I have been looking into a 3dconnexion controller for a while but finally decided against it due to the cost.
The space Mouse is not very expensive at about 100 Euro, but its still too much for me not being a professional, and and it offers only two configurable buttons. Having only two buttons is definitely a limitation, for those - like me - who don’t care using the keyboard and prefer having the most common functions on predefined, readily available buttons. However, the larger 3dconnexion pads are quite expensive.
So I decided to try a cheap alternative using a Playstation 2 gamepad and the XPadder (freeware) software associated to a simple 5 button mouse. Gamepad on the left, mouse on the right of my keyboard.
I have built a sort of cradle for the game pad, to keep it stable on my desktop, and to support my wrist/hand on a soft neoprene lined surface as I work.
Through the Xpadder software I configured the 17 buttons and 2 joysticks of my 9.99 Euro PS2 Gamepad, plus I have 5 more configurable buttons and a scroll wheel on the mouse.
I have configured the two left triggers of the PS2 gamepad so they are used to pan and rotate associated to the mouse movement, while the zoom function is still associated to the mouse wheel. The rest of the buttons I use for most common tools and functions.
As a result I am now able to work long time without ever having to move my hands from the mouse and gamepad and I also seldom have to select common tools and functions from the menu, the toolbars, or the keyboard.
I am so happy about this solution and the work now flowing much faster and easier, that I decided to share my experience with the community.
An added bonus of this solution compared to the 3dconnexion navigators/pads is that the gamepad/mouse combination can be used in any other CAD program - or windows based software.
That’s a BIG plus, as Xpadder will let you save different profiles. I mapped my gamepad keys in order to have the same functions on the same gamepad buttons, so I don’t have to remember shortcuts and combinations for other CAD programs I don’t use as often as Sketchup. They all run the same now.
Being a Linux user, only downside is Xpadder missing Linux support, however I run most CAD programs in Windows environment so that is really no big deal.