Why is the mouse cursor tilted?

Why is the mouse cursor tilted?

Nowadays, you cannot imagine a computer screen without a mouse cursor. We are used to it and rarely pay attention to the fact that it is displayed at an angle of 45 degrees, although it would seem more logical to make it strictly vertical. As it often happens, the inclination appeared due to some technical constraints and later just became a tradition. Read this article to discover the curious story of why the mouse cursor is tilted.

When was the computer mouse invented?

The mouse was invented by Xerox engineer Douglas Engelbart in 1981, however, no one still knows exactly who came up with the idea to call it "mouse", but this name quickly became convenient. The device of the first mouse was a bit different from what we are used to seeing today: it had two wheels that rolled right on the table and connected to the internal resistors. There were also ideas to control the cursor with a touch screen or light pen, but the mouse was the handiest manipulator.

xerox mouse
© Xerox

Why is the mouse cursor inclined?

At first, the mouse icon was a pointed upward vertical arrow. However, the low-resolution displays of those times made it very difficult to see it. When the Palo Alto Research Center, owned by Xerox, began developing personal computers with the mouse, Engelbart decided to make the cursor more comfortable and tilted the arrow by about 45 degrees to stand out from the rest of the text and pixelated background.

Palo Alto Research Center
© Palo Alto Research Center

Here comes the question: why is it tilted to the left? Well, it’s because most people are right-handed, so it’s easier to point it at something when its pick is on the left side. Later on, this cursor was borrowed by Apple and Microsoft. Since then, the icon's appearance has changed only a bit, but nowadays, you can easily customize it how you want.

Note: If you'd like to read the full document about the optical mouse, you can consult the original document from Xerox.

How can I customize my mouse cursor?

Nowadays, you can easily customize your mouse cursor. You can add a free Chrome extension and make your cursor look like a watermelon, a hotdog, a flower, or whatever is in your mind and is in its extensive library (a collection of more than 100 cursors).

Custom Cursor for Chrome
© Custom Cursor for Chrome