As left-handed mousers who spend a lot of time at the computer, we really wanted to love the Evoluent Left-Handed Vertical Mouse. And there's a lot we do like: the mouse's orientation does seem to hold our arm in a more neutral position; the mouse includes a PS/2 adapter so we didn't have to sacrifice a USB port to connect it to the computer; and we found the Evoluent Mouse Manager software extremely useful. However, the $75 Vertical Mouse also possesses some design flaws--namely, a lack of support for the mousing hand--that keep it from being the ultimate ergonomic mouse. (That honor would belong to the Microsoft Natural Wireless Laser Mouse 6000, but it doesn't come in a left-handed version.) Still, as one of the only left-hand-specific ergo mouse models available, the Evoluent Left-Handed Vertical Mouse is worth a try for lefties whose repetitive strain injury pain originates in the forearm.
The Evoluent Vertical Mouse looks like a traditional mouse turned on its side. The idea is that keeping your hand in a neutral upright position--much like a handshake--eliminates the forearm twisting that is blamed for some repetitive stress injuries. (Of course, if you are experiencing repetitive-stress-related discomfort because of using your computer, you should seek out the advice of a doctor in addition to making adjustments to your workstation.) The Vertical Mouse's rubberized black body is easy to grasp, and its sleek silver buttons have slight indentations to help hold your fingers in place. Unfortunately, this design does not quite add up to a comfortable mousing experience; the little finger has no designated space and no support, so it winds up dragging on the desk surface. Evoluent has addressed this issue on the right-handed version of the mouse by adding a small ledge at the bottom to support your hand, but the left-handed version still lacks this feature.
The vertical orientation presents an additional challenge: at 3 inches tall, the mouse presents a significant hurdle to clear when moving your hand back and forth to the keyboard. It takes a small adjustment in movement to avoid accidentally knocking the mouse, which we found annoying.
Looking past the vertical orientation, the mouse's optical sensor is very accurate and sensitive. It works on almost any surface, and it never jumped or skipped during our use. The scroll wheel is smooth, which we like, and the buttons respond to a light touch but they are not so sensitive as to encourage accidental clicks. We do like that the Vertical Mouse incorporates five buttons (including the scroll wheel button), all of which are programmable using the included software.
A note on the Evoluent Mouse Manager software: during installation on our Windows XP system, we encountered an alert warning that the driver had not passed the Windows Logo certification and could affect the function of our computer. The installation instructions that come with the mouse directed us to click "Continue Anyway" through this alert. We did just that, seemingly to no ill effect, but we'd be lying if we said there wasn't a lingering concern at the back of our mind about future system instability.
In the end, though, the Mouse Manager software proves highly valuable for maximizing the Vertical Mouse's features. Along with the expected settings for scroll speed, pointer speed, and click speed, the software lets you program each of the mouse's five buttons with your choice of 48 functions, including click, zoom, print, or even launch an application. You can also customize different button functions for different applications, so your most frequent actions are always a mouse-click away. Finally, Evoluent includes a simple break reminder software, which you can program to interrupt your work with a visual or audio alert at intervals of your choosing.