". The ScrollPoint pointing device has been changed in shape from it's familiar "eraser" to a "U" shape which saddles your finger. There is also an added 3rd button in the shape of a long bar above the thumb rest. The mouse comes in two new and fashionable colors, "Slate Blue" and "Antique Sage" with an accent of black, to match any "Big Blue" décor. The SPP mouse also makes a change with it's connector which is natively USB, although it includes an adapter to connect to PS/2 ports.

Since I already had the PS/2 ScrollPoint Mouse driver installed, installation was just a matter of shutting down my system, attaching the PS/2 adapter to the mouse, plugging it in and turning the system back on. The PS/2 adapter has a slim design and should not interfere with the connection of other devices, even on cramped backboard designs like ATX. A nice thing to note is that the drivers are updated fairly often for the ScrollPoint and other wheel based mice. The most recent version on the DDPAK is from August 11th.(3) There is an even newer version of the driver on the Software Choice (SWC) site dated September 15th, although it seems to be a reserved feature. This is also the case with the USB version of the ScrollPoint mouse driver. So if you want to use your mouse as a USB device, you'll have to get a SWC subscription or eCS. In my opinion, not a very friendly move on the part of IBM. In addition, the current (publicly available) driver still does not provide good support for the 3rd button. You can not map it to any specific event or action because there is no support in the configuration notebook. IBM's explanation for this in their INF is that there is no standard for a 3rd mouse button. This seems strange because the driver does provide a way for applications to query the 3rd button (StarOffice utilizes the 3rd button for scrolling). Luckily 3rd party utilities like Xworkplace make up for this, allowing you to assign several functions to the 3rd button..

The SPP mouse is very comfortable and should fit well for people with medium to large hands. The black side of the mouse, where the thumb and heel of the hand rest, is covered in the "soft grip" material popular on many pens recently. This definitely helps increase control by improving grip and preventing slippage. The saddle-topped ScrollPoint is a little difficult to get used to at first, even for those who regularly use a TrackPoint or old style ScrollPoint. IBM has reduced the amount of pressure needed to move the stick and getting used to placing your "pointer" finger in a slightly different position takes some time. Adjusting the scroll speed of the pointer in the ScrollPoint mouse properties helps some, but expect to see your page go scrolling out of control a couple times for the first week or so. After a period of time though, you will begin to notice that a much more precise amount of control is possible with the new saddle design and it is easier to scroll left and right. As an added bonus, you will not have to think about ever replacing the dirty, worn out, "eraser" ever again. The different 3rd button is similar in placement to that of some late Logitech mice, above the right thumb rest. IBM seems to have taken notes on the problems people had with Logitech mice, because the problem of false clicks and reaching to click don't exist.

As a hardware device, the SPP is a culmination of years of refinement (starting in 1979!) for mechanical mice. It is unfortunate that left handed users will not have the choice of enjoying this mouse as well, although they can still use the "hand neutral" original ScrollPoint Mouse. IBM has not paid as much attention to the software support of the SPP (at least outside of Windows). All the OS/2 drivers still lack functionality for the 3rd button and the most up-to-date of those (including USB support) is reserved for SWC subscribers. There is one compatibility issue with the SPP, it will not work with an IBM Rapid Access Keyboard in Windows NT 4.0. I just happen to have both these products, but I don't think I'm ready to reinstall Windows just to test it.

In all, the ScrollPoint Pro Mouse is a good upgrade for anyone who wants the latest and greatest or just needs a replacement for their old tired pad runner.

Jason Stefanovich is a member of the Software Testing and Evaluation Branch at the US Army's Personnel Command in Alexandria, VA. He's been an OS/2 user since Warp 3.

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