WHAT IS IT AND WHY IS IT GOOD?
As artists, we are often seeking efficiency in our day-to-day workflows. Sometimes we have a number of programs to deal with and while we want to keep all those hotkeys in our head it can be overwhelming at times. Enter, Stream Deck! A genius little device that lets you easily program the buttons as macros to do a wide range of tasks on your computer. It seems to be primarily marketed to people that stream online and want quick access to things while they are live, however, Stream Deck is FAR more versatile than that and can really be applied to literally anything you do on the computer.
But There Are Only 6 Buttons?
First of all, I want to point out that this is the Mini version of the stream deck, they have options of 6, 15, and a whopping 32 button version of this as well. Though the Mini only has 6 buttons you can still utilize an endless amount of hotkeys by using their folder structure. In the GIF below you see me going in and out of folders for various things in both Cinema 4D and on my desktop. I have folders labeled with custom icons for an easy visual of where I want to go. With folders, you really get 5 buttons because you’ll want to leave one button to jump back to the folder you came from(which is the up arrow in the gif). So I have a folder for quick access to modeling tools, plugins, mograph, animation tools, etc. You can have as many subfolders as you’d like which is why the hotkeys really are endless!
For the physical interface of the dock which is the buttons themselves, each button gets its own LED-backlit screen which can be customized to be anything you want. They’re also very satisfying to push! They all soft rubber with a concave indentation and make a very muted click when pressed. They also provide a pretty robust icon maker where you can take preset icons and stack them in layers like photoshop, changing colors, and positioning to make something unique.
Next is the computer interface where you pick what your buttons do. It’s a pretty simple little panel that shows a virtual version of your physical Stream Deck along with a list of actions you can drag and drop onto the buttons. Once you do a little attribute editor window pops up with what types of things you can do with that action. For example, if you select the Hotkey button you can give it a title and then tell it what key command to assign, simple! There are hotkeys to take you to your favorite websites, paste preset text, open programs, and even control wifi lights around your house to name a few. You can also assign what’s called a Multi-Action which, as it sounds, can combine any number of actions into one button push like multiple hotkeys. There are also many user-made actions you can download through the app for free that gives you integration to other applications like Spotify, mail, Zoom, etc.
There is also something called Profiles that you can switch between which is just your set of button choices per application. Like I would make a Cinema 4D profile and an After Effects Profile just to keep things more organized. Of course, you could put them all in one profile but it makes things a bit messy. And as you might have guessed you can make button hotkeys to quickly switch to those profiles, but you can also access it from the Stream Deck app which can stay docked for easy access.
Below is an example of a few of the folders I have for hotkeys. You’ll notice a few of them have the profile switching buttons on them and also some of them have the up arrow indicating you are in a folder. I do plan on making some custom icons for this that I will share once they’re done.
Yes, the buttons can be animated! But why? You can do things like have a countdown timer or count-up timer if you are time tracking, stock tickers with live updates, digital clock, CPU status, and some of them even feature games you can play with the buttons. It does more than I even thought it did when I bought it!
You can speed up your workflow in pretty much any area of the computer while taking up a very minimal amount of space on your desktop with the Stream Deck. Once you start using it you will think of more useful ways to utilize it. I only wish they had a 10 button version or maybe a small dedicated up folder button on the deck so you could get one of your buttons back. Otherwise, I am very impressed with what this little device can do and would highly recommend it to anyone who has tasks they like to keep just a click away at all times.
Compatible with Mac and PC!
If you have suggestions for similar products leave them in the comments!