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Saturday, March 2, 2024

The Best Ways to Use Your Gaming Peripherals for Work

You bought a gaming mouse to play Doom: Eternal. It’s comfortable, it’s powerful, and you can map the chainsaw to a thumb button for easy access. It’s great. But the same power you use to make your games more fluid can do wonders for your wrist, and also be brought to your work. If you’re still using the mouse and keyboard that came with your laptop at work, you might get more done in less time if you use gaming peripherals instead.

Why Use Gaming Peripherals

I’m an oddity in my industry in that I don’t use a text expander. These apps allow you to use brief abbreviations to quickly write out large blocks of text. This is handy for form emails you routinely send or completing common email addresses. Think of it like an autocomplete that you can customize and use anywhere.

However, instead of using apps to do this, I prefer to use gaming peripherals. The software that comes with gaming mice and keyboards—like Logitech’s G Hub and Razer’s Synapse—have tools that let you map keyboard shortcuts, record macros, and generally do many of the same things that text expanders do, with the added benefit of having dedicated buttons to assign these tasks to. Gaming peripherals cater to specialized needs that overlap quite a bit with getting work done in the office. So, even though they might be riddled with RGB lights and aimed at gamers, you could make a strong argument to your employer that they’re the best option for being productive.

Remap Your Common Shortcuts

Shaving a second off a repetitive task in your workflow might not sound like much on paper, but when you have to move your hands back and forth across the keyboard repeatedly, little efficiencies can not only save you time, but strain on your wrists as well. Gaming mice, particularly the MMO style that come with a dozen buttons, can be an efficient way to solve this problem.

Some keyboard shortcuts like Ctrl-C and Ctrl-V are perfectly positioned for the left hand in a resting position on the left side of the keyboard. But keyboard shortcuts that require two hands or use the arrow keys can be mapped to the buttons on the side of your mouse instead. Every time you need to use these shortcuts, they’re a slight thumb movement away.

One way I use these is when video editing. Deleting clips uses the Delete key, moving up and down the timeline uses arrow keys, and zooming in and out of the timeline uses the – and = keys. During a typical edit session, I might use all of them dozens, if not hundreds of times. All of these are out of reach of my left hand, so they normally require taking my hand off the mouse. By mapping them to the gaming mouse, I can keep my hand on my mouse for much longer. The time savings add up but, more importantly, it’s more comfortable and easier on my wrists.

Enter Blocks of Text

As mentioned above, gaming peripheral software works great as a replacement for a text expander. Razer’s Synapse 3 in particular has a shortcut feature known as “Text Function.” With this, you can add a block of text and bind it to a custom shortcut.

The feature has some limitations. First off, the block of text is limited to 250 characters (for a point of reference, the previous paragraph is exactly 250 characters). If you don’t have custom macro buttons on your device, then it will also require using keyboard shortcuts with existing keys. Just be sure these don’t conflict with shortcuts in the programs you use on a daily basis and it should be fine.

Logitech’s G Hub has a similar function as part of the broader Macro feature (read more about that below). Create a new macro and one of the options is “Text & Emoji” which allows you to enter a block of text. The feature has a much higher character limit than Razer’s—in fact the app crashed before I was able to find the limit—but when using the macro it will type each letter out individually. For short messages, it might not be noticeable, but for long messages it can take a couple of seconds for the software to enter your message.

Execute Complex Scripts

The software that comes with gaming peripherals is designed to automate gaming-related tasks, but they’re not the most powerful tools out there. Autohotkey, for example, is a much more robust scripting language that can be used for complex tasks like copying files to a predetermined folder or automatically pasting text without special formatting.

Combining Autohotkey with gaming software makes it possible to be even more efficient. You can assign scripts dedicated macro keys, letting you launch entire processes or applications with a single button. Dedicated hardware like the Elgato Stream Deck exist for precisely this purpose, to automate tasks like setting up a game stream or sending out social media blasts. With this method, you can roll your own control board for TPS reports and file management.

Record Macros

If you’ve ever found yourself performing the same tedious task over and over again, macros can be a lifesaver. Gaming peripheral software from Logitech and Razer both have options to record keystrokes—even including the delays between each key press—and assign the sequence to a single button later. You can even tweak the macro after you’ve recorded it if you make a mistake.

Macros can also be set to repeat, or even behave as a toggle. This can be especially useful in professional software. For example, while using 3D-modeling software, I’ve remapped movement and orbit tools to custom buttons on my gaming mouse to more convenient locations. If you spend most of your time in expert software, where every small action adds up, then you can tweak your workflow to maximize your productivity with macros.

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