Making Your Own Custom Shortcut Keyboard

Arduino Computers & Mobile Technology
Making Your Own Custom Shortcut Keyboard
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Via Hack-a-Day comes this cool shortcut keyboard project. Alex, an engineer at SparkFun, wanted to create a keypad populated with shortcut commands for the Autodesk Eagle CAD software program he uses every day to design circuit boards. On his Github page, he describes the project:

The keyboard has a 4×4 matrix of cherry MX switches, which are connected to the SparkFun Pro Micro. Each key can send either a keyboard or mouse command to the host computer thanks to the improved HID Arduino Library. Rotary encoder support was provided by the Teensy Encoder Library. The software is currently configured as an Eagle shortcut keyboard, where each button corresponds to an Eagle command. The left rotary encoder controls the computer’s volume, and the built in encoder switch for mute. The right encoder controls the grid spacing, and the encoder switch will toggle between imperial and metric units.

The Cherry MX key caps were printed on a Lulzbot Mini 3D printer. The key caps Alex used he got from this Thingiverse page.

As you can see, he also has two rotary encoders at the top of the pad. The knob on the left controls the volume on his computer, with the push-button on the knob functioning as a mute. The knob on the right allows him to control grid spacing in Eagle and the push-button allows Alex to switch between imperial and metric measurements.

While this pad was purpose-built for Eagle CAD, you could obviously adapt this to any design or other software you work in that can be greatly optimized by setting up shortcuts and macros. And as Hack-a-Day points out, you could also upgrade the keys with capacitive touch sensors and Bluetooth could be added to make the pad wireless. You could even double the assigned functionality of the keys with a Double Action Keyboard upgrade.

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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. His free weekly-ish maker tips newsletter can be found at garstipsandtools.com.

View more articles by Gareth Branwyn

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