Give your laptop a new best friend by using the Ducky Pocket as a programmable gamepad. If you have a gaming laptop, adding a Pocket to your kit is a superb way to get the mechanical keyboard gaming experience in a really, really compact format. It’s also good for performing accounting, probably.
I’ve always been interested in how people employ different computing paradigms. To put it in gamer terms, everyone has a different loadout when it comes to their computing setups. Maybe yours is just a big ‘ol juicy desktop. Or maybe it’s just a laptop. Or maybe you use both as the situation requires. Or maybe you use a laptop with a second monitor attached and fire up the desktop only for heavy-duty applications like video editing and gaming. Maybe you use your phone for everything but a few applications. Maybe you prefer an abacus. (No judgment, you do you).
In the mechanical keyboard world, we tend to multiply the different possible loadouts by employing different layouts on our daily driver, as well as by adding (cough) more than one keyboard (cough) to our regular arsenal. Your work (and play) is affected by whether your keyboard is full size or 40%, programmable or not, and even if it’s backlit or not.
Standalone numpads like the Ducky Pocket bring a new wrinkle to a potential keyboard paradigm because they’re additive and inherently flexible. If you have a gaming laptop, adding a Ducky Pocket to your kit and configuring it as a gamepad will change your life. Or at least, it will make your life marginally better. (I feel like I’m overselling this. Just…just do it, you’ll love it.)
How to program the Ducky Pocket
Programming the Ducky Pocket isn’t difficult, but it does require pulling up the official manual and doing some planning. You can grab the manual here; and don’t worry English speakers, just keep scrolling down until you find the instructions in your native tongue.
The Pocket has no software GUI, so you have to program everything by punching in four-digit numerical codes on the Pocket itself. To get the codes, you need to look them up in the manual. I found it helpful to plan out exactly which keys I wanted to program onto the gamepad and use actual pencil and paper to jot down the codes I needed rather than Alt+Tabbing back and forth.
Here’s the full code map for ANSI:
…and one for ISO (JN is in the manual, too):
It would have perhaps been helpful if the map included both the codes and the legends they correspond to, but hey, you pretty much have that layout memorized at this point, right? Also note that all of these numerical codes are actually four digits. You have to insert one or two zeroes in front of them. For example, D is not “68,” it’s “0068,” and left Shift isn’t “160,” it’s “0160.”
Once you’ve picked out the keys you want to program onto the Pocket and jotted down their corresponding numerical codes, you should spend a moment deciding on the physical ergonomics of the the layout. One of the things that’s appealing to me about using the Pocket as a gamepad is that the Enter key is a perfect stand-in for the spacebar. It’s the only larger key on the Pocket, so there’s that, but more to the point it’s vertically oriented, so your thumb lands on it nicely. Given that I have large-ish hands, I found it more comfortable to assign the WASD cluster to /, 7, 8, and 9 rather than 8, 4, 5, and 6 to let me stretch out a little from the Enter-key-as-spacebar.
OK then. Time to program. Make sure you’re in PC1 (Fn + Shift Tab) or (Fn + Backspace), not Calculator mode. Then, pick a layer–to select layer one (the numbers), press Fn + 1 and hold for three seconds until the LEDs blink. It’s the same deal for layer two, except you press Fn + 2.
With that set, here are the steps to assign “W” to the / key:
- To start the macro recording, press Fn + 0 for three seconds. The Fn key will flash slowly.
- Press the key to which you’re making an assignment (in this case, the / key). Fn will flash rapidly.
- Punch in “0087” on the Pocket and press Enter.
- Press Fn + 0, and you’re done. W00t, you’ve assigned “W” to the / key.
Simply repeat the above steps for any other keys you want to program, and off you go to gamerland.
With W, A, S, D, and the spacebar programmed, you have a really (really, really) barebones configuration for a gamepad.
More about programming the Ducky Pocket
Of course, you can go wild with this; because you have 23 programmable keys on each layer (Fn refuses to bend to anyone’s will!), you effectively have 46 keys you can fiddle with. You can be a macro god!
…sort of. One major limitation of Ducky Macro V1 is that you can’t program strings of characters. The codes limit to you single characters, or one or two modifiers plus a single character. See this chart:
The numbers in that column go at the beginning of any four-digit code. Because “0” is default, you would enter that zero at the beginning of a four-digit code, followed by another zero, followed by the two-digit key code. For example, the code for W is 87, and it’s a default key, so you place that 0 in front of it. That gets you 0087.
If you wanted to program something using Ctrl plus an alpha character, the code would be “10XX.” So let’s say you wanted to program Ctrl + Z; the two-digit code for Z is 90, so this particular four-digit code would be 4090.
And so on and so forth.
WAIT, there’s more. You can also program multimedia functions and mouse commands. These have their own three-digit codes, all of which appear to be preceded by a zero, to make four digits. See here:
For example, if I wanted a hotkey to bring up the calculator (I know, ironic), I’d need to use code 708. I’d just repeat the steps listed above to enter the configuration setup, punch in “0708,” and hit Fn + 0 to make it stick.
Having said all that about how to use Ducky Macro V1…there’s certainly some logic in not using Ducky Macro V1 at all to set up the Pocket for gaming. The keys on the Pocket are already assigned–they’re not blank–so you could go into a given game’s settings and simply remap the given keys to game functions. For example, you could assign 8, 4, 5, and 6 to the forward, left, back, and right movement mechanics. Obviously that’s not portable game to game, but I’m just sayin’.
Also, note that during your key assignment operations, it will say “Record Function” on the calculator’s LCD screen. Neat! Further, when you enter the programmability mode, the keys you’ve already assigned will be lit in green. When you press a new key, the others will go dark, and only that one key will be lit in red. It’s a nice detail that makes things a tad easier when you’re trying to keep track of what you’ve done.
Again, as you’re doing this, keep a written code list handy. Thank me later.
Miscellaneous miscellany you should know about the Ducky Pocket
The calculator function of the Ducky Pocket is one of its most desirable, if not simply its most endearing, attributes. Which is a little silly, because you have other calculators on your phone and PC, and if you have to take math classes you probably have an actual standalone calculator sitting on your desk right now.
And yet…I mean, it’s got a calculator, right? So cool! The calculator can certainly function while the Pocket is connected to your PC (you engage that profile with Fn + Tab), but it can work all by itself, too. All it needs is a li’l CR2032 battery so you can use it as a standalone calculator, unconnected to anything but your fingertips. Of course, you’ll lose all the other functionality (I didn’t have to say that, did I?), and the RGB lighting won’t work.
Speaking of RGB lighting, all 24 keys on the Pocket are backlit. The primary legends are, frankly, perfectly lit. Because the switches are Kailh BOX Browns, their clear housings let light bleed out profusely from under the black keycaps. It’s a little messy that way, but I find the extra glow charming on the Pocket.
And yes, you can fiddle and fuss with the lighting to change the colors and turn on effects and whatnot. It’s all easy to do, and it’s all in the manual. Knock yourself out.
A note on that Kailh BOX Brown switches thing: It appears that you can get only Cherry MX Red, Brown, Blue, or Silver switches on the Ducky Pocket at this time. I guess the unit I have is special.
One small bummer is that although the keycaps are all printed with secondary and tertiary legends (yay!), only the primary ones are backlit (boo), and they’re more difficult to read in dim light because the extra glow of the LEDs washes them out. The caps on the shipping version of the Pocket promise to be doubleshot PBT.
Another small issue with the lighting is that the LEDs shine through not just the keycaps, but the chassis as well. This one is red plastic, and its appearance is speckled by the individual LEDs, and not in a good way.
The chassis is solid enough, though. Bonus points for the kickstand that lets you prop the typing angle up a few degrees.
Troubleshooting Tips for the Ducky Pocket
Because the world is a cruel place, things don’t always work correctly, and sometimes the solutions to problems are stupidly simple yet hard to find. Here are a couple of tips for troubleshooting the Ducky Pocket if you’re having some struggles.
Try one at a time. You got this.
Make sure your PC settings aren’t in the way. Go to Control Panel → Ease of Access → Make Your Keyboard Easier To Use. Make sure the Turn On Mouse Keys box is unchecked. Scroll down a bit and make sure Turn On Filter Keys box is also unchecked. If they aren’t already, uncheck them and then click Apply, and click OK. You may need to restart your system afterwards.
Update the Ducky Pocket’s firmware. All of Ducky’s firmware updates are here, so just scroll down to the Ducky Pocket section and download the latest one. (At present, we’re on V1.04.01.) Click to download. It’s an EXE file, so simply double-click the downloaded file to run it. When you do, a little GUI will pop up with an OK button. Click it and let the updater do its thing. (The Pocket will do dark for a sec, but it will be right back.)
Swap out the cable. This is one of those troubleshooting tips that’s stupid and makes you feel stupid, but sometimes you just have to check. It’s like when the IT guy at work asks you to make sure your PC is plugged in when you call with a problem, and you inhale deeply to make sure you can fit in as many curse words as possible in one breath, and then you realize the dude was right.
I actually had the cable problem when I was working with my Ducky Pocket. I didn’t receive a cable with mine (long story, no harm no foul), but it takes a standard micro USB to USB-A cable, of which I have many, because of smartphones. So I just grabbed one from my pile-o-cables and plugged it in. The Pocket lit right up like a tiny Christmas tree, so I figured I was fine.
“FALSE!” he screamed. The data was not getting through. After attempting all of the above solutions, I tried a different cable out of desperation, and…bingo, that was it. I burned the offending cable with fire so it could never harm anyone ever again.
Where to get one
Here’s a full list of Ducky’s partners; you can check your country for the best place to snag a Ducky Pocket. The U.S. list is not accurate, at least for the Pocket. In the U.S., you can find all four switch options on MechanicalKeyboards.com for $69 and on Amazon for $72-77, but only the Red and Silver versions are in stock in either place at this time.
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