The expression “two hands are better than one” really applies when using a 3Dconnexion mouse together with a standard mouse to design in 3D CAD applications.
One hand uses the 3D mouse to pan, zoom and rotate your 3D content, while the other hand points and clicks with the standard mouse.
This two-handed, cooperative work style provides a smoother, more intuitive design experience. It’s also proven to increase productivity, decrease errors and reduce the risk of repetitive strain injuries.
But if you haven’t used a 3D mouse before, you need to invest a little time before you start reaping the rewards. Don’t panic though, in most cases the learning curve is short: the majority of users report becoming comfortable with a 3D mouse in 8 hours or less.
To make the process even easier, this post outlines the top 3 strategies to quickly and easily adopt a 3Dconnexion 3D mouse into your workflow.
1. Understand the Axes and Position Your Hand Properly on the 3D Mouse’s Controller Cap
At the heart of every 3Dconnexion 3D mouse is the controller cap. Understanding how the controller cap moves is essential to fast 3D mouse adoption.
The controller cap moves on six different axes—a concept known as six degrees of freedom (or 6DoF):
Your 3D content is manipulated by pushing, pulling, tilting and twisting the cap. In most CAD applications, the 3D mouse works in “Object Mode” by default. It helps to think that the movement of the 3D model reflects whatever you do to the 3D mouse cap. We also say (and many users agree) that using a 3D mouse is like holding the 3D model in your hand.
For example, sliding the cap left or right (parallel to the desktop), moves the model left or right. Similarly, sliding the cap forward and backward pushes the model away (zoom out) or brings it closer (zoom in). To move (pan) the model up or down the screen, simply lift the cap up or press down. Tilting the cap forward or backward rolls the model along the x axis, tilting left or right rolls it along the z axis and twisting the cap rotates the model around the y axis.
A picture is worth a thousand words—see what we mean in the “How to use a 3D Mouse – Introduction” video.
With so many ways to move the controller cap, early on you may find yourself rolling the model when you meant to zoom. This is corrected through practice and properly positioning your hand on the controller cap.
Position your thumb about halfway down one side of the cap. Place your middle finger in the same position on the cap’s opposite side. Rest your index finger on the cap’s top.
This positioning makes it easy to slide the mouse in any direction without accidentally tilting it. When you do want to tilt, simply press the cap’s top down with your index finger.
Check out the “Using a 3D Mouse – Correct Technique” video for a visual guide that will really shorten the learning curve.
Voila! You’re on your way to a smoother, more intuitive modeling experience.
2. Use 3D Mouse Home to Practice and Tailor Your Settings
When you install your 3D mouse, it’s advisable to download the latest driver from the 3Dconnexion Driver Download page. It’s also advisable to install the 3Dconnexion 3D Mouse Home application on your desktop, as this includes several helpful tools to get you up and running faster, including:
- Trainer — The Trainer provides hands-on lessons to teach you one axis at a time before activating full 6DoF navigation. It also includes a 3D navigation challenge to test your skills.
- Viewer — Once you're comfortable with basic 3D navigation, use the "Viewer" option to access more advanced mouse features. Press the "Menu" button on your 3D mouse (the left button on the SpaceNavigator models) to experiment with different navigation options, such as Object, Camera, Target Camera and Helicopter.
- Puzzle — When you're starting to get the hang of it, it's time for the final exam: Click on "Puzzle" to assemble a virtual cube using what you've learned.
- Properties — This is where you can make the 3D mouse your 3D mouse by adjusting settings like the speed (sensitivity) of the controller cap, and also customize the buttons.
Once you’ve familiarized yourself with 3D Mouse Home, you’re ready to jump into your favorite design software!
3. Turn On Your 3D Mouse’s Dominant Mode
If you still have trouble learning how the controller cap works, try out Dominant Mode. Dominant Mode is an option on all 3Dconnexion 3D mice that restricts navigation to a single axis at a time. This allows you to become comfortable with each axis individually. We do recommend you turn Dominant Mode OFF as soon as possible as it prevents you from experiencing six degrees of freedom navigation, which is what a 3D mouse is all about!
On the 3Dconnexion SpacePilot Pro, press the button with the controller cap icon and the left/right arrows on the top-right of the device to toggle Dominant Mode on or off.
On all other 3Dconnexion 3D mice, Dominant Mode is enabled via a checkbox in the Properties window. Windows users should open Properties and select the tab labeled “App Configuration.” OS X users should select the “Device” tab.
Congratulations! Once you go through these 3 tips, you’ll be ready to dominate your 3D designs with a 3Dconnexion 3D mouse.
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