Tools of the trade – my top 3 peripherals at work

This post was inspired by conversation I had at my desk today. It’s a conversation that takes place every now and again and it always takes the same form: someone will come over to my desk, start using my mouse, and remark on how lovely it is. They aren’t wrong. My mouse is excellent. Not flashy, but quietly brilliant. And it’s not just my mouse either. My keyboard is a joy to type on and I have some pretty nice wireless headphones too.

Now, the point of this post isn’t to boast about all my lovely things. As I point out in these desk-side conversations: these are the tools of my trade. During the week, I spend fully a third of my waking hours using a keyboard and mouse to cajole electrons into doing my bidding. Whilst I’m doing this, I very often use my headphones to shelter my concentration from the noisy open-plan office around me. Given that I’m using these things so much, any minor niggles can add up to become real productivity drains. In short, it’s pretty important to work with decent tools.

Photo of a watchmaker using their tools

The Watchmaker 2, by Maja Stosic

Disclaimer: The Amazon links below are affiliate links, which means I’ll get a little bit of commission if you end up buying something. This is just something I’m experimenting with. It won’t mean you pay more for anything, but I won’t be offended if you search for these items directly.

My mouse: Logitech MX Master

My mouse is usually what people notice when they come over to my desk. It’s a Logitech MX Master.

Picture of a Logitech MX Master

Logitech MX Master

I suppose it is quite distinctive looking, but it’s not as flashy as a lot of high-end mice, which seem to be designed for gamers.

Here are some of my favourite things about this mouse:

  1. Its size and shape are super comfortable. So many mice these days are too small – they force your hand into an uncomfortable hunched position that can get really unpleasant with extended use. The MX Master provides a supportive bridge for the hand and a really natural position for the thumb.
  2. The main scroll wheel intelligently switches between ratcheted and smooth scrolling modes. As a feature this is a hard one to describe to those who haven’t experienced it (which I suppose is because it’s a very tactile thing). It’s also a feature that can sometimes come off as a bit gimmicky, but trust me when I say that it’s anything but: after a week or two with this scroll wheel, you’ll be using this like a natural all the time.
  3. There are a sensible number of inputs: two main buttons, main scroll wheel, thumb scroll wheel, two thumb buttons, and a “gesture” button, which is used in combination with mouse movements in each of the four main directions. These are all situated in sensible places (see point 1) and are largely customisable using some well thought through Logitech software.
  4. The battery seems to last forever! Oh, I didn’t mention that it’s wireless? It’s totally wireless! With this mouse you get all the benefits of being wireless (viz not having to content with a tangle of wires), but without the hassle of constantly needing to charge the battery. Plus the subtle (but clear) battery status lights and on-screen warnings mean you’ll never be caught by surprise either.

In short, I really like this mouse. It’s a joy to use and I’ve taken full advantage of the customisation options (supported by AutoHotKey, which I might cover in a future post) to give a serious boost to my productivity.

In case you’d like to give it a go, the Logitech MX Master is available on Amazon.

My keyboard: Filco Majestouch-2 UK

My keyboard is more low-key than my mouse. Well, perhaps visually anyway: the sound it makes is pretty distinctive.

Photo of a Filco Majestouch-2

Filco Majestouch-2

Whilst its easy to reel off a lot of useful features for my mouse, this keyboard is all about one thing: comfortable typing.

If you’ve only ever used a standard issue (“membrane”) keyboard, you might be wondering what all the fuss is about. If this is you, I implore you to seek out a “mechanical” keyboard to try. You won’t look back.

Have you ever found that the tips of your fingers feel a bit numb / sore after a day of coding? It’s because most keyboards “bottom out” at the point where a keypress is registered. This means that each keystroke is a percussive impact on your fingertips. Conversely, on a mechanical keyboard the key can travel further than is needed for a press to register. You can think of this as a shock absorber for your fingers.

Ironically, I’m typing this on my laptop keyboard after a day at work using my Majestouch and am keenly aware of the difference.

I spend a lot of my time typing – I type emails, I type documentation, I type code. It’s important to me that this is a comfortable experience. When something is uncomfortable, you’ll subconsciously find yourself avoiding or resenting it, so by making it pleasurable you’ll remove an obstacle to productivity.

Interestingly, the Majestouch is available in a wide variety of configurations. You can choose the format (I use UK, with full number pad), as well as the types of switch (I prefer “Cherry Reds”, but you really should try before you buy). These options mean that you can fine tune your keyboard to make it even more useful!

If you’ve been persuaded to upgrade your keyboard, the Filco Majestouch 2 is available on Amazon.

My headphones: Sony MDRRF865RK

Snappy name, right? Don’t be fooled. These over-ear, wireless headphones are fantastic.

Photo of a Sony MDRRF865RK

Sony MDRRF865RK

These things are a life-saver in an office as noisy as mine can be. Whenever I need to focus, I plop these on my head and stick on an album.

There are some basic features that are really helpful:

  1. The stand you see in the picture above is also a charging station.
  2. All the important controls are on the headphones themselves: power, volume, auto-tune.
  3. The battery life is great, easily lasting all day if needed.

How about a couple of potentially controversial points?

  1. They’re not noise cancelling. I find noise cancellation to be overly isolating. Sometimes it’s helpful to be able to tune into certain keywords when they’re being discussed in the vicinity.
  2. They’re FM, rather than Bluetooth. In a really busy office, you might get problems with interference or channel crowding, but for me the simplicity and convenience of FM is a real bonus. I don’t have to worry about pairing anything, I just turn them on and stick them on my head.

The thing I love most – and I’m sure this won’t be controversial – is how comfortable they are to wear. Beyond merely being better than ear buds, these are cushioned and adjustable to allow a snug (but not tight) fit over my head and ears.

If you work in a noisy office too, maybe you’d be interested to know that the Sony MDRRF865RK is available on Amazon.

Summary

If you’re a professional software developer, the right tools can make all the difference. Being comfortable whilst you work can increase productivity, as well as your mood. I’ve invested a relatively small amount of money on upgrading the things I interact with for 8 hours a day and I’ve really noticed the benefits.

I’m really pleased with my current setup and am very happy to share my recommendations. If you’re passionate about a particular mouse, keyboard, or set of headphones, please let me know in the comments.

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