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I am going to purchase a mechanical keyboard, but it will contain no volume controls or program short-cuts.

Assuming I purchase a plain keyboard, is there a technology available that would provide me quick access to volume controls and common programs?

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I am not looking for a shopping recommendation. I'm looking for a technology that will allow me to achieve this functionality. I updated the question so that it is clearly not a shopping recommendation; please re-open. –  George W Bush May 3 '11 at 6:38
    
reopened, but it is still vague as to what you're looking for. are you looking for a hardware or software solution? both? either? can you clarify just a little more? welcome to SU! :) –  studiohack May 3 '11 at 6:42
    
I want immediate access to volume controls and calculator. I have achieved this with a keyboard in the past, but am hoping for something nearly as user-friendly. I typically have 20+ windows open across 4 monitors, so it's a battle keeping things clean –  George W Bush May 3 '11 at 6:45
    
Just use something like AutoHotkey to assign keyboard shortcuts like Ctrl-Alt-F12 to special functions? –  Daniel Beck May 3 '11 at 6:47
    
I like this idea -- should post as answer –  George W Bush May 3 '11 at 6:58
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6 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

I found some interesting things in researching this, but this is probably the most interesting:

http://www.piengineering.com/xkeys/xkstick.php

x-keys stick

The X-Keys Stick is very spendy at $99 though.

The other alternatives are things like an inexpensive USB keypad, which can be had for under $20, and you could remap its keys via software to multimedia functions. I did find one with dedicated multimedia keys, but it's... odd. The model # is 1000-BRF.

usb keypad with multimedia keys

Beyond that, gaming related devices like the Cyber Snipa game pad, or the Logitech G13 gameboard.

More obscure stuff would be shuttle controls like the ShuttleXpress or the Shuttle Pro

Contour Design ShuttleXpress

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A device like the Shuttle Express looks pretty ideal -- could leave it sitting between monitors. Something that I can hit with one hand (while taking a phone call) would be nice -- beats complex two-hander shortcuts with AutoHotKey. And it's priced reasonably well. Somebody who is shelling out for a mechanical keyboard ought to not shy away for something like this. –  George W Bush May 4 '11 at 14:40
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Almost any keyboard macro program will do. One that has not been mentioned yet: Fingertips.
I don't use it that often but my wife lives in it ;-)

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NirCMD is a light-weight utility with quite a few nice features.

I setup a few desktop shortcuts (with Keyboard Shortcuts) on an alternate monitor (out of the way).

  • Toggle System Mute (Shift-F11) C:\nircmd.exe mutesysvolume 2
  • Increase Volume (Shift-F10) C:\nircmd.exe changesysvolume -5000
  • Decrease Volume (Shift+F9) C:\nircmd.exe changesysvolume -5000

Finally, I also have shortcuts setup for calculator and the snipping tool:

  • C:\Windows\System32\calc.exe (Shift+F8)
  • %windir%\system32\SnippingTool.exe (Shift+F12)

Each of these keyboard shortcuts work from within other programs. Not bad for emergency Mutes, etc.

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You could use a generic hotkey utility like AutoHotkey to assign keyboard shortcuts (something unlikely to be used by normal applications, like Ctrl+Alt+F12) to perform your desired special functions.


Examples:

Windows+F11 increase volume:

#F11::Send {Volume_Up}

Ctrl+Alt+Numpad0 start Calculator:

^!Numpad0::Run Calc

See the linked pages for hotkey reference, changing volume.

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If you happen to use a keyboard that has Fn or keypad, those should be easy to reprogram to function keys, if you don't use them usually. –  Daniel Beck May 4 '11 at 5:47
    
Care to show an example of AHK code @Daniel? Or write a blog post about it ;) –  Ivo Flipse May 4 '11 at 10:56
    
@Ivo First time user of AHK, so I can provide some examples, but an article would be a bad idea ;-) –  Daniel Beck May 4 '11 at 11:28
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Assuming you are using Windows, and if you can do without program shortcuts (I just use WinKey search), you may find 3RVX useful. You can use it to add keyboard shortcuts for volume control as well as mouse combinations. I use WinKey + mousewheel to adjust volume. It also adds an on screen display volume slider. It works well, but as it runs on .NET, it does use more memory than it should for something that runs all the time. The author is making a new version which does not run through .NET though. (I don't know what happened regarding that - there's no longer any mention of it)

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I've just tried it again and it only seems to use 4MB on Windows 8. –  paradroid Oct 29 '12 at 6:56
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ok, found a simple answer elsewhere, and in case someone comes across this page-

go here:

http://download.cnet.com/HotKeyz/3000-2344_4-10590793.html?part=undefined&subj=dl&tag=button%29

download and install, set the key combo to whatever you want and ten seconds later you are done, no programming or text file manipulating needed.

Have fun!

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