New @3DConnexion driver exercises your overactive wrist

3DConnexion, the first and last name in 3D human interface devices (aka: SpaceBalls) recently released the Beta version of their newest driver package.  This update brings your 3D mouse out of it’s current comfort zone of 3D modeling packages and large-number earth viewers, and into your everyday computer shenanigans.  3DConnexion’s description of the new upgrade explains it all:

 

The simple 3DxWare 10 interface allows you to assign keyboard strokes and traditional mouse or joystick movements in any combination to the 3D mouse. For example, tilt the controller cap to scroll a Web page, twist the cap to adjust the volume in iTunes, or use all six axes to pilot a helicopter in Battlefield Bad Company 2. The choice of application and assignment of the six axes and up to 31 function keys (depending on the 3D mouse model) is entirely up to you.

3DxWare 10 offers limitless possibilities for incorporating 3D mice into everyday use, including:

  • Documents and Browsers
    3D mice now offer a compelling alternative to traditional mouse wheel navigation in documents, spreadsheets and Web pages. Gently tilt the 3D mouse cap to scroll the view up or down or twist the cap to zoom in and out.

  • Games
    Most PC gamers rely on a combination of traditional mouse and keyboard to control their character or camera view, but with 3DxWare 10 a 3D mouse can be used to deliver intuitive and comfortable control in games like The Sims 3. It’s also possible for the 3D mouse to emulate a joystick or gamepad for a rich 3D experience in games such as Microsoft Flight Simulator, Wings of Prey and Need for Speed.

  • Media Players
    Until 3DxWare 10, controlling the volume, track selection or position was typically handled by the traditional mouse and keyboard shortcuts. With a 3D mouse, you can twist the cap to adjust the volume, tilt the cap sideways to fast forward and rewind, and tilt the cap forward or backward to move between tracks in your playlist. If you want to handle it a different way, it’s easy to customize the 3D mouse to your needs.

  • 3D Collaboration
    3DxWare 10 also provides a new feature for professional users by allowing multiple 3D mice to be used on one workstation. This innovative development enables easier viewing of 3D models in group design reviews or client presentations.

While some basic commands (such as mouse movement, scrolling, and zooming) are instantly recognized by the most common programs (i.e. Word, IE, Adobe Reader), for more complex functions, you can create your own profiles for your favorite applications.  3DConnexion says:

The 3DxWare 10 driver interface allows you to create your own “profiles” for your chosen applications and decide what each 3D mouse axis and function key should do. It could be a keystroke (e.g. cursor keys), a traditional mouse movement (with or without keyboard modifier) or a joystick axis. Once you’ve assigned all the axes you want to, just tune it to how you want it!

I’ve spent a few days creating and modifying profiles for some of my favorite apps, and I’ve shred them below.

Download the 3DxWare 10 driver from http://www.3dconnexion.com/anywhere

 

My settings, using a 3DConnexion SpaceExplorer

Art136revspaceexp450

Settings can be edited through the 3DConnexion properties page.  The easiest way to access this is by pressing the ‘panel’ button on your 3D mouse.  It’s also accessible from the start menu, etc.

To create a new profile for a specific application, click the ‘Manage Profiles’ button.

Manage

Then, click ‘Add.’

Add

Here, you can select the program which you want to control using this specific profile.  The profile will be automatically activated whenever you start or shift focus to that program.  You can either A) Select from a list of currently running programs, B) browse to the program’s .exe file, or C) Drag the selection icon to the desired program (however, this – redundantly – only works for currently visible, running programs).

Choose

Now, select your newly created profile from the drop-down at the top of the properties screen. 

The Advanced Motion tab defines the device’s response to movement of the cap.  After selecting the desired axis, you can instruct the function to behave in multiple different ways.  Each reaction is based on the axis selected (meaning you can’t zoom with the spin input, for example)

  • As a 3D mouse: Tilt, Roll, and Spin or Pan and Zoom
  • As a joystick: Define the X, Y, and Z axes; Define the X, Y and Z rotations; Define the throttle, four hatswitch directions
  • As a 2D mouse: Define left, right, backward, forward, and mouse wheel (with key modifiers if desired). You can also include a mouse click with the mouse movement.  This is great for activation mouse gestures, such as in SolidWorks or Gmail.
  • As a keyboard:  Define any single keystroke plus modifiers (for example, Alt+F4. Try it.)  This is useful for navigation with arrow keys, volume adjustment, etc.

3dtilt3dJoy2dKey

To assign functions to hardware buttons, click the Buttons tab, and select (or press on your device) the desired button.  there are again four categories of functions, but they’re not the same functions found on the Advanced Movement tab.

  • Application Specific:  It sounds like this category is for functions that are defined by the given program, Like how ‘T’ is always Top View in SolidWorks.  However, the definition of this category isn’t very clear.
  • 3D Mouse:  This category includes functions that define the settings and behavior of the mouse itself.  You can assign functions that affect the speed or sensitivity of the mouse, turn off certain axes, and open the properties page.
  • Other: This category includes very specific functions for certain common programs.  You can start your browser, email, media player, or Skype (why specifically Skype?).  You can also control your music and navigate your browser.
  • Macros: You can define a macro (a series of keystrokes) in this tab, and assign it to any button.  For example, you can tell it to start the calculator and calculate the sine of 35.6 (+1 points for the fist one to figure out how).

Appspec3dfcnsOtehrMacros

Now that you know how to assign commands to your 3D mouse, here are some of my favorites

Across-the-board settings (must be set manually for each program. See improvement suggestions below)

Pan up/down/left/right: Mouse movement (medium tolerance)

Mouse_move

Tilt up/down/left/right: Arrow keys or mouse wheel (high tolerance)

Click (where available): ‘Front’ button

Right-click (where available): ‘Right’ button

Note: This only seems to be available in the default Windows Explorer profile.  There is a 5th ‘2D mouse’ category that is not visible in custom categories

Twist left/right: Zoom in/out (ctrl+scroll wheel)

‘+’/’-‘ Buttons: Win+Arrow Left/Right (for Windows 7 only)

Note: This functionality is not working!  Macro recorder doesn’t recognize Win+Arrow combo

Moves Windows to left/right side of screen

 

Tested programs:

Browsers (Firefox, IE, etc)

 

Twist left/right: Zoom in/out (ctrl+scroll wheel)

Tilt up/down: Scroll up/down (reversed)

Pan up/down/left/right: Mouse movement (medium tolerance)

Button 1: Back

Button 2: Forward

 

iTunes

F: Play/Pause (spacebar macro)

T: Start Visualizer (Ctrl+T macro)

2D: Show current song (Ctrl+L macro)

Push Down: Play/Pause (Space)

Pull Up: Start Visualizer (Ctrl+T)

Tilt forward.back: Skip forward in current song (Ctrl+Alt Left/Right)

Tilt left/right: Previous/next song (Left arrow/right arrow)

Twist left/right: Volume up/down (Alt+up/Alt+down)

IspacveIvolIpan

 

Tweetdeck

Twist left: Open update window (C)

Twist right: Close update window/notifications (Esc)

Push down: Open shortcut window (space)

Pull up: Open user window

Td_fcns_1TwwtTd_fcns_2

 

Issues/Improvement Suggestions:

Please note, I think this new update is awesome, and everyone should try it.  The following issues are here to try to speed up enhancement by the 3DConnexion team, NOT to scare you away from trying it.

  • Currently, it seems that you have to manually create a profile for EVERY program you want to use your 3D mouse with.  There should be an option for creating ‘across-the-board settings.’  For example, I’d like panning the mouse to always move the cursor with the same speed and tolerance, and tilting the mouse to similarly activate the arrow keys, no matter which program is in focus.  I don’t want to have to repeat these setting for all the dozens of programs on my system.
  • Alternatively (or in addition) when creating a profile, add the ability to select more than one program which can be controlled by that profile.  For example, say you’d like the exact same set of functions to work in Firefox, Chrome, and IE. Or perhaps Word, Excel, and Adobe Reader.  Currently, you have to create 3 separate profiles and reselect all your settings. 
  • Installation was unnecessarily difficult.  The driver file was very large (~100 Mb) and once I was finally able to run it, it told me I had to manually uninstall my previous version first.
  • Add button option to start a specific program. Currently, you can use functions in the ‘Other category to start your default search engine, browser, email client, or Skype (which is oddly specific).  We need the option to start ANY program.  This is easy enough to do by browsing to an .exe file, just like when defining a profile.  
  • 2D mouse functionality for buttons only seems to be available for the default Windows Explorer profile. There is a 5th ‘2D mouse’ category that is not visible in custom categories  I was hoping to be able to click using the ‘Front’ button, where my thumb rests, but that option doesn’t seem to be available for program profiles.  This completely defeats the purpose for me, because the 3D mouse now can not replace the 2D mouse completely.
  • Keystroke-assignment interface should be consistent for buttons and SpaceBall motion.  Currently, keystrokes are assigned to the motion controller using a sleek, intuitive UI (see below). On the other hand, when assigning keystrokes to a hardware button, you have to create a macro the old-fashioned way.  I mention this for two reasons: 1) I like consistency, and 2) the MACROS DON’T WORK.
  • You can’t assign ‘Tab’ as a keyboard command to the motion controller.  Instead of recording the Tab key, the focus tabs down to the next input box.
  • Similarly, he macro recorder doesn’t correctly recognize Win+Arrow commands.  It never records the release of the arrow key.

Leave a Reply