Foot Pedal For Mute

I use a novel control scheme to mute and unmute my microphone during meetings—a foot pedal. The benefits for meetings, I feel are obvious, but you know, for SEO let's list them anyway:

I use Google Meet for my meetings, but this guide probably works for other providers, too. Read on! 👇

What You Need

I bought this footpedal (Amazon) and recommend it for its simplicity. You can also find it on Newegg, or a bunch of other places, and like all random USB devices, it is sold under a variety of brand names. (Please @-me on Twitter if you find it somewhere really cheap.)

Shows a mechanical foot pedal with a USB cord on white background
This one! It might have a different brand name for you.

At the same time, here's a style I tried out which you should not get. The low profile style here means that pressing it tends to "bounce", and trigger several times in rapid succession. 😡

Also, you probably need… a computer. And Chrome, because this needs an extension to work (maybe the extension will work in another browser too).

How to set it up

The footpedal is basically a USB keyboard that can type one thing, so the first steps are used to make it type something that we can pick up globally.

Build the footswitch library

Go and grab footswitch so you can change what that thing is.

It has its own instructions for macOS, but I always have trouble with them. I set it up like this (you'll need Homebrew and macOS developer tools set up first):

$ git clone https://github.com/rgerganov/footswitch.git
$ cd footswitch/
# need hidapi to talk to USB devices
$ brew install hidapi
# need to fix lib/include paths just for this build
$ export LIBRARY_PATH="$LIBRARY_PATH:$(brew --prefix)/lib" 
$ export C_INCLUDE_PATH="$C_INCLUDE_PATH:$(brew --prefix)/include/hidapi"
# now build!
$ gcc common.c debug.c footswitch.c -lhidapi -o footswitch

If you're non-technical, ask a friend to do this for you. You only need to do this once when you're first configuring the pedal.

Configure it to type something

Now, the important step: we can query the pedal and tell it to type something. For me, I have it type "Left Shift + Left Windows + 0"—a fairly unique combination. (The Windows key is just the ⌘ on Macs.)

You can see what your footpedal is currently set to by passing -r:

$ ./footswitch -r
[switch 1]: unconfigured
[switch 2]: l_shift+l_win+0
[switch 3]: unconfigured

And update it like this: (-m adds modifiers, and -k types a key)

$ ./footswitch -m l_shift -m l_win -k 0

The same chipset is also used for USB foot pedals with 1-3 switches, but the default for pedals that only have a single switch is switch 2️⃣, so footswitch will write to it by default.

Listen to that key in Google Meet

Now, install a plugin like Meet Mute. Open the "Extensions" tab of Chrome, and then click on the hamburger and open "Keyboard shortcuts". (You can also go directly to "chrome://extensions/shortcuts" if you'd like to type it in.)

The 'Keyboard shortcuts' section of Chrome Extensions
You can set a global shortcut to toggle mute

Now, configure "Toggle Mute" to be your new shortcut—you can even focus the input box and use your footpedal to type it in! Be sure you set it to "Global", not "In Chrome"—the point is that your footpedal should work everywhere. (On macOS you might need to allow Chrome more permissions at this point.)

Superflous notes

That's it!

Enjoy hands-free meetings! Here's a dumb picture of me toggling my keys while gesticulating wildly. Consider it a prize for getting this far.

Look ma, no hands

Bye! 👣