X-Keys Desktop

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I have used this programmable keypad for the past five years, and find it a huge time saver. I am a C.A.D. software user, cnc programmer, and often use graphic software to aid in my work.

This key pad allows the user to program any number of keystrokes, computer functions, or a combination into a single button. The obvious use is to make a single button activate a tool or function in a program that can be done with a keystroke combination, ie: “ctrl+P” which in most programs will activate the Print command. However, it can be much more elaborate than that. I reserve a few buttons to record job specific macros. This might include something like a series of offsets in the CAD program. I set up a macro to change the offset dimension as it creates each object, resulting in a series of concentric objects with one push of a button. A fantastic time saver for repetitive work.

PI engineering makes several models of key pads with different configurations and numbers of buttons. They also continue to improve the software, a free download, that works with the keypads. The software will now detect what programs are running, which program is the active program, and allow the user to program specific macros for each button for each program. In other words, when you are using a word program, a key may, say, type in your name, title and contact information. When you are in Photoshop, that same key may open up the new document window, or start to rip a CD in iTunes, etc.- automatically changing what it does, based on the active program. Or a button can be set to operate the same no matter the open programs – a short cut to open a specific document or program, etc.

In addition to being incredibly handy for anyone who spends a lot of time on a computer, the unit is built like a tank. The model I have is built using a metal carcass. I often use a laptop and have a piece of hardboard setup to hold the computer, this X-keys keypad, other peripherals and electrical strip in place using Velcro – keeping me portable. I recently left this hardboard – without the computer – on the top of my truck as I drove away. It hit the pavement X-keys first. The damage? I lost one cap to one key, for which I had an extra, and a small area of road rash that is simply now silver instead of black.

I, perhaps obviously, cannot say enough about this product, and am constantly finding new ways to use it.

-- Sean Frey  

X-Keys Desktop (20 Keys)
$130

Available from and manufactured by X-keys