What is Mouse Jitter?

what is mouse jitter

What is mouse jitter?

Mouse jitter, or stutter are terms you’ve probably heard thrown around in the world of mice. From time to time, you’ll hear a reviewer talk about the jitter tendencies of a mouse. While it may be glaringly obvious that it is a bad thing, few reviewers or sources take the time to define what mouse jitter is. So what is mouse jitter? I’m going to explain it as easily as I possibly can here.

What is it anyway?

what is mouse jitter chart
This chart shows two attempts to draw a straight line in MS Paint

In a sense, mouse jitter is very self explanatory. Jitter causes your cursor to “jump” erratically while moving your mouse. For example, if you move your mouse in a straight line, the cursor will get stuck, stop periodically, or jerk in a direction you didn’t move it. The cursor will generally get to where you’re taking it but will take a serpentine path to get there.

Some slight moves would be read as gigantic leaps across the screen, and in some extreme cases, the cursor will go the exact opposite direction of the mouse. Imagine walking a dog on a sidewalk but the dog is running in and out of people’s yards. The dog runs out in the street as well. Also, the dog is shaking uncontrollably. This is your cursor and you are the mouse. With all the jerks and shakes, using the mouse will be incredibly annoying.


Causes

Batteries

Like the unruly dog, there are several potential causes to blame for mouse jitter. But before you blame your computer (the dog), or the mouse (yourself), keep in mind that the solution to your problem might be a simple mistake. Like with many other things, low battery can degrade the performance of your mouse. In wireless mice, it’s always a good idea to change the batteries when any problem arises.





Surface

Dust is another cause for mouse jitter. Dust can get lodged in and around the sensor on the bottom of some mice and cause faulty sensing. It’s always a good idea to use your mouse on a clean surface like a mouse pad in order to keep dust away from the mouse. This brings me to another cause of mouse jitter. The surface you use your mouse on is incredibly important. While laser mice can sense on many surfaces that optical mice cannot, optical mice are still widely used. Check to see that you’re not using an optical mouse on glass.

what is mouse jitter mouse pad
A solid colored mouse pad can help with jitter.

Even if the surface used is clean and mouse-friendly, there is still a chance the surface isn’t reliable for mice. For example, a flat desk with a single color is a reliable surface. A couch armrest would be a non-reliable surface. It’s important to keep the mouse on a flat surface to keep it picking up information at all times. Wood with vivid markings confuses some optical mice, regardless of how flat the surface is. For optical mice it is better to have a mouse pad or surface with a solid color.

One way of using a mouse on some less-than-optimal surfaces is to use a Logitech mouse with the Surface Tuning program. This software will familiarize the mouse with the surface it is on and store the information in certain profiles. So you CAN actually use your mouse on your couch armrest if you make a profile for it.

Also, this might go without saying but keep your mouse away from vibrating things. If a huge fan set to full blast is sitting on your desk inches away from your mouse, odds are there will be some jitter.

Computer and Mouse Issues

Unfortunately, not all the causes of mouse jitter are that simple. Certain programs, games, or operating systems can cause mouse jitter. When you open these programs, it afftects mouse movements immediately. Fortunately, there are usually ways to fix these programs in their options.

Connectivity is another cause for jitter. Although the mouse could sense the movement correctly, a cable with a short could send an incorrect signal to the computer. Yet another problem with wireless mice is the potential for bad wireless reception. Some wireless mice are just better than others.

Sometimes the cause of jitter is the mouse sensor itself. Although this is uncommon, it can still happen. Some sensors are better than others. if you’ve experienced jitter before, you might want to invest in a mouse with a better sensor. Mice with Pixart sensors are incredibly accurate. Many times, companies will allow you to return your mouse in exchange for a new one if the cause of the jitter is the mouse itself.


Temporary Fix: Angle Snapping

But before you go buying a new mouse, there is a temporary fix for jitter caused by a faulty mouse. Some mice have an option to turn on angle snapping. Angle snapping is a way for the computer to predict your movements and smooth them out. This makes you draw straighter lines based on where your mouse is going. This can counter-act jitter in some cases.


So Now You Know

Luckily, jitter is a fairly rare problem, and not many people ever have to deal with it. But it does exist. When you get a new mouse, test for this issue. Remember that not all issues regarding jitter are unsolvable. If you have experienced jitter, take these examples into consideration before blaming the company that sold you the mouse. Most of the time, you can solve the problem yourself.

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