Don’t Mind Me, I’m Just Testing Out Using a Keyboard With My iPad

Which is to say I am fiddling with technology again and seeing how it’s working. Obviously, so far, so good. In case you’re wondering, the keyboard I’m pairing with the iPad is the Mac keyboard at my desk, because it’s bluetooth capable and I just wanted to see how it wouldwork. I went ahead and ordered and actual travel keyboard/case for the iPad (one of the Logitech ones, because it came highly rated and because I’ve generally had good experiences with Logitech stuff), but it won’t arrive for a little while. But this suggests to me I won’t have too many problems when it shows up.

It’s also making the point that we are indeed beginning to move past the PC age, or at the very least, that am beginning to recognize that the PC age is getting past us. I’m not entirely sure I am ready to abandon the idea of a laptop, given how much I travel. But then again if with the addition of a physical keyboard I find that my new iPad can do everything I want a laptop to do (which is, generally speaking, to allow me to do writing and editing), there’s not the incentive to drop a whole bunch of cash on yet another laptop, is there. These options were not fully baked two years ago, but they might be doable now, and in another couple of years it probably won’t even be a question. We’ll see what the future brings.

In the meantime, here in the present the keyboard occasionally seems to lose the ability to type letters into the WordPress blog entry field, usually when I press on the iPad screen to move the cursor around. I have to save a draft to get the typing functionality back. Interesting, although not necessarily in a good way. I’ll have to try it with a couple of other writing programs and see how it does.

30 Comments on “Don’t Mind Me, I’m Just Testing Out Using a Keyboard With My iPad”

  1. I’ve found that the reliability or usability of a less-than-full-computer depends heavily on how much the thing you’re wanting to do has been developed for your device. Not news to anyone here, I’m sure. The school I work for has been big on selling iPads as an essential for taking notes at lectures (“look! with the built-in camera you can take a picture of the slides and put it right in your notes!”) but has yet to update its online classroom software to work with a mobile interface.

    I’ve found that if I’m writing something longer than a few sentences on the iPad, the functionality definitely depends on the program. For Google Docs, the (very recent) update to the iOS functionality of Google Drive has been making my iPad chug horrendously. It’s interesting to see the dichotomy; I love Google Docs/Drive for the ability to access my documents from anywhere I go, yet the device that seems to be the most prevalent for accessing anything you want from anywhere you are, the iPad, has extremely low functionality with it…yet does everything else I want it to. Frustrating!

  2. I’ve had issues commenting on WordPress blogs with my Android phone, so your keyboard problem may be peculiar to WordPress.
    About using the iPad for writing: I’m happy that they have added the ability to edit documents in the latest version of Google Drive for iPad, but I wish it had offline editing. I think I’ll continue using Pages for writing on the iPad for the time being.

  3. What exactly is the advantage of an iPad + separate keyboard over a laptop with built-in keyboard? I’m missing the point I think, other than you want to use an iPad.

  4. By the time my current 17″ laptop dies (not for a long while yet, I hope), I’ll probably be ready for a tablet PC of some sort. My eyesight is such that, as I’ve noted on previous entries, I’ll probably never be able to use anything smaller than about 10-12″, so we’ll see how that goes. I do much prefer having the bigger 27″ monitor on my desktop PC, and I’ve had problems in the past trying to connect my laptop to my monitor–it keeps telling me the biggest display I can get is around 20-22″. So in the coming years, I may have to get used to a smaller screen whether I want to or not.

  5. LifStrand: If you travel a lot, the big advantage to mobile device/separate KB is that it’s lighter and more portable than a full-sized laptop. Laptops are heavy. I took my 17″ Lenovo to a convention I attended at the beginning of the summer, and lugging it around pretty much wore me out (I’m not in the best of health anyway, so that’s a big part of it, but still). I’d love to see them develop a tablet PC that can be folded or rolled into a scroll, thus making it a truly portable device.

  6. Sorry, been trying this for the last 2 years since the first iPad + keyboard, and it’s the MacBook Air for the win. I’ve taken dozens of pages of notes and blogged and commented, and you still can’t beat a full computer for these things, espeically now that manuafacturers are offering ultra-thin and small computers (not just Apple). Sure, it’s about twice as much for the 11″ Air, but it’s far better solution for anything other than Plants vs. Zombies or other iOS games.

  7. “Past the PC age”? I still have a desktop (yes, tower) along with an iPad 3, notebook, netbook, Kindle….

    But I’m one who needs it as I run SAS, R, Minitab, Mathlab, LaTek, photoshop, along with a bunch of cutting-edge games. You can’t do all that on a lappy.

  8. I think it’s the keyboard that is holding things back. They’re too large and inefficient. Voice recognition is getting better but won’t be 99.9% for some time. I think we should move to chorded keypads. They’re smaller and potentially faster. Heck, ham radio operators can hit 40 wpm with two paddles — Even the smallest cell phone has excess space for that.

  9. Lif Strand:

    Personally, if at all possible I’d like to avoid splashing out even more money for electronics than I already have; that’s the motivation on my end.


    There are definitely things that are best done on a desktop. My point being that it seems that a lot of those things are becoming increasingly specialized, and that what most people use their computers for seems to be progressively converging on a smaller, tablet form factor. We’re not entirely there, but I wouldn’t rule it out for five years from now.

    Update: Aaaaand now I’ve paired the keyboard with my Galaxy Tab 7-inch tablet just to see how it would do with it. It seems to be doing just fine, actually.

    That said, I will say the word editing suite on both Android and iOS lack a fair amount of robustness; they don’t even have simple editing stuff like rulers and indentation. I’m obviously going to have to explore more (before anyone notes it to me: I’m aware Pages on the iPad has indenting. I’m also looking for other options).

  10. John – Are you using Safari or the WordPress app on the iPad? I’ve only tried the WordPress app once, and I don’t remember any problems with it.

  11. Why desktops will never die? Bigger monitors and more space for disk and memory.
    Why laptops will never die? Smaller version of your desktop.
    Pads, pods, tablets, phones? They are used for everything else.

    But the idea that desktops or laptops will be replaced by pads is just plain silly. Even if the device is ONLY a portal to the internet, I will always want a bigger screen than the one that I have.

    Not until we have virtual displays/googles and that is still 10+ years off. (Really? There are goggles which can replace my current 3 screens?)

  12. I’m anxiously awaiting the Surface. A tablet that can be converted instantly to a laptop-like form factor? Yes, please. I love the idea of being able to do all the portable tablet stuff while still being able to set the thing up like a monitor and use the keyboard in its case for proper typing.

  13. I have tried two Bluetooth keyboards with my iPad. Both have a tendency to forget they are keyboards briefly and often return to spit out a string of nnnnnnnn or whatever was the last letter typed. That said, I am very happy with my Logitech. Even with the Bluetooth flakiness, I make far fewer typing errors than I do with the screen keys.

    Google Docs Mobile is my word processor of choice on the iPad since major authoring is done on my tower PC with dual monitors connected to Google Docs. I now actually prefer G Docs over MS Word because Docs has precisely the feature set I need and none of the bloat.

    I just read this message to Dragon Dictation on the iPad and it made only three dictation errors, but it was all one sentence with no punctuation. I will stay with the Logitech.

  14. First time poster, relatively recent reader of the blog. Didn’t expect this to be the subject of my first post, but what do you do…

    I just picked up the same keyboard yesterday and gave it a test drive, making a Facebook post with an eerily similar subject line to yours, albeit being viewed by significantly less of an audience. I’m of mixed opinion of it so far, the shift key seems to be placed strangely for me and the keys in general will take some getting used to, but the sheer happiness of actually typing on a keyboard makes up for a lot.

    I’ve also actually picked up a small Bluetooth mouse, and have this paired with the iPad (which is jail-broken, making this possible), resulting in a nice little netbook replacement for my previous one which was stolen. I find that for most of my use, the iPad is fine as it is natively, but when away on business where I need to type many emails or remote desktop into my work PC (where the mouse especially shines) for access to my MS apps, the iPad + keyboard + mouse seems to be a good compromise to having to purchase a netbook.

    At any rate, we’ll see how a few months like this works out. It sounds good on paper (tablet?) so far…

  15. I’ve seen the same thing with iPad virtual keyboard and Google text fields (search and G+). I have to hide the keyboard and have it pop up again to keep typing.

  16. John,

    I will occasionally post Friday Flash stories and wanted to write one while on a trip. I had both my BlackBerry and my iPad. I tried writing it on the iPad, but the weight with the travel keyboard is clunky on your lap, and is really only comfortable at a table. Eventually I gave up on the iPad and just typed it as an email on the BlackBerry, which actually worked better.

    To post it though I needed an actual browser and so went to a local Starbucks with the iPad in hand. The plan was to correct about a dozen typos then post it through blogger. I figured it’d be a 15-20min thing, but instead it was almost an hour.

    The editing itself was difficult, particularly just accurately placing the cursor without having to constantly arrow through the document. Plus I was used to the BlackBerry’s typing shortcuts of capitalizing after a period, capitalizing “I’s” and so forth, and I found i kept having to correct the corrections.

    While I don’t remember the actual details of the browser difficulties, I do remember the simple act of copying and pasting was sheer aggrevation. It was the first and last time I went that route, and now if I have to have a device with me for writing I leave the iPad at home and take the lappie. It is not as convenient, but the frustration it saves more than makes it up for it.

    All the best,

    PS- I don’t know how well you follow the electronic device rules on airplanes, but all the keyboards for the iPad are forbidden at all times since they are wireless transmitters. That was another strike against for me too.

  17. I’m not ready to give up my gigantic monitor, or two monitors, giant ergonomic keyboard, double mice, and a handful of other peripherals. I can pretty much only do “emergency” work whilst traveling.

    Coding, video work, websites, real graphic editing…those things all require desktops. Writing? I can do that with my iPhone and Siri, but typing on a desktop is faster.

  18. I’ve been using an iPad and logitech keyboard for travel since the start of the year, and I think it’s great, mainly because I’m actually using it. I have a laptop, but wasn’t using it, because I found it to be such a pain to travel with I didn’t bother. The iPad set up, I can get through security without taking it out of the bag, it’s easier to handle than a laptop, and does lots of other cool stuff besides. I’m never going to be writing an entire novel on it, but it’s fine for scenes, snippets, short pieces, etc., that I can then incorporate in the main desktop file. My goal here was to try to stay at least partially productive on the road, and I think I’ve achieved that. (I use Docs to Go, which syncs with the desktop files)

    I’ve even used the bluetooth keyboard with my iPod touch, which feels utterly ridiculous, but again, if it gets me actually writing on the road, I’m not going to knock it.

  19. The iPad’s got a ways to go before keyboard support is fully there. Arrow keys work inconsistently when they do at all, for instance. This is not unique to it; Android’s got this problem as well.

    For my own idiosyncratic workload, I like Chrome OS better than either of the tablet OSes. This is not to say that they don’t have their strengths (games, for instance).

  20. “Post PC age”. Oh, John. Really?

    Can you imagine the LHC running on iPads? Can you imagine District 9 being created with them? Can you imagine Left4Dead being made with them? Hell, even the VFX on something like Firefly or Galactica require such a ridonculous. mahoosive amount of CPU grunt it’s not even funny.

    Yes, a lot of people are going to teletype-and-mainframe configurations again. But when there’s heavy lifting to be done, there ain’t enough bandwidth in the ‘verse to get the data to and from a thin client in enough time for commercial demands. The last comp shot i worked on for Grimm had sixteen layers of uncompressed HD footage streaming into my 24×3.8GHz CPU workstation. G’luck ever getting a tablet with a handful of gigs of total storage to deal with that. And, for the record, that was just a pure 2D compositing gag.

    What I *can* see is a return to the Silicon Graphics era, when only Rather Rich Companies can afford to do graphics, as the relatively small base of processor-intensive types no longer has the financial load-sharing of the “I bought a PC” and “I bought a Mac Pro” crowd; that’ll be an interesting ride, especially with the state the VFX industry is in at the moment at the jobbing artist level.

    But post-PC age? Dude. You’re too good for the Kool-Aid. Think a little before you say these things, OK?

  21. Desktop computers aren’t going away. Laptops aren’t going away. But that’s not what Post-PC means.

    Desktops and laptops are losing primacy. That’s all the phrase means. Mobile device sales are going up, PC sales are stagnant. The number of emails read, the amount of time spent on my phone is going up. It’s not hard to imagine a time when I will spend more time with a mobile device than my desktop. I’ll still have a desktop, it will still be critical for certain tasks, but it won’t be my primary computer.

  22. logitech keyboard is lovely, had it for a couple weeks now, working like a charm

    big advantage it has over the other keyboards I’ve tried is it attaches/detaches by magnets which means you can chose whether you want to be in tablet mode or laptop mode.

    Keep telling us how it is going for you John, we’re debating rolling them out to our sales-folks, curious to hear the experience

  23. I got an ipad because I sit in front of a computer all day at work (Im a programmer) and I don’t want to at home. I get muscle cramps in my back. I have found that if Im on the ipad too long I get pains in my hands and wrists. I also found that when I look down for too long I feel like my upper shoulders get overly fatigued. When I hold it up straight in front so I am looking at it eye level (this is what my chiropractor recommended I do whenever looking at any kind of computer screen), I get aches in my hands if I hold it too long. I think part of is that its so thin. I thought about buying a cover for it.

    anyone else have an issue with this? When I work at a computer I actually stack the monitors up pretty high on paper and books so that the middle of the screen is eye level. The chiropractor told me to do that and that helps a lot. When I read I tend to lay on the floor and stack a couple of pillows up and hold the book above me or lay on my stomach and hold myself up to look at the book.

    Part of is that I get caught up on it and stare at it too long.

  24. John, have you found an app that has a track-changes feature? Not finding one is what keeps me from relying on my (admittedly vintage) iPad 1 for writing and editing. That said, PDF editing is a DREAM (I use iAnnotate PDF, which occasionally crashes but magically manages never to lose even my immediately-pre-crash annotations).

  25. Kim, Office2 HD has track-changes. It’s from ByteSquared (and the 2 is in superscript). Track-changes works fairly well, as far as I can tell. I don’t get many tracked documents.

    For some reason, there are lots of PDF editing apps for iOS. I’ve ended up passing my PDFs among three different ones because they all have features the others don’t. PDFPen allows you to edit existing text (but, like its OSX sibling, not rock-solid stable, and a little tricky to use). PDF Expert is great at annotating PDFs, but doesn’t allow a background fill color for annotations. GoodReader allows for a background fill color but allows only courier for a font.

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