Das Keyboard has created a “Q-series” of cloud-connected products that so far consist of two keyboards (the X50Q and 5Q) and the Q software that makes them sing. This is not your run-of-the-mill keyboard software, though. It lets you configure the keyboards’ lighting, but it’s designed to be more like a command center where you can see notifications from the web and IoT. You can even control your smart devices with it.
To use the Q software, download it, and then the latest firmware update, here. The software package is 109MB. When you have it downloaded, double click the EXE to install it on Windows. You’ll need to restart your PC. The firmware update I needed was only 5MB. Be warned, though, that Windows Defender tried to block the firmware, so you may need to manually let it through.
Before you can use Q software, you’re supposed to sit through an intro video that’s four minutes and 19 seconds long. You also have to sign up for an account, which you learn early on in the video.
All The Pretty Lights
When you first fire up the Q software, it will recognize which keyboard you have connected. Click the correct one when prompted. By default, the X50Q loaded with no lights at all, in the Dashboard view. That’s easily changed; click Edit at the top of the window and pick a profile from the list on the left. There are several to choose from, and they include basic ones like Blue (which is all blue lighting) and ones that were created for specific games (LoL, Counter-Strike) and apps (AutoCAD, Photoshop). Being a Texas-based company, Das Keyboard created an all-orange profile called “Longhorns.”
This is where one of the first issues with the design of the software arises. Although it’s fun to employ colorful lighting schemes like a pulsating rainbow, it’s not helpful to do so if you’re planning to notice any of your web or IoT notifications. DK even suggests in its intro video that you probably want to stick with a monochromatic color profile (like Blue) so the lights of your notifications pop.
Within each color profile, you can edit and alter not just the color of each key, but the lighting action each performs. Those controls are at the bottom of the window. For example, starting with the Blue profile, I selected one of the side lights (there’s one on each side of the X50Q) and chose to change the color from blue to peach. I clicked Save, and the color changed.
You can also change the effect. Under Passive Effect, you can choose Blink, None, Color Cycle, or Breathe. Or go with an Active Effect–Breathe, Ripple, Laser, Color Cycle, Inward Ripple, or None. If you choose an Active Effect, you’ll need to pick at least one more color. For example, if the default color of a given key is blue, you can pick red; when you press that key, the Active Effect will play with those two colors.
If you want to link a profile with a given application, click the link icon at the bottom of the window. The pop-up will ask you to select an application. Click “Select,” navigate to the EXE of the application you want, and click Save. Any time you have that application running in the foreground of your PC, the software will automatically enable that profile. Let’s say you like the Photoshop profile and tie it to the application; if you open Photoshop (or just bring it to the forefront of the miscellaneous programs running on your PC), the backlighting will switch to it without any other interaction on your part.
From the Q software window, you can clone the profiles that are there and edit them (without destroying the original) or just create a new one from scratch–although at this time it seems as though the latter simply clones whatever profile you currently have active.
Enabling A Signal
But what the software is really designed to do is provide you with notifications in the form of lights on your keys and then showing you the various messages in the Dashboard. Back on the Dashboard view, click the text area that says “Configure signals with IFTTT.” (You’ll need to–you guessed it–create an IFTTT account first.)
Once you click that button, the Q Signal window will pop up, and you can search for, look up, and plug in preset signals. The presets cover many notifications like Trello, ESPN articles, YouTube uploads, alerts and alarms, weather, and on and on.
I scrolled down the list and found a Google Calendar signal. I just clicked Activate and then Continue, and then I was prompted to log in to my IFTTT account. (Instead, I entered my Gmail address, and it automatically created an IFTTT account for me. I went to my Gmail, clicked to set a password, and then created a new password when prompted. That process took me away from the Q Signal window and over to IFTTT itself.) Then I tabbed back over to the Q Signal window and clicked Connect Google Calendar.
On one PC I was using, nothing happened. It just hung there. I checked using a different PC, and I was able to enable a signal with no issues, so the fluke may have been something on the first system. Note that I had no trouble creating signals with IFTTT and Zapier as outlined below with that first PC afterwards.
Creating A Signal With IFTTT
Although it’s quite easy to enable a pre-made signal once you have your accounts set up, it’s not especially difficult to make one from scratch via IFTTT, either. It requires zero coding, although depending on what you’re creating, there may be a bunch of steps. There’s a handy little video that DK made that tells you how to do it:
In sum, it goes like this:
- From your IFTTT account, click My Applets and select New Applet from the right side of the screen
- Click +This to go to the next screen
- Search for or scroll to find a service you want to connect–Twitter, for example
- Click Connect
- When prompted, enter your Twitter username/password and click Authorize App
- That pop-up will disappear, and you can choose a trigger from the list on the page
- For the purposes of illustration, choose New tweet by a specific user, such as “keychatter,” which is a Twitter account you should definitely be following; the “@” will automatically populate
- Enter the Twitter user’s name and click Create Trigger
- On the next page, click +That
- Then enter Q in the search box and select Das Keyboard Q
- Select the Create A Signal… icon to confirm that’s what you want to do
- Then you have to complete the “action fields”:
- Leave the Name area alone; that will populate correctly when there’s a tweet
- Choose the Zone (ie, the key that will light up)
- Choose a color
- Customize the message you want to receive (but you can leave this at the default)
- Choose an effect (like “set color”)
- Choose the device (ie, Das Keyboard 5Q or Das Keyboard X50Q)
- Click Create Action
- On the next screen, click Finish
You can click a button on the Finish screen to check that the applet works. And then you play the waiting game. When you do receive a notification, the action you programmed will occur–in this case, the Esc key turns solid red. Then tab over to the Q software’s Dashboard GUI and mouse over the corresponding key (it will match what’s on your physical keyboard) to view the message. You can click the trash can icon to delete it (and thus make the lighting notification go away) or click the other icon to open the message in the Signal Center. (To save a step, get to the Signal Center by clicking the big Q button.)
This is a step-by-step for creating a specific Twitter notification, but other signals will require essentially the same steps.
Creating A Signal With Zapier
Creating a signal via Zapier is not that different from doing so via IFTTT. Again, though, you’ll want to set up your Zapier account first. It’s really fast; you can sign up with your Google account in a couple of clicks. Then when prompted, enter your company name, your role, and add all the apps you want to include. There’s…a lot of them. To keep things simple, I chose just a few. When you have your selections, click “Finish Setup.”
- Once logged in and setup, you can start making a “Zap”
- Enter the application you want to connect to Q software in the first field; search for and select Das Keyboard Q in the second field (despite the incorrect name, it will work with the X50Q as well)
- For the purposes of illustration, I selected New Email for When This Happens and Create a Signal for Then do this!
- Click Make a Zap!
- On the next screen, choose a Gmail account to link and click through the prompts to give Zapier permissions
- Click Test on the right side of the screen to check that it works; assuming it does, click Save + Continue
- Next, you can choose which inboxes and labels to include; choose your preferences and click Continue
- Zapier will pull in an email sample or two; click Continue
- On the upper left side of the screen, enter a name for the Zap, such as Email From Gmail or something more creative
- Now you need to create the actual Signal; on the left side of the screen under 2. Action, click Create a Signal, then click Continue
- Click Connect an account, and when prompted enter your Q software login credentials and click Sign in
- When the pop-up disappears, click Test to confirm that the connection works; assuming it does, click Save + Continue
- Congratulations! Now you have a bunch of fields to fill in:
- Enter the name of the Signal in the first text field
- Under the Device area drop-down, select the correct keyboard from the list (ie, Das Keyboard X50Q)
- Under the Layout drop-down, choose whichever one you have
- Under the Zone drop-down pick whichever key you want to light up when you get a notification, such as F1
- If you like, choose an Effect (I used SET_COLOR) and/or add another device upon which to receive your notification
- You will need to define a color; either pick one from the drop-down list or punch in a hexadecimal
- Then click Continue
- You should be prompted to Send test to Das Keyboard 5Q (this, even if you’ve selected the Das Keyboard X50Q
- Assuming the test was successful, click Finish
This is a step-by-step tutorial on how to create a specific notification from Zapier, but as with IFTTT, the process should be approximately the same for others.
IoT Controls In Command Center
You can also control physical IoT devices with the Q software and your X50Q or 5Q keyboard. This is fundamentally different than creating Signals with a REST API because you’re not receiving notifications, you’re sending commands.
You have to program these in the Command Center part of the Q software. To get there, click the green “Q” on the Q software’s dashboard view (or just press the Q button on the keyboard), and when the Signal Center windows pops up, click the hamburger menu in the upper left corner and select Command Center.
I do not have a compatible device with which to test this directly, but the video tutorial DK made for it makes it appear fairly straightforward. You can perform actions like turning your smart lights on and off, adjusting your thermostat, closing your garage door, and more, all from your keyboard.
Das Keyboard’s Q software is designed to be powerful and flexible, and it is. The wide world of REST APIs through services like IFTTT and Zapier provide vast possibilities for notifications and creativity. The ability to actually control your IoT devices is going to appeal to a number of smart-home types. And of course, there’s a lot of control over the actual RGB lighting schemes on the X50Q and 5Q.
I did find that using the software is rather fussy. There are a lot of steps to get started, a bit of a learning curve, lots of accounts to log into, and numerous details to punch into IFTTT and Zapier to create even a simple li’l notification. When you do get a notification, you can’t dismiss it without using the Q software’s GUI, which means you always have to have Q software both open and connected to the internet (requiring the Q Service to constantly run in the background). Note that you can employ the preset lighting profiles without an internet connection, though.
The software is currently not complete, either. The Mac support is still in beta, there’s no Linux support yet, and you can’t assign keys or program macros. Those features are all still coming, but at best you can expect them around January 2019. That’s not an acceptable length of time for a lot of people.
Further reading: a full breakdown of the issues surrounding the software. And a full review of the X50Q keyboard.
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