Creative artists always enjoy getting their hands on tools that can aid in the creative process. The tools have to be something that will make the creative process more streamlined and efficient, which in turn, allows the creative artist to take on more jobs. Logitech reached out to me to show me its Craft keyboard. My creative works revolve around the world of photography and videography, so I was curious to see just how useful this keyboard would be for me. Let's take a look at the design and features to see why Logitech thinks this device is a tool all creative artists should have.
The design and build quality
The Craft keyboard comes in as a full size (16.94'' x 5.86'') keyboard, allowing you to have all your function keys as well as a 10-key pad. In addition, it comes with volume control and a function for toggling the back light. The build quality is a robust metallic chassis with plastic flattened keys. The quiet keyboard can connect to a computer via USB dongle for wireless connectivity or via low power Bluetooth. Charging is done via USB-C cable.
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The Craft feels rather substantial when you hold it in your hands in comparison to other wireless keyboards on the market. It weighs roughly two pounds and you can definitely feel this girth, but that's okay. It feels solid and nicely constructed—not like a random (cheap) wireless keyboard. I'm an old-ish guy, so I have an affinity for mechanical keyboards. I love the feel of the IBM keyboards of yore. The keys on the Craft are flattened, but they have a spherical cutout to be more comfortable for your fingertips. It's a nice touch. I can tolerate the keys, but it's not my favorite when it comes to typing for a long time. As a matter of fact, I switched back to my CyberpowerPC mechanical keyboard to write this piece.
If you have multiple devices, the Craft can be connected to to each of those devices by way of profiles. There are three profile options on the Craft allowing you to use it on your primary computing rig, your portable computer, and one other computer. Being low power Bluetooth, the keyboard's battery life is expected to be roughly seven days. I've been able to use the Craft regularly for a week before the battery needs to charge. Not bad.
Hardware design meets Creative software
Beyond the sleek design, the Craft keyboard has the Logitech Options software that's used to integrate within the workflow of creative artists—ideally, apps such as Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom, Illustrator, and Premiere Pro. The Craft keyboard utilizes the Logitech Options software, which was previously used to customize and personalize other Logitech peripherals. Other software is compatible with the Options software. You can check the site for a list.
Besides allowing you to personalize buttons, the Options software uses a contextual design to work with creative apps. By contextual design, I mean the Options software knows that if you're in Photoshop using your Brush tool, you can turn the Crown (the keyboard dial) and manipulate the brush size or other brush properties. In my initial experience, this functionality would not work. I'd turn the Crown and nothing would happen. I even fired up the Options software while I was editing a photo and the Crown refused to work. Only in Premiere Pro and Illustrator did I see this functionality. I contacted Logitech and was told a software update was on the horizon and my issue would be taken care with this patch. It was.
The functionality of the Crown is a pretty nifty idea. When I updated the software, it was fascinating to see how the contextual options fit into my workflow. I can't say I cared for the functionality in Premiere Pro while editing video. My mouse and keyboard shortcuts worked best for me. I did like the use within Photoshop and Lightroom. . .to a certain extent.
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When I previously wrote about the user interface of Lightroom, I said that the Develop panel was designed in a top-down manner. This allows you to process your photos without having to hunt and peck for editing options such as Saturation and Exposure. The Craft integrates with the interface, allowing you to tap on the Crown to access your editing options and then turn the Crown to change the level of intensity of the selected option.
When using the Craft in Photoshop, the functionality is slightly different. As mentioned previously, if you were using the Brush tool, the Craft allows you to manipulate the brush properties with a tap and turn of the Crown. Same goes for adjustment layers. This is fine and well, but Photoshop has a lot more options embedded within its tools. The Brush menu alone has four types of brushes. You have to use your mouse or Wacom stylus to click and hold on the Brush menu to see the other brush types. It might be better if I could hover my cursor over the menu, then press and turn the Crown to select an option.
I use a Wacom Intuos 98% of the time when I'm processing my photography. And using the Craft with my Wacom tablet felt cumbersome. It's because the functionality the Craft offered me was already accessible via shortcuts and gestures using my Wacom. If I didn't use a Wacom as often as I do, maybe the Craft would fit better for me. Your mileage may vary.
I think the Crown and the Logitech Craft keyboard is a nice idea and could be quite useful for some creative artists. At this time, I'm not sure it's the best fit for my workflow. When I'm not creating photos or videos, I'm writing. This means I'll need comfortable keys to slap while I compose an article. When I'm in Photoshop or Lightroom, a Wacom stylus in in my right hand and my left hand is resting on hot keys for functionality. No need for me to turn a dial or knob. I just use gestures or tap the applicable keys when needed.
You can get the Craft for $200 online. It's a solid device that just may work well for your workflow.
Have you been thinking about trying out the Craft? Share your opinions and experiences with fellow TechRepublic members.
Ant Pruitt is an IT Support Professional with a passion for showing the non-geek how great technology can be. He writes for a variety of tech publications and hosts his own podcast. Ant is also an avid photographer and weight lifter.