I’ve been doing a little streaming on Twitch, and a lot of streamers I follow have something called an Elgato Stream Deck. The Stream Deck is a small device with 15 buttons, each of which has its own customizable RGB icon. By configuring the bundled software, users can set button icons and macros to control your casting software, send messages in the stream chat, launch programs, and much much more.

Unfortunately the Stream Deck is out of my price range, at a whopping $149.99 retail.  Fortunately I think I can make something that replicates the basic functionality for a fraction of that price: what I’m calling a “Stream Cheap”.

Although I’m focusing on using this as a replacement for a Stream Deck, at heart this is really a custom macro keyboard. It could be used as a hotkey board for any program. I’m just using it for OBS and Twitch.

Simplifying

The Stream Deck itself is a fantastic piece of tech. Adafruit did an interesting breakdown on stream, but it’s essentially a mini computer using an Atmel ARM926EJ-S driving a 480×272 resolution LCD. The buttons on top allow the LCD to shine through for the backlight icons, and push down on a touch matrix to trigger button presses.

There was a lot of engineering that went into making the Stream Deck, and I’m going to have to simplify. The #1 rule for this is cheap. I wanted to make something that people could reasonably build at home, at a much lower cost than an off-the-shelf Stream Deck. The fancy ARM processor is going to be replaced with a dirt-cheap AVR, the touch-matrix keys are going to be replaced by basic mechanical switches, and the customizable RGB icons are going to be swapped out for relegendable keycaps.

That’s just the hardware. When I say “basic” functionality, I do mean basic. Much of the power of the Stream Deck is in the bundled software, and I’m not going to spend the time to develop a complete software package to replicate everything. Fortunately though, I can replace the fancy USB communication with hotkeys from an off-the-shelf keyboard library and an Arduino. This is perfect, since most of what I need this device to control is OBS, which already has a great built-in hotkey manager.

Making the Stream Cheap

The obvious tool of choice for building this was a 3D printer: fast, cheap, and with minimal design constraints. This meant that I had a lot of freedom for designing the case so long as I avoided overhangs.

I chose a two-row design, each with four buttons for a total of eight hotkeys. Eight switches seems like just enough to accomplish what I need it to without getting exorbitant. It also keeps the footprint small on my desk.

The final design is in two parts with a base and a faceplate. The base is a rounded rectangle that curves up to angle the buttons at 20° for easier viewing. It also accommodates the microcontroller with enough room for the backs of the switches and the requisite wiring.

The faceplate is a flat piece of 0.050″ plastic. Although I ended up 3D printing this for convenience, it could just as easily be laser-cut for a nicer finish.

Switchboard Assembly

After printing both parts of the case out of black ABS, it was time to assemble. I’m using Cherry MX Black switches, which are standard fare for mechanical keyboards and have plenty of keycap options. I picked up 8 from DigiKey for $6.32. These are a press-fit into the faceplate, and are retained with tabs.

With the switches in place I got to soldering. Although keyboards usually use a matrix to keep the number of wires down, I decided that with the limited number of switches I could get away with dedicating wires to each button. This also keeps the complexity down as I don’t have to worry about purchasing and installing diodes for each switch. Each switch got a separate signal wire, with the commons all being connected to a ground line. With eight switches, this makes 9 total wires. (I used 22 AWG wire for this. I could have used a smaller gauge to make packaging easier, but I didn’t have any on hand.)

These wires all run to a female DuPont connector, which connects to a right-angle header on the Arduino Pro Micro acting as the brains of the operation. Using a header here allows me to pull out the switchboard or swap out the microcontroller as-needed. I’m using the DuPont connectors because they’re on-hand and easy to find, although it would have been wiser to use a polarized, positive-locking connector.

Update 2020-09-12: I keep getting comments that the wiring is confusing. I didn’t include a wiring diagram or a longer explanation than the one above because quite frankly the setup could not be any simpler. Each switch has two pins; it doesn’t matter which is which. One pin is a signal and connects to any I/O pin on the Arduino (I used pins 2-9). The other pin connects to ground (GND). Since ‘ground’ is the same for all of the switches, all of the ground connections were wired together and then connected to one pin on the Arduino (8 signal + 1 ground = 9 wires total). No diodes, no resistors, no matrix, no fuss.

Micro and Packaging

The microcontroller I’m using for this is a 5V Arduino Pro Micro, which is based around the Atmel 32U4 chip. The 32U4 supports native USB, which allows the Arduino to imitate an HID keyboard. It’s also small and very inexpensive.

The footprint for the Arduino in the case has cutouts for the underside pins, and a cutout in the back for the USB port. Otherwise the walls around its perimeter should prevent it from sliding around, and support it during USB connects / disconnects.

After testing the switch and Arduino setup, it was time to stuff everything into the case. The two holes on the side of the case were tapped with an M3 tap, and then the Arduino was taped into its mounting position. The switchboard was connected and then the faceplate was attached using two M3 screws.

Keycap Icons

The last step to finish off the hardware was adding keycaps with custom images. I could just as well use regular run-of-the-mill keycaps with stock lettering or images, but where is the fun in that?

In anticipation of building this way-back-when, I purchased 20 re-legendable keycaps from MassDrop last year at about $1.40 each. These are the Rolls-Royce of re-legendable keycaps (har), but I really liked the styling. Although these are hard to find and pricey, you can find cheaper relegendable keycaps at places like Amazon or B&H.

The inside of each keycap is approximately 0.55 x 0.55″. I created an Illustrator template and set to work. This is what I came up with:

They’re a little campy, but they’re colorful and they’ll do the job. I printed these out on glossy photo paper using my home inkjet printer and cut them to size.

Stream Cheap Software

The last step is to make the software for the board. This is going to be relatively simple, as I can rely heavily on a pre-existing Keyboard library.

Secret Keys

When I set everything up to start streaming, I set a few hotkeys to do things like mute my microphone or switch scenes. Unfortunately it can be difficult to find an unused key to use as a hotkey, even on a full-sized keyboard. Often times I would accidentally tap a hotkey (e.g. numpad ‘-‘) while typing something, and have to be told by a viewer that my microphone was muted.

To avoid this problem for the Stream Cheap, I’m going to rely on some “secret” keyboard keys. Included in the HID keyboard spec are twelve additional keys: F13 through F24. These function keys are available to be ‘pressed’ by the USB spec, but aren’t physically on the keyboard. Even though the user cannot accidentally press them, in all other ways they act exactly like every other key.

These keys are picked up by hotkey-enabled programs, but otherwise won’t affect the computer’s functionality. This makes them perfect for a macro board.

Arduino Code

As of this writing, the official Arduino keyboard library does support keys F13 – F24, but this update was done recently and it has not been included in the most recent IDE release. I downloaded the updated library from GitHub and included it in the sketch folder to get access to these keys.

As of May 9th, 2018 version 1.0.2 of the Arduino Keyboard library was released and adds support for keys F13 – F24! You can update your library version in the libraries manager of the Arduino IDE.

The rest of the sketch is very simple: it polls each switch to check if the button has been pressed, and if so sends the respective key stoke to the PC. I’m also using a small helper class to poll each pin and handle press/release functions and debouncing.

As with all smartly-written programs that spam keyboard inputs, there is a failsafe if there is a hardware issue or an error was made during programming. On startup a safety catch will check if pin #1 (arbitrary) has been grounded, which will halt any further action.

With this uploaded, I went into OBS and tried setting a few hotkeys. IT WORKS!

Hotkey Assignments

This will probably change in the future, but here’s how I have the hotkeys set up.  The key numbering goes from left to right, top to bottom:

  1. OBS Scene: Main
  2. OBS Scene: Be Right Back
  3. OBS Scene: Technical Difficulties
  4. (Custom button for stream integrations)
  5. OBS Source: Mute microphone
  6. OBS Source: Hide camera
  7. Twitch Chat: Spam “<3”
  8. Twitch Chat: Spam “💡” (Unicode 1F4A1)

The Twitch chat macros uses an OBS script I wrote, which stops and starts with OBS and hooks into its hotkey menu as well. The custom button (code symbol) is the odd man out – this is going to be a custom button that changes based on whatever interactive stream thing I use that day.

Conclusion

And it’s built! Total cost was around $20, although only because I splurged on the expensive keycaps and the nice switches. You could definitely build this for less.

As I stressed in the introduction, this device is not just limited to streaming! Because it works as a generic keyboard device, it can be used as a macro box for all sorts of programs! I could set simple shortcuts in any program, or use something like AutoHotkey for more complex commands without having to reupload the firmware.

All around this project was a huge success: the “StreamCheap” works exactly as I designed, taking the role of a Stream Deck at nearly a tenth of the cost!

If you’d like to build your own, you can download the 3D files from Thingiverse. Have fun!


Parts List

Per tradition, I linked parts throughout the post as they’re used. But it’s handy to have a single point of reference, so here’s a complete list. Be aware that some of these are Amazon Affiliate links that help fund the content on this site. Thank you for your support!

You’ll also need a USB cable, solder, and a little bit of double-sided tape. I used an M3 tap for the bolt holes but you could probably get away with using a heated bolt.

To build this project more cheaply, you might consider ordering the Arduino from AliExpress, and purchasing less expensive keycaps.

I’d recommend keeping the Cherry switches, even though they’re somewhat pricey. A quality switch can make or break a project and these switches are very well-built. All of the switches in the MX line should have the same footprint, so feel free to switch out the MX Blacks for a different color if you want a lighter feel or a tactile response. WASD Keyboards has a good overview of the switch types here.


111 Comments

Adam Balfe · March 17, 2018 at 5:37 am

Any chance you could modify the design to fit two rows of five instead of four? Going to be building this soon but like like some extra keys. Thanks in advance 🙂

    Dave · March 17, 2018 at 2:02 pm

    Sorry, I didn’t really design the CAD file to scale based on the number of buttons and I’m already knee-deep in some other projects. The model would be a good candidate for a SCAD conversion though, if I ever find the time!

      Adam Balfe · March 17, 2018 at 2:18 pm

      No problem, do you mind if I re-design it to fit 10 keys? I can upload the files as a remix on thingiverse too 🙂

        Dave · March 17, 2018 at 3:01 pm

        Go for it! The case design is licensed under Creative Commons (Attribution – Share Alike), so as long as you abide by the license you can change it as you please! I’m sure some people out there would also appreciate a 10-key version.

          Adam Balfe · March 17, 2018 at 3:09 pm

          Cool! I’ll be sure to add it to thingiverse when I’m finished the project. 🙂

    Vinny · June 6, 2018 at 4:56 pm

    Not OP but you can use some tools created by the mechanical keyboard community for that:

    * Create the base layout of your macropad using keyboard-layout-editor.com
    * Get the raw data from the first site and paste it on builder.swillkb.com, this site will generate the appropriate CAD files for laser cutting the switch plate and what is called a sandwich-style case (layers that are screwed together to make the case)
    * (Optional) Post your macropad at reddit.com/r/mechanicalkeyboards! 😀

Dri · March 24, 2018 at 3:01 pm

When I try to upload the sketch, it says “‘KEY_F13’ was not declared in this scope”. Did I use the wrong library? I’m pretty sure I installed the github library.

    Dave · March 24, 2018 at 11:06 pm

    You can’t install the library in the IDE because it will conflict with the built-in one. You have to put the source files into the same folder as the sketch, and use quotation marks in your include statement in place of brackets so the compiler looks for the local file.

      Dri · March 25, 2018 at 12:53 am

      Should I create a folder with the StreamCheap.ino, then copy the Keyboard library zip into the same folder, or do I put the Keyboard.cpp and Keyboard.h files in? I’m not quite sure how to do it 😛

        Dave · March 25, 2018 at 1:24 am

        Extract the zip and put the .h and .cpp files in the same folder as the .ino.

          Melo · March 27, 2018 at 6:10 am

          can you show a diagram on the wiring of this board, I want to make one but I don’t have experience with wiring

          Dave · March 27, 2018 at 9:14 pm

          I don’t have a wiring diagram, but the wiring is very straight-forward. Each key switch has two pins: attach one pin to ground, and one pin to a numbered pin on the microcontroller.

George E. Nowik · March 31, 2018 at 8:03 pm

This is probably a really silly question. Trying to upload the sketch to the Arduino – got the sketch file in the same folder as the keyboard library, double checked all of the {}s to make sure there aren’t any extra ones by reformatting and counting and it all -looks- pretty good. However, in trying to compile I get the following compiling errors:

————————-
error: expected primary-expression before ‘void’
void setup()
^

error: expected ‘}’ before ‘void’
error: expected ‘,’ or ‘;’ before ‘void’
error: expected unqualified-id before numeric constant

void setup()
^
error: expected declaration before ‘}’ token

exit status 1
expected primary-expression before ‘void’
——————–

I haven’t had an opportunity to code in anything that looks like C in a very, very long time but near as I can figure the code looks solid. The only other thing that I can think of is that there’s something missing that I can’t identify through inexperience. Any recommendations?

-= george =-

    Dave · March 31, 2018 at 11:45 pm

    Sorry George, I’m not sure what to tell you. I just tried building the sketch new from the online files and it compiled without issue.

    If I were you I’d re-download the sketch and try again. Those errors would seem to indicate some sort of syntax error just before the ‘setup’ function, but I don’t see anything obvious in the code.

      George E. Nowik · April 1, 2018 at 11:14 pm

      Hey there Dave,

      I took your suggestion and just started from scratch; new folders, new paste of the code, everything. Worked like a charm. I have no clue what was up with the oddities from before.

      Thanks for the suggestion!

      -= george =-

        Dave · April 1, 2018 at 11:27 pm

        Awesome, glad you got it working!

MoonEyes2k · July 31, 2018 at 5:49 pm

Curiousity: Could you “gut” a standard USB numpad with mechanical keys and build this into it, you think? A Motospeed K22 for instance?

    Dave · July 31, 2018 at 6:13 pm

    Can’t speak about that specific device, but you could definitely retrofit a standard numpad with an Arduino (or similar microcontroller). Although you’d need to rework the code to support a matrix layout.

HenrySLYuen · August 13, 2018 at 10:59 am

Is there a way to make a lettered keyboard using this method??
interested to see if I can programme for example just a WASD onto 4 keycaps for normal use?

    Dave · August 14, 2018 at 5:27 pm

    Sure, you’d just have to change the key mappings in the code. Though it’s untenable for large numbers of keys because for simplicity it doesn’t use a matrix layout.

Spencer · August 28, 2018 at 1:03 am

Is there any chance you would know a way to turn this into a media controller (I.E Pause/Play, next track)? I’m brand new to Arduino stuff and I have no idea how to do about this.

    Dave · August 28, 2018 at 7:50 am

    Not a quick and easy way, no. The built-in keyboard library doesn’t work with media keys last I checked, so you’d have to port the code to use something like Nico Hood’s HID library.

    Andy P · August 30, 2018 at 8:59 am

    You can use autohotkey to perform this task. Below is the code I currently use for ctrl+win+key for media buttons on my 60% kb. You’ll have to modify what is put before the “::” to the F13-F24 keys you set for this macro keyboard. I’m buying the parts now for this to make it, I’ll let you know how it goes.

    ^#,::sendinput {Media_Prev}
    ^#/::sendinput {Media_Next}
    ^#.::sendinput {Media_Play_Pause}
    ^#h::sendinput {Volume_Up}
    ^#n::sendinput {Volume_Down}
    ^#m::sendinput {Volume_Mute}
    return

    Put the script in your startup folder so it runs when your computer boots.
    * ctrl+c to copy script > Win+R > shell:startup > right-click > paste shortcut

Frederico · September 5, 2018 at 6:52 am

Hi, I’m trying to find, find someone to build, or learn how to build a 3-wide by 5-high, maybe even 6- or 7-high board that duplicates (more or less) the traditional ‘nav’ section of a full-size keyboard. I.E., I’m simply trying to find a traditional inverted-T Arrow/Cursor cluster, and it would be nice to have the traditional 3w x 2h nav cluster (fn/del/home/end/up/down), as well as F13-F15, and a row of extra macros above that wouldn’t hurt; maybe even a an extra row of macros between the arrows and standard nav keys. It does not have to have the traditional large gap between arrows and the first nav/macro row, but it does need to maintain the traditional blank spaces on either side of the inverted-T; and it would be nice if there was *some* gaps between navs and F-keys; F and upper macros; etc.

I’m totally new to this, and I was only able to breeze your article. If there’s enough information in it to make this happen, just say so, and I’ll dive in more carefully. Otherwise, if there’s another spot I can go where someone might’ve already built this, or someone is willing to take it in for a reasonable profit, I’d appreciate a pointer. I’ve tried somewhat on Reddit, but I’m not getting any easy answers. Nowhere near as clear as this will-written tutorial, anyway.

Penelope Blake · September 29, 2018 at 8:59 am

Hi

Could this be built and programmed to control my logitech webcam software. Mainly Im after two buttons. One that focuses the camera in and another to focus out. Is this possible? Ill take advantage of the other buttons of course, as a streamer on OBS, but these two are my main needs.

    Dave · September 29, 2018 at 7:35 pm

    It depends whether the software supports hotkeys or not. If you can already control those functions with the keys on your keyboard, then yes. Otherwise you’d need some sort of “go-between” software that takes hotkey input and adjusts the camera settings.

Duarte · September 30, 2018 at 6:53 am

Great project!
Can it be done with Arduino Nano instead of the Micro?
I compared the specs of both on the Arduino home page and they are the same, but the Nano is much cheaper.
And if I want to make a bigger interface, the size wouldn’t be an issue.
Thanks

    Dave · September 30, 2018 at 6:54 am

    Nope, the Nano doesn’t support native USB.

Austin · October 6, 2018 at 10:19 am

I had seen Maker’s Muse do a diy deck inspired by yours but he was using nine buttons instead of eight. I ended up modifying his design but I was curious if there is a way to edit the code so that I can some how daisy chain eight and nine together but still get different f-keys or is there an extra empty slot on the bored I could use. I am very new to Arduino but figured it was a good place to start learning. Thank you.

    Dave · October 7, 2018 at 1:17 am

    Hi Austin! With the way mine is set up, all you need to do to wire a ninth button is find a free I/O pin on the board and connect it like the others, then add the additional button/pin to the array in the code. The Pro Micro has an extra 10 pins that are unused in the project, so you can have up to 18 buttons without having to switch to a matrix array.

      Kris · December 2, 2019 at 4:56 pm

      So, you are saying, that i could get another right angle header for the other side, and make an 18 pin/button key bar?

        Dave · December 2, 2019 at 6:08 pm

        Absolutely, you’d just need to add those buttons to the code.

Eric · October 17, 2018 at 6:40 pm

I was looking to build something exactly like this! Are the extra posts on the PCB mountable switches that you linked required? Or will 3-pin plate-mount switches suffice?
Thanks!

    Dave · October 17, 2018 at 7:46 pm

    Either will work, just so long as they have the retaining clips on the side.

Hancelaggard · November 2, 2018 at 12:58 am

No matter what i do i get an error saying that Keyboard.h is not included, but all i’ve done is copy and past the code. Any ideas?

    Dave · November 2, 2018 at 3:28 am

    Make sure you have the correct board selected in the menu. It will throw that error if you’re trying to build for a board that doesn’t support the library (like the Uno).

      Kacper · March 23, 2019 at 9:07 am

      Hey I’m new to this kind of stuff. And I have a question how did you attached wires from switches to Arduino? I mean you solder them or you used wires with attaches ?

        Dave · March 23, 2019 at 11:04 am

        All of the connections are soldered at both ends, although the Arduino-side also has a 0.1″ connector set so I can disconnect the two (also soldered).

Dr.Kev · November 7, 2018 at 3:46 pm

Can anyone tell me, how i can assign a button to ctrl+F ?
Cause everytime i try that, it assigns the buttons to Shift+F1:

Jamie · March 21, 2019 at 10:31 am

Hello

having an issue with the supplied code

error: ‘Keyboard’ not found. Does your sketch include the line ‘#include ‘?

Library is added to the ID and it wont pick it up and i have no idea why

    Dave · March 21, 2019 at 11:46 am

    It will (very unhelpfully) throw that error if you are trying to use the Keyboard library with a board that doesn’t support native USB (Uno, Nano, Mega, etc.). Double-check that you have the correct board selected in the “Boards” menu (Tools -> Boards).

Carl Johnson · March 25, 2019 at 2:47 am

I have been thinking about how I will build a keyboard input for OBS while I wait for my Arduino to arrive. (I am in China so it takes a while) I was going to go the key pad route as you have done, but I don’t stream, rather, I give online presentations and so I am usually standing. I was thinking the keypad would still be a little awkward. So I was looking through my Arduino parts and found that I had an IR receiver and a small IR remote. So I will implement it using a remote. The remote has arrow keys as well as 0-9 keys and A-F keys. So pressing one of these keys will send an appropriate Keyboard code to OBS. I learned some things reading through your article so thank you. Most interesting was the secret keys F13 to F24. Those will be the “appropriate “keystrokes” that will not be confused with other programs. Good info!

Thrasherht · April 19, 2019 at 4:13 pm

Would it be possible to get the step files for the case?

noyce · May 23, 2019 at 7:53 pm

I made this last night! thanks for publishing the guide!

    Dave · May 23, 2019 at 11:19 pm

    No problem, thanks for building one! I hope it works well for you!

Victor · September 18, 2019 at 12:57 am

Thanks for the guide! Would it be possible to turn this into a wireless remote deck by attaching a transmitter and receiver to the PC? If so what part would you recommend?

    Dave · September 18, 2019 at 4:44 am

    It’s definitely possible but it wouldn’t be an off-the-shelf solution. You could use either a Bluetooth module, master/slave microcontrollers with RF modules, or even a WiFi solution and a program on the PC that reads and processes the commands. Regardless of what method you choose, you’d have to rewrite the code from scratch. You’ll also need a lipo battery and a charging circuit.

    I don’t have any specific parts to recommend, sorry!

Matt · September 21, 2019 at 8:08 pm

Is there anyway to get this to interact with the Stream deck software?
Would be nice to add delays etc.

Saturas · November 30, 2019 at 5:21 pm

Hi,
is there a way to push numbad buttons in the code?

I mean this Link shows some special keys:
https://www.arduino.cc/en/Reference/KeyboardModifiers
and it also links to another side for some normal ascii keys:
http://www.asciitable.com/
(It works when i copy the Hex code)

But is there a way to push numbad buttons virtually? i cant find any code values for it.

Oscar · March 10, 2020 at 4:44 am

Does the 3.3V version work with the build?

    Dave · March 10, 2020 at 10:13 am

    It should, yes.

Bora · March 18, 2020 at 9:33 am

hey I made something like this I have used normal push buttons instead of cherry mx etc
it works like a charm but I need something bigger so what I want to do is add 3 separate switches and code it like if switch one is active than button 2 is F13 else if switch 2 is active than button 2 is F13 + F14
this way I can increase the number of buttons digitally but here is my issue I am bad at codding and I cant make it press two buttons at the same time if you can just help me about assigning two functions to one button then I assume I can handle the rest of it

    Bora · March 18, 2020 at 9:40 am

    Okay I have changed my mind I cant handle the rest I absolutely need help for all of the codding part

Grant · April 4, 2020 at 10:00 pm

I just found this post and thanks for the great writeup. Is the 3D model for the housing available anywhere to download? Thanks!

    Dave · April 4, 2020 at 10:08 pm

    Thanks! You can download the STL files from Thingiverse, here.

Johannes · April 15, 2020 at 2:07 pm

Hey Dave,
Thank you for sharing this Project. I’m on it at the Moment, and so far, it works like a charm. Since I’m new to Arduino and programming, I have a question, and thought, you could maybe help me out. I tried to change the assigned Keys, and it’s no problem to assign a single Key like CTRL by using Keyboard Modifier. (See Link below). But I can’t manage to combine them, or add a Letterkey like abc etc. Do you by any chance know, how I can assign a combination like ctrl+c, or alt+F2 to a single Button? If i type #define BUTTON_KEY1 KEY_LEFT_CTRL + KEY_F2 the output while pressing the Button is a Capital C, which I don’t understand. I hope, you can help me, but if not, it’s also fine. Thanks again for this project.
Johannes

    Dave · April 15, 2020 at 8:47 pm

    Hi Johannes!

    What you’re trying to do is absolutely possible, but the code I wrote isn’t built for it. You would need to modify the button class to take two different keys in the constructor, then modify the press() function to press/release both keys when the button is pressed. Alternately, you could ditch the object-oriented portion of the code for that one button and write a function specifically for it.

    The reason why a capital ‘C’ is pressed is due to the way the library is built. All of the key identifiers are single bytes: KEY_LEFT_CTRL is 0x80 (128) and KEY_F2 is 0xC3 (195). Added together these make 323, which is greater than 255 (the max for a single byte). The value then “rolls over” to 323 – 256 = 67, which is the ASCII character code for ‘C’. The library knows this is a capital letter, so it presses both ‘c’ and ‘SHIFT’ for you.

Johannes · April 16, 2020 at 2:20 am

Hey Dave,
Thanks for the quick answer. Now I’ll try to find out how to accomplish that.

Zachary · April 16, 2020 at 1:34 pm

Is there any more detailed information on the wiring process. I’m a total noob with arduino and the like but this is a project I’m very interested in. I’ve got the parts already just need to get some wire and finish printing the enclosure.

    Dave · April 16, 2020 at 8:56 pm

    There isn’t more information on the wiring because the wiring itself couldn’t be simpler: for each switch, connect one side to an I/O pin and the other side to ground. It doesn’t matter which I/O pins you use so long as you update the numbers in the code.

      Zachary · April 17, 2020 at 11:12 am

      I see that now! I got confused by the same color wires. IDK why I was expecting everything to be its own color haha. Sorry. Im having fun printing this up and am waiting on wire from amazon. The print came out excellent. I used clear pla and was wondering how difficult it would be to disable the LEDs on the board and possibly add a LED on key press? It would be nice to have a red LED on when I mute mic. Cheers.

        Dave · April 17, 2020 at 11:49 am

        The LEDs that can be disabled on the board already are – if the blinks from the RX and TX LEDs bother you you can repeat the “off” LED commands in the loop function, which should make the pulse short enough to not be visible. If you don’t like the power LED on the board you would have to desolder it or cut its trace.

        I didn’t really build the code with add-ons like that in mind, so while it’s possible to add a linked LED you would have to code it yourself. A quick and dirty solution would be to check the associated pin for the button in the press function, and if it matches your ‘mute’ key set the LED output.

          Zachary · April 22, 2020 at 2:52 pm

          Hmm for some reason the LEDs are not going off when I upload the sketch. I get a disconnect sound and the LEDs all flash they stay solid.

wil · April 19, 2020 at 9:37 pm

hey im new to all this arduino stuff im curious if i can use something other than the pro micro if so what would you suggest?

    wil · April 19, 2020 at 9:39 pm

    like i was wondering if i could use the adafruit pro trinket or something

      Dave · April 19, 2020 at 9:55 pm

      There are lots of boards you can use in principle, but both the 3D printed case and the code I made are designed for the Pro Micro.

Manuel · April 20, 2020 at 7:13 am

Awesome tutorial!
Just one question: If I would expand this keyboard to more than 12 keys, are they any other unused keys I could assign them to just like the F13-F24 keys?
Thanks a lot!

    Dave · April 20, 2020 at 3:07 pm

    Not that I know of. Although if your software supports it you can do combinations (F13 + F14, F13 + F15, etc.) or mix the function keys with modifiers (e.g. Shift + F13).

      Manuel · April 20, 2020 at 5:02 pm

      Thanks a lot for the super fast answer!
      Haven’t thought of that, good idea, will see if that works.

Turtuline · May 23, 2020 at 9:51 am

Hey! I’ve been wanting to dip into diy macropads and found yours to be a cheap solution to not making a custom pcb and dropping a fair bit of money on either etching fluid or shipping for fabrication companies. Some guides that I’ve found require resistors and others say that I need to use debounce circuits (so that the audrino doesn’t spam a key input when the button is pressed). Why does yours require neither?

Thanks!

    Dave · May 23, 2020 at 5:49 pm

    Hi! That’s a great question. I tried to design this to be as simple and cheap as possible, so it uses the internal pull-up resistors inside the 32U4 microcontroller (roughly 30-40K) and does the debouncing in software.

Turtuline · May 23, 2020 at 9:19 pm

Oh ok. That is really cool and innovative of you!

BOT-OZZI · May 26, 2020 at 3:58 am

So, I saw your stream deck and wanted to modify the code to make some sort of modes. Like sacrificing a button so you can have different modes, making more button. I have used a AHK script to successfully do so, but i would like to make code in arduino so a led switches on and off according to which mode it is currently on.
I have tried doing this but struggled to do so. I have tried running it with a for loop, and calling a new loop.
I have done this within the if statement, that i think, is controlling if the buttons are pressed. I would like to know if this is even possible and if so, how to do it.

Thanks!

    Dave · May 26, 2020 at 4:53 am

    Hi there. It’s possible, but my code isn’t really built for adding that sort of feature. You would need to write a new program or make significant modifications to the existing code, likely rewriting the button class to support multiple output keys (conditionally) and providing a static member to switch between them. I’m sorry I can’t be more helpful.

Heinrich · July 1, 2020 at 4:19 pm

This looks awesome! But I’m looking to use this simply to record the button pushes in a log file with date and time stamps (eventually also to output via thermal printer to a paper version). Any idea or pointers how to accomplish this? Ideally capture the date and time of the button push, and the button name in a file like this:
20200601 14:00 Button 1
20200601 14:01 Button 2
20200601 14:47 Button 3, Button 1
EoF
?

    Dave · July 1, 2020 at 5:09 pm

    The easiest way would be to build a program on the PC that reads keypresses and writes them to a file. Filter for the high F# keys and you’ll restrict inputs to the macro pad.

    If you want it to work without a PC you’d need a real time clock (RTC) integrated circuit and some sort of external memory like an SD card. Then on keypresss poll the RTC for the current time and format it into a string using sprintf, then write to file and append a newline. I’m not sure if the extra components will fit inside the case, as it’s not what the project was designed for.

Justin · July 2, 2020 at 6:45 pm

I am not seeing a full wiring diagram on there, I am not sure what button to wire to what port on the ardiuno.. Is there one available. I am thinking about building one.

LordRip1 · July 8, 2020 at 11:09 am

First thanks for the project. Really easy build for new people like me. I recently decided to add a 16×2 lcd i2c to the project, but I am having hard time displaying the txt I want when I push a button. I have searched google but just ended up more confused. I am strong with hardware, but weak with code. I was wondering if you could point me in the right direction. Not asking for the code, well unless you want to 😛 but maybe a resource that deal/explains how to pull it off. 🙂

    Dave · July 9, 2020 at 6:21 am

    Unfortunately my code was never designed to be extended like that. You may be better off writing your own code from scratch.

LordRip1 · July 9, 2020 at 9:13 am

Thanks for the extremely fast response and the suggestion. Also happy to hear I am not Nuts 🙂

hussain · July 25, 2020 at 10:30 pm

can some one help with me idea
i did print 2 keypads 12 key each and configure the Arduino to use F13-F24 on each but to use them on different PC’s with the same setting (Work + home )
now i need 2 sets each place so is there is more than F24 key (like F25-F36) or can i configure the Arduino to press 2 keys in one time like (F24*)

    hussain · July 25, 2020 at 11:23 pm

    Basically i need the line that will define the BUTTON_KEY1 as (F13+SHIFT) and i can delicate it on the rest

Mike · July 27, 2020 at 9:41 am

Excellent device.

I’m building one myself as a small project. This is my first venture into electronics and soldering! I managed to solder a header to the pro micro. My switches arrived today and im wondering how to wire up the earth pin, i see you have all the switches chained off of each other but no other wire coming from them to the Araduino. Am i suppose to the wire the GND pin to the last switch in the chain? If that makes sense?

Cheers!

    Dave · July 27, 2020 at 9:45 am

    Hi Mike!

    You’re right on the money. It’s hard to see in the photo, but the last switch on the bottom left has a wire coming off of it into the bundle that is then connected to the ‘GND’ net on the Arduino.

Jason · August 4, 2020 at 5:39 pm

Hi there,
This is our first Adruino Project, and we keep getting an error “‘Keyboard’ not found. Does your sketch include the line ‘#include ‘?”
We are using a: FTCBlock Arduino pro Mini Nano V3.0 ATmega328P 5V 16M
Any Suggestions?
Thanks

    Dave · August 4, 2020 at 5:55 pm

    The Pro Mini will not work with this project. You need a different board.

      Jason · August 4, 2020 at 6:11 pm

      Well, crud.
      I thought I was ordering the right thing. Then when I noticed the difference between the Pro Mini, and Pro Micro as you suggest, I was hoping there would be similar functionality. Can briefly explain the difference between a pro mini and micro?
      Thanks!

        Dave · August 4, 2020 at 6:23 pm

        The Pro Micro is based around the 32U4, which has an onboard USB controller and can connect to a computer for doing things like HID input (Keyboard, Mouse, Joystick, what have you). The Pro Mini is based around the same chip as the Uno and Nano, the 328P, which does not have an onboard USB controller and cannot connect to a computer without a go-between to handle the serial to USB translation. The 328P boards therefore cannot function as HID input devices, as is needed for this project.

        I hope that helps!

Jimmy · August 12, 2020 at 5:08 pm

HEY i wanted to know if it was possible to make it like one of the keys a shift key and also i couldn’t get F13-F20 working with discord… any thought??

    Dave · August 12, 2020 at 6:17 pm

    You can make one key ‘shift’ by using either the KEY_LEFT_SHIFT or KEY_RIGHT_SHIFT constants.

    I don’t know what to tell you about Discord, I just tested and it works fine for me with the latest version.

JImmy · August 12, 2020 at 7:19 pm

Ok, Dave my code doesnt work ATALL this si the board i got-https://www.amazon.com/HiLetgo-Atmega32U4-Bootloadered-Development-Microcontroller/dp/B01MTU9GOB/

Like i cna upload it but then when i press the button IT DOES NOTHING i dont know what to do Dave plaese help.

(PS it says its compatable)

    Dave · August 12, 2020 at 7:38 pm

    If the buttons do nothing you need to check that you have everything wired correctly and with good soldering technique.

      Jimmy · August 12, 2020 at 7:38 pm

      ok thank you

Jimmy · August 13, 2020 at 11:08 am

Dave i resoldered everything and it doesnt work could to board be the problem?? it isnt an arduino but it is a compatible with arduino

Ian · August 17, 2020 at 8:27 am

I want to use an atmega pro 2560 instead, however am having issues following some of the code and what differences there would be if I used it..
All I want to do is translate the GPIO input into a macro. I’m not sure how I tell the ATMEGA to send a keyboard instruction down the USB. What is the function for this
for example. If click button wired to GPIO 2 then send character A (int value 65) to the keyboard USB. is there code for this.. I assume I would replace the function key array with of statements. Id give money to know this, otherwise will have to keep researching and figure out out, I guess.
Thx

    Dave · August 17, 2020 at 9:01 am

    You cannot use a 2560 as it does not have onboard USB. The Arduino Mega, which uses a 2560, has a 16U2 onboard to handle the USB to serial translation. You would have to reprogram the 16U2 to take serial input and translate it into USB HID keypresses. NicoHood’s “Hoodloader” project is an example of this.

DeckardWS · September 7, 2020 at 8:40 pm

Hi Dave! Thank you for sharing this tutorial. Is it alright with you if I build one of these live on my stream, and link back to your site here?

Hope all is well.

-Deckard

    Dave · September 8, 2020 at 2:44 am

    Hey Deckard! You are more than welcome to build one of these on your stream.

Omar · September 16, 2020 at 5:50 am

Where can I buy it already? Do you have a merchandising site?

    Dave · September 16, 2020 at 11:37 am

    I don’t sell these. The purpose of the project was to design a low cost alternative to the Stream Deck, and if you have to pay me to hand build it then it no longer becomes low cost 🙂.

Tony · September 19, 2020 at 5:31 pm

When do I short the pin1 (RX) to upload new sketches?
do i keep it shorted the whole time? Reconnect it while shorting it? Reset it?
I feel like i’ve tried all the combination but COM is always busy and I cant upload new sketches.

    Dave · September 19, 2020 at 6:04 pm

    You should never have to short pin 1 to upload new sketches. It’s just a safety precaution in case you modify the code incorrectly or the microcontroller is damaged in a way where it’s spamming keypresses. It will never affect the uploading process itself.

    If the COM port is busy you may have the wrong port selected, or you may need to reflash the microcontroller’s bootloader.

will · September 27, 2020 at 10:21 pm

hello, i have spent about a month in total building this, it is my first real project that includes soldering and coding, i have never done either of them before, do you have any guide to uploading your code? i cant figure it out, i get weird errors like “‘Keyboard’ not found. Does your sketch include the line ‘#include ‘?” i do not really understand what to do from here, thankyou! -will moran

Paul · October 19, 2020 at 10:28 pm

Do you have the original design files? (Hopefully in fusion360 or FreeCAD?) Or STEP/IGES?

    Dave · October 19, 2020 at 10:30 pm

    They’re around here somewhere, but I’m not distributing the original design files at the moment. Sorry!

datrandomduggy · October 23, 2020 at 12:24 am

anyway to edit the code to change some of the keys to a key combo like ctrl+c?

    Dave · October 23, 2020 at 2:15 am

    The code was never designed for key combinations. You’d have to modify the button class to support storing and pressing multiple keys.

      datrandomduggy · October 23, 2020 at 2:24 am

      Ok cool thanks

Weekend Update June 26, 2020 – BIT-101 · June 26, 2020 at 7:58 pm

[…] Building a DIY Stream Deck (Mini Macro Keyboard) […]

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