Appoint Mousepen Portable. (evaluation)
by Peter Scisco
The MousePen Portable is a unique attempt at solving a recent problem: bringing mouse control to laptop and notebook computers. It incorporates an age-old design into a new-age machine--a pointing device that you use like a pen.
The MousePen Portable's shape is, paradoxically, its advantage and disadvantage. The slim design means you can stick it in your shirt pocket or find room for it in your laptop case. You can use the MousePen on any kind of surface, including your leg.
Holding the pen correctly takes a lot of practice. The pen's manufacturer, Appoint, claims its studies show that people who are not predisposed to mice--that is, people who don't use them on a regular basis--adapt to the pen quite readily. For others, picking it up and using it correctly require extensive retraining.
What works best is to grasp the pen near the base, with an index finger on the lower button, which is equivalent to the left button on a desktop mouse. From this position you can move the pen as you would a ballpoint pen. The movement of the pen as it relates to the onscreen cursor registers "dynamic gain," which means that the faster you move the pen, the more screen area you'll cover. Use small, slow movements for drawing, and swifter movements for menu selection or for selecting text.
The MousePen has two buttons, arranged vertically on the stem. The lower button has a raised knob on it to signal its function as the left button on a conventional desktop mouse. Connections are made through a PS/2-compatible connector or with the 9-to-25 pin serial-port adapter. The driver is Microsoft compatible, and I experienced no problems using the pen in GrandView, Works, and several other software applications.
The MousePen package includes a mouse pad with a holder, which you can use if you decide to keep the MousePen closer to home. The package also includes a basic paint program called Telepaint and a menu program you can use to design menus for your DOS applications.
For dyed-in-the-wool mouse mavens, the MousePen Portable iis somewhat disappointing because its radical design poses as many problems as it solves. But it does work, and if you're prepared to put up with a nonstandard solution to the portable mouse problem, it's certainly worth a test drive. It can also be useful for computer artists who are looking for a more natural drawing tool. In the meantime, the rest of us will wait for touchscreens on our laptops.