I recently got into Mechanical Keyboards and thought it would be fun to build my own 8 key mechanical macropad. The process is pretty easy and made even easier with the addition of the Seeduino Xiao which is super cheap and has enough inputs to create a decent sized keypad without the complexities of figuring out how to code a matrix (which if you feel like doing you could create a pad of up to 25 keys with this tiny device!). Lets do this!
I’ll include the basics, but you can modify this project extensively, using your own switches (I used mechanical keyboard keys but you could use tactile switches, arcade buttons or even a foot pedal if you prefer).
This guide assumes a basic amount of knowledge of electronics. Nothing here is rocket science but you’ll need to know how to trim wires, do some basic soldering and edit text documents.
- Seeduino Xiao. Official site / Netherlands Store
- Enclosure. I used this 3D printed one from Thingiverse but you can use anything from an icecream tub to a high-end, pre-made enclosure.
- Keyswitches and Keycaps. I got mine from Aliexpress but most countries have an online mechanical keyboard supply store that can get them to you faster (and if all else fails, theres always Amazon)
- Wire, I used a combination of solid core and silicon wire, you could use just silicon if you prefer.
- Solder, solidering iron
Lets build it!
By default, the Seeeduino Xiao is configured as an Ardunio device so you’ll need to change it to work with CircuitPython. I’ve already written a tutorial for that, so instead of me rewriting it, you can just follow that guide and then come back here.
Next, you’ll need to download the CircuitPython library bundle. The Xiao has a very limited amount of space so you can only add the exact files you need. Once you’ve downloaded and extracted the bundle you’ll need to find the
adafruit_hiddirectory. From there you only need
keycode.mpy so delete the other files and then copy the directory into the
libfolder on your
NB: You’ll notice in the code below that we also import the
usb_hid libraries. These are built in to the device already so you don’t need to add them.
Next we’re going to add the keyswitches to the case. It generally doesn’t matter which way around they go but things are easier if you have them all in the same orientation. Once thats done you need to create a “common ground” wire that runs between one pin of each switch. I did this by taking a single strand of solid core wire and cutting away a short amout of the plastic outer layer exposing the wire beneath and then soldering it to the pins. Check my photo above for how it should look.
Once you’ve done that, you need to connect your common ground to the ground pin on the Seeduino Xiao. I prefer to use a short-ish flexible silicon wire for this part.
Next, connect a short length of silicon wire from the first pin (D0) to the spare pin on the first key, then repeat for all the keys on the left side of the Xiao and the first GPIO pin on the bottom right (D7).
This code is super basic - it should be easy enough for anyone with any basic coding experience to follow whats going on but I’ve added lots of comments just to be sure. The functions are personal to me and mac-centric but with the help of the keyboard HID library docs you should able to change it up to what you need quite easily. If you’re feeling fancy you can even emulate mice and gamepads if thats your jam.
Connect the Xiao to your machine via USB-C cable and then copy the code below into a new file using the text editor of your choice. Save it as
main.py and copy it to your
CIRUITPY drive. That should be it - if the code is solid the orange light will flash 5 times on the board and then your macros should work as intended. If the light doesn’t flash, it’s likely there is an error in your code. If this happens you need to debug over serial using REPL.
Thats it! All you need to do now is seal up your enclosure and start using your fun new macropad.
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# Import the libraries import time import board from digitalio import DigitalInOut, Direction, Pull from adafruit_hid.keyboard import Keyboard from adafruit_hid.keycode import Keycode from adafruit_hid.keyboard_layout_us import KeyboardLayoutUS import usb_hid # define output LED led = DigitalInOut(board.D13) led.direction = Direction.OUTPUT # flash the LED when booting for x in range(0, 5): led.value = False time.sleep(0.2) led.value = True time.sleep(0.2) # configure device as keyboard kbd = Keyboard(usb_hid.devices) layout = KeyboardLayoutUS(kbd) # define buttons d0 = DigitalInOut(board.D0) d0.direction = Direction.INPUT d0.pull = Pull.UP d1 = DigitalInOut(board.D1) d1.direction = Direction.INPUT d1.pull = Pull.UP d2 = DigitalInOut(board.D2) d2.direction = Direction.INPUT d2.pull = Pull.UP d3 = DigitalInOut(board.D3) d3.direction = Direction.INPUT d3.pull = Pull.UP d4 = DigitalInOut(board.D4) d4.direction = Direction.INPUT d4.pull = Pull.UP d5 = DigitalInOut(board.D5) d5.direction = Direction.INPUT d5.pull = Pull.UP d6 = DigitalInOut(board.D6) d6.direction = Direction.INPUT d6.pull = Pull.UP d7 = DigitalInOut(board.D7) d7.direction = Direction.INPUT d7.pull = Pull.UP # little function to open apps via spotlight def open_app(app): kbd.send(Keycode.COMMAND, Keycode.SPACE) time.sleep(0.2) layout.write(app) time.sleep(0.2) kbd.send(Keycode.ENTER) # loop forever while True: if not d0.value: # open Chrome and go to gmail led.value = False # led on open_app("Chrome.app") time.sleep(0.5) kbd.send(Keycode.COMMAND, Keycode.T) time.sleep(0.2) layout.write('https://mail.google.com') time.sleep(0.5) kbd.send(Keycode.ENTER) time.sleep(0.5) led.value = True # led off if not d1.value: # open finder led.value = False # led on open_app("~") led.value = True # led off time.sleep(0.5) # debounce delay if not d2.value: # open terminal led.value = False # led on open_app("terminal.app") time.sleep(0.5) # debounce delay led.value = True # led off if not d3.value: # open notes led.value = False # led on open_app("notes.app") time.sleep(0.5) # debounce delay led.value = True # led off if not d4.value: # open music led.value = False # led on open_app("Amazon Music.app") time.sleep(0.5) # debounce delay led.value = True # led off if not d5.value: # mute video on bluejeans led.value = False # led on kbd.send(Keycode.V) time.sleep(0.3) # debounce delay led.value = True # led off if not d6.value: led.value = False # led on open_app("messages.app") time.sleep(0.3) # debounce delay led.value = True # led off if not d7.value: # mute audio on bluejeans led.value = False # led on kbd.send(Keycode.M) time.sleep(0.3) # debounce delay led.value = True # led off