This $20 accessory solved one of my biggest problems — and changed how I control my PC

This $20 accessory solved one of my biggest problems — and changed how I control my PC
This $20 accessory solved one of my biggest problems — and changed how I control my PC

One of the best things about having a desktop PC instead of a laptop is the number of extra ports and all the extra accessories you need to add new accessories to solve any problems you may have. Some accessories, like under-monitor smart displays, can help you be more productive, while others, like monitor arms, can raise, lower, or tilt the monitor to fit your eye level.

I’m the kind of person who believes that with the right device, any problem, no matter how big or small, can be solved.

Unlike TVs, many monitors either don’t have built-in speakers, or if they do, the speaker volume is very low. For this reason, I always use my best pair of computer speakers with my PC. I have used Logitech Z-5300 and Z906 in the past. What I really like about the company’s 5.1 surround sound PC speakers is that they come with a control console with a physical volume knob. Having a knob to physically control the volume on your PC is really cool. Or toggle instead of clicking. We all have to give up something when we move on to someone. In my case it was my computer’s surround sound system.

I picked up a pair of great-sounding Audioengine A2+ speakers, but the volume knob is on the back of the left speaker and hard to reach. So I explored accessories ranging from Microsoft’s Surface Dial to Amazon’s USB volume knob to solve the problem. But I used a small notepad with two macro keys instead. This has become my favorite desk accessory.

A tiny keyboard with endless possibilities. For those of you who haven’t heard of a macro pad, it’s very similar to a mechanical keyboard, but with far fewer keys. Macro Notepads often have 3, 6, or 9 keys that can be programmed to perform any number of actions on your PC. Many people like to assign their macroblock keys to copy or paste, but you can also ask them to open the programs they use the most the same way they use Elgato’s Stream Deck.

I got XD002 (opens in a new tab) from Drop because I wanted a small macrobar with two volume up and down keys. This tiny device was only $20 because you had to build and program it yourself. But for someone who builds their own keyboard and has a lot of experience cleaning mechanical keyboards, this wasn’t a problem. Like any macro pad, it comes with its own software for programming. It can be a bit difficult for beginners, but if you’ve played with QMK or VIA and programmed a mechanical keyboard, you’ll get used to it quickly. Still, through trial and error, you can program a macro to do exactly what you want.

As the name suggests, you can also use one of these devices to send your macros to your computer. A macro is a combination of keystrokes that your computer can perform with a single keystroke. For example, after programming, you can click the macro bar to enter email addresses, phone numbers, or other text commands. The possibilities are truly endless.

One of my favorite features of the XD002 is its hot swapping feature. This means you can use any mechanical keyboard switch, and if you want to change it later, you don’t have to solder and re-solder your device’s circuit board. Many of the best mechanical keyboards are also hot-swappable, so you can use Cherry MX red switches for gaming and Cherry MX brown switches for typing. As the XD002 is hot-swappable and has only two keys, it can also be used as a switch tester to help you find the right mechanical keyboard switches for your needs.

Find the perfect macro pad for you
If you want to access your favorite apps, commands, or keyboard shortcuts with just one tap, the Macro Bar is for you. Of course, you can always get another keyboard with built-in volume and media playback controls, but sometimes it’s nice to have another device on your desk. Also, macroblocks are usually much cheaper than upgrading the keyboard.

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