Stream Deck vs MetaGrid vs Accessibility Keyboards

Cool Workflows seemed to be the best place for this thread. I wanted to see if there was interest in some discussion about the relative merits of these different ways of creating a “touch pad” kind of interface.

After the recent MPU episode with Sal Saghoian where he talked about using the MacOS accessibility keyboards to create a touch-panel, I spend some time mucking around with that, just for fun. I didn’t really create anything that made it into regular use, partly because I just didn’t have a good use case for it at the time, and was just playing with it to try it out.

Certainly the StreamDesk is popular with MPU people, and I have been tempted to buy one many times but have yet to pull the trigger, again because I am not yet sure of my use case.

I also checked out MetaGrid following the recent MPU discussion, and it too looks interesting. Again, have not purchased.

So I thought it would be interesting to see how people have decided among these different choices, how people are using them, etc. Hopefully others are interested in joining in…

I spend some time playing with the accessibility keyboards. What I particularly liked was the ability to create varying button sizes, in contrast to the other two options which are fixed layouts whether software (MetaGrid) or hardware (StreamDeck).

I liked what Sal S. had done with a row or two of icons for launching apps and below that an array of buttons that were app specific. It worked particularly well when switching apps as that aspect is built in to MacOS.

On the other hand, it really isn’t a system designed for this use which leads to some kludgy aspects. For example, the row of app-launching buttons (I actually had two rows) is something I wanted on essentially every layout I created, but there is no way to tell the editor to automatically include a sub-layout, so any time I changed those rows I then had to edit each and every keyboard that included them. In a more sophisticated system there would be a way to create layouts that are then included into other layouts. (I did not spend time delving into the internal format for the keyboard files, which I imaging might well be in XML/Plist format. If that is the case, it would not necessary be all that hard to create layouts in BBEdit for instance, and write a script to handle includes. Then I could keep a folder of my layouts and whenever I change one, have the script regenerate the keyboard files that MacOS actually uses. If I got more into this, I might look at that.)

One really nice aspect of both MetaGrid and accessibility keyboards is that the “buttons” are on the iPad, and since I generally have both my iPad and MBP in my bag, I can use this approach anywhere and even get a cheaper or refurbished older iPad for use with my desktop as well. I would not want to carry a StreamDeck around.

I wonder what others are doing, how you might be using these things in your workflows, etc.


I lust after a Stream Deck | but can’t justify the cost. I’m just not THAT much of a Mac Power User LOL!


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It will be interesting to hear people’s MetaGrid experiences. It seems geared toward audio users, but is apparently useful elsewhere too.
It would make a lot of sense to use it, as my iPad sits idle while using my computer.

Edit: The accessibility keyboard is pretty sweet too.

I have MetaGrid (in addition to Steam Deck) and have been meaning to try it out.

The plus side is that it would be more portable than the Stream Deck is.

The downside is that you need a separate device, ideally a dedicated device, or else you have to switch between “Oh I want to use my iPad for this” and using your iPad as an iPad. That “friction” is going to make it less useful than the Stream Deck, which is always there and ready for me to just press a button whenever.


I recycled an old iPad mini that I use exclusively for the stream deck app. $25 dollars a year for the subscription. I’m lovin’ it!


@tjluoma: Makes sense. If I did a greater percentage of my work at my desktop (it seems I’m mostly on the MBP these days) then the StreamDeck would likely be the way to go, in part for the solidity of the platform physically vs an iPad on some sort of stand, but any iPad based solution is likely to be more portable. Of course, the StreamDesk is cheaper than the current cheapest iPad offering, but if you repurpose an older and otherwise unused iPad as @DannyR has done, you can spread the cost out over several years with the yearly subscription fee.

@DannyR: based on the Elgato web site and the App Store, it looks like the app is geared towards the iPhone. How well does it work under iPadOS? (It’s too bad you apparently cannot configure it for more than 15 buttons when using it on the iPad). It would seem this is a good solution for having a “StreamDeck” and yet the portability aspect.

One advantage of the StreamDeck over building accessibility keyboards is that with the former there are already many integrations available, while with the accessibility keyboards you presently have to roll your own. If enough people were doing this there might be a role for a repository of actions like you would find for HomeBridge or even for BitBar.

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It is geared for the iPhone but I just “zoom” in and it fills the screen. No 32 key available but I don’t feel like I’m missing anything out of the experience.


For now it’s mostly KM (keyboard maestro) and a small physical deck, use those keys a lot.

Tried MacOS accessibility keyboards touch-panel but didn’t stick to using it. But now that I use Duet, it could work great with it,
maybe I’ll revisit it later as a weekend project.

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I have both Stream Deck (Mini + Regular) and Metagrid (on 12.9” original iPad Pro).

Stream Deck is more mature but Metagrid (in 11 x 10 configuration) has the real estate I want.

I always take my iPad with me and don’t always take my StreamDecks with me - so I’m relying more on Metagrid. But then I’m not always in a position to place my iPad next to my Mac.


I’ve used Metagrid since it was mentioned on the show.
It’s extremely flexible and (as @MartinPacker said) has a flexible real estate option.

The KM integration is what makes it work for me, and saves me a lot of time.
Next step would be a Stream deck, but that would then be more for looks than practical purpose :slight_smile:
Since my iPad goes with me wherever I go and Metagrid works on all my macs I’m never without.

(Btw: Metagrid is a 1 time purchase of 29,- vs. 25 per year for the Streamdeck Mobile app.)


re: “Metagrid 1.6.5 (Build 3787)” as reported from bottom-left corner of Metagrid, itself.

So I downloaded Metagrid on strength of recommendations here.
It is horrifically (and trivially) buggy.

  1. The opening info screen of about 10 panels keeps dying at panel 3. Then swiping backwards, it crashes at panel 7 (of about 10).

  2. Then when I bypass the crashing info screens, it boots me into a screen with typoes including their very own website which I assume is a typo: “”.

This thing reeks of amateur hour (at best) and danger (at worst).

I am not sure whether anyone else’s mileage varies, but my mileage is totally reproducible!!

I bought Metagrid. The intro screen crashes, but other than that, I’m enjoying setting up buttons and learning about how it works.
It also ties into Keyboard Maestro, so triggering those actions is easy.

It had occurred to me - with Metagrid -I might be able to get it to trigger Alfred. And then a whole world of options open up.

(Today I’m using both keystrokes and Keyboard Maestro in various Metagrid actions.)

Yes. Cmd+Space to open Alfred, followed by a 0.1 second pause, followed by a character string, followed by Enter works. e.g. app for the App Store.

I can build on this. Its flexibility means I can reuse componentry on the Mac, with different parameters when I copy a button definition.


I have an iPad stand on the way, and it looks like it will be perfect for my split keyboard setup.

Edit: Just created buttons for MailMate (Delete, Flag, Archive), and it’s Super Good™. I can just tap through my backlog of email. Somehow tapping buttons is just better than Backspace, Cmd+Shift+K, or E.


Of interest to me is what’s on the screen. It looks like the MetaGrid Finder page. Finder is one of several where I’ve discovered MetaGrid comes with a profile - without it being advertised. I’ve wondered why the developer didn’t advertise such a feature. Perhaps they don’t think it’s ready to advertise.

The screen in my photo is for Photos.
But yeah, he seems really focused on digital audio and I think he’s missing out on a larger audience.

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Ah. So that was a pleasant surprise for you - in Photos? Looks very similar to the pleasant surprise I had for Finder.

I have, of course, added a couple of buttons of my own to the Finder screen.

I have the Stream Deck XL when at home, and use the mobile version on the iPhone while on the road. The ability to export/import profiles between devices is great.

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The XL is a very expensive machine. (I was stretching it when I bought the 5 x 3 Stream Deck just over a year ago.)

Don’t get me wrong: I love the Stream Deck but it’s expensive compared to Metagrid - unless you have to buy a new iPad just to run it. :slight_smile:

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