It is fine to use any mouse for CAD design, as long as there are three basic buttons: LMB, RMB and MMB. In this article, we will call them in short forms for the Left(L), Right(R) and (M)Middle(M), Mouse Button(MB).
These buttons served the most basic needs for almost any CAD programmes, including AutoCAD, Solidworks, Inventor, 3dsmax, etc.
It is fun to draw 2D and 3D drawings when you have enough rest, a reasonable workload, and a project timeline. However, it becomes a nightmare when multiple deadlines are overdue soon while the workload is huge. You might even need to work 16 hours a day with barely enough rest.
A good, high-quality mouse may not help to complete all the drawings magically, but they can lessen your pain and maybe improve the efficiency. Your index finger will thank you for using a good CAD mouse.
Middle Mouse Button (MMB)
All mouse designs use the scroll wheel as the middle mouse button (MMB), and they perform a lot of basic tasks, such as to pan or rotation of models in CAD programs. Other than the AF, there are two more issues to look at:
- The design of the scroll wheel circumference should be flat, not around. The flat wheel is more comfortable where there is repeat pressing and holding the button for long hours.
The 3D Connexion professional CAD mouse comes with a flat button as well, however, their MMB is a dedicated real button like the normal LMB and RMB. Such a design will be ideal, as a normal button will always be more comfortable to press than a scroll wheel.
We opine all mouse designs should have a dedicated MMB that is not the Scroll wheel.
- The scroll wheel must be clicky type, so it’s easier to press down and hold without the wheel trying to rotate if it is smooth scrolling. Never buy a mouse that has only smooth scrolling, or one that uses the MMB to switch between clicky and smooth scrolling.
Side buttons for one-click quick zoom in and out.
It seems easy to use the scroll wheel for zooming in and out, but imagine repeatedly scrolling with your index finger for long hours, besides pan or rotating the model.
We have 5 fingers, but the index finger does almost all the work, including LMB, MMB, scrolling, etc. A better design should let the other fingers share the load, such as the thumb.
Actuation Force (AF)
The actuation force (AF) is the finger pressure required to push the button down, overcome the tactile “bump” and activate the key switch. This pressure has to be designed as light as possible at over 40-45 gf (grams force) or 40-45 cn (centi-newton). This spec is like most mechanical keyboards and chiclet with the softest keys.
Best Mouse for Computer Aided Design
1. 3Dconnexion CadMouse
The 3Dconnexion mouse is specifically for CAD design, and so it has all the above features. However, it needs an update as it lacks the advanced features found in modern mice:
- USB Type C charging port
- Multi-device and Multi-OS capability (like Logitech)
- Top scroll wheel to switch between clicky and smooth scroll
- Side scroll wheel like the Logitech MX Master 3
As a professional 3D engineering design modeller, we have been using 3Dconnexion CadMouse Pro and SpaceMouse for some time. We like the CadMouse Pro and hope to see new features such as a USB-C port, smooth scrolling and multi-device capability. In May 2021, the CadMouse Pro won three design awards, including the Red Dot Award.
2. Logitech MX Master 3
In fact, the Logitech MX Master 3 will make an excellent CAD mouse, as it has a flat scroll wheel for MMB. The quality if the mouse keys is superb and there is another scroll wheel at the side to make the thumb work harder. The two issues that may affect CAD usage is that it feels too “heavyweight”, and the actuation force (AF) for the MMB is too much.
3. Logitech M720 Triathlon Mouse
This is one favourite, all-purpose mouse for any tasks, which we also use as a backup for CAD drawing. However
The M720 is a cost-effective, long-lasting, lightweight and feature-rich mouse for travelling around with a CAD Notebook. It can connect via Bluetooth and wireless, and support multi-devices. It has 4 side buttons comprising 3 visible buttons at the top and a fourth hidden button near the base that functions like ALT-TAB in Windows.
The scroll button is easy to scroll in either clicky or smooth mode, however, the wheel slips slightly while trying to hold it down. This can be strenuous to the finger, especially after 8 hours of continuous working on the CAD drawing.
Next, the actuation force (AF) for the MMB is much higher than 3dconnexion’s dedicated MMB.
Besides the 3dconnexion mouse, there are no close competitors for the perfect CAD mouse.
The 3dconnexion mouse needs to be updated with the new features found in modern mouse design.