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Ergodex

Ergodex DX1 - Demonstration and Guide

by David Clow (Foreword by Graeme Clark)

Introduction

Kustom PCs first introduction to the Ergodex DX1 was a link and photo of the product in our forum 'Product Suggestions' area. We were amazed with literally how quickly we got demand for this product after receiving stock, and just how cool it was to use. One of our concerns though was that the website blurb did not really do justice to just how capable and versatile the Ergodex is and so we have a compiled this demonstration and walkthrough setup guide to show you just how easy it is to make your own customised controller. Ergodex can be located in our store here

What is Ergodex / What's Included?

The Ergodex is a completely configurable keyboard style controller. The base pack includes 25 uniquely numbered keys which can be placed anywhere on the surface of the controller, and the included software allows functions such as key presses, program commands and timed macros (combinations of keypresses) to be assigned to each key number. By placing the keys in a manner which suits the users hand profile, a comfortable and efficient control device can be setup for games or productivity use.

The DX1 kit includes a USB base station, disc with Windows drivers and software, one clear tray, key numbers 1 to 25 and a set of ready-made labels to attach to the keys. A blank template for printing your own labels is also included.

Available separately are additional keys 26-50 and also spare clear tray covers. The additional covers allow you to have multiple key sets ready made to swap over (eg a gaming set and a set for Photoshop work).

How does it work?

It's a similar concept to the security tags used in some shops for security - the keys are powered and detected by inductive coupling through a radio field generated by the base, and so will actually work even when held slightly above the base. Each key can be uniquely identified by the Ergodex controller no matter where the key is placed on the base. The keys themselves have a special reusable adhesive and can be attached and removed to the Ergodex tray as often as you like without losing the adhesive qualities.

Installation / Examples

Installation of the ErgoDex DX1 is very easy - the only important thing to note is that the software should be installed before plugging in the unit. Of course, everyone reads manuals and so you will be clearly aware of this when setting up the product !

You will probably want to have a quick play around with placing the keys around, but for the sake of some quick inspiration we will show you a few example setups we made with the Ergodex.

Here's an example layout for productivity use. The 'hand print' backdrop is supplied by Ergodex and printed onto a sheet inserted behind the clear tray. It's set up to launch application software, control media applications, clipboard operations and web browser functions.

 

This is a relatively simple game layout for the racing game 'Crashday' - we made this background by assembling a couple of pictures from the games website and then adding button layouts with the Ergodex software (more details on how to do this later).

 

World of Warcraft has more controls, we've made a natural movement layout and added weapon attack commands, chat functions and skill shortcuts. It's worth noting that printing backdrops with glossy or coated paper makes it look a lot better - photocopy paper looks a little poor underneath the tray.

Counterstrike is a first person game that requires very quick responses and immediate access to controls. By setting the movement and weapon keys where they are immediately accessible to the hand, it's easy to react perfectly to game events and it also means the key profile can fit comfortably to your hand. Worth noting is that the crouch function has been placed at the base of the tray, where it can be pressed by the palm of the hand, while still allowing the fingers to be on the movement keys. Keys 'A' to 'F' could be used for chat commands, or regularly used console commands since pasting text can be applied to a keypress.

And here's the 'random' one - but let's face it, retro emulation is big news these days. So why not make a keyset to match the profile of your favourite console controller and lay out the buttons to match?

This image was submitted by one of our customers, Bryon Horton, and shows his use of Ergodex for the game Battle of Britain II, using an image of an aircraft cockpit and placing the buttons in their relevant positions.

And lastly, here is how Kustom uses Ergodex - programmed with macro's to represent the imported drinks sold in our shop front. Having a set of labelled keys is much quicker than labelling or remembering the 4 digit product code for each item. So pushing a button for a drink enters the part code into each line of our Sage invoicing software, which is a huge timesaver compared to looking up the products one at a time, especially when 10 people are all wanting to buy assorted cans of juice in one go !

Using the Ergodex Profile Manager

So, now that we have seen how Ergodex works, here's a step by step run through of how to use the configuration software. First off, the Ergodex allows multiple users to be created , this is ideal if you are using multiple keytrays and want to swap to different modes of operation without having to reconfigure the rest of the profile, and of course if there are multiple people using the unit with different preferences !

We'll just work with one user for now. Here's a look at the profile editor screen :



As you will see from the list on the left, the installation software has already found some programs to map to on our test system. The Global settings 'profile' means that any keys configured here will work all the time (ideal for volume or media controls for instance) and every other program on the list will have its own unique settings applied to it.
To add additional program profiles, there's a handy wizard which is launched by choosing 'Add new Profile'.

 The wizard is pictured above, and it allows five options :

1 + 2 . Select from the list of programs installed on your computer / browse for an .exe file on your computer - This allows to browse for an .exe program file and activates the profile whenever the selected application is launched.

3. Make a copy of an existing profile
- This is ideal where applications where similar keypresses are used, the prime example being first person games where movement is controlled by 'W,A,S,D' keys.

4. Use an Ergodex template
- The Ergodex software includes many pre-written example configurations for popular applications and games. There's a good chance your software may have a pre-written profile, and if so the Ergodex software would already have loaded and located this when the software was first installed.

5. Import a Program Profile
- allows profiles to be shared between systems or with friends. We noted that users on the Ergodex forum were keen to share downloads for their profiles and skins.

(Illustration of 'Use an Ergodex Template' option.

Macros

Before we can start assigning keys, we need to make Macros for each program. There are four Macro options :

  • Single Key
  • Multi Key
  • Text Block
  • Programme / File / URL

Single Key - naturally - allows one key to be assigned to the Macro. This can either be selected from a list of keys (ideal if you're adjusting the configuration on a PC with no keyboard attached) or selected 'live' by pressing a key on the keyboard.

 

Multi Key Macro is similar but allows for a combination of keys and also includes the ability to time keypresses.

For instance, 'Copy text' could be set to pressing the Control key, the 'C' key and then letting go of the control key (note the green arrow indicates the key being pressed and the red arrow indicates the key is released).

Timed Macro mode allows precise timing of key presses and is ideal for longer key combinations. For instance a 'Crouch followed by jump' manouevre could be assigned to a key in gaming, or a 'Paste followed by tabbing right once' in Microsoft Excel. These macros can either be recorded 'live' from the keyboard, or by using the 'Insert Special' button to select keys and then clicking the timer option between each key to set the time interval between key presses / releases.

Text block Macro allows a field of text to be entered on the screen and is ideal for inputting regularly used information - for example specific names or signatures. We used a delivery address as an example here, so Mr Fake can easily sign his purchase orders or letters with an address and save some typing. Potentially having 25 (or 50 with the additional keyset) text fields set up in advance can be a real timesaver for administrative work and is certainly a lot more convenient and intuitive than juggling data on the clipboard.

  

Program / File / URL is a convenient way to open up your favourite folders / files / webpages and is so much more accessible than desktop shortcuts or bookmarks. What can be really neat is setting a Macro for Control + T in Firefox (opens a new browser tab) and then using URL macros to open up webpages - this is a really quick way to get your favourite websites open as quickly as possible at the start of the day !

Assigning Keys

Now that we have our Macros, we just need to assign which keys are setup to operate those Macros. If you have not already done so, place the keys in convenient positions on the Ergodex base. Each key is numbered so assigning a key number to a task is as easy as observing the number of the key and dragging the key across to the macro name on the left side of the screen.

In the above pictures you can see a finished example of keys set up for playing the game Far Cry. Note that the Macro name appears above the key and also the key number appears next to the Macro name so that if you assign the Macros before placing the keys on the base, it's easy to refer to the settings for knowing where to place the keys !

 View Menu / Base Design

Ergodex is a fantastic product, but it appears a little bit plain when first removed from the box. It's an ideal opportunity for customisation though as the field is not disturbed if you remove the tray and put your own backing sheet in and the Ergodex software includes a really helpful utility for designing your own layouts.

If you already have ready made artwork or a simple background photo, just import this into the Skin View mode of Ergodex and choose to print.

It really comes into its own in that you can add button footprints - this can be a great help for planning layouts but also for adding additional instructions to your button layout. Using the "blue orb" you can place buttons onto the skin and assign them a number. The button footprints can also be rotated to any angle, and locked into place so that you don't accidentally drag them while adjusting other buttons around the skin.

Further, if you right click on the "blue orb" you can assign it to a particular macro from the previous steps and add automatic text fields which can be placed near to the button and scaled / rotated to suit. We used this on the CrashDay and World of Warcraft examples at the start of this article and it's ideal for giving more detail on a buttons use when the stick on graphics just don't say what you need !

It's worth noting that printing on good quality inkjet or photo paper makes this look like a 'factory finish' - if you have an inkjet paper then the faded results typically achieved on cheap photocopy paper really don't do justice to your Ergodex !

Summary

Ergodex's DX1 is an excellent product - it's incredible just how many uses you can find for an additional programmable keyset, and being able to adjust button positioning to suit your hand is a gamers dream come true. Plus, customising it is actually rather good fun ! The Ergodex DX1 is imported into the UK exclusively by Kustom PCs, and can be ordered through this page.