Pointing Stick

What Does Pointing Stick Mean?

A pointing stick is an isometric miniature joystick that is primarily used in laptops as a cursor pointing device.


The pointing stick moves and manipulates the computer cursor like a joystick. Its height is designed to be slightly above the keys. If a laptop does not have the proper space for a touchpad, a pointing stick is a useful alternative. To work as designed, the pointing stick’s sensitivity grading must be calibrated to sense movements and taps meant for its use.

Pointing sticks are commonly found on ThinkPad laptops.

Techopedia Explains Pointing Stick

In 1990, IBM began researching alternatives to the mouse. Considered desirable for typing accuracy, the pointing stick mechanism can cause unwanted results or movements for novice typists. The pointing stick also requires calibration and periodic recalibration to fine-tune settings.

A pointing stick is similar to a joystick. The joystick must be grasped, whereas the pointing stick can be touched, as it is embedded near the middle of the keyboard. A pointing stick is considered more efficient than a mouse, but a mouse is a more efficient pointer than the pointing stick.

IBM created the TrackPoint, which has varying degrees of touch sensitivity, as well as other operating mechanisms and features. Several hardware manufacturers have produced their own versions of the pointing stick as well, and most perform duties similar to the original. However, pointing sticks cannot be used on command or prompt interfaces.


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Margaret Rouse

Margaret Rouse is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical, business audience. Over the past twenty years her explanations have appeared on TechTarget websites and she's been cited as an authority in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine and Discovery Magazine.Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages. If you have a suggestion for a new definition or how to improve a technical explanation, please email Margaret or contact her…