Review: USB Foot Pedals - FS3_P


I've moved to s a standing desk. So now, obviously, I need something useful to do with my feet! It's time for a USB powered set of foot pedals!

Three foot pedals in a slight semi-circle.

They're between £20 - £40 depending on what the algorithm think you'll pay. The USB cable is about 2 metres long - which is just about adequate for me. The switches have little tactile nubs on them and are well sprung. These aren't Cherry MX quality switches - but they feel decent. There's a bit of a clack as they spring back up again.

The OEM is PC Sensor - and they have full details on their website. As a USB device, it is pretty much plug-and-play. By default, the pedals send the letters a, b, and c - yup, this thing shows up as a very large keyboard!

But how to configure it to be something useful? A small CD came with the device, with a Windows only program:
Screenshot of a windows app for configuring the keys.

For Linux nerds like me, it shows up as: 1a86:e026 QinHeng Electronics

A bit of light searching takes us to the "footswitch" utility. It's pretty easy to install from the command line:

sudo apt-get install libhidapi-dev
git clone https://github.com/rgerganov/footswitch.git
cd footswitch
make
sudo make install

Then run: sudo footswitch -r and it will show the default configuration:

[switch 1]: a
[switch 2]: b
[switch 3]: c

Here's how to build a StackOverflow™ Keyboard!

sudo footswitch -1 -m ctrl -k a  -2 -m ctrl -k c  -3 -m ctrl -k v 

That sets the first (left) pedal to modifier ctrl and the key to a. You can program it to via the hex values of a key, or the name of a key. There are more details on the Robotz wiki.

You can also program it to send more complex strings - sudo footswitch -1 -s "This is a test" - that will send This is a test every time you stamp on it. You can send up to 38 ASCII characters.

Note: You must program all three keys at the same time. If you leave one blank, it is set to null and won't do anything.

Running the command actually writes the key sequences to the device. So if you unplug it and move it to another machine, it will remember how it has been programmed.

Downsides

As well as the slightly short cable, there are two other things to be aware of.

Firstly, the unit is fairly light. There are rubbed feet on the bottom, so it shouldn't slip around. It would be nice if it was a bit heftier.

Secondly, because it is a USB HID, it can only send a limited number of commands. So you can send keypresses, and it will even emulate mouse movements, but you can't program macros or get it to send complex Unicode sequences.

Verdict

This is a handy (footsy?) device. Whether you're sitting or standing, it's always nice to have a bunch of extra keys. And you can pretend that using them counts towards your 10,000 steps per day goal!

Thank you very much to my darling wife for such a thoughtful anniversary present. She knows me so well!


14 thoughts on “Review: USB Foot Pedals - FS3_P

  1. Ooo. This seems neat from an A11Y perspective. I’ve been using an XAC face buttons with my foot when playing snowrunner. These would work even better 🙂

  2. says:

    I totally want this. As a lefty mouse user, it’s not useful that the standard copy/paste keystrokes are also on the left hand side of the keyboard. This is totally worth it to have copy and paste on foot pedals.

  3. JAMES BODY says:

    I have to confess to being a keen follower of your articles Terence.

    I enjoy the thoroughness and precision with which you document everything. Above all, I love the randomness of what you cover!

    This piece is a GEM - but is missing just one thing - what is the APPLICATION that you are going to use your wonderful new set of footswitches for?

    1. @edent says:

      Haha! At the moment, it's mapped to select all, copy, paste. But I'm probably going to change it to toggle mutes for various microphones and speakers.

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