First impressions: DwellClick

DwellClick is an interesting Mac applications which automatically clicks the left mouse button when your mouse stops. The idea behind this is to reduce the time your hand rests on your mouse/trackpad. The click is delayed by a certain time, visualized by a narrowing purple circle around your mouse pointer which I find is a really good mapping and mouse-click status indicator. DwellClick also recognizes when you stop your mouse over a “draggable” interface item, such as the window title bar and the scroll bar. When you stop your mouse above one of these items, instead of performing a single mouse click, DwellClick goes into drag mode which ends when the mouse stops again. This however, can be cancelled using the escape key. Drag mode can also be invoked using a iOS style popup which is displayed by pressing the fn key on the keyboard. DwellClick also uses “sticky” modifier keys, i.e. mouse clicks performed while holding down e.g. cmd can be done in DwellClick by first pressing and releasing the cmd key, then moving the mouse to click. The click will be performed as if the cmd key was held down. DwellClick has a 30 day trial which I just started yesterday. Here are my first observations.
  • I have become aware of how much “idle” mouse movement I have the habit of doing
  • My regular behavior after clicking is to move the mouse away from the place I clicked since I feel it is covering what I am looking at. This does not work well with DwellClick since this results in unwanted clicks. Perhaps DwellClick could hide the mouse after it has been still for a while. To help find the mouse later, perhaps it could highlight it a bit when the mouse starts moving the next time. 
  • When I am searching for a button to press – I usually let the mouse follow my gaze. In this way, when I find my target, my mouse pointer is already there. With DwellClick, I have to find the target with my eyes first, then move the mouse pointer there. Perhaps the delay of the mouse click could increase proportionally to the time spent moving the mouse up to a specified limit? This way, deliberate mouse click movements can have a quick response time, while still enabling explorative mouse behavior?
  • DwellClick makes me feel more decisive when I interact using my mouse as the mouse interaction is deliberate, not explorative (see previous bullet point).
  • Me being left-handed, using the fn key to bring up the popup dialog means that I have to cross my arms since my left hand is on the track pad and my right hand is the hand that is free.
  • My workflow for using the popup menu (double click/drag mode/right click) effectively is to move the mouse to the place I want to double click etc, then press the fn key with my left hand (moving it from the track pad) and then moving the mouse pointer to the action. Pressing the fn key stops the click countdown.
  • The “sticky” modification keys work well. For e.g. when I want to open a link in a new window, I would press cmd and then move my mouse to the link.
DwellClick feels interesting enough for me to keep trying it out. It does require another kind of mouse usage, but as stated by the DwellClick site, this is exactly what the point is – to adopt a less mouse intensive computer use.

Update 2011-05-25 10:36

I just found the advanced settings which can be set to not click while my finger is left on the trackpad. The countdown circle still shows, but no click is performed. This makes the previous point on increasing delay times invalid. This is a much better solution. However I would have preferred if the countdown circle was not shown it the “no click” setting was enabled.

I also came up with a trick which helps me cope with my desire to move the mouse pointer out of the way – after I click something, I move the mouse, then press the escape key.

Even though this requires an extra action on my part, I still feel more focused then before when my hand’s resting position was on my mouse. Now my hand rests on the keyboard. This experience of feeling more focused is quite weird. My current theory is that previously, I could just be moving my mouse around while deciding what to do next (not for minutes, but perhaps in streches of a few seconds). Now when this is not an option, instead of thinking of what to do next and exploring my screen with my mouse, I am only doing one thing at the time – singletasking! Even though the task of moving the mouse around is not very cognitively taxing, it still takes some resources which can now be used in other ways.

One thought on “First impressions: DwellClick”

  1. Thank you Jody for taking the time to share your impressions. (I’m Nick, the developer of DwellClick.) I really appreciate your insights. I do think there might be something in analyzing the length (and also speed/acceleration profile) of a mouse movement to make some modification of the action. Also hiding the mouse pointer is interesting one I will look at. I love the comments that it made you feel more decisive and focused — yes this is exactly it, it’s not just clicking the mouse for you it’s a change of approach, minimizing mouse/trackpad use (movement as well as clicking) and freeing up both your hands and your mind.As for not showing the countdown circle for “no click” this is something I would love to do. Technically I haven’t worked out how to do it yet … maybe I could only show the animation for the part after the finger has been lifted off the pad; something like that.

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