I loves me a good input device.

As someone who’s struggled with RSIs in both wrists, input devices matter. Not just for convenience or efficiency, but for health and safety. In 2006 I gave up using a mouse in favor of a stylus and a SpacePilot. At the time I was driving CATIA all day long, and yet with the SpacePilot in my left hand and a stylus in my right, suddenly my wrist problems went away entirely, and they’ve never come back.

The Pilot is a fantastic product, but a bit bulky. I do a lot of mobile work, so over the years I’ve tended to prefer the smaller 3Dconnexion products. Nothing against the big’ns, I’m just too mobile to justify it.

After Josh started using a SpaceMouse Enterprise, a few weeks ago I decided to start using a SpaceMouse Wireless. It does not disappoint. It’s every bit as quick, responsive, and sensitive as the other pucky 3Dconnexion goodness, but it fits in a case about the size of your average bar room beef slider, and look, ma! NO WIRES.

The mobile SpaceMouse has only two buttons: left and right. Compare this with the SpacePilot’s 20-something buttons and glitzy LCD display, and one might be tempted to think it under-featured. Don’t.

In fact, I prefer the simpler, more streamlined two-button SpaceMouse over the full-cockpit SpacePilot. I still use the keyboard for serious hotkey ninjitsu, but I find the simplicity of the mouse itself really comfortable. When using SolidWorks, I use the included 3DxWare software to set the left button to ‘Esc’, and the right button to ‘S’, to bring up the SolidWorks ShortCut Bar. That’s pretty much all I need, and it’s super easy to get use to.

In addition to the classic MCAD systems we all know and love, 3Dconnexion devices now work with Onshape (in Chrome browser) and MODO, two of my other mainstays.

spacemouse_wireless2

So that’s all the good stuff. What’s the bad stuff? Well, we usually think in terms of price, utility, and ease of use, but:

  • It’s reasonably priced.
  • It’s easy to use.
  • It does what it’s supposed to do, and does it well.

Not sure what else to say.

It’s surprisingly heavy, but I like that. It feels substantial. The base is real metal, cold to the touch. The spray-on soft-touch finish on the puck itself will probably wear off over time, but that’s true of most electronics these days.

Re-reading this post, it’s sounding like a sales pitch. I apologize. I just legitimately like the product.

In fact, in addition to driving CAD professionally for over a decade, I also taught SolidWorks and Rhino to college kids for a few semesters. Fun times. Some college classes require that students buy textbooks or building materials. My class required a 3Dconnexion SpaceMouse. It was less expensive than most other classes, and unlike a textbook, it was something students could keep using for years to come.

So what happens with the SpaceMouse when we start using VR/AR/MR devices and true 3D tracked controllers? Hard to say, but I imagine they’ll continue to be really useful. Cintiq monitors have been around a long time, but I still prefer the old-school Wacom tablets for ergonomic reasons. Working hunched over a hot monitor all day is less appealing than it sounds. I imagine VR touch controllers could have very much the same ergonomic problem. Sure, waving your arms around to make things happen in VR is cool for ten minutes, but all day?

I expect that even after I start wearing a VR headset for CAD work, I’ll still want to use a keyboard, stylus, and SpaceMouse Wireless.

Anyone else go wireless with a SpaceMouse? Prefer the bigger devices? What’s your setup like?

3Dconnexion set us up with a SpaceMouse Wireless when we told them about a new SolidWorks Porsche 911 modeling series coming to cadjunkie. Stay tuned for the entire series coming soon. For now, you can get a taste with Part I: Porsche 911 Wheel.

Author

Adam O'Hern is an industrial designer, designing products ranging from laptops to power tools, classroom toys to bathroom fixtures, and pro audio gear to guitar tuners. In 2008 he founded cadjunkie.com, and in 2010 co-founded EvD Media with Josh Mings of SolidSmack.com, and the two collaborate on the EngineerVsDesigner.com podcast.