At a Glance
When Apple introduced the 12-inch PowerBook G4, it essentially packed a good thing into a smaller container. Contour Design takes a similar approach with the ShuttleXpress, a miniature version of its successful ShuttlePro media controller ( June 2002 ). Aimed at video-editing enthusiasts, the very customizable ShuttleXpress will also appeal to professionals.;
Like its larger cousin, the ShuttleXpress is sturdily and ergonomically built. It offers easy one-hand access to its jog-shuttle knob and five large programmable buttons. Its wide base (4.5 inches in diameter), low center of grav-ity (it's about an inch tall), and rubber feet ensure that it stays in place as you use it.
The ShuttleXpress is aesthetically slick, too -- it looks like a black UFO. Although coworkers will admire the fancy gadget on your desk, its lack of physical customization options will sometimes leave you guessing -- what does the fourth button from the left do, again? Contour Designs provides no way to label the buttons.
The jog-shuttle knob consists of a black, rubberized, spring-loaded outer ring, which is used primarily for fast-forwarding and rewinding, and an inner jog knob, which rotates 360 degrees to provide fine, frame-by-frame control in video-editing programs. You can use the knob for other purposes in other applications. In iTunes, the inner portion adjusts the speaker-volume control. In Microsoft Word, the inner wheel moves the cursor horizontally and the outer ring moves it vertically.
Using the included software, you can program the ShuttleXpress's five large buttons to do almost anything. In fact, its buttons are almost too customizable. Although you would expect to be able to assign functions to the entire knob, the jog-shuttle part of the device is divided into 54 separate configurations, and each is individually assignable. Thankfully, the application contains 26 presets for various programs, such as Apple's Final Cut Pro, iMovie, and DVD Player, and Avid's AvidXpress DV.
For video editors accustomed to working with traditional videotape machines, the ShuttleXpress, with its familiar jog-shuttle, is definitely comforting. Keyboard-shortcut aficionados may find the unit a mere distraction, since there's nothing you can do with the ShuttleXpress that you can't do with a keyboard shortcut.
Macworld's Buying Advice
Contour Design's ShuttleXpress is a compact, useful controller that follows neatly in the footsteps of the ShuttlePro, which will be a fine alternative if the ShuttleXpress's five buttons are not enough for you.