Gamers understand that there’s nothing less enjoyable than using the keyboard instead of a controller. They can appreciate the value of a controller that does specific things in games. The same should be true for those who create with their computers. Using a keyboard for shortcuts is far better than using the mouse to click on each command all across the screen, but a controller could really help you save time and use your brain to create instead of looking all over for keys and icons.

That’s where TourBox (B&H | Amazon) comes in handy. It’s like a video game controller for Lightroom, Photoshop, Premiere Pro and whatever other tools you use to create.

Dessert first: TourBox is tasty

Let me start at the end. I like TourBox. It’s the best controller/keyboard addition I’ve used. If you use a tablet, it’s the ideal companion. TourBox is the only additional controller I really like — and I didn’t realize I didn’t like the other options until I’d used TourBox.

Plus, it’s among the most affordable options available.

Knobs, dials, buttons …

It’s got a knob on top, radial dial, scrolling wheel and 11 additional buttons. Each control function is programmed to replace a combination of keyboard strokes. The one keyboard command everyone should be using all the time when editing is Undo/Redo. Just press Ctrl/Command + Z to Undo, and press Ctrl/Command + Shift + Z to Redo. It’s really handy to know that shortcut combination.

TourBox has knobs, dials and 11 buttons. All are programmable.

The thing is, that’s three keys you have to press. You can program the TourBox to do all that with one button.

You don’t have to program it

TourBox comes with a lot of common Lightroom and Photoshop shortcuts pre-programmed, so you don’t have to program it yourself. But you can. You can program a lot more functions into it.

Every button and combination of buttons can be programmed in the TourBox Console.

Lightroom, Photoshop and ____

As I said above, it comes preprogrammed with presets for Lightroom and Photoshop, but you can create a new preset for any application you work in. Just add a new preset and program the buttons and dials. It’s very simple, and it works with every application on your computer.

You can add a preset for any application you use on your computer.

What’s the point?

OK, so it removes keyboard work, but who cares? Well, it actually makes your work faster and potentially more enjoyable. It reduces the time spent putting fingers from both hands onto the keys, so you can use your mouse more effectively.

If you use a Wacom-style tablet, then it’s the ideal companion. It drives me nuts to be using my pen and have to leave the tablet so I can perform a complex keyboard shortcut with both hands. It’s definitely faster working with TourBox.

It’s like using Manual mode at night

When you really know your tools well, you can use them without looking at them. Like a pianist who reads music without looking at her fingers, or like using manual mode on your camera at night when you can’t see what the buttons are. You’re able to focus on creating.

Using TourBox, you can keep your eyes on the screen and move sliders without leaving the photo. You can fine-tune the adjustments.

It connects to your computer with USB-C but has a USB-A output that you can plug other stuff into.

Who’s it for?

TourBox is marketed to photographers and other creatives, but anyone who uses the same keyboard shortcuts over an over again would benefit. I think CAD users would like it. It’s for people who do more than type on their computers.

The best feature

The best thing about TourBox is its size. It’s smaller than two Apple mice and it goes next to my keyboard instead of in front of it, or next to my tablet. It also goes in my bag when I work on the go. It pairs perfectly with laptops and desktops. Its weight is enough to keep in place on the desk, but not so much that it’s a burden to carry along, and it doesn’t require any assembly when you arrive.

To facilitate taking it along, you can export your presets and import them on another computer, like going from desktop to laptop.

Lacking feature

The thing I want it to do is very simple, and now that I’ve looked around more, I see that they show it off on their website. But I can’t figure out how to make it work. I want the Tour/HUD button next to the dial to shift to the next preset. Meaning, if I’m in Lightroom and I switch to Photoshop or Premiere Pro, I want to press that button so that my preset for that app is now active so I don’t have to change it in the TourBox Console.

Like I say, it does it on the website, but I can’t figure it out. I’ll probably hear from them shortly about how to do it ;)

This is a very small gripe. I’m really content with the controller overall.

The Tour button pops up this reminder image of what your buttons do.

Update: Version 2 of the TourBox Console launched this month, and it allows you to program the Tour button and use it to switch between presets. Strangely, there’s not an option in the application’s preferences to check for updates, automatically or manually.

My advice

I can recommend this tool, but it’s not for everyone. The first time you use it, you’ll probably be frustrated, and that’s totally normal. Remember the first time you picked up a camera? You learned how to use a camera, and you can definitely learn to use this.

The thing is that you have to USE it. You should spend a week forcing yourself to use your TourBox constantly. As you do, you’ll learn to use it blindly very quickly and you’ll learn which shortcuts you need to add to make it work with your style. I’ve enjoyed getting to know it, and I’m still working with it to refine my workflow and make me faster so I can create more and press buttons less.

TourBox costs just $169, which is less than half the cost of some other controllers I’ve reviewed. Maybe it’d be an appropriate Mother’s Day or Father’s Day gift this year.

You can see a lot more demonstrations and all the features at the TourBox website, and you’ll find it at your favorite retailers, like B&H or Amazon.