iPad "keypad" app for controlling Mac

A friend recently got a StreamDeck and I’ve been tempted to get one, but only really for one specific use case. So… I set about finding a way to replicate it cheaply for that use case, using only software and my iPad mini. I’m half way there but now I’m in need of some iPad software to complete the setup.

The use case is firing sounds in Rogue Amoeba’s Farrago with minimal cognitive load. Hitting the key for a sound is easy, but it only works if Farrago is the active application, and making it thus in the middle of recording is a cognitive load I don’t want to have to deal with. Especially because a key press in the wrong app may have undesirable effects. Farrago does have midi integration but it’s pretty basic. For instance, you can start a sound but you can’t stop it. Also, the third party midi apps I have tried aren’t terribly reliable with it.

I figured the first part of a different take on this would be the ability to fire a keypress directly at Farrago and I now have that working… I have a (zsh + Swift) script I can run which will send a specific keypress to a specific app. The missing part now is an iPad app on which I can tap a button on to make that script run on the Mac. It doesn’t need to do anything more than have a grid of buttons (ideally with some configurability as to what the grid looks like) that can trigger my script, with different parameters per button.

Does anyone have any suggestions? I plan on writing up the entire solution if I can get it working. I already have a name in mind for this ‘hack’… CheapDeck. :slight_smile:

Take a look at Metagrid and Touch Portal.

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Thanks, I had tried Touch Portal but have connectivity issues with it. For some reason the Mac app can see the iPad but not the other way around.

As for Metagrid, it looks promising but… curiously… the new Metagrid Pro is not available in New Zealand. I don’t think I want to spend a significant sum on the old Metagrid with it being declared as not the way forward by its developer. A real shame, because it looks very promising.

Edit: Seems they took it down temporarily to address a serious issue:

How about Stream Deck mobile? $3/mo, $25/yr

There’s also Remote Buddy 2 currently a few dollars on Bundlehunt.

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What if you made a bunch of single-action Shortcuts that just did SSH to your Mac and triggered the scripts?

Then just save the shortcut to your Homescreen.

Replace the script with something like

/usr/bin/afplay /path/to/file.mp3

to play a sound. Or have it run whatever script you have to work with Farrago.

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Back when I used Alfred, there was an Alfred Remote iOS/iPad app where you could program buttons. It might still be available.

There’s also Keyboard Maestro’s remote server, which can be fired from a shortcut on iOS.

With some cautions if exposed to the internet.

Alfred Remote is still available but not updated in a while.

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How quick do shortcuts run, though? I need to push a button and the action occur within moments. My (limited) experience with Shortcuts is they plunder along through their actions.

I am a long time Alfred user and already looked at that. It does not have as many capabilities as the local triggers.

I’ve resisted Keyboard Maestro for so long — please don’t make me cave in :wink:. However, I see this approach is also using Shortcuts.

I’ve been wondering whether there is something that could run on the Mac to receive MIDI commands and do ‘something’ when they fire.

Thanks everyone for your suggestions, even if nothing so far seems likely to me.

Keyboard Maestro can do that.
But it’s certainly your option to do things the hard way :wink:


Curious. Touch portal is working fine for me.

I tried the Steam Deck mobile app on my iPhone and was not impressed.

I have an iPad Air that was gathering dust. I looked at both Metagrid and Touch Portal. And decided on Touch Portal for three reasons. Like you said, the version of Metagrid that would run on my iPad is not the version which will be developed going forward. And only Touch Portal had a trial version. And finally, Touch Portal was cheaper.

I have had to restart Touch Portal on my Mac on occasion to get the devices to communicate with each other. But this is rare.

So far I’ve been happy with Touch Portal. Bummer that it didn’t work for you.

Good luck in your search.

Better Touch Tool can set MIDI triggers, although it states in BTT, “This is currently very experimental.”

I’ve not used MIDI triggers in BTT.

Hmmm, I’ll give it another go. I did originally get no comms between them until I realised my iPad was joining my guest network, but when I sorted that it instantly said on the Mac that it had “inbound only connectivity with iOS”.

I couldn’t see anything in my network or sharing settings that should cause it a problem. I even tried changing away from the default ports.

Is the resistance to Keyboard Maestro not wanting to learn a new tool, not wanting to pay for additional software, etc?

As I’ve said many times before, if I have one regret of my Mac “career” it’s not getting into Keyboard Maestro sooner.

Resistance is futile. One of us…one of us…

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I want to solve this problem with a tool, not a toolbox. I already have toolboxes. It seems like there should be a way to either
a) solve this with an easy tool designed for this job, or
b) solve this with what I already have

In column b) I put some Swift and zsh scripting together to fire keystrokes on the Mac. I just need a trigger on the iPad.


I fired up Touch Portal on the Mac then on the iPad. iPad sat there spinning and the Mac saw nothing. So I hit Settings on the iPad, at which point it crashed. Restarted. All connected!

Now to have a play.

Edit: It works!

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Hmmm, it’s been a while but I could swear I used it to trigger an AppleScript. I’ll have to check. Maybe I’m remembering it wrong.

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I did exactly that with the same app Farrago back in 2020 using BetterTouchTool. It has the ability to send shortcuts to apps (both in foreground and background) thereby replacing your zsh/swift script to trigger Farrago sounds. And BTT also has a server which allows my iPad to trigger any BTT action from iPad. However, here’s the trick! Instead of using the BTT remote app for iPad which wouldn’t allow a grid of buttons replicating the Farrago interface, you’d an write some HTML which would be served by the BTT web server and access that on the iPad. So essentially you get a web page which can be a grid of buttons and each would trigger a BTT action on the Mac which sends a shortcut to Farrago. I used it for a few zoom calls during the first days of the lockdown and it was almost instantaneous. No need for fiddling with any MIDI features.


I’m struggling for the best solution now. I have many working pieces, but the “perfect solution” refuses to fall into place for me.

  • Touch Portal is reasonably configurable on the iPad end and reliably calls my script, but it’s not the most ergonomic layout for my purposes.
  • Farrago does not respond to a Shift-Cmd-D being sent by my script. I may not need that (volume toggle) but it would be good to have.
  • Better Touch Tool cannot get Farrago to respond to Shift-Cmd-D either, but it can do a switch-to-the-app-and-back-again which makes it work.
  • Better Touch Tool has all the required control over Farrago but its remote app is unsuitable, and I cannot get it to recognise MIDI signals at all (it does not see the device that both Farrago and MiX16 PRO can see).
  • Touch OSC is incredibly configurable (the new version even lets you edit on the iPad), but a little too complex in setting up the MIDI signals.
  • Farrago’s response to MIDI signals seems haphazard, though the previous point may feed into that (I tried a LOT of configurations, though).
  • MiX16 PRO is an alternative to Farrago which has excellent MIDI support but the interface isn’t a great ‘runtime’ view and its audio routing requirements are more complex.

I’ve messaged Rogue Amoeba suggesting they need an iPad remote for Farrago and they do have the idea on their books, but no indication of when/if it would happen. I am intrigued what their recently teased product will be, though. I’m hopeful it will be an Übercaster replacement, which is what I currently need Farrago/MiX16 Pro, LoopBack, Logic, and a few extra process pieces to emulate (as best I can).