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Using a computer mouse to point to a far away target and running out of table surface (or hand range), one typically lifts the mouse, moves it in the opposite direction, puts it back down, and continues the movement.

Is there an English word or expression for this action? If not, how would you concisely refer to it in a text? (I thought of rowing or scraping with the mouse.)

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Ugh. Whatever it is, it drives me nuts. I can't stand when people have their mouse sensitivity so low that you have to do this 10 times to get the cursor across the screen. –  xdumaine Sep 30 '13 at 17:24
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In Middle English they called it moosing. –  John Lawler Sep 30 '13 at 17:52
    
I used to hate running out of real estate with the mouse. Thank God I now have a scroll wheel on my mouse! –  Kristina Lopez Sep 30 '13 at 20:09
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They had computer mice in Middle English? –  JohnP Sep 30 '13 at 21:35
    
@xdumaine I hope I'm not reaching across generational chasms when I say this, but in computer games where you are "steering" or "turning" in one direction continuously, you could easily run out of desktop real estate. –  congusbongus Oct 1 '13 at 0:02

7 Answers 7

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Lifting the mouse is perfectly adequate, and is used in the business to describe this exact action. For example, take this excerpt from a magazine review of a mouse:

The ability to tweak lift-off distance is great; we like to lift our mouse a lot, so by setting the M60 to not track at any height, we ended up with solid mousing.

There's also a page by a mouse manufacturer about the related jargon lift-off distance.

It is specific enough because it's about the only reason to lift the mouse.

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Maybe gamers don't always use their mouses/mice flat on a surface, but play using the mouse more like a joystick, up in the air kind of thing. –  Mari-Lou A Oct 1 '13 at 5:53

I always think of this as a kind of circular movement, so I too rather like your ‘rowing’ coinage.

However, I think that to me (being somewhat unaccustomed to the seafaring ways), a more familiar and easily recognisable turn of phrase would be something like pedalling or cycling, both of which are based on similar circular movements used to propel something forward.

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If "rowing" works, the O.P. might want to consider "oaring," too. The verb "oar" can mean to traverse with or as if with oars. Also, I like your suggestion of "cycling" because, generically, "cycling" can refer to any cyclical motion, making it especially appropriate. –  J.R. Sep 30 '13 at 20:52
    
I always thought of it as relocating the mouse. –  staticsan Oct 1 '13 at 6:55
    
But it's sort of a backwards circular motion, making it more like backpedalling -- but that gives the wrong idea altogether. –  JAM Oct 2 '13 at 0:44

Could you simply not say that you are reorienting your cursor? Or realigning it?

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I think it should be reorienting the mouse instead of the cursor, as it is the physical object that we are changing the position of, instead of the icon on the screen –  user13267 Oct 1 '13 at 2:26

How about "jumping" or "skipping"?

(I don't really like the latter, but added it so that my answer would be >30 characters)

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From a theoretical viewpoint, this is quite good—but I think it would be quite likely to be mixed up with the opposite phenomenon of the mouse suddenly jumping to some unrelated location on the screen without any user interaction. –  Janus Bahs Jacquet Sep 30 '13 at 20:41
    
This suggestion seems a lot more murine than the seafaring analogies with oars. Maybe 'hopping' or 'popping' would work, too. –  Bobble Oct 2 '13 at 8:32

There's no standard word or phrase for this action, but your suggestion of rowing is nice, because it's analogous to the upstroke in which the movement of the oar doesn't affect the movement of the boat (where the oar is the mouse and the boat is the cursor).

You might be able to use "recoil" as the mouse moves forward to move the cursor, then the user recoils the mouse to continue moving the cursor. Recoil indicates a jerky backward sort of motion in response to an opposite motion or action.

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I'm not aware of any standard term, either, but the first word that came to my mind was backtracking. American Heritage defines the verb as:

backtrack (v.) To go back over the course by which one has come.

which seems like an okay match.

I could see using backtracking in a sentence such as:

My mouse setttings are too slow; whenever I want to get my cursor to the top of the screen, I keep having to backtrack over the mousepad two or three times!

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I think I would understand ‘backtracking’ in this context to mean that you had moved the cursor too far and were therefore retracing your hand’s movements to get back to where you were supposed to be. –  Janus Bahs Jacquet Sep 30 '13 at 20:36
    
@Janus - That's a fair criticism, and I wasn't entirely thrilled with my suggestion, either. I suppose it hinges on how the word would be used in context. I've decided to elaborate in my answer, thanks to your helpful comment. –  J.R. Sep 30 '13 at 20:42
    
In your example, it works—but I would find it even more natural if the first part had “too fast” rather than “too slow” (and of course without the “two or three times” at the end). –  Janus Bahs Jacquet Sep 30 '13 at 20:43
    
@Janus - I suppose it depends on what's backtracking: the cursor, or the hand. –  J.R. Sep 30 '13 at 20:47

How about "lifting forwards — forward in the USA"?

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I do not understand your suggestion at all. Could you please clarify? –  Roddy of the Frozen Peas Oct 1 '13 at 4:12
    
@RoddyoftheFrozenPeas I think the " — forward in the USA" wasn't meant to be part of the quote. –  congusbongus Oct 2 '13 at 1:50

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