A 3D mouse is a device that allows you to move easily through 3D space. In the world of SketchUp, it means controlling the camera view inside SketchUp with the 3D mouse and keeping your regular mouse available for things like selecting, changing commands, or drawing while you move through your model. Using a 3D mouse means saving time while modeling and presenting your work with smooth, controlled camera movements.
I have been a long-time advocate of using a 3D mouse alongside SketchUp. I have seen the advantage of using them together in my own modeling workflows, speeding up my design time and reducing the number of times I have to move my hands from one device to another. In the videos I create, a common question I get is, “How do you move around so smoothly?” The answer is, by using a 3D mouse. For this reason, I was excited when 3Dconnexion asked if I would be interested in reviewing their SpaceMouse Enterprise Kit 2.
The Kit is packaged together in a nice, neat, and beautifully-branded box. Maybe it’s because I work in the software industry, but I love opening brand new gear. Bonus points for when the box is well designed and full of fantastic hardware! Once you open the box, you see all of the parts and the included quick start guide.
Since this is a kit, it comes with a bunch of pieces. I will list everything included, then do a quick review of each one. The SpaceMouse Enterprise Kit 2 includes:
- SpaceMouse Enterprise
- CadMouse Pro Wireless with case
- CadMouse Pad
- 3Dconnexion Universal Receiver
- Twin-Port USB Hub
- 1.5 m Micro USB cable
- 0.5 m Micro USB cable
I am going to review these backward from the order presented here, so we can save the best for last (like dessert after you eat all your vegetables). First up, let’s dive into all the stuff that is NOT a mouse.
There are two cables in the kit; a shorter one connects to the mouse to charge it and another cable connects to the included hub. They work as intended and have a nice braided cover that makes me think they will last longer than those white plastic-coated cables that I have lying around my house. As a bonus, the cables come with little velcro straps to tie them up if I need to throw them into my backpack.
The hub is a simple two-port device. With this little guy, you get to save a USB port on your computer because you plug the hub into the computer, then the mouse into the hub – leaving you with one free USB port! I should also mention that this thing is heavy! Not sure what it is made of, but it will definitely stay put on your desk.
The “3Dconnexion Universal Receiver” is a pretty standard USB dongle. It is very small and unobtrusive. Since the CadMouse connects via Bluetooth, I had no use for the receiver, but, as far as I can tell, it will do what it says it will!
At first, when I saw the mousepad in the box, I was a little confused. Do people still use mousepads? Then I put the CadMouse on the mousepad and understood. The coating of the mouse pad (which is huge, by the way) allows the CadMouse to glide over it with little to no effort, yet it does so in a way that does not feel like it is slipping. It is hard to describe, but it felt very comfortable! You have to feel it to believe it.
The case for the CadMouse is pretty simple. The mouse fits snugly inside and should protect it from damage while traveling. I considered testing the durability of this case by dropping it repeatedly until it broke, but realized that I would not be able to try out the CadMouse if I did that; so I settled for a simple (and accidental) fall from my standing desk - the case kept everything safe!
CadMouse Pro Wireless
The CadMouse Pro Wireless is the top-of-the-line mouse offered by 3DConnexion. As the name suggests, there are wired options available, as well. There are also smaller versions and left-handed options that you can check out on their website.
At first glance, the CadMouse Pro Wireless looks like a pretty standard three-button mouse. Though, the fact is, that there is an extra button on there! In addition to the standard left and right buttons and the scroll wheel, the CadMouse has an extra full-size middle button! When you rest your hand on this mouse, you can dedicate one finger to each button. Additionally, there are a couple of buttons for your thumb to work, right above the thumb rest.
I do want to point out that this mouse is a bit bigger than a lot of mice out there because of the extra button on the face of the mouse. In my case, this is a welcome change! If you are a designer/modeler and work with your hand on your mouse as much as I do, you will know that having a mouse that fills your hand is a great feature! With some mice, I end up feeling like my hand is hanging off the edge, but not with this mouse. It’s a handful (in a good way)!
It is hard to talk about using this mouse without talking about the software that allows you to customize it. With 3DConnexxion’s mouse software, you have total control over every aspect of the mouse. Basic things like what each button does and the movement speed are easy to change. But, so are some of the advanced features like the on-screen radial menus that can assign SketchUp shortcuts for quick command changes without touching the keyboard!
The SpaceMouse Enterprise is an amazing piece of hardware. When you start using it you cannot help but think how well designed and comfortable it is. Like all SpaceMouse products, the central control is a puck that can move in six different axes. It is covered in a soft plastic that makes it very easy to control. The big advantage of this particular SpaceMouse is all of the buttons!
When you start using a space mouse, you have to move your non-mouse hand off the keyboard. This means you lose access to all of your shortcuts. This is a sacrifice with a smaller SpaceMouse, but with the SpaceMouse Enterprise, you are in good shape! On the left of the puck, you have dedicated modifier keys (Shift, Control, Alt) and keys dedicated to views on the right. Above the puck are twelve programmable buttons. The names of these buttons are displayed on the screen just above them.
I mentioned that the twelve buttons at the top can be programmed, but you can actually program the functionality of every button on the SpaceMouse Enterprise! With the 3Dconnexion software, you can change the way the puck works, what buttons do what in which program, and even control optional on-screen keys (which you can display using the keys on the SpaceMouse or the CadMouse).
I ended up changing a few of the rotation directions of the puck to movements that made more sense to me. Following that, I programmed ten of my most commonly used commands into the top buttons along with a few custom shortcuts to my favorite extension commands. To finish up, I ended up programming the arrow keys into the button on the right of the SpaceMouse (so I can lock inference without moving my hand). With this setup, I can glide through 3D space and rarely move my hands off the mice!
Now, there are a few things that I did not love about the SpaceMouse Enterprise Kit 2. First, I have a MacBook that only has USB-C ports on it. Unfortunately, everything in the kit requires USB-A, forcing me to use an adapter or hub to plugin. That’s the list of cons.
If you are considering trying out a 3D mouse, I want to issue a couple of warnings. First, mastering the use of this device will take time and require you to change and fine-tune some settings. It took me a week or so before I felt “competent” using the mouse and months before I felt “good” at using it. However, when I look at the benefits it has brought me, it seems like a minimal investment of time. The second warning is this: once you get used to using a 3D mouse, you will not want to design without it. It adds so much to the 3D modeling process; it almost haunts me when I have to go into SketchUp without it!
Who is this kit for?
At $429 USD, this kit is an investment. If you already know the advantage of using a 3D mouse and want to get the best option available, this is it. If you are just getting started with using a 3D mouse, you may want to start with a SpaceMouse, learn the ropes, and see if it works for you. Worst case, you can do what I do and upgrade to the Enterprise and keep your SpaceMouse in your computer bag for when you travel (then you never have to be more than a few feet away from a SpaceMouse!). If you are serious about your design hardware, this price is a great deal as the SpaceMouse Enterprise retails at $399 USD and the CadMouse Pro Wireless is another $119.
Disclaimer: I do want to say that I was not paid to write this review and the opinions shared here are my own. I honestly think that this is a great kit that will help you become a better designer and save time when modeling in SketchUp!