Writing on an iPad: An Update

Earlier in the week I mentioned I was trying out writing on my iPad, using a bluetooth connected keyboard, and some of you were wondering how that had worked out for me — if indeed it worked out at all. Well, in fact I wrote an episode of my upcoming project The Human Division on the iPad (roughly 10,500 words), so here’s an update.

First, some technical notes: for this thing I used my newly purchased iPad (the 2012 iteration), the Apple keyboard that came with my Mac Mini (it has a bluetooth connection) and a cheap plastic plate stand we had lying around the house. I bought myself one of the Logitech iPad keyboard covers, which are well reviewed and looks like could be useful when I travel. But as I got it in white, it hasn’t shipped yet, and it will probably be a week or so before it does. In the meantime, this setup works well enough.

I tried various word processing options, including Google Docs, my current go-to writing tool for THD, before settling on using Pages from Apple’s iWork suite. I chose it because a) it’s the best-integrated word processor for iPad, as far as I can see, and b) it now saves to iCloud, Apple’s cloud storage option, which means I can write it on the iPad and then go up and write on it some more on my desktop, if I choose. I’m not hugely in love with Pages as a word processor in a general sense, but for what I need to do (i.e., type words with minimal formatting), it does well enough.

In terms of the iPad as a writing device, it’s sufficient but not great; basically you give up a lot of fine motor control in order to work on it. By this I mean that moving the typing cursor around on the screen with your finger is a lot less exact than you can achieve with a mouse or trackpad; likewise other editing options appeared to be constrained or more rudimentary on the iPad than on a standard computer. Even something as relatively simple on a standard computer as italicizing was a longer and more annoying process on the iPad. What I ended up doing was saving a lot of the formatting and editing for when I was working on the computer. This was annoying but not a deal breaker for me, and it did signal that writing anything on the iPad, for the moment at least, will go better if you still have access to a more standard computer along the way. And I do.

If I were a person at Apple, my suggestions would be to make iPages (or, really the whole iOS) have a standard interface emulator, so I could also hook up a trackpad and have finer control over the cursor. It possible this does exist and I just don’t know how to access it, of course. In which case, I’d be happy for someone to show me how to do it (and also how to make smart quotes function on the iPad iteration of Pages, since I couldn’t figure that out, which meant I had to go and find & replace them into the document when I was done).

Now the positives: Writing on the iPad does make it easier for me to ignore the Internet, which considering the deadline I have at the moment is a major plus. It’s also convenient for me to pick up and move about the house; I ended up getting out of my office and writing at the kitchen table, which was a nice change. Since the new iPad has screen resolution better than my 24-inch monitor (2048×1536 vs. 1920×1200) on much less real estate, my typing looks fantastic on the iPad and, well, less so on my previously awesome monitor (yes, I know, I can get a better monitor! Thank you for spending my money for me). And, you know. Writing on an iPad makes me feel like I’m living in the future.

That said, I’m not entirely convinced the iPad — from a UI point of view, not a processing guts point of view — is entirely ready to replace the laptop as the best mobile computing environment for people who actually have to do, you know, work. As I said, if I didn’t have a full computing environment to do formatting and editing in, I think I would find the iPad unsatisfactory. I have some travel in the next month and if my Logitech keyboard arrives on time I’ll give going without my laptop a shot and see how it works. But if it were serious travel, like the travel I did earlier in the summer, I’m pretty sure I would be bringing along the laptop.

63 Comments on “Writing on an iPad: An Update”

  1. When I hook my mouse and keyboard up to my Android tablet, they work as expected (mouse pointer appears and generally does the appropriate thing).

    Does the ipad not support mouses?


  2. As noted, it might and I just don’t know how to make it work. I make no secret that I might be technologically incompetent.

  3. John, if you explore the keyboard you’ll find that some cursor-movement shortcuts are available, e.g. command-left arrow and command-right arrow do word forward/back, command-C does copy, command-V does paste, and command-X does cut, shift-command-right does select-word-right, and so on. You still need to hit the screen to italicise the selection, but it cuts out some of the formatting annoyance.

    I give the logitech ultra-thin keyboard cover two-thumbs-up: it’s brilliant. But right now, if I *had* to pick a tablet environment for writing on the move, I’d pick a 10″ Android tablet running 4.x and install Softmaker Office on it (from http://www.softmaker.de ) — TextMaker, the wordprocessor component, kicks sand in the face of Pages on iOS (at least for the time being).

  4. John – If you want really minimal formatting and more of a full screen, distraction free writing environment check out iAWriter. Saves to iCloud, uses Markdown (so plain text basically) for formatting and has basically no options. There’s a Mac version so you can pull the text out there and then save as RTF if you need to do final brushing up in Word etc.

    Me, I want Pages ’12. ’09 is so last decade…

  5. I bought my wife a Hello Kitty iPad cover/keyboard combo, and it is quite usable/versatile/cute, and even has a solid magnet for the auto-off feature to work properly. She was sold by the cute factor, but after using it in lieu of her laptop on a recent trip is a complete buy-in on the concept. It also protects the iPad well, an important factor given her penchant for dropping things.

    According to Google, Mobile Mouse works on the iPad, so there should be a decent number of options to choose from.

  6. For Pages, they really should consider including the usual word processing keyboard shortcuts like Command-I for italicizing, Command-B for bold, etc. and a few others for convenience. Plus maybe letting you set up some of the function keys.

    Although, I hear a lot of good things about TextExpander, could solve the problem and keep your hands on the keyboard.

  7. Hilary B. Bisenieks – Hilary B. Bisenieks (Biss-en-yex) n. 1. An author of fact, fancy, and opinion based out of Oakland, CA. 2. A graduate of the Creative Writing program at Warren Wilson college and Mary Robinette Kowal's Short Story Workshop. 3. A man unable to be trusted to update basic biographical information with any regularity.
    Hilary B. Bisenieks

    Mr. Scalzi, I had been hoping to get an update on your experiences writing on the iPad, especially on the software front. I’ve been using Google Drive, which is nice because it automatically goes to the cloud, which is where I have a copy of everything already. Interesting to hear that you’re using Pages at the moment. I’d be a tad more interested in that option if it didn’t to a certain extent lock me into the Apple environment, which doesn’t quite appeal, since I use a combination of Apple environments, Windows, and flavors of Linux and like to be able to get at my writing from any of them.

    Mr. Stross, does TextMaker support .odt files and allow you to save to a cloud (dropbox or drive, I’m not picky)?

  8. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to imply anything about competency. I was really just asking to find out. It would be ironic if an Apple product didn’t support mice, now that I think of it.

  9. I’m not ready to give up my MacBook Pro just yet, but my iPad and Logitech Ultrathin keyboard cover has been my regular “day full of meetings” solution for a couple of months now. It’s a spiffy combo; runs all day on an overnight charge, and is *so* much less to haul from office to office. I save meeting notes directly to the cloud (with Evernote) and when I want to totally focus on writing I stuff my earbuds in and get my zen on with OmmWriter.

  10. From what I’ve seen and read (and please correct me if I’m wrong), the iPad can’t handle Mouse devices because it doesn’t have the capability to handle pointers. It’s a rendering or tracking thing, I’m not sure. But there’s no real trick that I know of. It simply won’t happen.

    I’d love if they changed that at some pint in the future. As it stands now, when I move from working extensively on my iPad and back to my desktop or laptop, I find myself poking at the monitor rather than using my mouse. Gotta get out of that habit before I bust the screen.

  11. As far as I can tell, Mobile Mouse turns your iPad (or iPhone) into a touchpad/mouse to control other devices. It doesn’t allow a mouse to be used to control the iPad.

  12. Moving the insertion marker, highlighting text, copying and pasting… all of these things have been settled science since the late 80s, but on tablets they simply don’t work very well. It’s a massive step backwards in productivity… I’d never consider trying to get serious work done on one, and I have an ASUS Transformer, which has a built-in keyboard and trackpad.

    Also, web sites like (cough) this one tend to break when Android devices try typing in them. For example, you can’t hit return twice to paragraph break. Why? Who knows? It also ranges between impossible and tedious to move the insertion marker around, or to review and spell check a post.

    I take a tablet with me when I travel, but that’s about it. I can compose text about two or three times faster on a PC than on a tablet with an external keyboard. Touchscreen typing on tablets is even slower.

  13. I have found that working with text on the ipad it is best to think of documents as source files. Write in plain text and do the formatting later on the desktop. Since I use Scrivener it is easy to sync a project with an external folder in my DropBox and open the files on the ipad in IAWriter or Elements. Write or edit and see the changes show up back on my desktop. While not ideal for writing, it sure is a convenient tool to get some work done away from the desk.

  14. I prefer iAWriter to most everything else available for iPad for writing long stretches of text. It has absolutely no functions so there is not much to screw up. Importing the files into Scrivener on my desktop formats them. I edit on hardcopy. Workflow is usually iAWriter>Scrivener>Paper>Scrivener (or Pages when working with a publisher). I use the newer Logitech keyboard cover (the one with the magnetic hingeything).

  15. @Ben Taylor

    I use Scrivener too, and they’re working on Scrivener for the iPad, which I’m really looking forward to. I’m hoping for DropBox integration.

  16. Mobile developer here. iOS doesn’t have a ‘pointer’ suitable for mousing AFAIK. They are really focused on touch (obviously).

    You might explore using a ‘pen’: http://www.apple.com/accessibility/resources/iphone.html Which would give some finer grain control.

    And spend a bit of time trying the accessibility options. Lots of zoom options for finer control and a ton of other stuff. Apple does this sort of thing really well.

    I’d also suggest that propping the iPad up at the angle in the picture is part of the problem. Trying to use a touch device like a laptop/desktop is tough. Lay it down a bit flatter and you might have better luck with the finger and pen. Jobs made a good point about why they didn’t ever do a touch screen desktop/laptop… reaching up to the screen all the time sucks.

  17. Thanks so much for this – it’s super helpful. I would love to hear more about the Logitech case when you’ve had a chance to use it. My husband is looking for something like that.

    And I, too, am looking forward to Scrivener for iPad.

  18. There is an exhaustive (and well maintained) list of text editors on iOS devices. You can even filter it by functionalities to zoom in on your editor of choice: http://brettterpstra.com/ios-text-editors/
    Caution: ironically, it’s easier to read on a full fledged computer …

    For the fine motor control, the consensus seems to be on developing support for keyboard shortcuts. This crowd, after all, is mostly geeks who would minimize mouse usage even on a PC. .

    The issue of formatting is another interesting one: there is a drive (again, very geek led) to use something called Markdown to offer minimal formatting support (headings, lists, links, references and minimal tables) in order to focus on ‘content’. The idea behind it is that a) formatting is extremely output dependent, and needs to wait until the last possible minute and b) 5-year-old formats are already being deprecated. A good summary link of Markdown and writing workflows: http://www.macworld.com/article/1161549/forget_fancy_formatting_why_plain_text_is_best.htm

  19. “And, you know. Writing on an iPad makes me feel like I’m living in the future.” – John Scalzi
    That, right there is the WHOLE TRUTH!!! Well for me at least. I only have an older (5 years old) iPod touch, and I could immediately tell this was the future. I don’t need it yet though, so I doubt that I would be buying any new iPad any time soon. I love seeing your set up though, and want one very much like it, and if I ever get one I am sure I will feel really fancy too.

  20. I’ve tried using the iPad to be productive. Truly. But many of the things you point out (mouse control being a big one of them) prevent me from completely embracing the tool as much more than something to read or watch stuff on. Admittedly, I am a PC user, and many of the PC programs don’t translate well to iPad, especially the way I use them – lots of complicated formatting that doesn’t transfer over.

    BUt I’m getting better at making it useful. Where once I used the iPad to post to Facebook or live-tweet conferences, I now use it to post to my blog a little less sporadically than before. And rather than print some document for a meeting only to discard it, my iPad serves as a good reference tool, as long as the company’s wifi kicks in (plus, i can sneak off and answer an email when the meeting drones on). I’ve used the notepad to write stuff on the fly, but like you I forward it to my computer where I can refine it. Even so, I still find myself turning to a pad of paper when the note-taking gets serious – my wpm is much slower on the iPad, and autocorrect can make comprehension a living heck.

    When all is said and done, it’s a decent tool. An overpriced, if versatile reader that is just the right size for what it sets out to do: connect us to the internet-based things we need, inform, and entertain.

  21. It seems to me that if you have to hook up an external keyboard to an iPad (or any other tablet), it kind of defeats the purpose. You might as well just get a nice light laptop.

  22. If I were a person at Apple, my suggestions would be to make iPages (or, really the whole iOS) have a standard interface emulator, so I could also hook up a trackpad and have finer control over the cursor. It possible this does exist and I just don’t know how to access it, of course.

    Alas, I don’t think there’s an app for that yet. I looked because I wanted to hook my partner’s iPad up to my home-built overhead projector via Apple TV and see if we could get a rig worthy of a Bond villain going.

    Oh, well. With any luck, the mouse and track pad’s days as king of the HUDs are numbered:


    yes, I know, I can get a better monitor! Thank you for spending my money for me

    It might even not be obsolete for a whole six months!


    @ Todd

    Why not go with the iPad Typewriter?

    Sweet! If it wasn’t a total waste of money, I’d buy one of those things.

  23. Here’s another vote for IAWriter, minimal in the best sense of the word. If I’m only worried about getting words into a file, IAWriter and a wireless keyboard will do the trick quite well, and the battery time is much better than my laptop. And I like my Origami iPad case, which folds into a stand at the perfect angle for me.

    I’ve even used the touch keyboard on occasion, but I find that the placement of the keys and the lack of clickety tactile feedback slows down my typing. If only they’d allow me to customize the placement of every key I bet my typing would speed up. As it is, I have to monitor and adjust my hand position too often to keep a good flow going while typing on glass.

    Glad to see the suggestions here, it has given me a few new things to try out.

  24. I have been using the iPad for all of my graduate school writing needs for a little more than a year now. I just double check formatting in Word before I turn in or submit my work. Watch out for weird space shifts if you export to Word.

  25. EMACS on an iPad? How does one hit all those control, meta, escape combinations on a touch keyboard without going insane? I guess you would pretty much need a keyboard.

  26. Hi John,

    If you’re looking for a trackpad option you can use for precise cursor placement you might be interested in UX Write – see http://www.uxproductivity.com (disclaimer: I’m the author of the app). The on-screen keyboard provides an extra row of keys similar to other writing apps like IA Writer, but there’s a couple of extra keys which you can hold down to bring up a “virtual trackpad”. This allows you to drag your finger around and achieve fine-grained control over the positioning of the cursor and/or selection handles. There’s a video of the trackpad in action here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SbVDk5qrR44

    The extra row of keys also includes some formatting options like bold, italic, underline, and lists (though this is only present when using the on-screen keyboard). It makes basic formatting possible as you type, without having to go back and set all the formatting afterwards.

    Regarding external keyboard shortcuts for bold, italic, and underline, the reason why no apps support this currently is that these keyboard shortcuts require explicit support from the OS (apps get notified of high-level commands, not individual keys that are pressed), and prior to iOS 6, the Cmd-B, Cmd-I, and Cmd-U shortcuts weren’t recognised. However, Apple just introduced support for these in iOS 6, so you’ll see a lot of apps (including UX Write) add support these three shortcuts in the near future.

  27. For a recent vacation on the coast of Maine (literally, like 10 feet from the Atlantic) I left the laptop at home and bought a Targus Bluetooth keyboard. My Galaxy Player 5 is basically a 5″ tablet, so the combination worked ok for vacation. Since the k/b was only $29, it wasn’t a big risk. I wouldn’t try to write a novel on it though.

  28. I so get that feeling of living in the future. Every time I tap away at my iphone I have a mental image of Star Trek…

    Putting the ipad on the plate stand though, that just cracked me up! Practical, but something my mum would do… *grin*

  29. How’s the typing responsiveness? I do something similar with last year’s Asus Transformer (the TF101) with its detachable keyboard, and the only problem I run into is that (for whatever OS related reason I barely understand if at all) I can type, for short bursts, faster than it can put the text on screen. Does iWork on the iPad have the same problem?

  30. I purchased one of those Mac Bluetooth keyboards for NaNoWriMo three years ago, and have been thrilled with the decision. I’ve written two novels and a screenplay on the thing, and am in the process of a third novel. I find it’s definitely better for focusing and not getting distracted, and actually more comfortable than using a laptop in many circumstances, because I can move the screen closer to my eyes while keeping the keyboard in a natural position for my arms.

    The app I use is My Writing Spot. I love it because it’s cloud-based and has a web interface as well as an Android app, so I can pick up my work on literally any device that I’m in front of. (There might be better options out there now, but as I said, this is what was available for me three years ago and I haven’t felt compelled to change. Yes, there’s Google Drive, but it’s blocked on my work computer, and until very recently, editing documents with it on the iPad was a non-starter.) It’s plain text so there’s no formatting options, but when you’re just trying to straight-up compose, stopping to fiddle with the formatting breaks flow anyway.

    So yeah, big fan. Plus, there’s finally finally a Final Draft editing app, and since my fellow WriMos love going on at length about Scrivener, I’ll be very interested to see what that app looks like, and if it will be ready by November.

  31. Thanks for the detailed review. My 10 year old laptop that I only have for web browsing and the occasional short, simple, docs or spreadsheets is dieing and I have been waiting to replace it because I want to replace it with a pad device. But I’m cheap and really don’t want to spring for a device until I am sure its a good choice. Your explanation really gives me some good idea of the capabilities.

  32. I am a technical writer by trade and a photographer by avocation. I do a lot of writing for my own pleasure as well. Since March of 2011, I’ve used an iPad 2 and Apple Bluetooth Wireless Keyboard to do a lot of my writing for both work and personal uses. I use Pages and PlainText apps for this … PlainText syncs with DropBox allowing direct interchange of my writing between iPad and any laptop/desktop system. Pages now syncs with iCloud which gives it the same facility between iOS and OS X.

    All the text in my recent photo book was initially written with PlainText, then imported into Pages where I inserted the photos and mocked up the final copy for transfer to the Blurb book tools (in Lightroom). It was a seamless writing and photo book creation experience for me.

    The iPad 2 and Apple keyboard has replaced my laptop for nearly all my travel needs. I protect the keyboard with an InCase Origami keyboard case and iPad stand, it’s easy to toss into my checked luggage while carrying just the iPad with my carry-on bits for instant access. Keeps things compact and light.

    iOS does not have any mouse support built in and mostly I don’t miss it for writing. I use keyboard navigation of the insertion cursor for position and selection, the standard cut/copy/paste keyboard commands, etc. They work just fine … I don’t need to be touching and moving things with my fingers very often.

  33. Perhaps another solution might be advisable. I’m currently attempting to find a way to drown out the siren song of the internet. I think what I’m going to end up doing is to create a new user on my machine, one strictly for writing. If I keep the background different, and use a different browser for research, I can essentially make it more like a computer suitable for a monk. In fact, I think I’ll name the other used after a monk. Saint Ambrose or something.

    Mind you, this is not a perfect solution. I’ll still have to keep myself from logging onto FaceBook (my current addiction) while using Saint Ambrose, but as long as I don’t type in my password, the site will treat me like a stranger. Switching between users is fast, but still requires a specific effort, enough effort to (hopefully) keep it from being casual. I also don’t know how this will work for multiple computers, but it will allow one to use the same computer they are used to, without having most of the useful distractions up front getting on ones way when they are trying to work.

  34. I’m an academic and use my iPad for teaching / giving talks / short trips to conferences. I’ve found the iPad / Apple Keyboard / Origami Case an good solution for short trips.

    For simple writing, I quite like Byword. It works well with either Dropbox or iCloud.

    For technical writing, by which I mean writing with math in it, I recently started using TexPad, a Latex editor with some cloud based compiling “built in”. I’ve been pretty impressed. It seems to handle almost everything I’ve thrown at it.

    If I need to do some lite data analysis (Somehow, I think R for the iPad is a very long shot indeed), I can use Prompt to shell into my desktop and run R/Matlab. Textastic is a very nice code editor / text editor and it has SFTP built in. If I’m going to be doing lots of data analysis, then I’ll bring a laptop.

    I do wish that Apple would put just a little effort into making the iPad more keyboard shortcut friendly. Stuff like switching between apps with Command-Tab would be a welcome addition.

  35. My setup is like Bob’s, but using a Logitech Tablet Keyboard for iPad after five minutes with a pocket knife to get it to fit into the Origami keyboard case. I know the Logitech comes with a nice hard keyboard case that folds into a work stand, but that case doesn’t work as well in a lap as the Origami keyboard case does, and the Logitech comes with an on-off switch that doesn’t turn on the keyboard in a bag the way the Apple keyboard is wont to do.

    On the software front, I’ve been bouncing back and forth between Textilus (a pretty good RTF word processor, which means I can format as I want and get it into almost anything), Quickoffice Pro HD (which is a pretty good Microsoft Office clone [although the Excel part apparently sucks rocks] that was recently bought by Google), and Phraseology, which makes it very easy to generate text and move larger blocks such as sentences and paragraphs around. I also have Index Card, which is as close to Scrivener as the iPad has until Scrivener is actually ported over, but haven’t got the hang of it yet.

    What I want is for all these to use WebDAB so I can use a server I trust: DropBox has said a few things since they started up that make me less than thrilled at trusting my data to their servers, but all the iPad developers seems to be hot for DropBox anyway. So far the responses I’ve gotten from programmers when I’ve written in has been “nobody ever asked for that before” rather than “not before the heat death of the universe” so I keep hoping enough other people will ask for it so I can go that way instead of setting up an account with DropBox.

  36. Oh–I should say I spent the five minutes working on the Origami case, not the Logitech keyboard! The Apple keyboard is a little more curved at the front, so I cut enough of the curved trim in the Origami for the Logitech to fit and added a little Velcro to keep it there.

  37. I ditto rickg17 and others who recommend iAwriter. It is also available for Mac, and iOS and Mac versions save to iCloud. Spend a short afternoon learning Markdown language and you will have it made. (I’m in my 60’s and learning Markdown took practically no time … and there are several ways to convert it to HTML, with tools such as ByWord and many, many more.)

    Great article, BTW. Good to see what pro writers use and think about.

  38. I didn’t like iAwriter much, personally. When people tell me a writing program makes things really simple and doesn’t get in the way of the text, what I generally read that as is “we don’t give you any fonts or formatting control.” I like having font options and formatting control (and a word count function).

  39. John,

    Yeah, I can see that view of iA. I have yet to find a writing program that nails the perfect balance between distractions and formatting so I just separate them. I use iA for plain writing and mark things up in a basic fashion using Markdown code and then do real formatting elsewhere.

  40. Getting use to something like iA Writer can take a while after being use to larger more full featured word processors. The lack of options can seem very odd after years of using Word, but since I started out using DOS word processors it’s almost nostalgic.

  41. Rachel Creager Ireland – The Flint Hills, Kansas – Author, Flight of Unknown Birds: Poems about the Wildness and the Weirdness Within, and Post Rock Limestone Caryatids; mom, wife, massage therapist, human. In perpetual state of decluttering.
    Rachel Creager Ireland

    Software, hardware, I just love the plate stand.

  42. I hope I’m not derailing, but I see a lot of comments regarding syncing with Dropbox, iCloud, Google Drive, or various other services. I’ve been a little shy about using any of those syncing services, because I’m never really sure if what I write is really *mine* anymore. Does one run the risk of having one’s work stolen? Is this something worth worrying about, like, at all?

    Because honestly, I’d love to not have to worry about it. I feel like my workflow could see some improvement if I could trust one of those services to safeguard my goodies.

  43. John, I bought a Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover at Costco and tried it with my 2012 iPad. I took it back a week later, as I was unhappy with it for 3 reasons:

    1) I like to use a back cover on my iPad, and the LUKC isn’t compatible with such a cover. The groove that the iPad snaps into (so that the LUKC can hold the iPad at a comfortable viewing angle as you type) has magnets in the bottom to work with the Smartcover magnets in the iPad, but those magnets can’t contact the iPad if you have a back cover on the iPad. With a back cover in place, the groove in the LUKC was not, by itself, deep enough to keep the iPad from falling over.

    2)The LUKC isn’t as convenient as a cover as Apple’s own smartcover is. You can’t fold the cover behind the iPad without the magnets breaking free from the iPad. So the moment you open the LUKC, you must either hold it like the left page of a magazine (and depend on the magnets to not “let go” of the left side of the iPad), or detach it immediately.

    3) The LUKC doesn’t connect via Bluetooth as reliably as Apple’s own Bluetooth keyboard. The first few times I connected it, the key map of the keyboard was wildly mismatched with the iPad (many key presses produced various symbols and wingdings instead of letters and numbers). And, when I woke the iPad, I could not always count on the LUKC being instantly ready. Several keypresses might be missed before it, too, woke up.

  44. John,

    According to rumors, the Windows8 tablet Surface will be available October 26th for a *measly $199. I would love to hear how it compares to the iPad for writing purposes if you are able to either a) obtain one for yourself or b) have an opportunity to try it out. Perhaps they have fixed the mouse/trackpad issue?

    *measly only in that it is less than an iPad, but still enough to make it a serious buying decision.

  45. Plastic plate stand is a GREAT idea. I have been getting pains in my hand from using the iPad and pushing on it. I also get pains in my neck from looking down. Plate stand is a great idea. Put it on on plates and lift it up on books or something.

    I don’t know why you would want to write a book on a such a small screen and small keyboard. I prefer a 24 inch monitor. The price have dropped tremendously. I may get a 27 incher.

  46. I’ve given up the idea of doing serious text editing (including formatting and so on) on the iPad and restrict myself to plain text. As far as I see all iOS apps trying to cope with Word documents are seriously crippled. A cover setting the iPad in a comfortable flat angle lets me get along quite well with the onscreen keyboard, so I do without an external keyboard and type along merrily using Nebulous Notes. This app adds a (customisable) extra row of keys to the onscreen keyboard, including arrow keys for forward/back, word forward/back, line up/down and start/end of document, which makes editing a lot easier.
    If i were going to try some serious text editing work on a tablet, there is nothing better than SoftMaker Office (mentioned before). Unfortunately, this is only available for Android, not for iOS. (And yes, it does support .odt and saving to Dropbox).

  47. Count me as another fan of using the iPad and a wireless keyboard (Logitech’s butterfly keyboard case for me) to get initial writing done. I use iA Writer, and while I do love the immersive aspect of it, the one thing I really, really wish it had the capability of doing is italics (it does do word count otherwise I’d dump it in favor of something else). For now I use the work around of starring what I want italicized and will fix it in post-production on my regular laptop. At this point, I’m pretty convinced that this is an ideal set up, for me, to do first drafts when the point is just getting words on the page.

  48. Paul A. – Thank you thank you thank you for pointing out http://brettterpstra.com/ios-text-editors/

    While I didn’t find the feature grid particularly compelling, the small sub listings for each app are FANTASTIC. I thought there weren’t any Writing apps available for the iPad that I’d find remotely compelling (Like Dave Branson, I’ve been holding out for the eventual release of Scrivener for iPad). Now I’ve a list of 6 separate apps that all appear to support the basic features I’m looking for.

    Peter Kelly, I thought your feature list mentioned here was interesting, but the writeup on http://brettterpstra.com/ios-text-editors/ is what convinced me to add UX Writer to my personal shopping list.

  49. I think that Brett Terstra’s list is insane. But I know it well. **sigh**

    I’m use NotesDeck right now – so my notes show up on all my devices instantly (iPad, Mac and iPhone). NotesDeck syncs with Evernote and Dropbox and Simplenote (!!!) so all my notes from other apps are already in-line. It’s native notes are iCloud. The owner of the company emailed me back immediately when I had an issue so I don’t think this is getting acqui-hired any time soon.

    ( http://lifehacker.com/5955915/notesdeck-consolidates-evernote-simplenote-dropbox-and-icloud-notes-into-one-app )

    ( http://www.notesdeck.com )

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    If you feel your injuries are trivial, despite that discuss with a general practitioner and do what he suggests.

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