There are three main types of computer mouse pads: ergonomic, textured, and gaming. Computer mouse pads are used to prevent the build-up of dust, dirt, and oil inside the computer mouse, reduce wear on the desk surface and to reduce wrist injury. Although the mouse pad was originally developed for a mouse designed to incorporate a physical ball, they have expanded to meet other needs of computer users.
Ergonomic mouse pads are specifically designed to reduce pressure on the wrist tendons through careful placement of supportive padding. There are several different designs, but all ensure that the wrist is parallel to the table surface when using the mouse. Holding the wrist and hand in this position reduces the strain on the carpal tendons located in the wrist. This can help prevent carpal tunnel syndrome, a repetitive strain injury associated with incorrect wrist position in long-term computer users.
Textured mouse pads are very common, and have decreased in price every year due to their widespread use. In the 1980's, vinyl board cover was very popular due to the tackiness of the surface. Fabric became the new trend with the introduction of a rubberized silicon surface to the steel roller ball.
The fabric layer provides a lint-free surface for the mouse to move on, and a small amount of cushion for the user. There is a wide range of materials that have been used to make computer mouse pads. The most common fabric type is actually a low density rubber composite, such as butadiene rubber, with fabric glued to the top. Mouse pads can also be made from plastic, silicone rubber, leather, cork, wood, stone, and steel.
The introduction of optical mice removed the rubberized ball, and allowed the mouse to receives the movement signal from the optical sensor installed in the base of the mouse. This change in design improved the accuracy of the mouse, while decreasing costs. Optical mice do not work well on glass or highly polished wood, as these surfaces are highly reflective. The use of a computer mouse pad resolves this issue and protects the surface from wear over time.
Gaming mouse pads are designed for extended use and provide a larger than normal working space, improved sensitivity and better ergonomics. This type of computer mouse pad is often made of plastic and are designed for endurance. The surface of computer mouse pads often have graphical images or pictures to allow users to create a customized look to suit their personal style and décor.