As smoothly as most Apple devices operate, Mac cursor control is an area where they get some flack. Because Mac cursors handle things like acceleration and sensitivity a little differently than Windows machines, you’ll often find that the same exact mouse feels very different between the two operating systems. If you’ve spent a lot of your life on Windows machines, this can drive you bonkers. And if you want to run any games successfully, you’ll want a more refined method of cursor control.
Add to this the very limited mouse sensitivity controls in macOS and you’ll start to see why this is a problem. Fortunately, you can use third-party apps CursorSense to give you a little more control.
Use CursorSense to Control Your Mac Cursor
CursorSense is an application developed by PlentyCom that installs an additional preference pane in your System Preferences window. You can access the app from there to get a better handle on your cursor’s particular performance curve.
You can download a trial of the app from PlentyCom’s site, and if you want the full license, you’ll need to pony up $10.
Once you’ve downloaded and installed the application, open System Preferences under the Apple menu to take a look at your new preference pane.
Click on that to reveal the details of CursorSense.
This looks complicated at first blush, but there’s actually not too much going on.
On the bottom, you’ve got a graph of your device’s current input curve. This graph shows how far your Mac’s cursor will move on screen (y-axis) for a given physical movement (x-axis). In most cases, it will be a fairly steep exponential-looking curve, but different users have different preferences. Ideally, a curve in that shape means that the cursor moves a very small amount for small movements, but moves a much larger amount for slightly bigger movements.
Making Adjustments with CursorSense
You can change the shape of this curve using the two sliders in the middle of the pane, labeled Acceleration and Sensitivity.
Sensitivity is similar to a DPI control. The higher you set the sensitivity, the more your on-screen cursor will move for a corresponding physical movement. At a low sensitivity, you’ll need to haul your mouse across the table to get a large pointer movement. At a high sensitivity, a simple twitch will do it. Don’t go too high, though, or you’ll lose control over your cursor completely. Around 1600 tends to be a good baseline for most folks.
Acceleration is really where the magic happens. Here you determine how steep your response curve is. This means that for a low acceleration value, the amount of cursor movement you see for a corresponding physical movement is more or less constant. For a high level of acceleration, the cursor will zip across the screen for anything smaller than a bump.
The ideal acceleration value is somewhat personal. Some folks, gamers especially, are not fans of acceleration, preferring a completely linear response. But most users will do well with a medium acceleration value, somewhere around .5 or .75. This means that small physical movements will give you fine control over the cursor position, but you won’t need to drag your mouse across your whole desk to move the cursor to the other side of the screen. It’s like an adaptive DPI shift, precise at small movements and fast at large movements. And if you want to shut off acceleration completely, drag the slider down to 0.
Crowd Sourcing your Mouse Settings
If you’re not sure where to begin, CursorSense’s user base can help you find the right settings for your specific mouse or trackpad. Click the “Recommended” button in the upper right and you’ll see a pop up showing you what other users with your same input device have chosen for their settings.
You can choose a setting by clicking the “Apply” button next to the setting in question. Starting with the top-rated one and tweaking it is a great way to dial in your favorite settings for your Mac cursor. And if you don’t like what you’ve done, press Command-Z to undo.
Saving Multiple Settings
You’ll also have the opportunity to save multiple settings within the app. In the lower right corner of the graph is a small list of cursor settings with checkboxes next to them.
Click on the colored text for one of the settings to see a comparison graph of your current settings compared to the candidate.
To apply a setting, click on the tick box next to it. New settings will take effect immediately, and you’ll see the results in the graph as well as your pointer’s movement. Whatever setting you have active will be changed by any adjustments you make or recommendations you apply, preserving your other settings and making it easy to do some A-B testing.
You spend a lot of time using your mouse, so you may as well get it to work as you want. By using CursorSense, you can gain some precision control over your Mac cursor. If my experience is applicable, you’ll also save your wrists some agony.
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