Since the earliest days of the PC, people have come to expect a mouse when they sit in front of a keyboard and computer, yet in today’s world of handhelds and smartphones, we aren’t given the option of using a mouse for navigation.
While using a stylus and Touchscreen works well in many situations, it’s not a natural way of doing things when you are using your handheld with a keyboard.
Instead of being forced to change our habits, we should be able to use a tool that we already know how to use – the mouse.
And that’s just what Think Outside has done. Its Stowaway Travel Mouse lets you interact with your handheld just the way you are accustomed to interacting with your PC.
Doin’ What Comes Naturally
I use a keyboard to write emails and Brighthand articles on my handheld all the time. I haven’t carried a laptop on a trip in years. However, when I’m writing, it’s really irritating that, in order to highlight some text or open a menu, I have to pick up the stylus, tap somewhere on the screen, and put the stylus down again before I can resume typing.
The Stowaway Travel Mouse makes this whole process much simpler. After literally decades of practice, reaching to the right, grabbing a mouse, and using it to control an on-screen cursor is second nature, and significantly faster than doing the same task with a stylus.
A Great Design
The Stowaway Travel Mouse is about half the size of a typical PC mouse, which is just what you want when you are talking about a gizmo you are going to be carrying around with you.
For those of you who like details, it is 3.7 inches long, 2.2 inches wide, and 1.4 inches thick. (95 mm by 55 mm by 25 mm). It weighs 2.6 ounces (75 grams).
It’s comfortably shaped and the buttons are well placed. I’ve used mine for hours without problems.
To make it even easier to use, you don’t have to connect it your handheld with wires; instead, it uses Bluetooth short-range wireless networking. This means that a single mouse can be used with handhelds from many different manufacturers.
It’s an optical mouse, and can be used on just about any flat surface. It needs to be really flat, though, so I have picked up the habit of keeping a CD case in my bag of gear to use as a mouse pad.
This mouse comes with a bag so you can carry it around without it getting scratched up.
Button, Button, Who’s Got the Button?
Like a lot of mouses for PCs, this one has two buttons and a scroll wheel.
Although, the right button is supposed to allow you to open contextual menus, I find that in most applications I have to hold the left button down for a few seconds to do this instead. Fortunately, you can re-program the functions of any of these buttons, so you can program the right button so that it opens the Today screen or any other application.
The scroll wheel allows you to easily move up or down the page in whatever application you are using. Pushing down on it allows it to act as a third button.
On the bottom is an On/Off switch that keeps this mouse from accidentally being turned on when you are carrying it around.
Sadly, at this point the Stowaway Travel Mouse is compatible only with Pocket PCs. It can’t be used with Bluetooth-enabled Palm OS models or Symbian smartphones. Hopefully Think Outside will release drivers for other mobile platforms soon.
Speaking of other platforms, this mouse can also be used with your laptop running Windows XP or Mac OS X.
The Stowaway Travel Mouse has worked with all three of the Pocket PCs I tried it with, although I had to fiddle a bit with the settlings in order to get it to co-operate with the Dell Axim X50v.
In general, there are real advantages to using Bluetooth instead of wires. However, in this case, there are also a few drawbacks.
Most of the time, this mouse will easily reconnect with your handheld just by pushing one the mouse buttons, but not always. Every now and then I have to spend a couple minutes tinkering with it in order to get it to reconnect.
The Stowaway Travel Mouse uses Bluetooth 1.1, which means that it sometimes interferes with Wi-Fi. The only times I noticed this was when I was near the edge of my Wi-Fi range. If I’m using the handheld and mouse at the opposite end of my house from my Wi-Fi access point, I sometimes have problems keeping a reliable Wi-Fi connection. When this happens, I just turn Bluetooth off for a minute while I check my email.
Because it uses Bluetooth, it has to have its own batteries. In my testing, I found that a pair of AAAs will only last a week or so of heavy use, so I’d suggest you invest in a pair of rechargeable batteries.
And finally, Bluetooth can’t be used on an airplane, so don’t think you’ll be using this gizmo on your next transcontinental flight.
All in all, this is a great little device. I’m someone who uses my handheld as a laptop replacement, and so I’ve been using external keyboards with my handhelds for years. The hassle of using a stylus with these has always bothered me, and I’m pleased to finally be able to use what I’m used to, a mouse.
If you are someone who has always wanted to use a mouse with your handheld — and own a Bluetooth-enabled Pocket PC — then the Stowaway Travel Mouse is just what you’ve been looking for.
You can pick it up from the Think Outside web site for about $80.