Coding Horror

programming and human factors

Mousing Surface Theory

This post, and its comments, were updated in 2015 to reflect current choices and opinions.

Hi there. I want to talk to you about ducts.*

Sorry, when I said ducts, I meant mousepads.

As I have a long-standing mouse fetish, you might not be surprised to learn that I also fetishize the humble mousepad, as well. It's all perfectly healthy. Really.

Let's start with the obvious: do you even need a mousepad? It's a fair question. Are you using a traditional mouse? Maybe you're using a trackball, trackpad, trackpoint, or something else with the word "track" in it. If so, then thanks for reading this far. Come back for my next post.

For the rest of us using standard computer mice, consider the following questions:

  1. Is your mousing surface uneven?
  2. Does your mousing surface have an inconsistent texture?
  3. Does your mousing surface interfere with the optical LED or laser sensors in modern mice?
  4. Are you concerned that your present mousing surface will be damaged or marred from extended mousing?
  5. Do you struggle to find enough room to move your mouse?

If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, you should probably have a mousepad. The average desktop often does not provide a consistent mousing surface; a well-designed mousepad does. That is its purpose – to stake out a consistent, reliable, and durable mousing surface on your desktop.

Believe me, I'd love to be a minimalist and go without any kind of mousepad, but I always end up needing one. I started wearing a permanent mark in my beloved Ikea Jerker desk with my mousing here at home, for example. I've also found that extended mousing leaves behind an unpleasant-but-cleanable residue, and I'd rather clean the mousepad than my desk.

Now that we've established the need for a mousing surface, it's time to decide exactly what you want:

  • a wrist rest?
  • raised and thick or low-profile and thin?
  • smooth or textured?
  • metal, glass, cloth, or plastic?
  • small, medium, large, or obscenely large in size?
  • square, rectangular, circular, or some other shape?

And that's before we get into issues of color and style. If you consider the above questions, you can narrow it down substantially. I do have two general recommendations, however.

I'm a big fan of the Razer Vespula. If you're OK with a relatively large mousepad, this 10.2" x 12.6" model is one of my favorites. It's built on a low-profile hard plastic base to resist bending, with soft rubber feet on all sides, as well as a thin rubber mat you can place underneath so there's no slippage.

Razer Vespula

It's also reversible: one side is "speed" (smooth), the other "control" (textured). And it bundles an optional wrist rest sized to nestle perfectly against the bottom of the pad.

I bought my Vespula way back in 2011 and it's still going strong. Many years later, I believe the general idea of a reversible, double sided mousepad with a thin metal or hard plastic core is close to the best of all worlds. With that in mind, I can also recommend the Corsair MM600 and the Perixx DX-5000XL. They are all big, though. Imagine an iPad or something a bit larger sitting next to your keyboard.

If you're looking for something more basic, I can also recommend XTrac, specifically their hard surface mousepads. They're very thin, rubber backed, and come in a variety of sizes. At one point I had it literally glued to my desk with removable spray adhesive.

xtrac mousepads

They're all thin, but the Logic "skin" models are super thin. Extreme thinness can make the XTrac a natural extension of your desk.

XTrac mouse surface thickness comparison

I don't recommend the cloth / fabric branch of the XTrac family tree – or any mousing surface, for that matter.

I am not proposing either of the above as the final mousing surface solution, but I have used both extensively. There are plenty of other great choices; I've heard people say very nice things about the unusual circular WOW!PAD, for example.

I could also talk about how I regularly lubricate my mice feet and mousepads, but then I'd worry that people might think I've gone too far with my mouse fetish.

XTrac Mad Wax


It's my hope that after reading this, you'll be able to tell a well-designed, quality mousing surface from those cheap, floppy, disintegrating fabric things that are mousepads in name only.

* Do your ducts seem old-fashioned? Out of date? Central Services' new duct designs are now available in hundreds of different colors to suit your individual tastes. Hurry now, while stocks last, to your nearest Central Services showroom. Designer colors to suit your demanding tastes.

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Written by Jeff Atwood

Indoor enthusiast. Co-founder of Stack Overflow and Discourse. Disclaimer: I have no idea what I'm talking about. Find me here: