Foot pedals for Macs?
April 17, 2006 10:57 AM   Subscribe

Repetitive stress and foot pedals (for Macs)?

I want to buy a computer foot pedal that can be used with a Macintosh. Three pedals seems to be the standard - I would like to be able to set it up to replace my shift, command, and option keys. Has anyone ever used such a thing? The prices seem to be quite variable. Are there better and worse foot pedals? Are they all programmable?

Explanation: I'm having some moderately irritating Ulnar nerve entrapment. I'm doing several of the things that are suggested on the pages I linked to, but the thing that aggravates it the most is that I hold down the shift and option keys with my pinky finger when I'm typing - and because I code, I use these keys a lot.
posted by louigi to Computers & Internet (10 answers total)
You can get the Kinesis Ergo 'Classic' in USB flavor, so it should work with your Mac. These are very good keyboards for reducing typing stress; mine has improved my symptoms a great deal. They also support a foot pedal, with 'three positions', whatever that means. It sonds promising, and might be worth checking out.

You'll be painfully slow for the first couple of days on a Kinesis, but you'll ultimately end up faster and more accurate than you are now. And it won't mess up your ability to use a regular keyboard. The keys are mostly in the same place, and it's easy to move back and forth if you need to.
posted by Malor at 11:03 AM on April 17, 2006

I don't know Macs very well, but there must be some software to make it so that you can press shift and then a letter rather than holding shift down if that's a problem. Or, perhaps you can remap the keys to use something else as the shift key. Or, you can just hit the shift key with your opposite thumb or forefinger or something.
posted by callmejay at 11:19 AM on April 17, 2006

I don't know about foot pedals, but the option callmejay is talking about is called "Sticky Keys." You can turn it on under the Keyboard tab of the Universal Access preference pane under System Preferences. It lets you tap modifier keys instead of holding them down.
posted by designbot at 11:21 AM on April 17, 2006

From the Kinesis website:
Savant Elite Triple Action Foot Switch Compatibility:

· Requires available USB port. Uses generic drivers provided by the operating system (OS 8.6 - 10.X)
· Only OS X offers full functionality of left and right mouse clicks. Middle mouse button not supported on Macintosh without using a third party driver such as that found at
· Note: Modifier actions from one USB device cannot modify the input of a second USB device due to limitations designed into the Apple operating system.

Example: Shift, Control, Command, or Option keystrokes programmed into the footswitch cannot modify the input of a separate USB keyboard or mouse. However, a key sequence like 'Cmd-W' or 'Cmd-Shift-left arrow' will work on a Macintosh if the entire sequence of keystrokes has been pre-programmed into the footswitch. (Footswitch can only be programmed on a Windows PC).
posted by designbot at 11:29 AM on April 17, 2006

Thanks for the input so far, I turned on sticky keys. The problem with the Kinesis model (from this page):

"Modifier actions from one USB device cannot modify the input of a second USB device due to limitations designed into the Apple operating system. Example: Shift, Control, Command, or Option keystrokes programmed into the footswitch cannot modify the input of a separate USB keyboard or mouse"

Is this true, am I doomed in my quest for a footpad if I want to use a Mac?
posted by louigi at 11:32 AM on April 17, 2006

On post: designbot beat me to it.
posted by louigi at 11:33 AM on April 17, 2006

The Kinesis Advantage keyboard has Control, Command, and Option on your THUMB. And you could remap the shift key away from your pinky as well. Then no need for foot pedals.
posted by grouse at 11:34 AM on April 17, 2006

You might be able to use a PC (or ADB) keyboard with a footswitch, then use an adaptor to turn that into USB. (The footswitch plugs directly into the keyboard.)

That way it would appear to be one USB device. Haven't tried it myself but it might work...
posted by xil at 11:48 AM on April 17, 2006

As far as my experience, this business about modifier keys in OS X isn't accurate. I tested this just a minute ago on an iBook G4 and on a MacBook Pro, so no guarantees about the rest of Apple's lineup.

Here's what I found:
I can't use a key from the laptop's internal keyboard to modify keystrokes on an external, and vice-versa. But I can use my USB mouse to modify keystrokes on my USB (external) keyboard. Specifically, I have a plug-in installed that lets me hold down the Ctrl key in Safari and treat the mouse like a giant scroll wheel, and I have the most recent release of USB Overdrive, configured to treat any use of the third button on my external mouse when Safari is in the foreground as the Ctrl key being typed (and no mouse button being pressed). And in OS X (10.4.6 on both the iBook and the MBP), the key combo Ctrl+Alt+Esc brings up a "force quit" window, so that you can select an application to terminate from the list in that window. Pressing Alt+Esc on my external keyboard while holding down the modifier button I have programmed to mimic 'Ctrl' brings up the window.
posted by Yeomans at 1:14 PM on April 17, 2006

Even if your device comes with Mac drivers, I'd give USB Overdrive a look. It frequently lets you do things that OEM drivers aren't set up for. I have wireless logitech mouse with 9 buttons and something useful programmed on each of them. It also supports application specific programming, which is very useful.
posted by doctor_negative at 1:28 PM on April 17, 2006

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