As photographers in a digital era, we all spend a lot more time in front of a computer than we would like to admit to. When a single one-hour photoshoot can lead to multiple hours in front of a computer, we start looking for ways to minimize that time. There are tons of options out there that can help you out too, from Bluetooth controllers to pens and tablets, but what you really need may just be a simple mouse upgrade.
When I first started taking my editing seriously, I went out and bought a pen and tablet because that's what I saw recommended throughout the internet. Now don't get me wrong, a pen and tablet can be a very useful thing, but when it came to culling and editing in Lightroom, it just didn't seem to help all that much. But after buying a new Surface Pro 4 for a more mobile editing solution, I ended up buying a new Logitech MX Anywhere 2 mouse with some very useful features.
Like most mice, the MX Anywhere 2 has left and right-click buttons and a scrolling wheel. In addition to these, there are five other buttons. These buttons come preprogrammed for basic computer tasks such as going forward and back on a webpage and opening a link in a new tab. But the standout feature here is the ability to program these buttons to perform any type of keyboard shortcut.
In order to change what a button does, you simply use the free Logitech Options software. From within this, you have the option to select your desired button and simply input the keystroke you want it to perform. It’s so easy in fact that I will set the buttons to do one set of tasks while culling, then edit the keystroke to have them do another task while editing.
While you can program the buttons to perform any keyboard shortcut, I thought it might be useful to explain how I have things setup. For the culling process, I have the left and right click that is part of the wheel set to left and right arrow keys respectively. This allows me to quickly move through the film strip without moving my mouse cursor, moving my hand on the keyboard, or having to use the scrolling wheel (which won't always scroll through the film strip if you have your mouse cursor in a certain location on the screen). For the forward and back buttons, I have those set to the flag (P) and unflag (U) shortcuts. The small button on the middle of the mouse I have set to a one-star rating (1). The flags are used to mark images to edit and the one-star ratings get added to picked images that will be used in a slide show. With the five buttons set up in this way, I can cull an entire wedding without moving the mouse or touching the keyboard. I can merely sit back while holding the mouse in my hand and do everything I need.
When I’m ready to edit in the develop module, I'll change a few of the buttons to the tools that I find myself using the most. The left and right buttons on the wheel stay the same as when I'm culling because I still like to easily flip through the film strip. The forward button I’ll assign to the Gradient tool (M) and the back button I’ll assign to copy/paste the edit from the previous image (Ctrl-Alt-V). The middle button I’ll assign to the crop tool (R). Although changing the shortcuts for a button is very easy, I do wish there was a way to save different groups of settings. It would be nice to only have to change from a “culling” set to a “develop” set instead of changing each individual button.
Easy Computer Switching
In addition, the mouse also has a button that allows you to switch between three different devices. Simply connect a device to position one, then switch to position two and connect another device. No more needing to go through the Bluetooth sync process every time you want to use the mouse on another computer. Also, you can have the Logitech Options software on computer one set up with a certain set of keyboard shortcuts and have the software on computer two with an entirely different set of shortcuts.
What I Liked
- Customizable buttons that are easy to quickly change
- Easy computer switching between three different devices
What I didn't like
- No way to save sets of programmed buttons for easy switching
For users that find themselves spending the majority of their time in Lightroom, this mouse could be a great solution to speeding up your workflow. While a pen and tablet will always have its place in the editing world, sometimes, a simple mouse is really what’s needed.