Alternatives to Stream Deck

An IT Department have barred a friend from using Stream Deck due to software concerns regarding security. What other automation software would you suggest that a conservative IT department might approve of?

Hoping to get said friend on the path of automating his most mundane tasks.

Hello. Without knowing the Computer/Operating System, (although from the tag “Windows” we can at least infer a PC, likely Intel, and some version of Widows) or what exactly needs to be automated, it is difficult to answer the question.

I use Windows for work, but as with your friend, my machine is locked down to only approved software. Thus I have no recommendations I’m afraid. But by giving more details perhaps other Windows users could chime in.


Okay, so as noted, there isn’t a lot to go on here. Chances are that the IT department see it as frivolous, or hooking into the OS at a layer they are uncomfortable with. Without the software, the Stream Deck is a doorstop. If there were any alternatives, they would function on the same basis and presumably be knocked back for the same reason.

I used to use my Stream Deck in my previous job (but I did oversee local IT which made that a bit easier to approve), but I’m in the same position in my current job. It sits on my desk each day waiting for me to swap my work PC out for my personal Mac.

So, what can you do? Well, before we talk hardware, let’s talk software. Assuming you are talking Windows (and not a *nix-based OS) adding anything new (AutoHotkey for the win if you can add new stuff), we’ll assume all you get is all you’ve been given, and what you’re given is Microsoft.

So for Windows, there’s probably a 50:50 chance of your friend having access to Power Automate on the desktop depending on where that organisation stands in terms of Microsoft platform capability. That could be a good option to automate some things with if it has been made available. It is very powerful and a reasonable RPA tool.

Next up, PowerShell scripts. Now there is a fair chance this might have been left as locked down by default. Many places do (it is a sound security measure on the execution policy given just how powerful PowerShell is) and many places don’t allow you the requisite access to unlock the running of such scripts so easily. Your mileage may vary here. Similarly, access to WSL (Windows Subsystem for Linux) can give you other scripting options … but isn’t typically deployed to end user machines in organisations with managed desktops. It is usually an IT/developer thing.

If those options are not available, then you can fall back to things like VBScript (VBS) or Windows Script Host (WSH), Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) for many Microsoft apps, and good old batch scripts. I personally have a menu batch script to launch various sets of things for me each day as I need them, and I have several VBS scripts that I use for utility things like speeding up the generation of PDFs from Office files. I also have things I created in VBA and pushed into Office apps as my own custom ribbon tabs (e.g for Excel).

It might be surprising just how much automation you can still do with a bit of batch and VB-based scripting.

I will note, Microsoft have been communicating for *many* years now that they intend to fully deprecate VBS … but it lives on.

Now, how do you trigger them? Well, Windows shortcuts (the links you can create to files) can have keyboard shortcuts associated to them. So the starting point would be to use the existing keyboard with keyboard shortcuts to trigger them. Need more? Well, consider an extended keyboard with additional keys.

Still need more, or really crave something to fill a space on your desk? Well consider a macro pad. Some of these will come with their own software, which puts them in the same place as the Stream Deck. Some however can be programmed. Before I paid out for a Stream Deck, I used to use a Pi Zero-based Keybow and I simply set each of the keys to be a high function key (F13 - F24), and used these to trigger AutoHotkey macros. But it was programmed with Lua, and so if I chose to use it in my current job, I could put together some Lua code to carry out the operations all from the Keybow rather than just triggering a script. More painful to program than editing a script on the PC, but still viable. These days the Keybow are RP2040-based and use CircuitPython with the standard firmware, so the principle is the same.

Hope that helps.

For quick app switching, in days of yore, I pinned applications to the task bar, making MS Outlook in first position, Explorer in second position, I had Asana saved as a Chrome App in third position, and so on and so forth. Windows allows you to hit Windows-1, Windows-2, Windows-3 keyboard shortcuts to launch/switch between each application. I have a Stream Deck on a Mac now, but looking back on those early Windows days, that shortcut alone was a half-decent precursor to using a Stream Deck.
As for launching anything else, I’d store the text command (for opening a document, running a script, etc) in Asana, and when I wanted to use it, I would copy the text command, hit Windows-R (run), paste the command in, hit Enter, and off it would go.
As for the restrictive IT department, you generally can’t fight city hall, just do your best with the tools you have.

Thank you so much for the kind and useful advice. There are some good recommendations. My buddy is on a Win11. I will definitively have a go at your suggestions.

Have a great day!

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