This may seem a bit fundamental, but sometimes a little remedial computer skills review can offer useful new insights to even the most experienced users.
The first commercially-available scroll wheel-equipped mouse was the Genius EasyScroll mouse, released in 1995. Mainstream adoption of the scroll wheel mouse didn’t occur, however, until Microsoft released the IntelliMouse in 1996 and subsequently began supporting the feature in the Office suite & Internet Explorer browser the following year.
The mouse scroll wheel is a hybrid of sorts, acting as both a rolling input and as an additional button, activated by pressing the wheel downwards (a.k.a. "wheel-click"). Recently, a new form of scroll wheel — the tilt-wheel — has been gaining acceptance as a standard mouse feature. The tilt-wheel is like a conventional scroll wheel but can also tilt right & left for horizontal scrolling.
So odds are, if you’re using a mouse with your computer, it has a scroll wheel. But while this ubiquitous feature has been right there under your nose all this time, there’s probably much more to it than you know.
That humble little scroll wheel has the potential to dramatically change the way you use your computer! Especially since so much of our computer use is browser-driven these days, here are a few tricks (for Windows users) that can make a world of difference and take your mouse far beyond simple scrolling:
- Open hyperlinks in a new browser tab!
Want to follow a link without losing your place on the current webpage? Just click on the link with the scroll wheel to open it in a new browser tab! In Firefox, you can even wheel-click items from the Bookmarks menu to open them in a new tab. (You are using a tabbed browser, right?) And if you Shift+wheel-click a link, it’ll open in a new tab and automatically switch to that tab.
- Close browser tabs!
Just place your mouse cursor over a browser tab and wheel-click to close it quickly.
- "Zoom" a web page!
Enlarge or shrink the contents of a web page by holding the Ctrl key and rotate the scroll wheel back or forth, respectively.
- Go forward or back on web pages:
Instead of using the Back/Forward buttons on the toolbar, press Shift and rotate the wheel back to see the previous page or forward to go to the next page.
- Scroll faster:
Press & hold the scroll wheel while moving the entire mouse forward or back to scroll very quickly up or down a page.
Know of any mouse scroll wheel tricks that I missed? Post a comment and let me know!
Trivia: The computer mouse recently celebrated its 40th birthday! Although development began 5 years earlier, the mouse was first publicly demoed at the Fall Joint Computer Conference on Dec. 9th, 1968. That first mouse, a clunky wooden box that’d forever change computer input, was built by Stanford Research Institute’s (at that time) chief engineer Bill English, based upon the design of Douglas Engelbart.