A while ago I was thinking about how one the most important things that allows me to work fast is the use of shortcuts. I’ve ranted about this before (here) from a software point of view ie about learning shortcuts and also creating your own using Quickeys, but the only limit with that concept is that there are only so many keys on the Mac keyboard. I have already assigned all the F-Keys and also layered some of them eg control F1 etc… But I got to thinking about how there should be a USB device that is specifically for assigning shortcuts to…
I did some research on numeric keypads etc but those only duplicate existing keys on the main keyboard.. then I came across two possibilities, the first I eliminated due to cost. It looks fantastic & I am sure it IS fantastic, but so is the price! Every key is a tiny little LCD screen, so when you assign a keystroke or macro to it, you can also assign an icon! Brilliant, especially when you have multiple keysets depending what application you are using.. But the price is prohibitive, I could just afford a 3 button keyboard, but I need a few dozen at least and the full size keyboard version is US$300.. Apparently there are plans to release a 5×3 keypad so maybe that will be affordable…..
Then I came across the Ergodex. Its resonably affordable (US$150) & totally customisable; it basically consist of a USB tablet and a box of keys. You literally stick the keys wherever you like on the tablet and they become unique keys, ready to trigger shortcuts or macros from. When I first read about it I was sold except for one issue: it was PC only. Damn! But its USB so surely sooner or later they will support Macs? Well later has arrived, and late last week my shiny new Ergodex arrived!
The basic unit arrives with 25 keys, which you can see in the photo above I have done a basic layout. Bear in mind i’ve only had it a few days, so I have just assigned some of my most often used ProTools Quickeys/shortcuts to the keys…. So the five buttons at front right activate Audiosuite plugs: Gain, Pitch, Backwards, Waves Q10, Pitch n Time… The three on front left are: V=display volume automation, L=lock region, M = mute region. The five on left second row are Delete, Cut, Copy, Paste, Undo and the two in second row right are zoom in & out….
Now one of the great things about the way Ergodex works is that each key has a number inscribed on it and so if I assign a shortcut to key 1, then unstick it from the panel & place it somewhere else, the shortcut stays with the key. This means that you can seperately evolve two aspects of the keyboard: the actual shortcut assignments and the physical layout of the keys. The former is more logical & immediate, the latter will take time to evolve & arrive at the best physical layout. I chose to lay the buttons in rows of five as I figure I can feel the key position without looking at it, which as with normal keyboard shortcuts I think is essential.
On the upper top right of the Ergodex there are two small buttons with LEDs, the top one is power and the second one is record. So to assign a shortcut, you simply hit the record button, type a keystroke or action in whichever application you want to assign the key, then hit the button on the Ergodex to assign it. Now I havent used the software side of Ergodex enough yet to really comment on the available depth & complexity of assigning macros/scripts or multiple keystrokes – I get the impression you can do all that, but as I am so used to using Quickeys I have simply been assigning the Ergodex buttons to my existing Quickeys. And so far so good! But ask me in 3 months time & I’ll have a much better idea of techniques for its use. I havent even started to think about multiple keysets for eg Sound Miner, Ableton LIVE etc… but thats mainly because I have an FX predub starting on Monday and a final mix starting the Monday after….
This photo shows the scale of the device and the kind of button… To move the buttons you twist them to unstick them. One thing I did do when I bought the Ergodex was to buy a second set of keys (numbered 26-50 of course) so theres lots of room for development yet….
Just like buying a bigger screen, devices like this simply let you work more efficiently. And unlike some esoteric devices & software I think it is money very well spent, as I will make use of it every day!