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KeyPad Pro: Turn Your iPad Into a Keyboard of Shortcuts

By Kim Larson

Today there are many items available for you to speed up your workflow. Just look at all the great keyboards that come pre-programmed with shortcuts to your favorite software programs such as Motobodo, X-Keys, and RPG Keys. If you own an iPad, you might already have one of these great time-saving keyboards in your hand. The KeyPad Pro app ($4.99 in the iTunes App Store) allows you to turn your iPad into an extra keyboard with your own customized buttons. It allows you to make your own “keypads” for any software program, with each keypad having its own set of custom shortcut buttons. KeyPad Pro communicates with your computer via your local wi-fi network.

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Part of the power of KeyPad Pro is the ability to customize and share your keypads. You’re free to create your own keypads from scratch, and the developers of KeyPad Pro provide some pre-made keypads for $0.99 each. I highly recommend purchasing the Photoshop keypad, not only because it’s a great starting point for customizing your own Photoshop keypad, but it’s also a great way to learn advanced ways to setup keypads for other software programs. I purchased the Photoshop keypad as a starting point and added buttons to run my favorite actions. Any keypads you make can be shared on the KeyPad Pro forum, where you can also download keypads from others. Or e-mail your favorite keypad directly to a friend—it can all be done from within the KeyPad Pro app itself.

There are so many options for creating your own keypad, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. The help menus within the app itself are a must-read—they will explain each type of button and how it functions. There are buttons for sliders (great for managing Photoshop brush sizes), buttons that will perform a bunch of steps (great for Photoshop Actions with multiple steps!), and buttons that will display a menu. Each button can have multiple keystrokes assigned to it as well: one for tapping the button once, one for holding down the button, and one for double-tapping the button. The possibilities are endless!

Your keypads can also be customized with images. The app itself includes many icons that can be used on your buttons, but you may want to add your own via the iPad’s media library. Or use an image from your iPad media library as a background for the entire keypad display. Advanced users may use their custom background as a keypad itself by adding transparent buttons on top of it.

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This instrument panel image has transparent KeyPad Pro buttons.

To make the KeyPad Pro communicate with your computer, you’ll need to visit the KeyPad Pro website to download the KeyPad Server for your computer. It sounds complicated, but it’s just a simple piece of software that allows your computer to communicate with your iPad. There are versions available for both Windows and Apple computers.

KeyPad Pro and KeyPad Server require a wireless network to communicate. To start, you’ll need to open KeyPad Server on your computer and wait for it to display your host address and port. Then you can open KeyPad Pro on your iPad and press the “connect” button, which should detect your home computer and display it in a list. Select your home computer, and the two should connect. A green light will display in the upper left corner of KeyPad Pro on the iPad to indicate the connection is active. If, for some reason, your iPad will not connect to your home computer automatically, as mine often does not, you can opt for a manual connection—just enter in the numbers displayed on your KeyPad Server and you should be ready to go! Just be aware that if you walk away from your computer, the app prevents your iPad from “sleeping,” so you may come back to a dead iPad battery if it’s not plugged in.

I have found the application to be a bit buggy (it will crash at random), but definitely worth more than the $4.99 sticker price. I was able to cull and edit an entire wedding using the app without issues. If you were considering buying a manufactured keyboard for Photoshop or Lightroom and you don’t mind doing some of the setup yourself, KeyPad Pro might even be worth the $499 to buy an iPad as well. I know I would be using it as an excuse to buy that shiny new 2nd generation iPad if I didn’t already own the first one!

Look for my Lightroom keypad, named Lightroom3 v1.0 in the KeyPad Pro Forum, and enjoy!

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