In today’s digital age, it can sometimes feel like hardware has taken a back seat to the software that drives devices. Button of the Month is a new column that will look at some of these buttons and switches on devices both old and new to appreciate how we interact with our devices on a physical, tactile level.
The Logitech Craft keyboard has many buttons — it’s a keyboard, so, duh — but what makes it special is the giant, oversized dial in the top left-hand corner. Logitech calls it the “creative input dial,” and it is intended to help us rethink how we interact with our computers.
There are actually three ways to interact with the dial: there’s the somewhat obvious ability to turn it, but you can also click it like an actual button or lightly tap the touch-sensitive top. The software that works with the dial is impressive enough, but it’s really the details in the physical movement of the dial that makes the Craft so good.
The dial is infinitely scrolling, but like Logitech’s MX mice, it’s also an articulated wheel so each stop forward is a distinct, separate movement. It’s extremely satisfying to use. I found myself absently spinning it when working on my computer, which unintentionally sent me careening through Chrome tabs. (What else are you supposed to do to fidget at your desk when there’s a giant button-wheel stuck to the top of your keyboard?)
The touchpad portion is equally responsive. It can be used to quickly toggle between different functions, extending the dial from a massive, one-trick scroll wheel to something more useful. And the button press both offers another mappable interaction (like toggling play / pause for a track) and a second scrolling function. (The keyboard treats the regular turning of the dial and turning while the dial is pushed in as separate inputs.) The whole thing is simple and streamlined enough that you can use it without ever having to take your eyes off the screen.
On the software side, Logitech has integrations for Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, Premiere, and InDesign; Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and Excel; as well as Quicktime, Safari, Google Chrome, and Spotify. It’s meant to be a tool for professionals and creatives — creating a physical interface to adjust things like images and fonts easily — as well as casual users who want to flip between apps or change the volume in Spotify. Logitech also has an open SDK for the dial, so it’s possible for developers to build their own extensions for the dial, too. That’s right: there’s a dedicated button SDK.
The Craft keyboard’s dial is one of my favorite buttons that I’ve used in a while (which is why I featured it first in this series). It’s such a stark change from the touchscreens that dominate all forms of technology. Don’t get me wrong: the touchscreen is great, but I think there’s still room for physical buttons that offer real feedback and don’t demand all of our attention to use. Consider the MacBook Pro’s Touch Bar, which offers similar feedback as this dial, but instead of simplifying things on-screen, it diverts your attention instead.
Even if the Craft is never a huge success, it represents the kind of thinking about how we use our tech that we could use more of for future devices.