Stream Deck is a powerful controller for your computer – here’s how we use it

Stream Deck is a powerful controller for your computer - here's how we use it
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i bought it at first and Flow Deck for one purpose: controlling the lights in my home office. There’s only one light switch in there, and that switch controls the light…and also every outlet in the room. Lights are off, everything off This switch now has a piece of tape on it and I bought a smart bulb and a Stream Deck so I can still control the light in the corner.

The Stream Deck isn’t a smart home controller, at least not in the way its creators at Elgato originally designed it. (Also not and Steam DeckThey built and marketed the $150 device to publishers (hence the name) who needed to constantly switch scenes and camera inputs, manage a fast-moving chat, and get clips for later use. losing focus on the game at hand. The Stream Deck’s 15 buttons – or the six on the Stream Deck Mini or the large 32 on the Stream Deck XL – have turned a bunch of menus and touch targets into big, squishy buttons. With Stream Deck you develop a kind of muscle memory and many streamers can now run their entire stream without looking down. There’s also a small screen behind each button, so if you look, there’s more to see.

I’m not a broadcaster, though, and most of the people we spoke to for this episode of the show are not. Vergecast. Instead we all came up with the Stream Deck because a bunch of programmable buttons turned out to be a pretty powerful idea. Den Delimarsky, a programmer reverse engineered the Flow Deck so he could develop even more powerful software called Stream Deck, “basically a keyboard with dedicated buttons, right? You can do whatever you want by just having buttons.”

Let’s say you like playing super-complex games that require complex item management or remembering the locations and combinations of hundreds of different buttons. You can map some or all of this work to a few Flow Deck buttons like Robert Van Der Pas did to get hundreds of buttons and buttons that work with Microsoft’s Flight Simulator. through it FlightDeck add-on, players can control all 30+ planes directly from their Flow Deck. (Pro tip: get the big one in this case.) Boundary‘with Alice Newcome-Beill uses hers in a similar way when playing Destiny To quickly switch between characters and downloads without going through the game’s many menus.

Screenshot of Microsoft Flight Simulator buttons on a Flow Deck.

Microsoft Flight Simulator fans have turned the Stream Deck into a super powerful tool.
Photo: FlightDeck

If you’d rather spend your time taking care of your super aesthetic Notion setup, you can do what a YouTuber named Simon does, who runs a channel. Creating Better, it does: Set up a set of Stream Deck buttons to make Notion pages easier to create and manage. Instead of typing slash commands and remembering names, simply click on “To Do List” and “Table” and “Divider” and “Emoji” and you have a nice looking page. And since each Notion page is just a URL and you can use Stream Deck’s software to get a button to open any web page, you can turn your Stream Deck into an index of your most important items.

The Stream Deck is so powerful, not because it’s an especially great piece of hardware – it’s a somewhat bulky piece of black plastic with a huge logo on it. We have a long wish list for that too: your computer doesn’t shut down properly when it goes to sleep, none of the sizes have exactly the right number of buttons, and we’d love to unplug that annoying USB cable. . Also a little pricey for what it is.

However, he understands something fundamental about the way technology currently works. As each app and service gets more powerful, it hides all that power behind more hamburger menus and complex menu structures. Even as technology becomes more natural and stable, in many cases it becomes harder to use. Stream Deck and similar devices allow you to take all that complexity and bury it behind a button. You tell the device what you want it to do and then it goes and does it – no matter how complicated or where it is, it just happens. This is what a UI should look like.

Also you don’t need Stream Deck to do Stream Deck stuff. There are loads of other options, many of which are much cheaper:

  • You can buy a Stream Deck competitor like Razer Stream Controller or MagnifierDeck Live is based on. Both are more expensive but offer even more types of physical control.
  • You can install an application such as Touch Portalcan turn an old phone or tablet into a screen full of macro buttons. It’s not as tactile as the Stream Deck, but it does the job pretty well.
  • you can use Stream Deck’s smartphone software, but… don’t. It’s expensive and doesn’t work very well.
  • You can buy a custom numeric keypad and use keymapping software to turn each button into its own shortcut. You won’t get the visual aid of the Stream Deck’s display, but it’s a pretty good and much cheaper alternative.

Whichever path you choose, figuring out what to do with these empty buttons can be a bit overwhelming at first. My advice is to start small and not try to fill the screen all at once – pick one or two things you know you want to automate and you’ll start noticing all the other things that require 40 mouse clicks. you would rather just press a button.

A Stream Deck Zoom controller is a great addition to your desk.
Photograph by Dan Seifert / The Verge

Here are some of the best tips we heard throughout the episode: boundary employees and others:

  • use check your video chat software. Whether you’re in Teams, Zoom, Meet or anything else, it’s handy to have buttons to mute your microphone, end a call, or even move on to your next meeting. Many popular apps also have dedicated Stream Deck plugins, so installation is simple.
  • Get a Spotify play button. Do you know how Apple Music always opens when you press play button on Mac? You can get around this by having a dedicated “Play Spotify” button. Even better, you have a few buttons for your favorite playlists and you can start listening without touching the app.
  • Text replacement shortcuts. If you send the same email a lot or copy and paste the same information a hundred times a day, add this to a Streaming Deck button. Hit it once and it writes the rest.
  • Use it to resize and move windows. Instead of dragging the corners of all your apps to rearrange them, program your most used layouts into a button and then press it to snap everything into place.
  • Set up simple smart home controls. Saying “Alexa, turn off the lights” gets annoying after a while, like every time you open your phone and an app. Add your routines and devices to a button and suddenly you have the most powerful light switch ever.
  • Automate basic editing. If you use Photoshop or Premiere all day, you probably have a few embedded tools you use a lot or processes you run over and over again. These can be turned into a one-touch macro so you can open the file, press the button, and do all your routine work.

Stream Deck’s software could still use some work, both in terms of what it can do and how easy it is to program yourself. For really complex uses, you can still feel like you’re programming a computer. That’s why some people turn to software like this: friend From Bitfocus, which opened the Stream Deck to include more features. But the Stream Deck ecosystem continues to grow with new add-ons coming out all the time, and the device gets more useful over time.

None of what it offers is absolutely new functionality, the kind of thing you haven’t been able to do before. And yes, if you know all the keyboard shortcuts or can fly on your laptop’s touchpad, you might feel like you already have all of these features. You understand the technology. But most people can’t or don’t want to take the time to understand technology. They just want to tell the computer what to do and make it happen. And there’s no better way to do it than with a big soft button.

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