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Using a Kinesis Foot Pedal to Shift Modify a Mac Keyboard

I’ve recently been trying to code with a new Kinesis keyboard. Since this particular keyboard remaps many of the keys, it’s been quite a mind bending experience, but it’s getting better. One other thing I thought I’d try is to take advantage of Kinesis’s 60-day trial period and pick up a set of foot pedals.

One of the first things I thought could be useful with a pedal was tying it to the shift key. I never use the caps lock, so when there are moments that I need to type in all caps, I find myself holding the shift key and pretzeling my fingers around the keyboard to get everything written. There was one problem, however. From Joey in support:

Sadly, there is a limitation with Mac OS where one USB device (pedal) cannot modify another USB device (keyboard/built in keyboard), meaning that you cannot use modifiers on your pedals in combination with another device.

Combining shift from the pedal with a key from the keyboard, a separate USB device, was not going to work out of the box. Enter Karbiner-Elements. I had heard rumblings in my research that this device could fix my situation, but none of the rumblings really explained very clearly how to make it work. Let’s see if I can explain it.

There are two steps to get this working. First, follow the Kinesis instructions to program your pedal for a Single Action of Shift, using the left shift key to program enter your single-action program. (Left versus right shift isn’t important. It’s just necessary to be consistent as you configure this stuff.) Make sure to set your pedal into programming mode, get the updates saved to the pedal, and then set it back to play mode when you’re done.

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Secondly install Karbiner-Elements and go to the Simple Modifications tab. Select your Target device as your keyboard (in my case Advantage2 Keyboard). Finally, and this is weird, but Add item and define the From key as left_shift and the To key as left_shift. This will magically allow your shift pedal to modify your keyboard! ALL CAPS GALORE!

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You can use this to allow modification with shift or control or option or whatever else you’re after. Much better!

(Note, after all this I still might not keep the pedal. I can see uses for it, but the ergonomics are pretty challenging for someone that stands at his desk for the entire day. It seems to be better suited for use while sitting.)