Editors Keys made a name for themselves by providing QWERTY keyboards which displayed not only the usual input symbols, but also the default shortcut commands for a number of creative software applications, including music-production DAWs such as Pro Tools and Cubase, and video NLEs such as Final Cut Pro and Adobe Premiere. With this latest line of products, they’ve come up with a slightly different variation on the same theme — the thin silicone overlay converts your existing MacBook (including Pro and Air models) or Apple wireless keyboard into a shortcut keyboard.
I was sent versions for Avid Pro Tools, Steinberg Cubase and PreSonus Studio One for testing, and all of these slipped easily over the keyboard of my (early 2013) MacBook Pro. The fit is pretty snug, the only exception being that the overlays cater for an L-shaped Enter key, so that single ‘silicone key’ sat over two physical keys on my keyboard — but as some keyboards have such keys, it works better this way around than having two keys sitting over one, I suppose. Versions are available for both US- and UK-style keyboards, too. Being formed out of silicone, the overlays retain their shape well. It takes a while to get used to the different feel but, while I wouldn’t want to type my magnum opus on the thing, it’s perfectly possible to type normally — I wrote this review with the skin on my keyboard, for instance, and it was no real hindrance. That said, I did find that when I left it on for regular typing (we do a lot of that at SOS Towers...) some of the colour wore away where I often leave my thumb resting on the spacebar. If you avoid doing something as silly as that, though, you shouldn’t run into problems.
What’s really important, of course, is how useful these things are when it comes to controlling your DAW. I’ve written on this subject before: if you like to customise your DAW’s keyboard shortcuts, then it’s a bit of a minefield, but if you’re happy to stick with the defaults (there are good arguments for this approach in many DAWs, and you don’t have the choice to depart from them in Pro Tools) then the Editors Keys keyboards and overlays can be a really useful learning aid, or a handy aide memoire for more occasionally used software. If you needed, say, to use Pro Tools on occasion, despite using Cubase more frequently, I could see it being very helpful indeed. And while I don’t really need one for the DAWs I use — I’ve long since grown accustomed to the necessary shortcuts — I could certainly see myself using them for the video applications that I dabble in more occasionally.
Certainly, Editors Keys seem to have got the defaults correct for all three applications for which skins were provided. A potential downside — not Editors Keys’ fault, but inherent in the approach — is that most DAWs today make such extensive use of modifier keys that it’s nigh on impossible to write all of the commonly used commands on a keyboard or overlay, so there’ll still be a certain amount of shortcut learning required. On the other hand, a device such as this might still help you learn those shortcuts that bit faster.
Perhaps one day in the not-too-distant future, we’ll be able to custom-order our own shortcuts printed on an overlay such as this, or we’ll all embrace touchscreen shortcuts. In the meantime, if you feel the need for a little help at your fingertips, and don’t want the bother or bulk of attaching another keyboard, then these overlays are about as good as it gets, particularly if you use more than one application and don’t want to buy a dedicated shortcut keyboard.
£27.99 each including VAT.
£27.99 (about $35) each.