Really Busy Wizards

Custom media keys for custom keyboards

Author: Justin Kenyon

Since diving into the mechanical keyboard world I have been loving the feeling of accomplishment I get working with tools that provide the physical feedback I am looking for. I am able to get into a rhythm of sorts when coding and really stay in the zone.

My favorite keyboard so far has been the KBC Poker II. This has been the keyboard that I keep returning to on a daily basis. It is a small keyboard. In the mechanical keyboard world it is one of the most popular 60% keyboards on the market. However, the one big downside for me has been the lack of media keys. There is a full layer of programmable function keys on the Poker II, but nothing that will emulate the native PAUSE/PLAY, NEXT, and PREVIOUS keys on the standard Mac keyboard (F8, F9, and F7 keys respectively).

For this to be accomplished we have to fall back on to some kind of software solution. Lots of people like Karabiner, which is very powerful and apparently can allow you to fully customize your keyboard for many different tasks. I tried Karabiner, but found it a little too complicated for what I wanted to do and my search continued.

Today, I found a very simple solution. If you open up your System Preferences on your Mac and navigate to Keyboard, and then click on the Shortcuts tab:

sys_prefs_keyboard_shortcuts

We are now going to create one (or three) of these services to be able to control Spotify from the keyboard using the keyboard shortcut of our choosing.

First, open Automator (/Applications/Automator.app). Start a new document and select "Service" as the type of document you wish to write.

automator_doc_selection

You will now be presented with a new default workflow that you will customize for our first goal: Creating a system wide PLAY/PAUSE shortcut for Spotify.

Choose "no input" from the "Service receives selected" drop down.

automator_service_selected

Type run in the search box, and drag Run AppleScript over to the editing section.

automator_apple_script

Now, replace (* Your script goes here *) with one of the following (depending on which service you are trying to create:

Save the file with something like Spotify PlayPause. This will be the name that shows up in the Keyboard/Shortcuts meny.

Once you have saved the new service, open up System Preferences, click on Keyboard and then click on the Shortcuts tab.

In the "Services" section, on the bottom you should see your new custom services:

new_services

All you need to do now is hover over the none text on the right of your service and it should change to a add shortcut button. Click this and you can use the keystroke that you wish to attach to this service. Make sure that you use something that is not used by other applications. Some testing may be necessary.

Note: once you created this new shortcut, access it first by selecting the service from the menu bar. It will not be available to your keyboard before you do this once.

service_menu

I hope you found this as helpful and as easy as I did.