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iPad: Writing stuff

Read below the cut for some notes on the subject of writing with an iPad — word processors, keyboards, and stands.

Attention conservation notice: this entry is only of interest to iPad owners who intend to use the thing for keyboard work.

Word processing

* Pages does indeed appear to lack a word count — the document inspector's completely missing wrt. the Mac desktop version.

* It's possible to grab a .doc file from an email attachment, open it in Pages, edit it, and re-email it back to yourself as a .doc file. So, iTunes-independent workflow is possible, albeit in an utterly brain-dead manner (relying on an IMAP server for file storage).

* It's possible to open a file saved on Dropbox in Pages, but not to return it to Dropbox from Pages.

* The above is all moot, anyway, because Dataviz submitted an iPad-compatible version of Documents to Go to the App store on the 26th; it ought to show up any day now. (DTG has word count and works seamlessly with Dropbox.)

* Omni group have pre-announced OmniOutliner for iPad. I'm really looking forward to this, provided it supports cloud-based syncing and OPML import/export as well as RTF/doc.

* I mean to try for i: for iPad soon. (Syntax colourizing text editor.) I'll update this entry when I've done so.

Keyboards

The built-in on-screen keyboards are surprisingly good, but have their limits. In portrait orientation, the keyboard is only big enough for two-finger typing. In landscape orientation, the bigger keyboard is good for full-speed touch typing, but the lack of any kind of sensory feedback means I have to keep my eyes on it; this is somewhat fatiguing. As other reviewers have remarked, the built-in keyboards are fine for making brief notes or quick email responses. But if you've got a bundle of text to enter, you'll need something more.

The Stowaway ultra-slim folding keyboard doesn't work 100% with the iPad. Testing with Notes and Pages, the arrow keys work but full word-oriented cursor movement using modifiers isn't supported. This is annoying — if it worked, it'd be my key must-have peripheral.

The (bigger and more fragile) Stowaway W-fold bluetooth keyboard does works somewhat better with the iPad. Control-arrow key combinations do start of line/end of line/top of document/bottom of document, while Alt-arrow does previous word/next word/previous line/next line. The "insert" key triggers the home button (return to springboard or start search). The combination "let's support PalmOS and Windows Mobile" keycaps are a tad confusing; more exploration is required.

The Apple wireless keyboard works well with the iPad. Compared to the dock keyboard, the only missing functionality is the lack of "home"/"power" keys (the wireless board gives you escape/eject instead). If we could have a key remapping app for the iPad, that'd do nicely. NB: to switch the wireless keyboard off for travel, hold down the power-on button for three or more seconds (until the LED goes out). Otherwise you will stuff it in your bag and wonder why the iPad keeps waking up.

Of the four keyboards I've tested, the dock connector keyboard is far and away the best for typing long texts with the iPad in portrait orientation. The Stowaway's lack of arrow key support is a big drawback. The Think Outside W-folder is slightly heavier than the Stowaway, but offers the best overall compromise between portability and utility. (Cons: it's floppy, so it requires a desk or similar surface, and noisy enough to annoy the neighbours.) The Apple wireless keyboard is the most solid and best supported of the bluetooth keyboards, but the bulkiest.

Weight: Stowaway, 190g. Think Outside, 300g. Apple wireless: 325g. Apple keyboard dock: 600g.

Batteries: Stowaway, 2 x AAA. Think Outside, 1 x AAA. Apple wireless: 4 x AA. (Note that it has a much longer life than the other two.) Keyboard dock: n/a (powered by the iPad).

I'll be interested in seeing a Clamcase (when they arrive) but I'm a little skeptical. One of the reasons I find I like the iPad for text composition: not only the lack of GUI clutter, but the fact that it gets away from the landscape orientation that has become ubiquitous with laptops (optimized for film-consumption — bloody useless for text composition) and gives me back a portrait screen. From that angle, the Clamcase looks like a step backwards.

Stands

For serious typing, some sort of stand is mandatory. Preferably adjustable, so that you can angle the screen to avoid reflections.

The Think Outside and Stowaway keyboards come with folding stands, but these are sized to support a PDA or smartphone — the iPad is very precarious when balanced on them. Not recommended. However Bookchair book stands work well with the iPad. They can be angle-adjusted, fold flat for travel, and they're cheapish (£4.99-9.99 depending on whether you want the regular or deluxe wooden model). I borrowed a wooden small bookchair; it's okay as an iPad support, and weighs 190g. I'm waiting for a regular model (hopefully lightweight plastic) to arrive.

One thought: by the time you add the weight of a stand and a bluetooth keyboard you're creeping into keyboard dock territory, weight-wise. (510g for Apple wireless plus bookchair against 600g for keyboard dock). Given that desktop keyboards weigh 500-1000g, this is understandable, if annoying. I just unplugged and weighed by full-width slimline Apple USB keyboard: it's 576 grams, and it's one of the lighter desktop keyboards I've used — the old IBM M Series weighed multiple kilos!

Cases

I'm finding I'm okay with the Apple case. I like nice leather cases for smartphones and iPods, but I'm not remotely convinced by any of the first-gen models, especially given the tight fit with the keyboard dock (which means you've got to remove the case before you can dock it). My only thought is that if I end up using the keyboard dock as a travel keyboard, it'd be nice to have a book-style case that I can get the iPad out of quickly and easily. As it is, the Apple case clings on like grim death — it's not a slip on/slip off proposition!

Conclusion

No conclusion yet: I'm waiting for the cheap bookchair before I make my mind up. If it's solid and lighter than the wooden one, well — I can stick the iPad on it without taking off the case, and type on the Apple wireless keyboard, while saving 100-140 grams relative to the keyboard dock.

But really, if I'm travelling somewhere and anticipate lots of writing, the keyboard dock will go in my carry-on and I'll end up looking for a replacement book case that I can extract the iPad from easily. The keyboard dock is very solid, it doesn't need batteries, and you can legally use it in flight (no wireless). If the pad-stand folded flat for travel and had a bit more room to accomodate a case, it'd be a winner despite the weight.

69 Comments

1:

I believe one reason laptop screens are landscape is because most desktop screens are in landscape orientation (I have used a portrait screen, and it pretty much sucked for anything _but_ text entry and reading - nice as a second screen, not so much as the only one). Another reason is so the screen folds neatly with the keyboard and base. If the screen is portrait orientation you're either going to get a deep base with a small, narrow keyboard and wasted space, or you're going to need some origami-inspired mechanism for rotating the screen as you fold it. I don't believe film viewing really enters into it

2:

Film viewing and media consumption is certainly behind the move to the 16:9 wide-screen aspect ratio that's become prevalent in the past few years.

I am, ahem, aware of the ergonomics of laptops (having been using one or another of them since 1990, and a pre-laptop "sewing machine" transportable since 1987).

3:

Thanks. I had no idea that the DTG update would come so soon. This may finally get me to buy DTG. Faced with the choice between DTG and QuickOffice, I've been deciding not to decide. Instead, I'm using the text editor built into GoodReader since that also integrates with DropBox. I'm still not convinced that either DTG or QuickOffice supports page margins or headers though. (Pages has its issues, but it does support page level formatting.)

BTW, I just checked. The DTG update isn't at the App Store yet. However, in the US App Store at least, they're having a Memorial Day sale (until 6/2/10). Anyone who wants DTG for iPad will save a couple dollars if they buy DTG now. (No idea if they're having the sale in any other App Store though. Memorial Day, AFAICT, is a specifically US phenomenon.)

4:

they could have curved the keyboard a bit to line up with the natural curve of the hand .. and given it a touch feedback buzz like htc desire ...

5:

Curved keyboards are the work of Cthulhu. Your hands may curve: mine are large enough to extend across a regular-sized QWERTY block.

I'm with you on the haptic feedback thing, though. That'd make the on-screen keyboard significantly more usable; only reason I can imagine they left it out is some sort of patent encumbrance.

6:

The killer thing with 'for i' would be some kind of hook into remote servers - or your home machine - to run code, and an embedded WebKit preview like TextMate - would go a long way to addressing hacking urges.

7:

Alternatively, http://www.skulpt.org/.

Skulpt, alas, doesn't seem to work properly with webkit. If it did? KILLER APP for text processing.

Attention conservation notice: it's an early-stages port of a python-to-javascript JIT compiler running inside the browser, with an editor and a console so you can play with python and see the output. Add cut'n'paste and some persistent storage for modules by way of HTML5's structured client-side storage and that's the basics.

(Despite their "no interpreters in the app store" rule I don't see how Apple could keep something like Skulpt out of their ecosystem, while maintaining their commitment to HTML5; it's the thin end of a very fat wedge.)

8:

Charlie,

Thanks: I am just getting around to using my iPad for writing. I picked up this wire easel from Hobby Lobby to use as a stand (just change the orientation). It's light and folds flat to fit in the bag. There was no way I was going to pay the prices on those other stands.

[LINK TO HOBBY LOBBY DELETED BY MODERATOR. Sorry, but I don't want to funnel my readers' money to dominionists, whose ideology I despise. Follow the preceeding link if you want to know why. -- C.]

9:

Hmm, or maybe taken advantage of the multi-touch to say that a four-way/eight-way touch resets the location of the home keys... so that when you rest your hands on the home row, it shifts the keyboard to match. However, that feels like the kind of thing that could be great or terrible — and nobody can tell which.

10:

The problem with the keyboard stand is that it puts you in a really lousy posture that's going to turn you into the hunchback of notre dame. My current kit is a wireless keyboard, a collapsible music stand, and the iPad. This lets me type with the iPad straight ahead instead of down at my hands. The music stand is the heaviest part of the setup, though.

For in-flight, I'm thinking that the right thing is a case that lets me hang the iPad off the seat in front of me, and a camera connector and wired Apple keyboard. Personally I can't think of any situation where the iPad stand would be the preferred choice--I mean, it'll *work*, and it's pretty elegant, but a little kludging will get you a much more comfortable setup.

11:

The problem with the keyboard stand is that it puts you in a really lousy posture that's going to turn you into the hunchback of notre dame.

Only if you put it on your thighs like a laptop. If it's on a desk in front of you, the resemblance to a Mac Classic is eerie (and the typing posture is the same).

12:

I like My Writing Nook on the iPad. It does good stuff with cloud sync, but it's purely a text editor.

Charlie, have you heard whether Documents to Go will approve/reject changes?

13:

I got the Dodocase in the mail yesterday -- makes your iPad look like a gigantic Moleskine notebook. I love it already. I was definitely one of those nerds who fell for the romance of Moleskine notebooks books around 2005 -- they're really beautifully made, and there's the whole romance of Hemingway, Picasso, pre-20th-Century commonplace books, Indiana Jones's father's notebook, etc. I just loved the *idea* of carrying around a Moleskine with me at all times and jotting down quick notes in elegant scripts, or making a quick sketch.

Only problem: I don't handwrite *anything* anymore, except adding items to the grocery lists or kitchen counter. Everything goes into my computer or into my PDA/smartphone, even back then in 2005. So I bought four or five Moleskines, and still a couple of blank ones left over.

But now my iPad is a Moleskine notebook! Hooray! It's the tablet computer Hemingway and Picasso carried!

The Dodocase has an elastic strap to hold it closed, so you don't have to worry about carrying it in a shoulderbag and having the case open up and some hard object getting in between the case and screen and damaging the screen.

Charlie, I don't know if it would suit your purposes, though. The iPad is held in place with little styrofoamy nubbins in the corners of the case. It looks great, and holds the iPad securely in place, but I'd be afraid that frequently adding and removing the iPad from the case would mash the styrofoamy nubbins and make the iPad less secure.

I'm still boggling that you prefer portrait mode for writing. It's like finding someone who puts on a sock, then a shoe, then a sock, then a shoe, rather than putting on socks first, *then* shoes -- it ain't natural.

14:

DTG can view comments and tracked changes, but can't add comments or accept/reject changes.

I've submitted a feature request for comments; I suspect the more folks who submit feature requests the more likely it is to get some serious work.

(My gut feeling is that they must have noticed by now that Apple have botched sync in iWork. Which gives them an opening to become the de facto standard office suite on the platform if they can drag in enough of the core functionality. With around a million iPads selling per month, even if they can only grab 1% of the market that's going to be a lot of money in a year's time. But who knows?)

15:

I'm still boggling that you prefer portrait mode for writing. It's like finding someone who puts on a sock, then a shoe, then a sock, then a shoe, rather than putting on socks first, *then* shoes -- it ain't natural.

For me, writing text is intimately connected to reading -- I need lots of lines of context above whatever I'm typing.

Oh, and I have some (long dormant) eye trouble which makes scanning sideways across a really wide column fatiguing. (In a nutshell, about half the periphery of my right retina don't work, and the fovea of my left eyeball is held in place by the surgical equivalent of duct tape. I need to have both eyes pointing at the text in order to make sense of it: left eye for word shape and page-position tracking, right eye for sharp focus.)

16:

Interesting. Sorry to hear about the eye trouble.

For me, portrait vs. landscape is only a choice on the iPad. With other devices, the choice has already been made for me.

On the desktop or a notebook computer, my monitor is oriented in landscape mode, and I prefer to have what I'm writing fill the entire screen, so landscape mode is a side-effect of that decision. I suppose I could get an external monitor on a swivel mount, but it's never occurred to me.

If I'm using the iPad screen keyboard, I prefer to write in Pages using portrait mode, but if I'm using the external keyboard (which I don't actually do very often), then I naturally choose landscape mode for the iPad.

I think I'll give writing in portrait mode a try, see if I like it more.

17:

Thanks, Charlie. I'll submit a request. I've been using iAnnotate to markup PDFs on the iPad but you then have to translate the notes manually.

Regarding stands, here's my free foldable 16g free iPad stand.

Http://eatourbrains.com/steve/?p=308

18:

That's really neat! I was thinking along similar lines yesterday -- you can get corrugated plastic card (flat sheets on either face, corrugated stuff in between) at the local craft shop, which would do the same job, cost more, but arguably be rather more coffee/tea proof. Hmm.

19:

Apple can fix iWork syncing really simply. Implement in Pages, Numbers, and Keynote the same "Open in..." functionality that gets documents into the iWork apps in the first place.

That conveniently offloads syncing onto all of those apps that already do it well. e.g. GoodReader. Air Sharing is about to get DropBox support. If Apple let you open documents created in Pages, Numbers, and Keynote in other apps, that would probably spur DropBox to add uploading to their own iPhone app (matching those apps that already upload to DropBox).

In an ideal world, why should every app in creation have to understand the DropBox API? Document creation apps should be able to open their documents in DropBox app and visa versa. Those apps then all get access to DropBox with zero development time. Right now, we have approximately half of this.

Will Apple fix syncing? I'm dubious. The problem is that Pages, Numbers and Keynote are among the top selling and top grossing apps. Apple may not be feeling the pain. (I won't say they've botched sync because that implies they actually attempted sync.)

20:

At Google, the standard programmers' setup is three 24" screens, each in portrait orientation. Perfect.

If it's on a desk in front of you, the resemblance to a Mac Classic is eerie (and the typing posture is the same).

If I hate typing on a laptop on a desk, will this be any different? (The keyboard is too high up! And the screen still too low.)

21:

Charlie, your bandwidth, your rule sets. And thanks for filling in a knowledge gap.

22:

It's the material they make Estate Agents' signs from, and possibly other advertising displays, so it might even be scroungeable.

23:

Cameron, not your fault.

(As for dominionism, I dislike all ideologies that want to take some arbitrary set of religious beliefs and turn them into laws that non-co-religionists will be forced to obey; but I have a particular loathing for those who try to propagate their ideology through stealth.)

24:

While I'm very tempted to get stands + keyboards for my iPad, I'm struck by just how close in weight (and size) those keyboard solutions are getting to just bringing along my Vaio P. Very much looking forward to seeing what sort of job Documents to Go will do, though.

B>

25:

Bruce: tried the Vaio P. Alas, full marks for style, zero for functionality.

Battery life: pants. Keyboard: a wee bit too cramped. Screen: a painfully high resolution letterbox, useless for writing on. Processor/software: subjectively feels incredibly sluggish, whether under Linux or Windows 7 or Windows (ha ha, hee hee) Vista, when stacked up against the iPad.

It's not that the iPad delivers more MIPS; it's that the stuff you load on the Vaio P has thirty years of cruft attached, and the hardware isn't that good once you start looking at usage cases.

26:

Just about the only way that I could imagine using a tablet to enter any largish amount of text, would be a keyboard on the back of the tablet, so you can hold the tablet with both hands and type. (And you could have a conveniently placed touch pad for your thumps.)

Sure, you can't see the keys, but you can feel them. And for those who can't possibly seem to remember where the keys are, you could always have a transparent overlay on the display.

For short amounts of text (say an URL) you could always use an on-screen keyboard (changing your grip on the tablet to enter a 5 letter word is certainly not comfortable at all).

27:

Actual informative content first: I've been using a wire bookstand (Mighty Bright Fold-n-Stow Book Holder) for my print-book reading pleasure. It weighs 107 grams and works quite well. I've had mine for something like a decade. If you get one, I would advise wrapping some durable tape around the top and bottom of the plastic hinges. My hinges have chipped a little, but it's still functional.

Gushing second: I'm a enthusiastic fan of your work and a reader of the blog for a long time. This is my first comment on your blog and I want to thank you for making your login system so friendly to my NoScript & RequestPolicy using ways.

Also, the fact that you have two Laundry novels in progress fills me with glee. I'm already trying to figure out how to make a table-top campaign out of the Laundry RPG.

28:

There's lots of buzz out there on a very pretty looking piece of vapourware called the Clam Case. It's a combined case/stand/keyboard which turns the iPad into a laptop, and I'll be looking very closely at the price and weight specs on it as more information becomes available.

29:

I'm typing on the Freedom Pro portable BT keyboard. On the iPad it handles tabbing, line, word and character selection, arrow keys work, volume up/down, caps lock, easy access to intl characters. Still have to figure out copy/paste. It's bigger than my old Stowaway but way more portable in dimensions and weight than either Apple keyboard option. The feel is OK, it's a portable. You do have to get used to the layout, spacebar is kinda thin and they took liberties with the different sizes of the v and b keys but I'm sold. I love it because I'll be able to stay pretty lightweight.

Tabbing, btw, jumps from field to field but does not jump to hyperlinks (something I'd gotten used to in Firefox tabbing between links on a page). For example, in FF I would now tab twice and hit Return to post this. This may be a Safari thing.

30:

Chording keyboard?

31:

Here's what I've been using for an iPad stand, when I'm at my desk:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YfFKT-VtK4s

Zero cost, since I already had the necessary raw materials in my wardrobe, lightweight, minimalist... if you do a nice, clean job of the folding, it's almost elegant. :P

For toting around, I do like the look of the Moleskine-style cases; I saw them a while back on one of the gadgety blogs, but they apparently have a lengthy queue of backorders. Blah.

32:

It's an odd feeling to have programs one was raised on described as dominionist front groups.

33:

Office^2 HD works quite nicely. Can access (download / upload) google docs, dropbox, box.net etc. Good price too.

34:

au contraire, Office2 HD is Not Fit For Purpose - it mangles the formatting of word docs created in MS Word 2008, which is, I think, a worrying sign that they haven't got the file format sorted properly.

35:

Hi folks,
I have the Apple Bluetooth keyboard and it is small and light enough and durable for my likes. Cheap BT keyboards are probably fine. Another option is to use the camera connection kit and plug in any USB keyboard. The current skinny aluminium keyboard and older white plastic Apple keyboards work as will most Microsoft USB keyboards.
Pages is lacking some functionality given the price and I am confident this will come.

PeterSW

36:

Great post Charlie.
Am a recent iPad owner myself and this sort of knowledge is terrifically useful.
On the sync side of things I expect Apple will eventually connect the dots here - iWork website, iDisk and the iWork apps are crying out for ubiquitous syncing, I'm sure Apple know this and it's all part of the big picture.
Like most of us I'd just love to have this right now.

There is a workaround I've been using that's pretty slick:
Get the Notational Velocity Mac app,
Get the Simplenote iPhone & iPad app, it's one of those universal apps.
This all connects up via a free webserver when you setup the apps.

These services & apps are free (up to a point for the web storage) and, better still, the Simplenote iPad/iPhone app works automatically with the awesome Textexpander app too.

This is a fairly simple WP solution, it lacks fancy styles & full-formatting, but it certainly is quick to use & seamless for syncing across all devices.

Cheers.

37:

I find the vaio P running something like pyroom with a sanely chosen font to be a pretty amazing text entry device. I've been writing quite a few reviews and simple reports on it. Perhaps I have fewer text formatting requirements, though. It would be nice if linux did a better job of managing CPU to bulk the battery out, though.

I'll be investigating keyboard options for the iPad in due course, but I echo the concern of the limits of not being able to whip something up in some language. It's an amazing consumption device, though. Except for books where it's too heavy.

B>

38:

It's like finding someone who puts on a sock, then a shoe, then a sock, then a shoe, rather than putting on socks first, *then* shoes -- it ain't natural.

It's natural when you have to be in odd positions to put socks and shoes on. If you do both socks then both shoes, that's two positions twice. Sock, shoe, then other sock, shoe is only two positions.

39:

My parents were evangelical fundamentalists and my brother was a missionary for CMA for most of his adult life (now he's the IT guy for a Christian school). But I knew when I was six that there weren't any gods. (I think I'll post some amazingly rude stories about Amway in my LJ today.)

40:

David McDonald - Notational Velocity + Simplenote is a great solution, and I use it myself--but it only works on plain text files, not word processing files.

41:

You are a sick, sick woman. :)

42:

Erm, yes. Literally. If I bend over from a chair or bed, I'm likely to fall off, which is why I pull my feet up on the bed to put socks and shoes on. It works much better with one foot at a time. (I also keep reachers in several places in the condo and in the van, but they're not very helpful with socks and shoes.)

43:
Curved keyboards are the work of Cthulhu. Your hands may curve: mine are large enough to extend across a regular-sized QWERTY block.
I note you don't say that your hands don't curve, which is good, because otherwise I'd have to wonder what species you were, since you clearly wouldn't be a tetrapod.

My hands extend across a QWERTY block, but they have to flatten to do so, and that extension, over time, built up to agonizing tendonitis (like someone was running red-hot wires down each finger). Those of us who've been burnt by the RSI bug tend to be rather... religious about contoured keyboards. (We also tend to look on this mobile-device thing as something interesting that we can never participate in: I can't text more than ten words without my hands twinging at me, and devices which fold flat on their keyboards are out of the question because they require the keyboard to be flat.)

44:

I'm still puzzled by the landscape/portrait remark. I'm aware that sometimes in the - hmm - early 1990s, turn-able portrait orientation monitors were a la mode in the desktop publishing industry, as far as ads in computer magazines count as valid information about these - but did you really use a portrait monitor (ie 2x3 ratio instead of 3x2), or is this only re: 16:9?

45:

Using portrait for text sounds like a good idea, being able to see it as a whole page. But I think you have to either have good vision to see it (though probably OK with the keyboard dock, keeping it fairly near), or use a larger font that you'd have to change later.

Another thought, on a typewriter the text is viewed in a horizontal strip, and the paper flops over the back so you don't see much more unless you prop it up. That doesn't seem too different than on a laptop (well, on mine anyhow, with its 12 inch monitor). Though, I can see how widescreen monitors would be awkward if using the full width.

46:

It's not about seeing it as a full page -- I don't need that! What I need is to be able to see as much of the preceding text as possible, for context. And I prefer tall, narrow columns to short, fat ones -- less eye movement required.

Also: every typewriter I ever wrote a book on, pre-word processing, had a flip up stand in the carriage to hold the just-typed page in full view. The most annoying thing about typing was starting a new page and having to look aside to refer back to the page I'd just finished.

47:

Til, back in the late 80s and 90s, typical high end PC monitor resolutions were VGA (480x640) or Hercules (702x512, IIRC), rising to 800x600 and then 1024x768. At any of those resolutions, to view a whole A4 or US Letter page on-screen without scrolling you needed a portrait-orientation monitor ... but the necessary electronics to drive a monitor in that orientation cost so much extra that I could never quite afford one. I did, nevertheless, drool after a DTP-grade portrait monitor, until in the early-mid 90s decent multisync monitors began showing up.

I still remember (circa 1996 or 1997) paying £700 for an Iiyama 17" colour flat-screen -- meaning, it only curved on the horizontal axis, not the vertical axis -- multisync that could comfortably go to 1024x1280, and luxuriating in it. (Nearly gave myself a hernia lifting it onto my desk.) These days that'd get you a 16:9 LED-backlit 27" cinema display, or a refurbished 30" one ...

48:

I'll second Peter's comments about the USB keyboard. I've got my crappy, basic black Dell USB keyboard plugged into the camera connector right now, and it works like a charm. Not ideal for travel, of course, but handy around the office.

49:

Hmm if fori had FTP / SFTP capabilities it would fill a slot in my required apps list.

50:

Thanks for clarifying. I can see how that is easier than having to continuously hit page up to see what you'd written before.

Admittedly, I was thinking about manual typewriters that I've seen that didn't have a stand. I don't remember if my oldish electric had a stand--haven't looked at it in years. I think the point I was trying to make was that, perhaps, wordprocessing on a landscape oriented monitor was essentially like the limited view of typewriter. Though I'm thinking now that (obviously) it had more to do with the fact that monitors have the same aspect ratio of TVs, and until more recently weren't particularly large. So, never mind, I guess.

51:

Incidentally ...

I am looking at a novel-in-progress (circa 92,000 words) in Pages on the iPad in its keyboard dock.

Wow, that's pretty.

It may only be a 1024x768 pixel screen, but it is clearer and sharper than the 20" Apple Cinema Display sitting next to it on my desk, and the design aesthetics of Pages are gorgeous. It's a real shame about the lack of sync support and the missing features (notably, word count, change tracking, footnotes/endnotes, and comments); if it was all there, I'd have no compunction about decamping to a pub and finishing "Rule 34" on the iPad.

When we have a real fit-for-purpose word processor for the iPad, it may well turn into my writing tool of chouce.

52:

Docs2Go for the iPad is available. I'm going to give it a spin momentarily.

53:

Got it. (Then either my ISP or DropBox had a DNS-related whoopsie that stopped me getting at my files for fifteen minutes. Solved now.)

The UI is a lot less full of eye candy than Pages, and it lacks full paragraph style support. But the Dropbox integration (and the word count) are worth the price of admission -- I can now round-trip office documents between my iPad and my preferred cloud storage, which is what counts.

I think if Apple were to add a word count and something not unlike Dropbox to the next update of Pages I might well defect; Pages is clearly better at page layout. But for just banging out text? Docs2Go will do just fine.

54:

"And I prefer tall, narrow columns to short, fat ones -- less eye movement required"

Charlie, this was actually my big surprise when I first started with dedicated ereader. I thought being limited to a narrow column would not work for me, but it in fact improved my reading speed.

Normally, especially when reading anything larger than mass-market paperback, I move either my eyes to follow the text, or keep shifting the book. With a narrow screen of the ereader display, my eyes stay focused in one place. Having my thumb on the "next page" button, I can keep my eyes focused in one place without any interruption.

When you include the ability to adjust font-size, the ereader became a life-saver for my aging eyes. This year, I haven't read any "print" fiction yet. Now I am looking into the iPad to see if it would work for my non-fiction reading needs.

Sorry for the off topic comment...

55:

Charlie, that's pretty much my assessment too -- Pages is prettier, but Docs2Go does what it says on the tin. I lubs it. Now if it only permitted commenting and revision control I'd be ready to marry it and have its children.

56:

Have you considered Foam Core -- should still be fairly light and rigid, and is nearly completely waterproof.

57:

Played with the "iwork.com" based syncing for Pages? I'm still experimenting with it. For my own very light use, I can store a document to the "iwork.com" cloud, and retrieve it, and I can share the URL with other people and they can download it as word or PDF files. I'm not sure how the experience would scale if I had a lot of documents to manage.

I'm very interested in more details about how the new DTG works out over time. I used their PalmOS product for ages.

I do agree with John Chu that the correct medium-term solution is to implement that "Open in..." functionality from iWork's "sharing" or "exporting" areas. Then (in theory) I could fire a document over to GoodReader or iDisk or AirSharing or whatever other tool I wanted to use to manage large groups of files and synchronize even with clouds that haven't been invented yet.

A better longer-term solution would be infrastructure like MacOS's "services" or the Newton's "routing infrastructure" that let developers add "routing plugins" to the system directly, instead of as standalone apps with their own full user interfaces. That way we could "teach" apps how to store directly in particular backing stores. But that requires some deeper re-working of the OS on Apple's part and we're not going to see it this year.

(But I won't be shocked to see it at some point, because it *is* directly analogous to stuff Apple has done on other platforms. They have to have enough breathing room to polish the UI and the security sandboxing, but I wouldn't be shocked to see something like that within three years. This would also be the right/best way to implement printing and even faxing, IMO.)

58:

Played with the "iwork.com" based syncing for Pages?

I can't even log into it; my Apple ID ain't working. (This may be something to do with me not having MobileMe.)

The new DTG, alas, doesn't recognize keyboard cursor movement keys on any keyboard I've tried it with. The keyboards work, but arrow keys don't. This is a show-stopper, and I've bugreported it.

59:

I've just logged on.

iWork.com is useless for my purposes -- it won't let me upload documents more than fifty pages long.

Fifty pages is a bit on the short side for a novel ...

60:

Oh wow, fifty pages? That's really terrible.

And no arrow keys in DTG? Heh, I know exactly why, and it's the same reason they don't work in iSSH yet, and we need to bug *Apple* with this:

Third party developers aren't yet allowed access to arrow (or control or command) key events from hardware keyboards. I actually have some very simple source code that illustrates this. The "enhancement request" is on file in Apple's bug database with issue "7649186" (my own report "7959010" being marked as a duplicate of that one). Apple uses the number of independent submissions of a feature request to gauge popularity, so don't take the fact that it's "on file" to mean that there's no point bugging them about this.

The only "workaround" for developers is to subclass or utilize a UIKit widget that *already* supports the arrow keys, adding your behavior on top of it. If you right your widget from scratch, you can't get at 'em.

I did find another severe problem (for me) with DTG, by the way: it can't send anything to external displays. I'd use this for all three document types myself (for collaborative editing), but the inability to do this with *presentations* is a bit crazy. I bought the dock-to-VGA adapter specifically to use with projectors in conference rooms, and with DTG I can't. (And yeah, I reported this to DataViz.)

61:

(OMG, ^right^write, I can't *believe* I didn't catch that before hitting the "submit" button.)

62:

FYI, my testing with "for i:" indicates that while the forward and back arrows on a hardware keyboard *do* work, the up and down arrows do not yet. On top of that, the document import/export feels a bit limited to me so far. There's certainly a lot of potential here, but I don't think it's been realized quite yet. Once keyboard-based editing is more flawless and at least "git" integration is in place, this *could* be amazing. I have not done any tests with very large files though (because for my own source code I break things up into smaller files).

63:

Ditto here with the cursor keys in DTG and my BT keyboard. Off to report it...

64:

We were talking about the Stanza ebook reader, right? And I said they told me they had no plans to come out with an iPad version? Guess they changed their mind because a new version shipped today. The UI is just a straight port of the iPhone UI but ebooks on Stanza on the iPad look great, and you can download them from Mobile Safari and open them in Stanza. I bought the first Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser book by Fritz Leiber.

65:

Just an observation: According to Apple's Swedish site, the wireless keyboard now uses only 2xAA batteries. The site claims the previous model used three, so if yours requires four there must be an even wider generational gap. :)

Not sure if this is an actual improvement; it'll of course make it lighter but I would also expect less runtime, even though they claim it's better than for previous models.

66:

I am not going to shut down my keyboard just to count batteries :)

(The original -- white, full-width-with-full-travel-and-number-keys -- Apple wireless keyboard did use four AAs. Mind you, we're talking circa 2005 here.)

67:

I can confirm the apple keyboard I purchased in Australia uses 2xAA - I believe the change in keyboard batteries came the time the "magic mouse" model was released.

Steven's cardboard stand was an encouraging discovery - my suspicions are for this form factor the best ideas will be the simplest, and they are yet to come.

Thanks for the dominionists reference Charlie.

68:

Charlie, when you move over to the ipad for writing, please sell me your MacBook air.

69:

I've been using the Apple case and the small 2-battery Apple BT keyboard. Very light and portable. The case doubles as a stand - two angles of landscape, one portrait. The portrait is a bit tricky, but doable. I don't generally use portrait for typing though, not since I was using proprietary word processing hardware back in the 80's. I'm landscape all the way these days.

As a matter of fact, I whipped out the BT keyboard to type this response...

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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on May 30, 2010 1:27 PM.

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