Author Topic: Macro Keyboard  (Read 254 times)

Tinman

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Macro Keyboard
« on: June 30, 2019, 07:14:08 PM »
BLUF, does anyone use a second keyboard for macros to help with their fight sim.  I've just started and it seems like a very viable option that can make it a lot easier to get more functions at your finger tips.

I currently have a single keyboard and I'm not putting stickers on the keys because I need to see where the letters are to type.  If I plug in a second keyboard, the mapping is the same. win 10 treats them as the same keyboard...

I do have a small razor gaming keypad, but looking for a full size keyboard.

I'm doing internet searches and finding some promising software to recognize a second keyboard and only a macro keyboard.

Anyone have any experience on this?

Mark

Tinman

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Re: Macro Keyboard
« Reply #1 on: July 07, 2019, 10:39:22 PM »
I wanted to follow up on this subject in case anyone was interested.

Ever since I was big into video editing (when the kids were younger and getting married, I needed to make multiple pre-wedding slide shows and edit the wedding videos).  I discovered how handy it was to have a second keyboard mapped to commonly used functions to speed my workflow.  Even commands accessible via a mouse were much faster using a keystroke on a second keyboard.

Back then, I used a Thrustmaster Tacticalboard for the second keyboard.  Without the special software that came with it, the Tacboard was treated like a keyboard and just typed letters like it was the main keyboard.  With the Thrustmaster software, it was treated like a true second keyboard and you can bind the individual keys to send a different key, or series of keys like CTRL+SHIFT+L or a common text strings.   All of that was over 15 years ago and it worked well.

When I pulled out the pedals and joystick and got the dust off, I also pulled out the Tacboard to see how it would work for Flight Sim.  I lost the software and research showed the Tacboard doesn’t have software compatible with Win 10.  So I posted this thread and see what was out there.

My research lead me to a few directions.  I got a small Razor gaming keyboard and downloaded the new software.  Without the software, it works like the keys on the left side of the keyboard.  I download the Win 10 software and mapped things like the Nav and Com radios, the heading bug selection, and the OBS to different keys.  It has a wheel that basically types the same key over and over as you roll it up or down and worked well for  INCREASE SELECTION and DECREASE SELECTION (- and +) keys.  The problem is there wasn’t enough keys.

Razor does have full keyboard that (I understand) has software to treat the razor keyboard as a second keyboard and you can program all 101+ keys with a series of keystrokes.  Cost about $150+.

So I thought of a standard keyboard as I have a few of them laying around and had seen them in a few cockpit photos around the interweb.  Win 10 treats all keyboards the same.  So pressing an “L” on one keyboard is the same as pressing “L” on the other. 

Additional research brought me to a free program called HID Macros (Human Interface device Macros).  It’s still available for download but it’s no longer supported.  When running, it treats the second keyboard as a different device and you can program keys to different letters.  It can also take keystrokes like SHIFT+CTRL+L and puts them on one key, “L” for example.  It can do more advanced scripting, but I didn’t get into that advanced feature --- yet.  The HID Macros website talks about a newer program called LuaMacros but from what I can see, it’s bigger into scripting and I didn’t want to go there.  So, I can’t speak to LuaMacros much, I didn’t explorer it.  At the end of the day, it may be a better solution.

So, HIDMacros it is.  I am in the process of mapping important/common commands to keys on the second keyboard.  It also recognizes the Thrustmaster TacBoard as a third keyboard and I’m putting lesser used commands such as lights, ignition and battery switches etc. on that keyboard.  HIDMacros isn’t hard to use.  You press “Scan” and hit the key (on the second or third keyboard) you want the to use for the keystroke.  In the indicated spot you type the keystrokes you want.

One of the hardest parts are getting some sort of logic to assign keys to functions that are not assigned by default.  Both GPS units are some examples.  The GPS unit in the Otter is different than the GPS (MFD) in the C-172 so they use different keys.  Assigning new keys can be tricky so you don’t interfere with the default mapping.  I created a grid in Excel with the default mapping so I can stay away from assigning those commands.  Some default mapping I will “take over” as I don’t use that item (such as “Drop item”).

The second hard part is how to layout the keys in a logical manner so it means something.  I’ve set up a template in MS Word for key labels so I can remember where the new commands.  (I will move to PrintShop when I get a chance).   I use glossy photo paper to print the key labels because the paper is a little stiffer and the print is sharper, making the smaller print easier to read.  I found out the hard way to put scotch tape over the label, before I cut it out so the print doesn’t wear off as you stick it on.  To stick the label to the key, I use “Sticky Tac” which is a putty like substance.  You use very little to stick it to the key and its stays very well, but you can still take it off if the original idea for placement, didn’t work out.  I try to color code like functions (GPS keys in one color, autopilot keys in another color, etc.) to make them stand out a bit better.  Once I get it going, I’ll know where the commands are.

I’m still working on this so when I’m done, I will have three keyboards attached to the flying PC.  The “main one” is for typing when I’m not flying and in MP, when I start that.  The other “normal keyboard” is mounted for easy keypresses for A/C flying operation, and the TacBoard is for starting the A/C and other lesser use commands.  (I even have a key to get to the dialog box to change the other keys.)

I’m still flying as I build the new layout to test it out.  When I get closer to completion, I post some photos so you can see how it worked out.

All and all this is an inexpensive solution to get handy flight sim functions surfaced and in my face with a label to know where they are.