DIY macro keyboard gives designers customizable shortcuts for any app

Content creation is a big thing these days, whether you’re producing video for live streaming, making graphic art, or even digitally carving 3D models for virtual spaces. Unsurprisingly, there’s a wide variety of software tools available to creators as well, ranging from simple ones you can run directly on your phone to the more sophisticated suites that require a laptop or even a desktop. The variety of features in apps that people use on a daily basis can become mentally exhausting, especially when it comes to memorizing keyboard combos that should help speed up workflows. Our fingers can only do so much, and the number of shortcuts we have to remember across multiple apps can actually do more harm than good. This DIY project tries to make designers’ and creators’ lives a bit easier by offering a mini keyboard that can adapt its icons and actions to match the app you’re using.

Designer: Maximilian Kern

So-called macro keyboards like the Elgato Stream Deck are becoming more popular not just among streamers but also among computer power users. They provide a dedicated set of buttons separate from your keyboard that you can map to almost any function in an app to make them easier to use. As popular as these gadgets might be, they’re still considered niche and, therefore, expensive, out of reach of budding creators.

If you’re anything of a tinkerer or maker, however, you can also just make your own, like what this Keybon project aims to accomplish. It’s a small box with nine tactile buttons buttons that you can assign to a specific function or keyboard shortcut. And just like those pricey commercial macro keyboards, it can switch to a different layout depending on what software you’re running at the time.


What makes Keybon extra special is that each of those nine buttons actually has small 0.66-inch screens on top, and you can select an icon to match the action that the button represents at that time. While it might be faster with muscle memory, visual cues like this will help your brain adjust when switching between apps and layouts. At the same time, you also don’t have to force yourself to actually memorize the actions and buttons and simply take a quick glance at the keyboard to know which one to press.

That said, this kind of project does require a bit of electronics and software know-how to create Keybon, but that also opens the door to more freedom in the design of the device. Fortunately, all the needed pieces are available for free, so it can also become a springboard for makers and creators to customize their own personal macro keyboard to their hearts’ content.