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More from the mouse

Add more to your mouse than "point-and-click" commands. These days, you can train it to execute a number of natural gestures.


ABOUT 20 months ago, the priced but popular browsing software "Opera" came out with a new version, 5.11, that allowed net surfers to use the mouse in new ways. For example, if you wanted to return to the last website you had visited, you would normally slide the mouse to the top of the screen and hit the "Back" button. With the new `Opera' version however, you would achieve the same result by simply holding down the button and sliding the mouse to the left. To move forward to the next page, you would need just to slide the mouse to the right - `natural gestures' that mimic the turning of the pages of a book.

Since then, a number of clever developers have come up with small software tools which allow the user to navigate the web with easy natural gestures that are more intuitive than complicated point-and-click toolbars. The free and open source browser, "Mozilla" was enhanced a few weeks ago, with a number of such mouse gestures. Common commands like `Reload' or "New Window' can be executed by smooth slide movements of the mouse. The `mozilla' mouse gestures were developed in a project called "Optimoz" and you can read all about it as well as download the gestures program from the website, http://optimoz.mozdev.org/gestures. You may also like to try the alternative set of mouse gestures called "StrokeIt" (http://www.tcbnetworks.com/strokeit). This is a free beta version that has been available for download since June, 2002. It is a fairly small piece of software (80k) and gives a good feel of what mouse gestures is all about.

It will be smart to try out the gesture software because 2003 will see many mouse manufacturers providing these tools in their new products. The market leader, `Logitech' is said to be in active discussion with developers of `StrokeIt', `Optimoz' and other gesture tools - and maybe a year down the road, you maybe able to throw away your mouse altogether and perform all commands by `gesturing' with your finger on a touch pad.

The mouse as a pointing tool for the PC was first invented 30 years ago by the Xerox Corporation and was made available with the `Apple' computer. Microsoft's `Windows' program adapted it much later. The hardy mouse has served us well - but it may be time to bid fond farewell and move on...

A. VISHNU

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