Using a USB foot pedal to emulate the Shift key... possible?

Discussion in 'Mac Accessories' started by dolphin842, Jan 5, 2012.

  1. dolphin842 macrumors 65816

    Jul 14, 2004
    Hi all,

    I've recently started the long process of learning how to program, and have noticed that I am having to hold down the shift key a lot more often (be it for symbols, curly brackets, or typing NSInsertClassHere), which has started to annoy my wrists.

    There are a number of USB foot pedals on the market, but apparently OS X prevents the shift key on one USB device from affecting another USB device. Third-party utilities like USB Overdrive and ControllerMate can emulate pretty much any key combination *except* for Shift.

    Is there any known way to modify OS X's behavior and allow the shift key on one USB peripheral to affect a separate keyboard?
  2. sampers macrumors member

    Apr 7, 2010
  3. dolphin842 thread starter macrumors 65816

    Jul 14, 2004
    Thanks for the link! It looks like this software emulates a USB HID device. However, since this will likely show up as a separate USB device, any invocation of the Shift key there will not affect my keyboard (being a different USB device).

    I guess what I'm wondering is if there's a plist somewhere that provides a toggle for this... enabling or disabling the ability of a shift key to register across all HID devices on the machine.
  4. rocknblogger macrumors 68020


    Apr 2, 2011
    New Jersey
    Take a look at Maestro. It's an extremely powerful macro builder that you can more than likely utilize to accomplish what you need. I recommend downloading the trial and emailing the developer.

    He's extremely helpful and responsive and I have no doubt he'll be able to tell yo
  5. zigzagg321 macrumors 6502

    Oct 7, 2011
    the wire
    Can you make the pedal actuate shift if the pedal is plugged directly into your computer?
  6. dolphin842 thread starter macrumors 65816

    Jul 14, 2004
    A recent google search brought that one up, so it's next on my list of things to try.

    Having the pedal send a Shift isn't the issue, unfortunately. Rather, it's OS X's decision to prevent keypresses by one device from affecting another. For example, if I plug in two keyboards, hold Shift down on keyboard 1 and type on keyboard 2, the letters will still be lowercase.
  7. paulisme macrumors 6502

    Dec 15, 2008
    Charleston, SC
    It seems like the ideal device would be a foot pedal that has a USB input for plugging in a keyboard and a USB output for plugging into the computer. The foot pedal would pass on all keyboard commands to the computer as-is but insert the Shift command when depressed. The foot pedal/keyboard combo would act as one input device.
  8. axiomflash macrumors newbie

    Aug 14, 2012
    Any luck?

    Dolphin, Have you had any luck finding a solution? I am attempting to due the same thing. I bought a pedal and tried using ControllerMate before learning that the few keys I want to use it for do not work.

    I have tendonitis in my left finger from using the shift key. It is quite bad, so my next step is to train myself to use a Dvorak keyboard, and try to learn to use Right Shift instead of Left Shift.
  9. dolphin842, Aug 20, 2012
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2012

    dolphin842 thread starter macrumors 65816

    Jul 14, 2004
    Hey, sorry for the delay.

    What I ended up doing was making my own footswitch using a small wooden platform and some Sanwa buttons (normally used in arcade sticks). I used a leftover ethernet cable to do the necessary wiring.

    However, the big caveat with this approach is that it only works with my specific keyboard (a Kinesis Advantage). Kinesis makes their own footswitches, but I found out that the interface for them is a simple electrical circuit (the connector on a keyboard is a standard 4-pin RJ-11 module used in phones). How it works is the keyboard sends out a signal on one line, and depending on what footswitches are pressed down, the signal then travels to one or more of the other 3 pins. But again, this is something that's specific to the Kinesis; I never found a way around the USB problem mentioned earlier in the thread.

    Otherwise, now that Mountain Lion's here, the new dictation service could help cut down on some typing.

    EDIT: Just noticed that you mentioned Dvorak. I've used it myself for the past 7 years or so. While it does make some difference in comfort, moving to the Kinesis was what really helped reduce the pain. In my case it was my right pinky getting aggravated from reaching for the backspace key. The Kinesis Advantage helps that a lot by moving that key to your left thumb. The Kinesis also lets you remap any key you want, so even if you didn't want to buy or make a footswitch, you could remap Shift to something less painful.

    Also, if you're learning Dvorak, make sure you quit QWERTY cold-turkey for at least a few months... otherwise you'll make it more difficult than necessary to learn.
  10. lixuelai macrumors 6502a

    Oct 29, 2008
    Try this?

    In fact someone did exactly what you intend in the thread where that link originated:
  11. dolphin842 thread starter macrumors 65816

    Jul 14, 2004
    Thanks for passing this along... it's the first I've heard of it. As for axiomflash's situation, it may be possible to program the footswitch to send a Shift by using a utility in Windows (many of these USB footswitches come with windows software for doing this). I'm not sure if there's a way on OS X to get the footswitch to send just a Shift. But at the very least, one could use a second keyboard as a makeshift footswitch in the interim.

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