On the same day that @MacSparky released a “Labs Only” video about his initial thoughts on the Stream Deck pedal,¹ I’ve also received mine. I thought it might be useful to document my thoughts on it and how I’m using it, in case others are considering it.
¹ David said he expects to have a more formal (and public) video after he’s used it for a while.
David mentions in the video that he bought some Bluetooth pedals…and they never worked really well. I feel responsible for that because I suggested them to him…and they never worked reliably for me either. They were Bluetooth and needed to be recharged, and were never really designed for constant use.
It was also really arcane to configure, and I never really liked it as much as I liked its ideal potential.
The Stream Deck is USB powered (USB-C on the device end, and USB-A on the computer end). So it will be faster and more reliable, and never need recharging. Which is nice. The cable that comes with it is nice and long, which is handy.
You configure it just like a regular Stream Deck. This one just has 3 buttons. If the Large has 32 and the regular has 15 and the small has 6, I guess this is the Stream Deck “Nano”.
The other obvious difference is that you can’t see what the pedals are going to do, unlike regular Stream Deck buttons. (Well, there is an overlay that can appear on your screen, but a) I wouldn’t like that and b) I turned it off and can’t figure out how to turn it back on, so…whoops.)
There are springs in the box that let you adjust the tension. I haven’t tried that. You can also adjust some kind of sensitivity in the app, which I think has to do with how long you have to hold down the pedal before it is recognized. I set mine to the lowest setting.
The pedals are also nicely “hinged” which means you can press it and rest your foot on it, then press down again to trigger it again.
It feels solid and decently made. I would have liked something wider, but I’m guessing that would have had other trade-offs, so…this is what we get.
The first thing that I noticed is that trying to set up automatic switching between various app-specific pedal profiles did not seem to work reliably for me. I’d be curious to know if others have had the same experience.
After a fairly short amount of time, I deleted all profiles except one, and set the left button to send F13, the middle button to send F13, and the right button to send F15.
(Note that F14 and F15 are sometimes used for brightness down/up, but I disabled that as I have brightness keys on my keyboard already.)
Then I have started to use Keyboard Maestro to decide what F13-15 does in various apps.
Originally I was going to make one big F13 macro that used “else” logic for each app, but that seemed silly, because Keyboard Maestro makes it very easy to make some macros just available for specific apps, so you can make a group/folder for one app, set F13/14/15 there, and then repeat it in another app.
So, the question now is: “What 3 things would I want to do in each app?” The first one that came to mind is Safari.
Left = switch to previous tab
Right = switch to next tab
Middle = close tab
Easy enough. Of course, there aren’t always going to be multiple tabs, so I might make this more complex later, but it’s a start.
The middle pedal will close a tab/window if one exists, but if it doesn’t, then it will create a new tab. That’s fairly simple logic in Keyboard Maestro.
I thought about making left/right equal to history back and forth, but honestly, I don’t find myself doing that a lot.
I also thought about making the middle button trigger 1Password, but I already do that so instinctively that it seemed superfluous. But I might try it.
Left = Archive this message
Right = Delete this message
Middle = Compose message
Again these are very simple Keyboard Maestro macros that either send keyboard shortcuts or (my preference) choose menu items in MailMate.
I prefer choosing menu items rather than keyboard shortcuts because then you know that you are doing what you expect to do, and if it doesn’t work, it’s not going to do something else if the keyboard shortcut means something else in that context.
Left = New Window
Middle = Two Finder Windows, side by side
Right = ??
I already had a macro for the “Right” action, but I could never remember the keyboard shortcut for it. Now the “second” pedal makes “two” windows. That makes sense to my brain.
Left = Toggle Microphone Mute
Middle = Leave Meeting (probably temporary)
Right = Toggle Speaker Mute
The middle button will probably change to something else, possibly a meeting picker for starting different Zoom meetings.
So far, that’s it. I’ve had a good time experimenting with this. I wish I’d had it when I was doing extensive editing for my podcast, but it didn’t exist for most of that time.
I can definitely see this being helpful for those times when you don’t want to take your hands away from whatever they are doing at the moment.
I’d really be curious to know:
What 3 things would you use pedal switches for in apps that you use regularly?