Since its inception, Elgato Stream Deck (now owned by Corsair) has been the epitome of video streamers and broadcasters. Presented in a 4.6 x 3.3 inch minifigure, with smaller and larger sizes available, the desk accessory serves as a command center with 15 mappable keys at your disposal.
In the case of streaming, streamers can create toggles through Elgato Stream Deck software to quickly switch between scenes and overlays, or queue sound effects and background music. Likewise, the Stream Deck lets you switch between A-Roll and B-Roll cameras at the push of a button.
This all sounds meaningful and convenient, but what if you’re not a streamer? It’s a question I asked myself a month ago when a friend gave me a Stream Deck and suggested I use it for work. After spending the last few weeks fidgeting and playing with it, the Elgato Stream Deck quickly became the work-from-home accessory I didn’t know I needed.
Here are the top five apps I use every day and how they can improve workflow and productivity for you, too.
1. Video Conferencing Controls
It happens to the best of us. It’s finally your turn to speak on the Zoom call, all eyes are on your webcam, and after proudly sharing this million dollar idea, you’re met with awkward looks and a cordial soul exclaims: “Your microphone is muted.”
Let me introduce Zoom Plugin by Martijn Smit, one of the most popular third-party plugins in the Elgato Store. Once installed, you can assign keys on your Stream Deck to mute or unmute your mic and video, and more. On my platform, I have a dedicated column for Zoom controls, including the aforementioned functions, and one for “Leave meeting”. Instead of fumbling around in the Zoom window, I can just press a button and have peace of mind.
If that use case alone is enough to sell you on the Stream Deck, then I’d recommend the smaller six-key version which is an ideal size for video conferencing controls.
More: Best webcams you can buy right now
2. IFTTT and smart home
The second column of my Stream Deck is dedicated to IFTTT (or, If This Then That) and smart home controls. These flip-flops can best be explained as chain reactions, events that trigger when something else happens. For example, one of my keys, when pressed, turns on my smart desk lamp, which then prompts my smart blinds to close.
You can create smart routines through the IFTTT website or paste the Maker Key of the predefined ones into the Elgato Stream Deck software. Some of the best pre-made automations include copying completed Trello tasks to a Google Drive spreadsheet and adding your latest iPhone screenshots to a Dropbox folder. IFTTT works with leading smart home manufacturers like Philips Hue, Nest, Lutron, etc., so the possibilities are endless.
3. Folders for application-specific functions
In the center column of my Stream Deck are folder toggles for Adobe Premiere Pro, Photoshop, and After Effects. Clicking on one of the keys brings up a new layout of program-specific functions (see image below). In the case of Photoshop, I have quick toggles that include the lasso tool, content-aware fill, perspective crop, healing brush, and more. Essentially, I can edit photos without ever needing to use my keyboard.
Being able to implement folders in the Stream Deck means you technically have 196 key slots, including the 15 that are on the main screen.
4. Shortcuts and workspaces
At its most basic level, the Stream Deck can be used to open a specific program or website. In my setup, I have a column of keys mapped to three items: ZDNet.com, my content management system, and a Google doc where I write down weekly tasks. But wait, there’s more.
Since I do most of my work on an ultra-wide monitor, I regularly take two browsers to fill the screen. That’s why I downloaded BarRaider’s Windows Mover and Resizer plugin to create workspace buttons. The Stream Deck plugin allows me to set the position and size of my windows so that when I press, for example, ZDNet.com, the website opens on the right side of my monitor and an empty tab fills left.
5. Status Widgets
And finally, what might be the most underrated Elgato Stream Deck application: status widgets. My list includes a Pomodoro timer and a weather display. The first is a time management method that alternates between 25 minutes of concentrated work and 5 minutes of rest. After four sets, the Pomodoro clock jumps to 15 minutes for me to take a long break. I have found this technique and its rhythm to work wonders for my productivity. And it certainly helps to have visual queues on the Stream Deck.
The weather widget is a bit more self-explanatory. I mainly use it to know when I can keep my windows open for fresh air and when the weather is nice enough for an outdoor walk.
At the end of the line
I wouldn’t go so far as to say the Elgato Stream Deck is a must-have, especially if you’re not a streamer. But clearly, the gadget has a lot of worthwhile apps if you decide to pick one. Elgato offers 6, 15, and 32-key versions of the Stream Deck, so it all comes down to your needs and use cases. They don’t come cheap, and you can easily swap one out for a standard macro keyboard for less, but for its ever-increasing software support and visual appeal, there’s nothing better than the Stream Deck.