Over the many years we've been writing stories on Digital Arts, we've seen a wealth of different input devices that essentially replace what you might do with a mouse – pads, tablets and screens that you manipulate with your fingers or a stylus from traditional Wacom tablets to apps that turn your iPad into a Cintiq.
But the humble keyboard has largely remained the same.
Apple attempted to improve on function keys with the Touch Bar on its newer MacBook Pro (read our MacBook Pro with Touch Bar review) – but it turns out we use function keys quite a lot, and a thin slider's not as useful as a full touchscreen. Apart from that though, the biggest change in keyboards in the last decade has been wireless becoming standard to make your desk look neater (apart from all that other stuff that's strewn across it, obviously).
Logitech's new Craft aims to do more for your creativity than your average keyboard. Announced at the IFA consumer tech show in Berlin, the Craft features a dial at the top left that you can use to control parameters in creative applications such as Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign and Premiere Pro – as well as office software like PowerPoint and Word. Logitech calls this dial a Crown, and it works a bit like Microsoft's Surface Dial for the Surface Pro and Surface Studio (read our Surface Studio hands-on review).
In Photoshop, for example, twisting the Crown zooms you in and out. Tap on the top of the dial and parameters for the tool you are using appear – for example, if you’re using the Brush tool you see Size, Hardness, Opacity, and Flow. You can tap from one to another, adjusting each by rotating the dial as you go.
From Logitech’s site it appears brushes, text size, blend mode and adjustments such as Brightness, Contrast and Saturation are currently supported in Photoshop.
In Illustrator you can use the Crown for Zoom, Undo and changing artboard. Select an object and you can adjust Stroke Weight, Scale, Opacity, Fill Color and Stroke Color. Select text and you can adjust Size, Leading, Tracking and Fill Color. If you select an image (or multiple objects) you adjust their scale or opacity.
Premiere Pro users can use the dial as a jog wheel in the timeline. We’ve no info currently on what exactly the Crown can do in InDesign.
Outside of Adobe and Microsoft apps, the Craft can also adjust OS features such as volume or switching between apps. In a Logitech video, we’ve also seen it being used with Spotify – where there’s an alternative interaction method. Turning the dial changes the volume, but holding your finger on the top while rotating it changes the track – going forward and backwards in a playlist.
This could allow for some interesting uses in Adobe apps - but we’ll have to see if there’s any further support for this when we get our hands on a review unit.
Having a physical dial makes adjusting parameters easier than using on-screen sliders with a mouse (or a keyboard), as you can quickly make larger adjustments with a flick of your hand – then slowing your hand’s movement down to precisely select the value you want.
However, that the dial is on the left of the keyboard is bound to annoy some left-handed users who like to have their mouse or tablet on the left.
The keyboard is backlit, with ‘hand-detection’ making it light up when your digits are nearby.
The keyboard works with both Mac and Windows – for Adobe’s tools at least. Office support is currently Windows 10-only. It’s wireless using either Logitech’s USB receiver or Bluetooth – with a USB-C port on the back for charging.
If you need more control than a single dial, check out Palette – which is a collection of interconnected dials, buttons and sliders that can work with many of Adobe's applications (as well as Final Cut Pro).