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When you work on a laptop computer, your “built-in pointing device” will either be a touchpad or a tiny joystick — what I refer to as a “pencil eraser.” If you’re like most laptop users, however, you opt instead for an externally connected mouse. This works fine until you have to travel with your laptop. That convenient external mouse can create quite a bulge in your computer bag. Fortunately, there are several “mini mice” available that will give you the external mouse functionality without sacrificing accuracy and speed. Two such products are the Targus Wireless Optical Mini Mouse and the Atek Super Mini Optical Mouse. TARGUS WIRELESS OPTICAL MINI MOUSE The idea behind a “mini” computer mouse is that it’s simply smaller and weighs less than a regular-size computer mouse. Some might believe that a mini mouse can’t be optical (see whatis.techtarget.com/ definition/ 0,,sid9_gci507903, 00.html) or wireless (see searchnetworking. techtarget.com/ sDefinition/0,, sid7_gci213380, 00.html) because of the smaller size, but the Targus Wireless Optical Mini Mouse ( www.targus.com/ product_Details .asp?SKU=PAUM005U) proves them dead wrong.

The Targus Mini Mouse is only 3.86 inches long by 2.32 inches wide by 1.5 inches high. The only reason it’s that high is because the two AA batteries needed to power the wireless mouse have to fit somewhere. There is no wire between your mouse and computer. The only thing you plug into your computer is a small, car-key-sized receiver into a USB port. This is how the mouse communicates with your computer. And just in case your USB plugs are in an awkward spot, Targus included a 3-inch USB extension. The optical technology on the Mini Mouse is very good. I made the switch to optical mice several years ago. They are so much cleaner and smoother than the old-school computer mice with rubber balls on the underside. The Targus Mini Mouse, while not as intensely accurate as some of the newer, regular-size optical mice, did a very decent job of staying on target. It might shock a few of you to know that Targus does not ship software with their Mini Mouse. There’s a good reason — you don’t need any. There are no extra features that require software, and the Mini Mouse will use the default mouse driver that comes with Microsoft Windows. For my first use of the Targus Mini Mouse, I simply put the batteries into the mouse, plugged the receiver into my open USB port, and started mousing away. Fortunately, my receiver and mouse communicated together on the first try, but there are small buttons on both units that allow you change the frequency so you can find a common channel for communication. The other great thing about the Targus Mini Mouse was that it had a wheel-button on top. Many mice today have a wheel which allows you to easily scroll up and down in many different programs. The wheel on the Targus Mini Mouse is also a button that can be programmed to do things like click “Back” on your Internet browser. The wheel on the Targus Mini Mouse worked very well for me. I didn’t use the mouse long enough to test this, but apparently the wheel will light up with a small LED when the batteries start to get low. A last word about mini mice in general has to do with usage. The first time you use a mini mouse is awkward, but you soon get used to it. I found that my small movements with my big mouse quickly translated into big movements on the small mouse. My hand soon compensated and adjusted for the difference in mouse size, and a few minutes later I didn’t even realize that there was a mini mouse under my hand. The Targus Wireless Optical Mini Mouse is still just a little too big for my personal travel requirements, although I give Targus a lot of kudos for coming up with such a compact device that can do so much. If you need a wheel-button and love the idea of a wireless mouse, then the Targus Mini Mouse is definitely the one to get. Wireless Optical Mini Mouse from Targus Inc. $49.99 www.targus.com ATEK SUPER MINI OPTICAL MOUSE Another option for cutting down on bulk when traveling with a laptop is the teeny-weeny Atek Super Mini Optical Mouse (www.atek.com/accessories/ minimouse.htm).

The most striking thing about the Atek Super Mini Optical Mouse is the size. You can look at pictures, but the mouse is a marvel to behold in person as you move it under your own hand. The whole thing is only 2.5 inches long and 1 inch wide. My first thought was that there was no way something this small could be functional enough for my needs. I was happy to be wrong. The top half of the Atek Mini Mouse is comprised of the two mouse buttons. A small, silver band of raised plastic hugs the middle of the mouse. I found that my thumb and fourth finger gripped this silver band comfortably, which allowed my first and second finger to rest easily on top of the two mouse buttons. While I read that some people had difficulty with just pressing one button or they would hit the wrong button, I found the Atek Mini Mouse to work just fine. Other than the silver band, the Atek Mini Mouse is all black. You can’t tell until you actually use the mouse, but the black top of the mouse is actually transparent, which allows the red light from the optical operation to glow through. I found the optical technology on the Atek Super Mini Optical Mouse to be smooth and accurate. Once again, there was no extra software needed or required to use the Atek Mini Mouse — I just simply plugged it into an extra USB slot and I was good to go. The smaller size of the Atek Mini Mouse means that you do sacrifice a couple of things. For one, there is no wheel on the Atek Mini Mouse, which means, for goodness sakes, that you actually have to use the scroll bar (you can tell it’s been a while since I’ve had to do that). And secondly, the Atek Mini Mouse has a 3-foot long tail that has to be plugged into your computer. Even though you give up wireless freedom, the cord on the Atek Mini Mouse is very thin, so it wraps up easily and quickly. Atek is even nice enough to include a small, padded traveling pouch for the Super Optical Mini Mouse. They also throw in a USB to PS/2 connector in case you run out of open USB ports. Because of the unique squared-off shape of the Atek Mini Mouse, it took me just a little longer to adjust. You don’t realize how much you rest your hand on a regular mouse until all the mousey real estate is taken away. My hand did naturally adjust after a few minutes, and the buttons eventually felt like second nature. If space is a premium inside your computer bag but you need an excellent external traveling mouse, then the Atek Super Mini Optical Mouse can’t be beat. Super Mini Optical Mouse from Atek Electronics Inc. $49.95 www.atek.com Brett Burney is the Legal Practice Support Coordinator at Thompson Hine (www.thompsonhine.com) in Cleveland. He also reviews products for Law Office Computing magazine (www.lawofficecomputing.com) and writes a monthly legal tech column for LLRX.com. He can be reached at [email protected].

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