Elgato Stream Deck For Non Streamers: A Productivity Miracle?

If you spend a lot of time working at a computer and haven’t heard of the Stream Deck, you’re in for a treat. I haven’t been this obsessed with a productivity tool in a very long time, maybe ever. 

I touched on this tool in our article on designing the most productive desk setup possible. Ever since I think it deserves more of a deep dive for productivity. 

It’s mainly used by Streamers, hence the name because streamers apparently do a lot of multitasking and really needed a solution like this. 

For me? It’s absolutely changed the way I work on my computer. 

I’m actually using my Stream Deck to help write this article. I have a bunch of hotkeys paired with Google Docs keyboard shortcuts. I’m a little bummed out now when I have to travel with just my laptop and leave the deck behind.

If you already have a Stream Deck, check out our article on how non-streamers can get the most out of the deck.

I browsed Reddit’s Stream Deck subreddit r/elgato to learn more. I was hoping to see people’s setups, cool icons, and other functional examples. Surprisingly, it’s just filled with people looking for help with various streaming software issues. 

I’ve had minimal issues with my general productivity uses since I got the Stream Deck a month ago. (Pretty short testing time, I know). But this tells me that for us productivity folks, the Stream Deck might actually be performing better for us than for actual streamers.

I am using the Elgato Stream Deck MK.2 below.

Elgato Stream Deck MK2 Macro Keypad

This device features 15 customizable LCD keys for instant control of your apps, tools, and platforms. With a one-touch operation, you can trigger single or multiple actions, launch social posts, adjust audio, mute the mic, turn on lights, and more. The device supports powerful plugins such as Elgato 4KCU, OBS, Twitch, YouTube, Twitter, Discord, Spotify, Philips Hue, and many more.

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Key Takeaways

  • The Stream Deck is a strong tool for productivity seekers.
  • You can launch programs, program keyboard shortcuts, open folders, launch websites, and more all with the press of a button. 
  • Buttons are backlit screens with custom visual cues making it a very intuitive tool that won’t go unused.

What Is a Stream Deck?

The Stream Deck is basically a panel of buttons that you can program to perform specific actions. The buttons can be programmed to open websites, computer folders, launch applications, and much more. 

This is not just a box of buttons though. They are buttons with a backlit LCD screen behind them! That means you have visual cues to your shortcuts which can make them way more intuitive and natural to integrate into your workflow.

You can pick from a huge list of existing icons for your button graphics, or even make your own. On top of that, you can place text on top of button images so you can literally spell out what that button will do. This results in very effective button presentation options.

For non-streamers, the overall goal of using a Stream Deck is to just reduce those repetitive and tedious tasks to a simple button press.

What Can Us Non-Streamers Specifically Do?

When you get a stream deck, the first steps are to plug the Stream Deck’s USB cable into your computer and download the Elgato software. The software works with the Stream Deck and makes it easy to program actions. 

There is a nearly infinite amount of things you can do with a Stream Deck, but here are the main functions that makeup 80-90% of my productivity gains. 

Open Specific Websites

Opening a specific web page is not really a tedious thing to do. We don’t think about how much time it takes, we just do it. It’s a normal part of our computer experience.

Let’s say you have a specific website you often refer to while you work. It could be your project management tool, some online note-taking app, or anything. 

If I had to breakdown what opening up a webpage looks like normally, into individual steps, this is what it would look like:

  1. Reach for mouse
  2. Move the cursor to the internet browser icon (hopefully that’s on your desktop)
  3. Click on the browser icon (browser launches)
  4. Move the cursor to the address bar
  5. Type in your website (or just type one letter for autofill)
  6. Hit enter, you’re done

You can eliminate steps 5 and 6 if you use a bookmarks bar or something similar. So we have a minimum of 5 steps, and a typical of 6 steps. 

Here is what it looks like with an Elgato Stream Deck that has a key specifically set up for this frequently visited webpage. 

  1. Reach for Stream Deck
  2. Press Custom Button

For very frequently visited pages, there has to be value for an operation to be this quick. 

We’re talking about some seconds saved, sure. But think about these little time savings across all your frequently used tasks. This compounds multiple times!  No touching your mouse, no need to even find the cursor on your screen. 

This is a small taste of the power we are tapping into with a Stream Deck! Let’s keep going. 

Hotkey Shortcuts

I love using keyboard shortcuts when I use specific programs on my computer. Those shortcuts alone can boost productivity significantly. 

If you use a specific program on your computer often, definitely look up keyboard shortcuts for that program to make your life easier. Here are some great keyboard shortcut lists that can make your life much easier. 

Google Chrome Keyboard Shortcuts

Google Docs Keyboard Shortcuts

Microsoft Word Keyboard Shortcuts

Google Sheets Keyboard Shortcuts

Microsoft Excel Keyboard Shortcuts

No stream deck is required yet. We’re just using keyboard shortcuts, a productivity boost you should start utilizing today if you haven’t already. 

Back to the Stream Deck. There are a few issues with keyboard shortcuts that the Stream Deck tackles very well. 

First, some keyboard shortcuts are a little too awkward. This is due to requiring too many keys, or just having an awkward hand posture trying to hit all the keys they chose for the shortcut. This is more of a problem if you have small hands or don’t want to use two hands to perform keyboard shortcuts.

The second issue is that if you don’t use shortcuts often enough, you forget them! And when you forget them, you lose out on the convenience.

This is where the Stream Deck shines. You can program any keyboard shortcut to a button on the deck. So now, you just have a single button to press instead of a multi-key shortcut. 

You don’t have to worry about forgetting a shortcut anymore either. Simply give the button a visual cue by adding a picture on the button that describes the purpose. Or simply add text to the button to spell out exactly what you want it to do. 

I recommend using these for hard-to-remember shortcuts that require more than two keys. No need to replicate CTRL(CMD) + C for copy or CTRL(CMD) + V for paste. Those are already pretty quick. 

One button click means you never mistype a shortcut too! 

Open Programs

Opening programs is a pretty basic feature. This one is not as powerful in my opinion, but is still convenient. Basically, a button on the Stream Deck can be set up to launch any application on your computer.

It’s not as beneficial as the other capabilities because computers have already made this very easy. Programs that are in your taskbar can be opened very quickly. Once we start duplicating actions that are already quick, we reduce the productivity potential of the Stream Deck. 

I like to designate Stream Deck buttons to things that are inconvenient, tedious, or repetitive. 

Paste Text Blocks

If you have any text blocks that are very repetitively typed, this is going to be a handy feature. 

A button can be programmed to paste some plain text! This sounds kind of random, but it’s very handy. If you do any customer service and always paste the same text block based on different issues, this could be a game changer. 

If you are a programmer, you can paste a code structure, basic string, or comment with a press of a button. 

This is a lifesaver feature for those who have repetitive text inputs while working at their computer. 

Multi Actions

Do you like the above actions so far? Well, this next feature lets you combine them all together. 

Multi actions allows you to combine any number of actions to happen in a specific order by clicking one button. So if you wanted to say open a program, paste some text, and then perform a hotkey operation, you can do that! 

I love using the multi-action to launch a program and then use a Windows hotkey that moves that window to the side of my current window. 

For example, if I am doing some work and want to open my email for a quick reference, I can launch gmail.com and then use the “WIN +  → ” hotkey and this will move the window to the right of my current program. 

It is super handy, and you can combine a ton of actions in different orders to perfect the multi-action that is right for you.

Pages & Folders

The Stream Deck comes in a few different flavors.

Elgato Stream Deck XL Macro Keypad

The Stream Deck is a powerful tool for live production, with 32 customizable LCD keys that allow you to trigger unlimited actions with a tap. With integrations for popular platforms like OBS, Twitch, and Twitter, as well as one-touch operation for a range of functions, the Stream Deck is an essential tool for streamers and productivity enthusiasts.

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  • 6 Keys
  • 15 Keys
  • 32 Keys

    The Stream Deck is a powerful tool for live production, with 32 customizable LCD keys that allow you to trigger unlimited actions with a tap. With integrations for popular platforms like OBS, Twitch, and Twitter, as well as one-touch operation for a range of functions, the Stream Deck is an essential tool for streamers and productivity enthusiasts.

    Check Price on Amazon

If you want more shortcuts, you don’t really have to go for the huge Stream Deck XL with 32 keys. Elgato made sure we had options with pages and folders. 

If you add multiple pages, one key becomes an arrow key where you can move between different sets of buttons. 

My favorite way to expand your buttons is folders though. Folders let you compartmentalize buttons that are related to each other. 

For example, I am working in Google Docs right now. I can just press my Google Docs folder, and all my Docs hotkeys and common reference website shortcuts show up on my Stream Deck. It’s a folder designed around what I do when I’m using docs. 

You can also use “profiles” that detect what program you are using and change what buttons you see based on that alone. I don’t use profiles nearly as much.

There’s Even More!

The above actions are just a few of what the Elgato Stream Deck is capable of. Elgato includes a link to the Stream Deck store within the software so you can easily download more plugins and icon packs. 

I added Spotify integration so I can launch specific playlists with the click of a button. I also added Govee smart lights integration so I can control the light behind my monitor without needing to touch my phone. Staying away from your phone is key to productivity in my opinion. 

If you are interested in some affordable accent lighting for your desk setup, definitely give some Govee lights a shot. I have a dedicated review of their light bars, as well as a setup guide.

There are a ton more plugins that are worth adding both within the store and from other users across the web. 

Before You Go…

If you are committed to the productivity benefits, check out our article on getting the absolute most out of the Stream Deck.

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I'm a big time workspace enthusiast who is constantly experimenting with my setup. Sharing along the way to help people make their own desk setups more functional and inviting, whether it be for productivity or play!