The possibilities of a "Stream Deck for iPadOS"

I was doing some planning in Concepts earlier using my iPad + Pencil, and frustrated myself with all the tool switching I was doing. “Wouldn’t it be great,” I thought, “if there was an accessory that allowed me to customize how I work in these apps?”

So, this is just some daydreaming/verbal concept sketching, but given that you can now customize mouse buttons to run Shortcuts, surely a gadget with remappable buttons like the Stream Deck can’t be too far away. I dream of a future workflow where an accessory acts like many apps’ custom keyboards, allowing quick (and muscle memory-based) actions and adjustments as I work.

For what it’s worth, I just plugged in my Stream Deck to my iPad Pro to see what would happen. The Stream Deck logo glowed happily at me as it booted up—then just stayed there. Nothing becomes available in Settings, either. Alas! I knew it wouldn’t work, but I hoped. I hoped.


That’s because you need an agent on the iPad - which doesn’t exist.

I don’t suppose there is any way to explicitly drive USB at the hardware level on iPad OS - else you could build your own trigger detector.

1 Like

You can use a multitude of MIDI controllers in iOS (keyboards, grids/drumpads, knob/slider units) and customize knobs via MIDI-learn with music apps. Some even build in templates that work when you plug in a device - for example the pads and knobs of the Bluetooth Korg NanoKey Studio controller automatically map to various instruments in Korg software like Gadget.

(And you can easily use these on Macs too with free drivers, in conjunction with practically any app, eg Photoshop.)

I don’t know if any way to use that with non-music apps though in iOS out of the box, but even if it isn’t it might be possible if the app in question we’re to implement MIDI-learn.


I was poking around in Accessibility and it looks like you could use a MIDI controller with Switches to control the iPad—but not, as far as I can tell, to do things like run Shortcuts.

Still, I wasn’t expecting a solution to this to exist yet. Just postulating that it could, and it’d be neat!

1 Like

I’ve had this on my Mac to-do-list for this year, actually - getting a tiny, inexpensive Korg, Novation or Behringer knob/slider controller to map to commonly used controls in Lightroom and Photoshop, as shown here and here.

Onetime MPU guest Jakob Haq shows here how to use MIDI learn inside AUM to control any number of different MIDI controllers on his iPad. But boy, if Apple could provide systemwide functionality, that, in conjunction with Shortcuts, would allow for iOS-wide Keyboard Maestro-like functionality for all apps. With that kind of power you’d get not just lost function-key power but everything from text editing to movie editing could suddenly get a lot more powerful. And it might also drive new hardware, like maybe a small battery-powered Bluetooth button-touchstrip.

But even without systemwide functionality, I’d still be excited to see MIDI-learn functionality put into iOS iMovie/LumaFusion/Lightroom/Photoshop/Affinity/Pixelmator. A little USB or Bluetooth jog-wheel controller with a couple of buttons (already in existence for $30-$200) that works with iPad would be a huge thing for serious LumaFusion owners, for example.

1 Like

Exactly! It would be joyful to hang out on a couch sketching in Concepts, Procreate, or whatever, and have a little controller nearby for quick switching between tools and parameters. Same is true for activating features in all the smart text editors (Drafts et al.)

Maybe someday. It certainly fits with the “modular computer” theme the iPad is headed towards.