Depending on how much time you spend in front of a screen and keyboard, you’ve probably memorized your fair share of keyboard shortcuts. Whether you’re like me, typing furiously in Google Docs, or playing Elite Dangerous late into the night, you’ve probably wished for an easier way to use and manage your keyboard shortcuts.
You can buy a simple macro keyboard or even the $150 Elgato Stream Deck, but there’s also a much cheaper option that uses hardware you probably already own. MATRIC lets you create custom interfaces to control your computer remotely. All you need is a Windows PC and an Android smartphone or tablet.
How to install and configure MATRIC
- First, download the server software from the MATRIC website and install it on your computer.
- Download the client software to your phone from the Google Play Store.
- Make sure both devices are connected to the same Wi-Fi network, then launch both programs.
- Tap the MATRIC icon on your phone.
- Your phone will ask you to connect to the server. Faucet Connect.
- Your PC software will ask you to confirm the connection with your phone or tablet. Click on Yes.
Once setup is complete, you are good to go.
MATRIC Basic Concepts
MATRIC’s interfaces consist of buttons to which you can assign different actions (eg keyboard shortcuts, macros, opening applications). A collection of buttons is called a page, and a collection of pages is called a deck.
There are 12 decks preloaded with the software. At this point, you can load the included YouTube deck, for example, and everything should already be working. But the real power behind MATRIC is its customization, so we’ll create our own deck.
Getting started simply with browser commands in MATRIC
We’ll start by creating a simple deck to control our web browser. To create a deck, we must use the server software of our PC.
- Click on New in the upper left corner of the application window.
- We can now see a collection of buttons on the left, a grid to place them on in the middle, and a Properties panel with three tabs on the right. Change the name of our deck to “Remote Browser”. This is how it will be listed on the phone.
Next, we will customize the page. Click on the Pages tab.
- Click on the Default page to show his options.
- Since we are making a simple game, change the number of rows to 2 and leave the columns unchanged with 4.
- A window will appear, warning that buttons could be lost by collapsing the grid. Since there are no buttons yet, click Okay.
- There is now a 2 by 4 matrix on which to place our buttons. To add a button to the grid, drag it from the leftmost panel.
- Add two more buttons to the remote for a total of three.
- If you want to resize a button, you can do so by clicking and dragging the bottom right corner of the button.
- We can now start customizing our buttons and adding actions to them. Click the button you want to use for New Tab.
- When you click a button, the Properties panel automatically switches to the Control tab for you.
- Change the top right control text to “New Tab”.
- To insert a line break, press Shift+Enter.
- Next, we’ll assign an action to the button. Click the New Tab button.
- Click on the Events and actions drop-down menu in the Properties panel.
- Click on Push the button.
- To select Shortcut in the drop-down menu.
- Click it Add button on the right.
- Click on the Shortcut menu that appears.
- Click in the text box.
- Press Ctrl+T.
- And with that, we’ve completed our first button. Do the same for the other two buttons: Ctrl+Tab for the next tab and Ctrl+Shift+Tab for the previous tab.
- Finally, click to safeguard in the menu bar.
That’s it. The deck you just created will be available on your phone the next time you open the MATRIC client. To access it, select your computer from the list of servers (there should only be one option at this point), then select remote browser in the list of available decks.
What’s good – and bad – about MATRIC
As with any software, MATRIC offers a lot to like. Of course, not everything is perfect or flawless, and this app has plenty of room for improvement in the future.
Behind the steep learning curve lies a robust and highly customizable interface. This initial process only scratches the surface of what can be done with MATRIC. Beyond simple buttons, you can use knobs, sliders, rotary encoders, and touchpad and joystick emulation. A dozen sample decks are included with the program to get an idea of its customization.
The software is fast. I never noticed any latency while experimenting with it. The full license is also generous. It is linked to your Google account, so one license will allow you to install the software on multiple PCs and smart devices.
Best of all is the open and helpful Discord community. If you are having trouble configuring any part of the software, you can speak directly to the developer behind the project to fix it. This kind of customer service is rare.
It takes a bit of work to get used to making a deck. There are many options, and it can seem overwhelming when you just want to see if it’s worth investing the money and time. You will also need to come up with your own icons or graphics if you want more than text on your buttons. None of this is particularly expensive, but it might be too much for someone who wants an out-of-the-box experience.
Unfortunately, this software won’t work on Mac, Chromebook, or Linux machines, and you’ll need an Android phone — not an iPhone. You will also need a Wi-Fi connection; USB will not suffice. There is a Bluetooth option, but it’s not very good.
The ugly one
Button customization can be a little tricky. You will notice that the text can overflow the edge of the button graphic on the game we created if it is not resized. And if you try to use a square image for a rectangular button, the image will stretch to fill the entire space instead of keeping its original shape. None of this takes away from functionality, but unless you’re playing Dwarf Fortress, you don’t want an ugly interface.
MATRIC is free to download, but its functions are limited: you can only create one page with no more than six buttons. If you want a subscription license, you can pay $0.99/month or $7.99/year. Lifetime licenses are available for $11.99, $13.99 or $19.99, depending on how generous you want to be (there is no difference between the three licenses).
If you’re willing to put in the time to learn its ins and outs, MATRIC will reward you with an improved shortcut experience.
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