I Fell in Love with the Stream Deck

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I shift gears a lot throughout the day both at work and at home between various projects as things pop up, and while I miss the days when I could just put headphones on and chip away at a single project all day, it’s just not an option for me in any of my roles (CTO, Dad, etc). Over the holiday break I discovered Stream Deck, which is a piece of hardware from Elgato that is targeted for live streamers, but it’s also for anyone that loves automation and I’m completely obsessed with it.

In 2020, in an effort to solve the “Is Dad on a Zoom call right now?” issue I created a Home Office DND Button with a spare Arduino board, an LED light bulb, a button, and a 3D printed case. I love making things like that about as much as I like automating and customizing my home office, so it was fun and solved a problem in a fun way. Since then I’ve been kicking around the idea of expanding on the idea by making a small panel of buttons that can do other functions such as activate the electronics built in to my office shelf, or run automations on my computer. While looking in to this idea further, I ran across Jason Snell’s “2021 Favorites: Hardware” post on Six Colors and saw his blurb on the Stream Deck.

I was absolutely a Stream Deck skeptic when I first heard about it. I have a keyboard, full of keys and modifiers! Why do I need _more keys_when I already have an impossible number of combinations ready to be assigned to macros, obscure commands, whatever.

But I’ve come around. The Stream Deck is transformative because it’s got a programmable LCD display under its keys, allowing you to program actions and visually represent them with an icon. And if you need more buttons, just add more pages, or set a page full of buttons to appear automatically in particular apps.

I’d heard about the Stream Deck before (it’s essentially a keyboard where each key is a little screen and you can use their software to set each key to do anything you’d like via their software, related software like Keyboard Maestro, or writing code) but until I was thinking about building a version of this while reading Jason’s glowing review, I didn’t put it together.

I bought one later that week and it’s been a game changer.

Here’s a sample of what I’ve configured my Stream Deck to do (so far):

I also have a long list of ideas I’d like to try and implement and this list doesn’t even include all the automation ideas I have for my work computer:

Yes, you can do all of this with keyboard shortcuts (that you’d have to remember) or an app that sits on your computer desktop with buttons (that takes screen real estate), but there’s something about the Stream Deck that makes automations easier to remember, trigger, and is fun enough that is sparks new automation ideas in my brain.

If this appeals to you, I highly recommend taking a look at the Stream Deck even if you have no interest in live streaming. I’d also love to hear any great automation ideas you have. Hit me up on Twitter: @thatmikeflynn