Recently – this week, in fact – I purchased my first Stream Deck. Specifically, I decided to try the Stream Deck Mini, the smaller and cheaper model. For what? Because I saw how much fun a lot of my colleagues had with theirs.
The Stream Deck is a device that allows you to program a series of physical buttons (and, in the case of the Plus, buttons) to perform a single task or a series of tasks on your computer or smart home devices. In other words, it lets you do something that typically requires multiple keystrokes — like starting a new email, dropping a template, and sending it to a specific contact list — with the press of a single button. Clean, right?
Well, several staff members of The edge think the Stream Deck is exceptionally neat, and they used the devices to make work more efficient, to make gaming more fun, and – well, just to play around with technology. So, since I’m a complete newbie, I thought I’d find out some of the ways my co-workers work with theirs.
By the way, if you’re also a Stream Deck fan and want to try out some hacks, you can find plugins on Elgato’s site, ideas and tips on Reddit – or you can just Google this that you would like to try and see what happens.
In the meantime, here’s how some people here at The edge use their Stream Decks.
I wanted buttons
Alex Cranz, editor
I know. Our own review of the Stream Deck Plus found that most people didn’t need the Stream Deck Plus, and I know I could have gone a more fun and hacky route, but I wanted knobs, buttons and a relatively simple setup. So now I use a Stream Deck Plus. At the button level, I mainly use it to quickly open a new page for posts on The edge. I have buttons for each type of story, and I have customized the small Edge logo for each button. I’ve also set up a few hacks using the HomeControl app so I can control all my Philips Hue lights from the Stream Deck Plus, and it’s handy, although I often forget to.
But I bought the Stream Deck Plus because I wanted knobs rather than just knobs, so it’s no surprise that the knob use cases are my favorite. I have buttons for the volume on my computer and the brightness of the main LED which I use for video calls. I use them several times an hour — more than the 12 buttons I programmed. The buttons work so well that I wish they had more use cases. I wish I could control all the lights in my house or control the volume of multiple audio outputs. I’m sure that kind of control is just a hack. I just need to find it.
To trigger Mac shortcuts
Liam James, Senior Producer, The Vergecast
When I started to The edge, we were all obsessed with Art Lebedev’s prototype Optimus keyboard, which used tiny OLED displays under each key to display the most relevant input depending on what you were doing. I wanted one badly, but alas, it took years to become an actual product, and when it did, it was prohibitively expensive.
Fast forward 10 years to the first time I saw a colleague use a Stream Deck to change the lighting in his remote office. I knew it was my time.
I use my Stream Deck MK. 2 mainly to trigger Mac shortcuts (automations) that I created for repetitive tasks that I have to do as part of my job as a producer for THE Edgecast. I can press a button and a Slack message I received from one of the co-hosts turns into a new to-do in my task manager. Another button quickly opens our online studio, Riverside, to the correct location I need for a recording. And of course I copied my colleague David Pierce and I can also control everything in my smart home.
To declare the podcast time
David Pierce, editor
I use my Stream Deck for most normal things. I use it to control my Philips smart lights because buttons are better than shouting “hey Siri, turn on the lights” a hundred times a day. I have a button that immediately ends the meeting I’m in. But there are two that I like and use the most.
The first is Slack status, which I configured to switch my Slack status to “BRB”. If it’s lunch/meeting/nap time, I press that button as I walk away, and poof! I left. The second is a button connected to a Mac shortcut that I call “Podcast Time!” (The exclamation mark is very important.) When I press that button, it activates Do Not Disturb on my Mac, closes all apps except the ones we use to record, and opens a tab with the episode’s Google Doc . It turns a million clicks into a single button press, and it makes me happy every time I smash it.
To switch to speakers
Sean Hollister, Editor
I can’t spend all day wearing a headset, no matter how comfortable, let alone my incredible wireless gaming headset that slowly drives me up the wall. So I like to switch to a set of Audioengine speakers several times a day, and my six-key Stream Deck Mini lets me do that with just the press of a button. To do this, I use Fred Emmott’s Audio Switcher plug-in, which lets you choose two audio devices to switch between, with handy icons so you know which one is active just by looking at a Stream Deck button.
It also comes with a much needed fuzzy logic device matching setting so it can find my SteelSeries headset even if it suddenly decides to tell Windows it’s a brand new device due to USB quirks. I guess I wouldn’t feel the need if Microsoft hadn’t buried the audio device selector in Windows 11, but here we are, and the Stream Deck workaround works just fine for me.
Get to the point
Brandon Widder, Trade Editor
I admit it, I’m an absolute beginner when it comes to the Stream Deck. I chose the entry-level Mini after listening to many of my colleagues speak poetically of its endless possibilities, which, as I quickly discovered, aren’t that hard to install if all you want to do is customize some basic functions. Within minutes, I was able to program it to launch my favorite websites, update my Slack status, and switch between my different Philips Hue lighting zones (which is really just a selection of cool whites and a purplish area called “vapour wave”). I’ve also programmed it, like others, to crank out some of my favorite Spotify playlists, making sure those lo-fi beats and any Wilco-adjacent deep cut I’m currently in are never out of scope.
Dan Seifert, Associate Editor, Reviews
I started my Stream Deck journey with a six-button Mini, but recently upgraded to the 15-key Stream Deck MK. 2, so I wouldn’t have to switch between pages as often to get to the commands I use most often.
I use my Deck for a lot of standard things – controlling media playback, smart home lights, mute and exit meetings – but my favorite hack combines a plugin that can run small snippets of code AppleScript with the Moom window manager application. I configured a multi-action switch on the Stream Deck to automatically open the Google Meet web app and rearrange my windows to bring it to front (with my browser window to the side) when I need to switch a call, something I do several times a day. When the call is over, I press the same button, which runs a script to automatically close the Meet app and return my browser and other app windows to the way I had them, allowing me to continue with my next task.
It’s little things like this that make the Stream Deck an indispensable tool on my desk.
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