Computer gadgets

Computers are one of the world’s greatest gadgets, but there is always some other invaluable add-on you really must have. Here are a few to consider.

USB gadgets

Everyone uses their USB socket for normal things, like a memory stick or cable for some other device, but there are hundreds of other things you could use as well. Some of these devices are clearly not going to improve your productivity, such as a USB hamster wheel. This whirs gently whenever you type and a small furry (toy) hamster runs endlessly round his wheel, only stopping for breath whenever you pause for thought. Slightly more useful is a USB cup warmer that simply sits by your computer and keeps your current drink of choice warm while you work.

Tablet and stylus

A tablet and stylus are used as a replacement for a normal mouse. The stylus looks like a pen so you hold it in your hand just like a normal pen, but you use it on the tablet instead of moving a mouse. It is much more intuitive to use than a mouse and you click by simply tapping on the tablet. Anyone who uses their computer for artistic purposes really must use a tablet because the drawing action is much easier than trying to draw with a mouse. Most artistic software applications are happy to recognise a tablet and have extra features specially designed for it, such as allowing you to press harder and to make a thicker line. Tablets are invaluable in any size, but most users need only something the same size as a mouse mat which is not very expensive.

Web cam

Although many computers already have a built in web cam, especially laptops and netbooks, it can be fun to buy a novelty web cam. There is a wide range of weird and wonderful designs and they are especially good as gifts for gadget geeks. There are choices from science fiction, films, and TV programmes so you can choose a suitable theme safe in the knowledge that they will all function as proper web cams, often with microphones too so you can keep in touch with ease

Trackball

As an alternative to a mouse, consider buying a trackball. Many people with movement problems consider these easier to use than a mouse, but everyone should at least try one of these devices to see if they prefer them. Instead of moving the mouse across a desk, on a trackball you move a large ball held in a socket with your fingers, hand or thumb. In some ways, it is rather like using an upside down mouse. There are usually buttons to use for clicking and a wheel for scrolling. Because the device itself does not move, you need less desk space to use it, you hardly need to move your arm and it is easier to double click without moving the pointer.