Streamdeck vs. external USB num pad?

This is off topic, except it's not because it relates to KM using external devices.

After doing some searches, it appears that KM macros can be triggered by something like an external num pad. So why would I want a Streamdeck when the num pad can be had for as little as $10?


I'll go first! Profiles! With profiles, each application can have graphical buttons (associated with/to macros) that pertain to that application only.

Here is one that automatically changes when I'm in Keyboard Maestro.

If you need more, let us know.


  1. The StreamDeck buttons can show icons/text so you know what the button does and don't have to memorize what each number means
  2. The StreamDeck buttons can mean different things in different apps (whoops, just saw kcwhat's post above, so that).
  3. kmLink makes it easy to parameterize KM macros

Right, my thought exactly. And it works wonderfully well:


Here's my answer:

Stream Deck for iPadOS or iOS works the same way as a Stream Deck device, and it costs $0 for the 6-button version. That's $10 cheaper than an external USB number pad.

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Six buttons isn't really much of a match for unlimited layouts (switchable manually or automatically by application) of an 18-key pad.


You are correct, but you can also get the lifetime mobile version of Stream Deck for iOS which supports up to 128 buttons for $49, or just pay $2.99 for one month. That's 7 times as many keys as an 18-key pad. I've been paying $2.99 for about 6 months, and I think it's time for me to upgrade to the permanent version, because I like it so much.

I have a Stream Deck XL and it's changed my working life. From a KM perspective, being able to have the same macro triggered by multiple KM Link buttons with different parameters (accessible as %TriggerValue%) is brilliant and greatly simplified a lot of my macros.

Being able to glance at the SD and see the state of something (are my speakers playing back in mono at the moment?) is yet another reason a simple numberpad can't compare.

I also use the free 6-button version on my iPhone, for controlling Logic Pro and UA Console wirelessly while I'm sitting behind my drum kit at the other side of the room from my mac.


Thank you to everyone who replied! I very much appreciate it!

Regarding profiles, can some of the buttons still be global, i.e. not affected by a profile? So I could have some buttons be the same thing all the time, while others might change depending on the application?

Previously, you'd have to manually copy buttons to multiple profiles but the latest update allows you to pin them so they appear everywhere.


Yes Indeed!

Actually... I was wrong. You still need to manually copy them across profiles; you can only pin them across pages and folders of the same profile.

It only takes a second to copy and paste a button though, so no biggie.

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@DanThomas If your main concern is money and you work with a Macbook, then just do everything with KM.

Build horizontal palettes with buttons that lie exactly above the F-keys. 12 icons then lie exactly above 12 F-keys. So your finger goes to the icon, but press F5, for example. Almost like a stream deck. With modifiers you can choose which palette is displayed, globally, app-specific, whatever you want.

But as I said, this only works with the internal keyboard of a Macbook


+1 to the Stream Deck all the way. The button displays really sell it.

If you decide to go this route, I kindly suggest you check out the "beta" support for StreamDeck from BTT. (here) It let's you do things the El Gato software doesn't. E.g. true global buttons across profiles, conditional profiles that show buttons when conditions are met, multiple profiles displaying at the same time etc, etc)

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So I just ordered a Stream Deck.

With regards to BTT, with which I am acquainted, should I learn Stream Deck's software first, or should I go straight to BTT's interface?


I can't answer that as I haven't tried the BTT thing; it would take too long for me to transfer across as I've set up so many native profiles. I'm sure someone else can help with that.

I will say, however, that you won't regret getting a Stream Deck. It's incredibly useful and fun!


I don't know about BTT, but when I got my Stream Deck (in my case, just the mobile software version) it took me an hour to realize I had to choose between the built-in Stream Deck actions, or the Keyboard Maestro action (which you have to figure out how to download from the Elgato marketplace.)

There are now two choices when it comes to downloading a plug-in from the Elgato Marketplace to make your Stream Deck work with KM. One is called "Keyboard Maestro" and the other is called "KMLink." For a discussion about which one may be best for you, here is a thread discussing the choices. The former seems to focus on power, the latter seems to focus on convenience. I prefer the former.


@noisneil: I understand completely the challenge of tossing all your hard work and starting over. I was in exactly the same boat for exactly the same reasons. But it's done now, and I'm really really happy. @DanThomas is in the happy place of not having that technical debt. The learning curve for BTT might be a bit higher, but so is the pay-off.

Some advice for those who are considering this shift: Don't think you have to take a week to completely refactor your StreamDeck. There is "top down nuke and pave" and there is "improve by exception". I took the latter route and started over with a blank SteamDeck. (Okay, that sounds like "Nuke and pave") But I only made buttons when I needed the buttons. And at the same time I was learning the nuances of BTT scripting. Yes my efficiency dropped while I was hitting all those "exceptions", but it gave me time to learn how it works. And this is a case where an effort today means almost no effort to tomorrow."

@DanThomas, I don't know which StreamDeck you ordered. I have the XL with 32 buttons. With the El Gato software I needed that. But I think with the ability to have multiple and sometimes conditional profiles active at once, the ability to switch out groups of buttons with a button-press, someone could get by with a smaller one. (Might have more button pushes for context changes but would save some money up front.)

Gang, I am not a shill for BTT and it's support of StreamDeck. But I am a huge fan and I was exactly where many of you are now and wanted more. The transition (not for you @DanThomas!) was not as bad as I expected and it gave me a chance to reconsider some of my earlier design decisions. Very happy. (Clearly)


Whoops. Forgot this part of your question.

should I learn Stream Deck's software first, or should I go straight to BTT's interface

Do not pass Go, do not collect $200. Just go for it, knowing one will not help with the other.

You're more than capable of making your own decision here. Just check out the docs.

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@DanThomas, You can come back to this comment when your SD actually arrives, but this is worthy of note when it does:

As @Airy mentioned the native Stream Deck Keyboard Maestro plugin vs KM Link, I'll say what I always say, and seems to be the consensus:

Always user KM Link unless you need to programatically set the button icon. In that instance, use the native KM button action.

@devoy I don't often find myself wishing the SD behaved any differently to how it does, but I suspect that if I were starting out again, the additional flexibility of using BTT might be enticing. Having said that, I do prefer to keep the number of always-running apps on my mac to a minimum, so I don't know...

@DanThomas is already familiar with BTT, so it seems like a natural thing to at least check out.