The picture above is a picture of my mouse. I’m proud of it because before this mouse I had a series of poorly designed mice that probably would have led to early onset carpal tunnel.
My mouse has a vertical scroll wheel. I can scroll up and down a webpage with ease. This isn’t a revelation. It’s not new and improved; and it’s not interesting either. What is interesting is that tablet scrolling has taught me that scrolling left and right is also possible. So when will my mouse also have a horizontal scroll wheel?
This website is fascinating because it uses both horizontal and vertical scrolling. It’s possible to code a website to make my vertical scroll wheel scroll horizontally, but this doesn’t help the problem because it still gives me only direction (in addition to the fact that scrolling vertically to make a horizontal movement is awkward). This issue will be especially poignant with Windows 8, because the new version of Windows has a lot of horizontal scrolling features.
An additional issue in horizontal scrolling is language direction. The internet is becoming increasingly sensitive to language issues. Western language is read left-to-right (horizontal, while Hebrew and Arabic are both read right-to-left. Neither has called for horizontal scrolling until now because most websites can be read as one long page, but with Kindle and iPad books, horizontal reading is becoming increasingly popular. The internet and mobile devices are attempting to replace books. Computers are different from books, obviously, but books are read horizontally both due to horizontal language and the linear nature of most books. Horizontal scrolling may be increasingly effective for reading online and on tablets. That might mean a new wheel on my mouse in the future.
It’s also interesting to consider vertical languages. I am by no means an expert on Han-based languages that are read vertically, but just as horizontal pages are read in blocks and then scrolling is used to expose more text, vertical language websites cannot be made as giant scrolls. They must also be scrolled horizontally as the structure is confined to a certain size to eliminate the need for one long scroll.
With longer Chinese texts, the need for horizontal scrolling will likely increase. CSS3 has also noted the need for vertical language abilities.
Will mice just be replaced by touchpads at some point to resolve the issue? It seems we are headed in that direction, but I’m not so sure. Mice, up til now, have been an integral part of HCI. My laptop has a touchpad, and if I run my finger along the bottom of the touchpad I can easily scroll horizontally, but I don’t do it. My touchpad is disabled because of my mouse. I don’t think I’m unique in this respect. I don’t believe touchpads will be the future, but it’s possible that touchscreens will render this issue moot. Until then, where can I buy a mouse with horizontal scroll that will match the efficiency of my current mouse?