new uses for the mouse

• Nov 18, 2019 - 22:40

How do you feel about entering music with the computer keyboard, versus using toolbars and menus and palettes, versus using the mouse? Would you use the mouse more if you could? For example, suppose you didn't need to use the keyboard or the toolbar (or the palettes or menus) to select note durations, dots, accidentals, ties or rests - just mouse actions. Would this be useful or not?

To get even more functionality out of the mouse button "chords" (pressing more than one button at the same time) can be employed. A button can also be held down slightly longer (say, 1/2 second). On a mouse with a physical wheel, the wheel is also a button that can be clicked. Are these functionalities, in your opinion, too complicated or cumbersome to be useful to make use of?

I have been thinking about ways to make the mouse more like a composer's pen - in a good way. For me, whenever I have to move my mouse away from my work to a toolbar (or palette or menu) or fumble for a shortcut on the keyboard with my other hand, I get distracted and lose my grip somewhat on the musical ideas I'm trying to put down on "paper". The idea of modeling a music composition program after a word processor doesn't quite fit because words are basically one-dimensional but a music score is at least two-dimensional. A computer keyboard was made with words in mind, not music. A mouse, with its two dimensions of movement is a much better fit for entering music, in my opinion. But all this is MY opinion, and I'd very much like YOUR opinion on this (when you have the time - obviously this is just a low priority topic of discussion).


There are a variety of different mice out there to make your proposal sound like a non starter. For example, some people have 3 buttons while many Mac users only have 1 button and have difficulty with the concept of a right click. To complicate things even more, most laptops come without a mouse but has a touch pad instead that replaces the mouse. As I said, my first thought is that this will not be for everyone. I'm not closed minded about allowing others to do things like this that don't affect me, so if you could provide some sort of idea of how you would implement this then this could be a useful discussion. I know there are a lot of people that use the mouse because it is clearer how to use it than the keyboard. I urge these people to learn how to use the keyboard because it is so much faster than the mouse. Your idea would have a similar learning curve and might be appealing to mouse users.

In reply to by mike320

Gamers will shell out big bucks to get a gamer's mouse with extra buttons on the side or whatever. Performing musicians nowadays forego reading paper sheet music and instead buy a large expensive iPad to display the music and a foot pedal to turn the "pages". I see no reason why a composer wouldn't be willing to invest a couple of dollars on a mouse with features like buttons and a wheel that could improve productivity.

I suppose using a keyboard might be faster than a mouse if you're willing to put up with a steep and unintuitive learning curve. A keyboard has basically no musical symbols on it, so each piece of composition software maps the keys differently; there is no standard like there is with word processors (type a q and get a "q", etc.). The mouse, on the other hand is pretty direct: just point at a location on the score and click. Voila, a note appears! Can't get much more intuitive than that! Now, if your touch typing skills are excellent AND you have mastered the mapping between the keyboard keys and your composition program AND there's a keystroke for EVERYTHING you need to do (no need for menus or mice or palettes or toolbars) AND your compositional mind is racing along so fast that you can take advantage of all your typing speed, then I admit you don't need a mouse at all for composing. But I suspect you are in the minority.

Here are one or two examples of how one might use a mouse to replace that musescore toolbar at the top. Assume a two button mouse with a wheel, please ($19.95 at Wal-Mart). Move the mouse to a place where you want to put a note or rest. Use the left button to place a note, the right button to place a rest. Press and drag to the right. The note/rest starts where you press and its duration is determined by the length of the drag. Use the mouse wheel to give a note an accidental, or to change its pitch chromatically. Drag a note vertically (with the left button) to change its pitch diatonically. Right click on a note to delete it (change it to a rest). Click between two notes to insert a note/rest between them (replace part of the preceding note/rest with the new one). Click on an existing note to tie it to the following note of the same pitch. Click above or below a note to add a chord tone of the same duration. Right click somewhere in a chord (but not on a chord tone) to delete the entire chord; right clicking on a chord tone only deletes that tone. Hopefully this gives you some idea of what a mouse can do by itself.

In reply to by tmclint

There is nothing more intuitive about your idea than telling someone to press S to add a slur, a-g to add a note or any of the other 100 or so keyboard shortcuts I use to write nearly every piece I write. These seemingly random clicks you suggest do not sound at all intuitive to me. There are not 100 mouse actions you can take.

With practice, there are people who would probably like your idea and I don't off hand dismiss this idea so don't take this as a blow off.

Apple doesn't license 3rd party companies to provide hardware so the 19.95 mouse at Wal-Mart probably won't work on a Mac. One of my first concerns about this was Mac users with one button on their mouse for this reason. I will say that there are a small portion of Mac users compared to windows and one button mouse users would miss out on the feature.

As for the rest of the users, a lot of people choose MuseScore for the price and stay because it's a high quality product. I don't see these users wanting to spend more money on their computer to write music. Many of them complain the $49.95 a year is an unbearable expense for a .com pro account. If you are talking a professional composer, I would expect a lot of them to have midi keyboards that can take advantage of the real time input modes and make music writing as fast as it can get.

Nothing about anything you've suggested indicates this could possibly come close to the speed and ease of keyboard entry. I do agree that having to constantly move the mouse between score and toolbars is a drag (no pun intended), but the solution is, put the mouse away. I think the best you can do with gesture-based tweaks is to partially close the gap and make mouse entry only, say, twice as slow instead of five times as slow or whatever.

-Mouse entry will never beat keyboard entry for speed.
-MuseScore keyboard handling, contrary to what you say is intuitive and can be customised like you want in preferences
That being said, offering mouse entry workflow by itself is not a bad thing and people should be free to prefer the mouse if that's their choice. So if anything can be done to improve the current mouse workflow it is worth it. Now "it is worth it", in MuseScore development still means you need to find somebody with time and will to do it. Can be you by the way ;-)

In reply to by frfancha

keyboard entry is intuitive, if a) you're using the 'international' notenames A-G (it gets difficult with German H already, impossible for do-re-mi etc.) and b) if you know those note names (resp. how they relate to staff lines and spaces).
I admit to be a mouser, because of the latter...

In reply to by Jojo-Schmitz

Most do re mi users (I'm a do re mi one ,being from Belgium) know a b c .. due to international chord "names".
When I meet a do re mi user not knowing the letter system and asking how to read "international chord names", just saying:
-know the two "a" notes la, fa => la = a (like la ;-) ) and fa = f (like fa ;-) )
-they are in order
-plus to play the pedant ;-) I add that G key is ... a G with style
After just that, they "know" the letters, it kind of "clicks".

In reply to by frfancha

it kind of "clicks"
So does Jojo's mouse ;-)

Kidding aside. I myself am also a computer keyboard user (in almost all programs). Although working quite often from smaller laptop keyboards, which lack the numerical part and in Belgium are almost always AZERTY, I do use the mouse/touchpad occasionally for duration selection.

If a PC has a real mouse, when browsing the web I'm more inclined towards mouse usage. Scrolling is easy and I just love the ease of mouse gestures in Vivaldi for opening/closing/reloading tabs. So I definitely get that for mouse users, reassessing the input flow could be helpful.

But like the others I'm also cautious as to the limits of such an interface and probably won't adapt to it myself (but also wouldn't be hindered by it) due to the sheer speed increase keyboard entry holds for me.

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