58 Custom Keys to Streamline Your Workflow: X-keys Professional
By Betsy Finn, Cr.Photog., CPP
X-keys Professional, from P.I. Engineering, is a 58-key customizable keyboard; straight out of the box, it might look unassuming. But that's the beauty of it—you can customize X-keys to your heart's content. Imagine how 58 custom keys could help streamline your workflow. I have to admit, once my X-keys unit was set up and operational, it really helped increase my editing efficiency in Photoshop, but I'm getting ahead of myself. First to explain how it works.
The X-keys unit ships with a set of key labels, the software disc, and three double-sized keys that you can install if you choose. I opted to keep all 58 keys, since I knew I would use them! You can download (or order) legend sheets to create customized key labels. I found it most useful to make my own key labels, along with a layout chart of which shortcuts I wanted to associate with certain keys (download templates).
My process began with making a list of all the shortcuts I use most frequently—whether in Photoshop, Bridge, or just general computer actions. Here's a picture of my worksheet—I wrote down the desired label, whether the shortcut would be a global command (or program-specific), and what keystrokes to program.
Then, I created a rough draft of my layout (using my worksheet). As I wrote down where to program each action/keystroke, I also made note of any existing keyboard shortcuts on the worksheet. For example, I created Undo and Redo buttons—which are global keystrokes, but also Photoshop-specific. When Photoshop is open, the Undo/Redo buttons perform the Step Forward/Backward function. For some of my desired buttons, I did not have any keyboard shortcuts assigned in Photoshop. So, rather than programming keystroke by keystroke within the X-keys software, I simply created an action in Photoshop, and then assigned a keyboard shortcut (e.g. Shift+F7) to the action.