MMO or MOBA mice are made for games that use a lot of buttons. These mice practically give you an extra keyboard. And you can rebind those keys to whatever you want, including hotkeys and macros.
We’ll be using the Corsair Scimitar as an example in this guide, as it’s inexpensive ($59.99) and has great software. We also love Razer’s NAGA Trinity ($74.92), naming it one of our best gaming mice. The same general instructions should work for any mouse as long as you can rebind its buttons.
How Those Mouse Buttons Can Help
Out of the box, there’s not much having extra buttons does for you right away; you have to bind the macros yourself to fit your needs. Try to think of anything that wastes your time, even small things. It doesn’t have to be huge—a second or two saved on something you do hundreds of times a day adds up over time and makes your work feel a lot snappier.
For example, I work on a MacBook and prefer using a mouse in addition to the built-in trackpad. Switching between desktops on macOS is easy with the trackpad, but to do it while using a mouse I’d have to hold the Ctrl key and press an arrow key, which would use my right hand anyway. So I’ve bound switch desktop left and right to 4 and 5 on the mouse’s numpad, which saves me from moving my arm around so much. On a smaller scale, I do the same for switching back and forth between Chrome tabs (and any other app that has tabs) using 1 and 2 for left and right, rather than using hotkey combinations or clicking top bar with the mouse.
By the way, Windows has the same kind of virtual desktop switching as macOS does, but you might not have even noticed if you don’t know the hotkeys (Windows+Control+Arrow Keys). Binding these to mouse buttons makes Windows virtual desktops much easier to use, and will help clean up your cluttered mess of windows.
Keyboard shortcut aficionados will still swear by their methods. For some apps, having both hands on the keyboard is much quicker than using a mouse in the first place, which is something every vim user can attest to. But, on a modern system, you’re going to use a mouse at some point. It’s best to make the most of it and not let it slow you down, especially if you have a mouse with loads of buttons anyway.
Configuring Your Mouse
Setup will depend on the mouse you own and its software, but most mouse manufacturers’ utilities will let you do similar things. Corsair’s Utility Engine is very powerful, offering full macro support and multiple profiles. You can configure one button to press an array of key combinations, so the options you have are fairly limitless.
Profile switching is an extremely useful feature, as it essentially allows you to nest macros behind other buttons. I have 10, 11, and 12 set to switch to different profiles, and then switch back after another button is pressed. This gives me 45 different slots to fit macros into, although I certainly haven’t filled them up yet. You can configure different profiles for different apps, and a separate one for gaming which will leave the number keys unaffected.
Corsair’s iCUE saves the profile to the mouse so that the same button layout will persist across different computers—or different operating systems, which is useful for dual-boot systems.
While having a ton of macros is cool, even something as simple as using buttons 1 and 2 as left and right arrow keys will save you a ton of time day to day. Find what works for you and build your workflow around it.
You’ll very quickly hit a limit to how much you can do with just rebinding keyboard shortcuts. Luckily, installing a few extra utilities to pick up the slack can drastically improve your workflow.
- AutoHotkey (Windows) – If you thought 45 nested macros was overkill, try having your macros be Turing-complete. AutoHotkey is a wonderful scripting language centered around shortcuts and macros, but the language has been expanded over the years to be more like a full programming language. It has loops, control structures, the ability to read and write to files, move the mouse around, and the ability to launch executables. You can configure your mouse buttons to launch AHK scripts or actions directly, which makes it a huge upgrade over existing functionality.
- BetterTouchTool (Mac) – Exclusive to macOS, BetterTouchTool tries to be AHK for Macs. It’s much easier to use though and offers support for rebinding multi-touch trackpad gestures, customizing the touch bar, and even the Siri Remote. While it’s not quite at AHK’s level of power, it does a very good job for macOS.