A Comparison of Three Cursor Control Devices on a Cursor Control Benchmark Task


TR Number




Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Department of Computer Science, Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University


A number of past studies have compared performance of cursor control devices. Conclusions regarding the "best" device for a particular application are difficult to draw because the tasks used in previous comparisons have differed from one another and have not included all of the factors affecting performance with the devices. The present study used a target acquisition task whose components were derived from analyzing the cursor control device movements of users while performing actual tasks. The components of the task were target size, target distance, direction, and mode (i.e., point-and-click vs. drag). Three cursor control devices, cursor keys, mouse, and trackball, were each used by 12 subjects to perform the task. Results indicate the mouse and trackball perform similarly in most cases. The cursor keys always performed more poorly than the other devices. Hence, the mouse and trackball are preferable to the cursor keys based on objective measure of user performance. In conditions where cursor keys are necessary, careful attention should be paid to aspects of the interface listed above in order to attain the highest level of performance possible.