TourBox Elite - Creative Software Controller with Bluetooth
Whether it is video editing, image editing or mixing and refining sound recordings, working with mouse and keyboard often slows down creativity. I work rather irregularly with some tools. The routines created after an intensive session often get lost again by the time I use them again. Particularly annoying: similar tasks - such as resizing timelines - are linked to different commands in different programmes.
Written by Rainer Claaßen
Editor for fotoMagazin and Audio-Video-Foto-Bild
Make quicker adjustments in Lightroom, Photoshop and Premiere Pro
There may be people who can remember all those commands - I am not one of them. So I regularly search for the right button with the mouse pointer, which slows down the workflow noticeably. Since the TourBox Elite is next to my keyboard, that has changed. I work noticeably more efficiently in specific programmes. And it's so nice that I even use the box for spreadsheets now.
Professional tools often use specially adapted hardware to shorten routines. In principle, a good idea - but a workstation used for many different tasks quickly becomes overloaded with them. Moreover, such input devices are usually expensive. Working with them is only really efficient if the user uses the devices regularly and remembers the individual functions. The promise of the TourBox Elite is: reliable and ergonomic hardware that simplifies work with many different tools.
"Reliable and ergonomic hardware that simplifies work with many different tools."
The compact device weighs just under 420 grams including the two included AA batteries. The black version suits my workplace best - but the device is also available in white and smoke black. It unpacked quickly and the Bluetooth connection to the computer was established in seconds - there is a connection button at the bottom of the box for this, which is slightly larger than the numeric keypad of a standard keyboard. For me, the reliable wireless connection is a real advantage. The quad USB hub I have connected to my Mac laptop is already full and this way I don't need any more cables on my desk.
To use the Tourbox, you need the TourBox Console software. This software is available for free download for both Windows and MacOS. Versions for older versions of the operating systems are also available. Since the Tourbox interacts with several programmes, access must be granted for this. Those who do not have administrator rights on their computer will need help from the administrator.
If you want to use the TourBox with one of the common Adobe programs, you are quickly on your way: presets for Lightroom, Photoshop and Premiere Pro - both for editing and colour correction - are already pre-installed.
A loaded preset has to be assigned to the desired programme. After clicking the "Unlink" button in the console window, a selection list of all currently active programmes appears. Once the connection is established in this way, the box can be used with the respective programme. It automatically switches between presets when you change programmes or, for example, the presets for Lightroom are activated.
Since I use the box mainly for Apple's Final Cut Pro, the start-up was slightly more complicated: however, a link in the control panel leads directly to the website where various presets can be downloaded.
The 'aha' effect starts pretty quickly
Both the learning process and the "aha" effect start quite quickly. Because at least in the presets for the aforementioned Adobe tools, the assignment of the various functions is already very sensibly resolved in the default settings. I use Lightroom to quickly adjust reportage photos. Instead of setting the various sliders for highlights, depth, white and black one after another, it now suffices to click the corresponding button on the TourBox control panel. After that, adjustments can be made using the dial.
What first seemed to me to be a display error turns out to be a practical help: the cabinet's control panel is symbolically displayed above the screen display. The four keys show the functions stored on them. Labelling can be set individually. There is hardly a function of the TourBox that you cannot design to your own liking.
Straight to work
Now you can get started - either directly in the programmes where the TourBox should make work more efficient. Or with the individual adjustment of the tool. Because the biggest advantage of this tool - besides its really good workmanship and thoughtful ergonomics - is its great flexibility. Personally, I would recommend getting some experience with the default settings first. But if you already have concrete ideas about how you want to use the TourBox, you can also start individual customisation straight away.
In the TourBox console, select the application whose settings are to be adjusted from the list at the top left. When one of the 11 buttons is clicked or one of the three wheels is turned, the display in the right part of the console window changes to the assigned function - this also works for combinations of the different controls. A double-click now shows a selection of available functions that can be assigned to this knob or wheel. Those who want it particularly sophisticated can even save macros or a self-composed context menu here.
I soon realised that it is fascinating how many possibilities this unobtrusive piece of hardware offers. Whether it is adjusting the brush size in Photoshop, viewing the results of a video recording as quickly as possible or inserting different jingles at the desired positions in a podcast - this can all be done very quickly after a little training or individual adjustment. All three rotary knobs also offer button functions, and combinations when operating different elements can also be assigned functions.
Coming up with your own preset
There are presets for many common programmes on the TourBox website. In addition to manufacturer-programmed settings, there are also presets created and uploaded by users. Often, these presets provide at least a good basis for building your own preset. Of course, each user works with their own combination of software, and has personal preferences about how they interact with it.
"Meanwhile, I even use the TourBox to quickly jump back and forth when writing texts."
The TourBox console lets you quickly create preferences for all applications - even the Finder on the Mac can be controlled with it. Meanwhile, I even use the TourBox to quickly jump back and forth when writing text. Function assignment is not limited to keyboard commands - mouse actions can also be replaced by control of the box. And with the macro function, entire processes can be automated. This will probably only be used by a few users, but it can be hugely useful for individual tasks.
Based on the preset I use for video editing, I created a set with which I control the rather exotic audio tool "Wavelab Cast". Particularly practical is that individual programming allows me to control similar processes with the same control element. Whatever programme I am working in: if I turn the scroll wheel to the left, the timeline is enlarged, if I turn it to the right, it is reduced. This detail alone saves a lot of time. Creativity here is limited more by the commands and options of the programme than by the TourBox's capabilities.
The possibilities of use are almost limitless. Once I started accessing programme functions through the device, I constantly found new tasks to use the TourBox Elite for. Switching between browser tabs, image-accurate navigation in videos, entering regularly used passwords - the box even stimulates creativity. In fact, it also makes me more aware of the capabilities of keyboard controls, and I use some programme functions much more efficiently even without using the TourBox.
I am impressed with its size, layout and finish. It takes up less space on the desk than a mousepad, doesn't slip thanks to its rubber feet and weight, and the buttons and wheels feel high-quality. I like the haptic feedback on the dials - they lock in small increments with a soft sound. But this can also be switched off.
The device is small enough to take with you to another workstation. And it can also be linked to different computers. Self-made or modified presets can also be stored locally, so they can easily be used on multiple computers.
The TourBox Elite makes it easier to use a wide variety of computer programmes and increases efficiency. In addition, it even stimulates creativity. You have to immerse yourself in the concept and invest some time for an individual configuration. For me, however, this effort was well worth it after a short time.