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TL;DR: Charlie neeps about typing on an iPad. If you do not own/are not interested in iPads, another entry will be along shortly.

Okay, suppose you have an iPad and want to shovel text into it. What are your options?

Well, the iOS input methods appear to be somewhat locked down. While there are alternative keyboard maps for some purposes, I have yet to see any alternate keyboards such as Dvorak or Fitaly, which I think is a shame. There's some reasonable first-stab speech recognition from Nuance in the shape of Dragon Dictate for iOS, and there is rumbling about iOS 5 containing a high performance speech recognition engine, but if you want to enter lots of text basically you're stuck using a QWERTY keyboard of some sort.

Here's my first cut at describing the keyboards I've tried.

* The on-screen keyboard comes first. It's surprisingly good on the iPad 2 — I think they improved the digitizer's accuracy for picking up finger positions in landscape orientation — but there's no tactile feedback, and some keys that come up frequently in fiction are missing from the default QWERTY grid. Most irritatingly, the apostrophe isn't visible. (You can bring it up by holding down the comma for a second, or by hitting the comma and swiping upwards.) I can do maybe 20-30wpm on-screen, which is okay but not anything like my actual touch-typing keyboard speed on hardware.

* The Apple Bluetooth Keyboard. Pros: it's an Apple keyboard. Cons: if you hate chiclet keys you'll hate this one too. It's very flat, but the back is raised by a tubular rear support that contains AA cells and doesn't fold. The function key row doesn't support most iPad keyboard shortcuts (it's designed for a Mac). Power button at one end of battery compartment gets pressed easily and can get switched on in a travel bag. It's wider (by about 5cm) than an iPad is tall, so doesn't fit in an iPad-height bag. Weighs 350 grams.

* Think Outside/Stowaway folding bluetooth keyboards. These were marketed during the 00s, but are still available on eBay, often in new sealed packaging. Pros: They weigh 350 and 260 grams respectively, and fold, so they're amazingly compact. Good quality scissor-mechanism keys. Cons: function keys don't support iPad, no longer made (so scarce), fragile. Useful if your keyboard's got to fit in a pocket, but that's all.

* ZaggMate/Logitech iPad 2 keyboard case. Pros: it's an aluminium screen cover/stand for the ipad and protects the glass face of the ipad. You can leave the iPad cover behind if you use this one. The keyboard uses bluetooth to connect and is built inside the aluminium "tray". Supports all iPad function keys. Charges over micro-USB. Cons: the keys are about 92% of full size — it's like typing on a 9" netbook, and may be too cramped for some. The arrow key grouping is wrong (the up arrow is offset so it's above the right arrow, rather than conforming to the usual inverted-T cluster: expect lots of typos at first). Weighs about 350 grams. The iPad does not clip into the case upside down (i.e. with the back of the iPad facing the keyboard), so it can only be used as an angled stand. Verdict: Good if you've got small hands and can get used to the arrow key offset. Very good if you need screen protection as well.

* Assorted iPad folio/keyboard cases: AVOID LIKE THE PLAGUE. These most usually use the same ghastly far-eastern rubber bluetooth keyboard unit; it's the worst piece of dead rubber I've touched since the Sinclair Spectrum, and it's impossible to touch-type accurately on one.

* The Targus bluetooth keyboard for iPad. Pros: It's the same size and layout as the Apple wireless keyboard, but it has function keys designed for the iPad (e.g. springboard and power keys that work), weighs a bit less (it's made of plastic rather than aluminium) and it's slightly more compact (the battery step at the back is sized for AAA cells rather than AA). Wider (by about 5cm) than the iPad is tall. The power switch is a recessed slider so it's much harder to turn on or off by accident. Cons: less rigid than the Apple wireless keyboard. Weighs 260 grams, making it a tie with the Stowaway for lightest keyboard.


No external keyboard of the same dimensions as the iPad screen is actually as big as a proper keyboard. The iPad on-screen keyboard gets around this by displaying full-sized keys, but missing some out, which are then accessed by additional stickyshift states which display alternate layouts.

If you want a full sized Mac-like keyboard for the iPad, with the same feel and key positioning, the Targus keyboard beats the Apple Bt keyboard — unless you hammer your keyboards hard, in which case the metal frame of the Apple keyboard will feel less insecure. Both these keyboards are a bit bulkier than the iPad; this will affect your choice of travel bag when transporting them.

If you can cope with a small keyboard with non-standard cursor keys and want a keyboard case, the Logitech/ZaggMate case wins hands-down. With the iPad in the case, its dimensions are very similar to the iPad with a standard cover. Probably not as good for sustained typing as the Apple and Targus keyboards.

If you require something compact at all costs, the Stowaway and Think Outside keyboards will work, but won't give you all the function key access you might want. They're also a bit fragile and no longer made, hence in short supply.

I'd avoid any of the combined folio/keyboard cases except the Zagg one unless you've had a chance to try one out in person and think you can cope with them. The standard rubberized key mat many of the vendors use is absolutely terrible: missing right shift key, offset/mis-positioned arrow keys, no tactile feedback, sluggish bluetooth response, misregistered keys (hitting one key results in a neighbouring character being delivered) and so on.

You might well think that by the second decade of the 21st century we'd have gotten usable portable keyboards. This is, alas, not obviously the case ...



Solution - buy a MacBook Air.


Looks like we are in the same boat - I, too bought an iPad for ultra portable productive work (mostly writing, managing documents and a bit of vector graphics stuff) and one reason I went for the Apple iPad Keyboard that you left out of your list is the fact that it does not require a battery at all and features iPad-specific function Keys. It works with an iPad2, a bit of tape might help the fit.

One caveat: the keyboard's elevated rest for the iPad does not fold, so you are once again adding a few cm to the bulk of your kit (in height). I am going to build my own case with dedicated foam cutouts for the accessories lest I forget anything that doubles as a knee-table, so that is not my concern, but it surely does not fit in standard sleeves.

Another problem that no Keyboard can circumnavigate is the fact that iOS does not support a delete-Key nor shortcut commands for bold text and the likes. I went with a writing app called Essay that features a workaround for the latter. Simple and beautiful app.


I'd also note that apple's keyboard dock is like the apple wireless kb except with working function keys. It does lock you to a portrait orientation and it is bulkier than other options, but if you like apple's wireless kb and just absolutely must have the function keys, worth giving one a look.

In general, I favor apple's wireless kb. I like the keys, it feels solid and doesn't rattle under me when I use it.


Ah forgot to mention, I don't love the Targus option because every Targus bit of kit I've owned seems to break pretty fast (warranty support doesn't suck too much but still).


Solution - buy a MacBook Air.

1984 is calling: "Your Mac doesn't have arrow keys? Solution: buy an IBM PC and run DOS -- you can use WordStar! Who needs this new-fangled mouse thing, anyway?"

The Macbook Air is a sweet piece of kit but it's heavier, has a significantly shorter battery life, and it doesn't really do multitouch. More to the point, we already know how to do data entry on a Mac. I'm interested in working out how to do it on a different platform.


Hmm. I know the answer to this one. Sell the Ipad and get and Asus transformer with docking station.

Tell me you haven't been considering it.


The new IOS is supposed to have a 'split' touchscreen keyboard which you can move around and use for thumb typing. I haven't tried it out yet, but it sounds interesting. I can hope that they support some additional layouts for better touchscreen.

I've gotten up to about 25 WPM on the iPhone with thumb typing, I'm actually slower on the iPad, although with a good stand and standard touch typing I might do better.

I'm surprised FITALY hasn't made an app for their method. I liked it on my old PDAs. I thought about implementing one to see what it would be like, but then saw they actually have a patent on their layout.


I haven't considered it, because:

(a) Windows, and (b) Android.

In other words, ergonomics and usability and design triumph over feature lists.

Having said that, if Apple would make an iPad with a detachable keyboard with a ULV Core i7 in it that runs OSX when docked and iOS when the screen is in walkabout mode, I'd be so in there. (Although I suspect it would cost its weight in sterling silver, and anyway, it's not likely to be on the roadmap of any company that remembers the Powerbook Duo from the mid-90s.)


Having gotten to use an iPad2, I don't care for the onscreen keyboard. It's fine for notes and URLs, but I can't see doing any real writing with it. iOS5 has a potentially interesting feature--a splitting onscreen keyboard, should make thumb typing easy, if you can stand doing that. Myself, I'd probably go with the Apple bt, for sturdiness, and (semi-silly reason) it's white, I have trouble seeing black keyboards in the dim lighting I tend to write in.

Meanwhile, slightly off-topic, my 'plan' to replace my old iBook with an iPod Touch and bt keyboard hit a small snag when recently I learned that only the iPad2 will actually mirror to a TV/monitor, everything else will only show videos. I'm hoping that will change in iOS5, but having seen anything about that. I'm also wondering if iOS5 will be a free upgrade or if you have to pay--like getting the next OSX. If the latter I may just wait til fall.

More OT, the camera on the iPad2 kinda sucks for stills. It helps to brace it on something and have good lighting. For video it's pretty good.


I have quite big fingers, although perhaps unusually dextrous ones being a saxophonist too, and I have to say the on-screen typing + ZaggMate with keyboard option works nicely for me. I usually default to the on-screen keyboard, and find that if you have clicks on for key-presses there's some haptic feedback that increases my typing speed to closer to 45wpm. Still slower than on a normal keyboard, but not appreciably so for notes, jotting down of ideas and the like, where often thinking speed is the limiting factor for me rather than finger speed.

It's worth noting too that some writing tools offer additional regular keys. My Writing Nook (I think it might have changed name to My Writing Spot) puts tab, some of the apostrophe etc. type characters on a bar across the top of the keyboard and can speed typing that way.

And iOS 5 is supposed to have a split 2-thumbs typing interface as an option. e.g. gottabemobile's report which I struggle to imagine increasing typing speed but might make alternative layouts such as fitaly easier to code.


Forgot my other off-topic comments.

The cover works fairly well, it's a good stand for videos, though the rolled position is so-so for typing on the lap, I prefer just flipping it over and using it flat, also keeps it from sliding. It also adds a bit to the weight.

My favorite iPad is this, definitely not portable.


My favorite iPad keyboard, that is.


One of those should be arriving at my desk on Friday. The downside is, I'm not allowed to open it up and play, since it's my wife's, not mine, but with luck she'll let me try it out.


Thanks for that Charlie.

That with the resulting discussion(s) answers most of the questions I was throwing at you over the weekend.


Superb review - as always your kit reviews are top notch.

I assume these would work with an iPhone as well. I'm disappointed that nobody has emulated the old Palm kbs and build one with an integrated iPhone cradle. Obviously not much of a market. I wonder about pairing the Targus kb with a separate iPhone bracket.

Like your first commentator I'm planning to hemorrhage cash on the new MacBook Air and stay iPadless (but iPhone glued).


Hmm interesting ideal laptop/slate combo you put forward there.

Can't comment on transformer ergonomics as I don't have one yet... but I am not convinced there is anything that wonderful about the iPad 2 either.

Usability well, based on Android 2.2 I am pretty confident that any honeycomb problems will be niggles rather than issues...

We probably have different requirements though. I will be using the Asus to fit in with a nomadic corporate lifestyle.



I Macbook Air-ified my desktop back in December.

I'm not planning to upgrade to the ULV i5/i7 airbooks when they come out because I recently upgraded my 11" airbook with an OWC 240Gb SSD with Sandforce controller, and the toy budget is now bottomed out for a while.

Maybe when we see a second generation of i5 or i7 based Macbook Air I'll change my mind.

The Targus keyboard works well with an iPhone 4, although you'll need to pick up some kind of stand to go with it (or a dock). My only quibble is that the keyboard is a bit big, and the iPhone screen a bit small. (I could really use an iPod touch with the same screen resolution but about a 30-50% longer diagonal, like the Nintendo DSi XL -- same machine, just big enough to see.)


While the default iPad onscreen keyboard does indeed suck royally when used for writing things like fiction, I've had better results with the iA Writer app, which uses a slightly variant keyboard that does have things writers use on the top row: last word, next word, hyphen, semicolon, colon, double quote, single quote/apostrophe, matched parens, and back char and next char. No cursor keys of course.

The keys appear to be roughly the same size as my old KeyTronic, and the only problems I have are spurious chars/typos from waving fingers too near them while hitting the shift key or space bar. This is probably a function of my typing technique, so I just soldier on.

It's got Dropbox built in, so on the PC end, I just import things into Scrivener. No visible productivity hits, in fact quite the reverse.

I've also been experimenting with handwriting recognition via WritePad, using a BoxWave stylus, which is definitely worth the money. Verdict: much slower than pen and paper, surprisingly good on recognition iff you use a good stylus and set WritePad to only recognize one line at a time (this so it can ignore spurious doodles where you rest your hand on the screen surface). I tend to use it only when I'm trying to write something really nuanced rather than just bashing out dialogue. Also comes with built-in Dropbox.


By the way, Charlie, though I have an iPad and use the Apple KB with it, I've found that I can be almost as productive using the KB with an iPhone. I have Evernote on both of them (and my desktop), and use that program for all my remote typing.


Also comes with built-in Dropbox.

How much for one without?

(El Reg: Dropbox security fubar infuriates customers)


Of course, all of these sorts of solutions assume you don't use an iPhone cover, or use one that is easily removed. But I like the look of the fit.

Wow-Keys Keyboard for iPhone


I'm very likely to buy the Targus one soon for my own use. Comments I've seen say the AAA batteries in it last longer than the batteries in the Apple one.

Plus the Apple keyboard keeps turning on your iPad if nearby when ANY key is pressed and the iPad has Bluetooth turned on. Which can be downright a pain much of the time. So every time you are done with the keyboard you have to remember to turn off Bluetooth on the iPad. This point was made by an Apple store employee so it must be a real pain for him to bring it up to anyone who asks about what keyboard to buy.


Alternatively, you have to remember to switch off the Apple bluetooth keyboard. But because the on/off button is the end cap of the battery compartment it can get switched on again very easily in your bag.

The Targus keyboard's on/off switch is a wee switch recessed into the underside of the keyboard, and seems to be quite hard to toggle by accident.

Hence my preference.


I went with a writing app called Essay

More details please. I can't see to find such a thing in the App Store.


If you keep anything confidential on DropBox without encryption, then you've only got yourself to blame.

(I keep my financials on DropBox. In a filesystem on an encrypted disk image. Only changed -- written -- blocks get synched with the cloud, so it's reasonably fast. The only gotcha is that this is entirely dependent on me remembering not to mount the image on two computers simultaneously -- that could get nasty!)


That's rad!

If it had HDMI or displayport output to a larger screen I'd be rubbing my eyes and declaring it to be the shape of the future of personal computing or something. As it is, if I was banging out lots of text on long-haul flights or train journeys it'd be the ideal tray-table gadget (no bluetooth, so airliner-legal).


I know, and I tease. Trusting raw data off the physical hardware is looking more and more foolish these days.


Somewhere in the same area is the Bento Box.

How much it would cost to build one is another question.


Alternatively, you have to remember to switch off the Apple bluetooth keyboard.

Per the guy in the Apple store the button is really a sleep button and pressing other keys will wake it up. He told me this in the store a month or so ago and last night brought it up again at a local pub get together.

Now I'm curious. Are there multiple firmware iterations floating around or is one of you mistaken. What is the part number on yours? Of course if it's localized to the UK then it will be a different part number than the ones over here.


I believe if you hold the power button down for four seconds, the keyboard LED will flash and it'll switch off until the button is pressed again. Briefly pushing the button puts it to sleep but yes, it wakes up.


I passed this on to him. I'll let you know what he says.


Charlie: How about this? I just got mine last Friday.


The iPad actually comes with Dvorak support for all hardware keyboards. You set it at:

Settings > Keyboard > International Keyboards > English > Choose a Hardware Keyboard Layout

Sadly, there are no other ergonomic layouts for hardware keyboards, and an even more limited selection of onscreen keyboards.


Have you checked out Heart Writer?

Bought it today, the video demo is awesome.


I don't like the small right-shift key, and that keyboard has got to be about 90% of regular size, but in all other respects the Adonit writer looks to be head-and-shoulders better designed than the regular keyboard/folios that all use the same cheap Chinese rubber keymat.

How are you finding it for typing?


Not yet. The keyboard looks very interesting, but I'd like a little more than a Dropbox/Google Docs text editor. What I'd love would be something like the Heart Writer keyboard spliced into iOS at a low level so you could define your own slide keys ...


I didn't mean Drop box could come extra, I meant WritePad has it just the same as Writer. Sorry if that was confusing.

To address the security issue, the only things I transfer about are novel/story fragments, grocery lists, and to-do lists, which if anyone is interested in my prep list for Sunday's big dinner party, they're welcome to it.


I've seen a few iPad accessories that will enable USB connectivity, which might give you a few more options. And there might conceivably be someone out there making a fold-up rubber keyboard that works marginally better than the one I bought on Amazon for fifteen quid, which I loved for the three days it lasted before packing up.


Excellent summary of the keyboards and options available. Wish I had this before buying the Far East folio BT keyboard. It took over a month for the toxic smell of the plastic and rubber to go away. I use a Bluetooth mini keyboard that is the size of a note card. If you have used a blackberry or smartphone keyboard, and it was tolerable, then it may be another option. However, I agree with you, no one will be writing another “War and Peace” on these devices anytime soon.


I found that the Incase "Origami Workstation" was a very good addition to the Apple BT keyboard, as it addresses:

(a) "why is my iPad suddenly playing music? wait, the keyboard has turned itself on in my bag and the play button got pressed" - when inside the case, the power button is a bit recessed and isn't easily pressed by accident, let alone other keys;

(b) "I've propped my iPad up on the table and this is the fifth time it's fallen over" - when unfolded, the case acts as a reliable stand for the iPad, at a 45 degree angle, and doesn't fall over in the slightest breeze.

It is not really origami though, unless origami now allows velcro.


Since nobody else has already I'll put in a good word for the Freedom i-Connex foldable bluetooth keyboard. I tried for a while to get an iGo keyboard from eBay, but eventually gave up the chase and went for something still in production.

Carry weight is 258g (with its 2xAAA batteries), though the leather case adds another 58g. It's pretty much full size when folded out (and sits nicely with a Galaxy Tab or Kindle when folded up). Typing on it took a while to get used to, but I soon found myself going at full speed.

It's not specifically iPad compatible in terms of function keys or special purpose keys, but I never expected that so no nasty surprises. I've been happy with laptop free travel since getting it (to go with a smartcovered iPad 2).


It was a little cramped at start but now I've gotten used to it. It does have "scissor action keys". I think the design needs some more refining especially with the battery enclosure.


After buying my ipad 1 in the first week it sat in the corner hardly used as I just couldn't get used to the on screen keyboard. That all changed when I bought the zaggmate. You're correct that the cursor keys are in the wrong place but they're a million times better than the on-screen keyboard ones. Oh wait there aren't any. ;)

As for the inability for the ipad to clip flat - nothing that a thick rubber band can't fix.


That's very cool! But yeah, I wonder how much it will end up costing.


I wrote an alternative text input system a while ago, trying to do a better job of predictive text by using the google ngram data. It turned out to be almost impossible to patch it into either iOS or Android in any reasonable sort of way: you can write a new app to do it easily enough, but changing the default text entry widgets is strictly verboten. This might explain the lack of alternative on-screen keyboards...


Thanko has apparently bought the rights to the Stowaway, and makes a USB version.


I'm glad to see the Targus keyboard is well liked. I tried out a few different bluetooth keyboards at a store and that was the one that felt best in my hands. It was strange how few bluetooth wireless keyboards are around. Maybe there's a licensing thing involved. Still, it was neat to turn my little ipod touch into a much more useful writing machine.


Don't forget the Clamcase:

and the CruxCase:


Following a motoring analogy..... Why are you trying to use a mini (an iPad) as if it was a Land-Rover (all-purpose heavy-lifting vehicle) ??

The two are designed for different purposes. I could and will be snide and suggest that the iPad is just "marketed" - but then I have never swallowed the Jobs hype. Apple are just as bad as MicroShaft, just in a different way, that's all.


Interesting post.

I am looking to replace my current laptop, mainly due to it's massive weight (I went for a ruggardised one for reasons that made sense at the time). I was looking at the first iPads when they came out but all reviews said they were a complete pain in the clacker if you wanted to type anything longer then a twit.

So I have been holding back until back earlier in the year I saw that Samsung was going to release the PC7 Slider (which is sort of what happens if a tablet and a notebook love each other very much...) and got very excited. However nearly 5 months after that one was first mentioned the release dates have been, gone and completely disappeared.

Not happy and no real idea what to buy just now :(


Not happy and no real idea what to buy just now :(

If you plan to replace a laptop and expect to do a lot of typing, wait a month or so then buy the new Macbook Air when it ships with an i7 ULV processor. It will be the dog's bollocks, whether you go for the 13" full-sized version or the 11" netbook-sized model, and it'll feel at least 50% faster than the current corresponding airbook model. Which is already about the best combination of light/fast/good screen/good battery life on the laptop market.

(And if you're coming from PC land? Just buy one with a big enough SSD, add a retail pack of Win7 or a download image of Linux, and run Boot Camp, or install a VM like VirtualBox (free) or VMWare or Parallels (non-free). There's no need to switch operating systems if you don't want to.)


Charlie, just out of curiosity - what is your typing speed on hardware keyboard?


I don't know. But I do know that at 17, as a self-taught typist on a manual typewriter, I was doing 60 wpm. (Mostly by not using my little fingers, which weren't strong/long enough to hammer a manual 'board -- since then I've upgraded to full touch-typing.)

I have on occasion written 3000 words of magazine copy in an hour of wall-clock time, which suggests a sustained output speed of around 50wpm ... including thinking time and typo correcting time. But that tends to make my hands hurt if I keep it up for too long :)


50wpm * 60 * 5 = 15000 chars per hour. I've a notion that human factors people say that's about the fastest you should sustain (reports of data input clerks who can do 20_000 c/g all day notwithstanding).



An Eee Pad Transformer is sitting by me, currently having its first full charge, and it doesn't give any indication of wanting that Microsoft OS at all.

The keyboard is (a) chiclet-like, but (b) really rather nice. I'm rather tempted to go buy myself one too. (This on is C's)


I thought it was the thingy with the detachable screen that runs Android and the base that runs Win 7?


No. It's basically an Android tablet that can plug into a base, the base being a keyboard with trackpad and extra I/O connectors that effectively turns it into an Android notebook.

(You can also get it as a pure tablet - that option omits the base.)

I'm not sure what you're thinking of, but it'd cost a fair bit more just because of the Windows licensing cost. As it is, Honeycomb feels really quite nice as a notebook OS.


I see the right shift key is right next to the "up" arrow and on the wrong side of it. Sigh.

Asus keep pulling this shit with their keyboards -- it's as if they don't have any English-writing touch-typists on their design staff!


Verbatim do a folding iPhone/iPad Bluetooth keyboard. Doesn't seem to be obviously available in the UK yet though... may ask a US friend to bring one over.

Having used the Apple bluetooth keyboard, it's great but just too bulky. The iA Writer on-screen keyboard is just about useable, pity the font size isn't adjustable - I actually like to see more than six line of text at a time...

Charlie's right re the power-down for an Apple keyboard - hold down for 4 secs, green light flashes several times and keyboard is no longer available as a Bluetooth device on the the iPad.


And at the risk of stating the obvious, if you have a passcode/pin active on your iPad or iPhone and link to a Bluetooth keyboard, make sure you de-activate fully before they go in the same bag...


Ah yes, laptop keyboard layouts.

For quite a while I would look at 17" laptops, and wonder just why exactly it was that they had several inches of lost horizontal space when they could have done a full keyboard, complete with numeric keypad. Even Apple seem to have that problem.

But you say 'wrong side of the up arrow key'? You want the shift key to the right of the up arrow? That would so trip me up.


they could have done a full keyboard, complete with numeric keypad

I suspect that if they did it might not make sense calling something that large a 'Laptop'. I recently house-sat for some friends and used their 15" Acer laptop that had a numeric pad. My problem was that it offset the keyboard, and I kept hitting the wrong key since they weren't where they're supposed to be!--at least for me. And I discovered my dislike of black keyboards. Other than that it seemed decent, though the case around the monitor was a little flimsy.


I want a shift key at the right of the keyboard, where it belongs. And an inverted-T that's separated from the other keys, on the row below the shift key. Again, where they belong,.


Function hot keys left of the querty; cursor controls right of the querty; function keys above the qwerty; and numeric keypad right of the cursor controls.


Reading through the above posts and the prior entry about keyboards makes me wonder why computers have become worse at text entry rather than better. I would guess that the market didn't cry loud enough for more advanced text entry so we're stuck with miniscule chiclet keyboards, a reduction in functionality on those cheap wedges of plastic and total stagnation in new and helpful writing devices. Data entry is doing great with touchscreen interfaces and gesture-based interaction but for people who want to put words on a page there is a really strange inversion from what came before. The advances from manual typewriters to digital text entry were enormous, especially the first time you cut and pasted entire blocks of text rather than retyping from scratch. Well, I'm not satisfied any longer, where's my next revolution?


why computers have become worse at text entry rather than better

Well, for one thing an IBM Model M keyboard back in the day cost about as much as a netbook does now.

For another thing, Microsoft were handed a well-thought-out keyboard driven interface on a plate by IBM -- CUI -- and indeed deployed it in Windows 3.x, which was entirely keyboard-navigable. But from Windows 95 onwards they drifted away from rigorous consistency and keyboard control towards relying on the mouse, because WIMP interfaces were prettier and more appealing to non-computer-literate customers and the expansion of the use of computers through the 1990s and 2000s brought in lots of illiterates and non-typists.

So, race to the bottom. Although you can still find a decent keyboard if you need one ...


Charlie, slightly off topic, but: what do you think of Apple patenting technology to allow cell phone cameras to be turned off remotely? It seems like a really bad idea to me. I'd like to love Apple, but stuff like this makes it really difficult.

"In its patent application, Apple describes the technology as making it impossible to capture video or pictures at events where cameras and video recorders are prohibited. Your phone determines whether an image includes an infrared beam with encoded data. This data is sent from an emitter that directs the cellphone or a similar device to shut down image capture. Disabling emitters could be mounted on stages, throughout public squares or, conceivably, on police helmets." []


I haven't considered it, because:

(a) Windows, and (b) Android.

In other words, ergonomics and usability and design triumph over feature lists.

Doesn't sound like you care about ergonomics or usability (and by extrapolation) design.

You just seem to care about shiny-shiny.

What exactly do you want to do here Charlie?

If you want to type and you care about your WPM you DON'T get an ipad. get a proper tool to do the job. It shouldn't matter what it says on the side of the tin (i.e Android or Windows) it should matter that the tools you use do the job properly. If you've already forked out 400quid (or whatever it is) for something that you cannot even type properly with (and if you can what was the point of this article) then you are a fool.

You can pick up a netbook with SSD that already comes with a keyboard, weighs as much as an Ipad has similar battery life. and is smaller, Hey.. I even have USB slots (what this is the 21st century and a device doesn't have any USB slots?).

I can even plug any keyboard (and monitor if I need to) into my netbook without having to spend money on extras that will evidently only work with the Apple devices.

But I guess it isn't as sexy as an iPad.

By all means have a pop at the Operating Systems, but don't use it as an excuse to not take your head out of the sand and to say the ipad is terrible machine for productivity (of any significance) in so many ways not least because of how expensive it is for what it does.


I've got no problem with them patenting it. I'd have a really big problem if they actually implemented it.


What exactly do you want to do here Charlie?

Simple: a comparison of text input methods for the iPad. You're reading this too broadly. I'm not interested in an android or windows device because I don't own them. I own an iPad. Clear?

As for why I'm typing on the iPad -- it's because if it's the only gadget I've got to hand, I'll want to type on it. On a long trip I'd take a Macbook Air, an iPad, a Kindle for reading on, and an iPhone. For typing, the Airbook: for reading, the Kindle: for movies and RSS feeds and similar, the iPad. (Don't ask about the phone.) But that lot weighs around 2.5Kg in total, and sometimes I'm not carrying my entire office on my shoulder.


So much so that Windoze applications have started hiding the fact that common functionality (eg copypasta) even has keyboard controls! :MAD:


Sorry, I did not realize that it got pulled from the store (at least it's no longer there). The website of the developer does not provide any info (it's on "standby") and he has not yet replied to my email as to why. Maybe Apple was not happy with his Keyboard hack? I have no clue. Either way, if you are desperate for info on this I suggest you look to yourself. Would be a shame if this was abandoned, it's been my favorite productivity app by far and I think much better than iAwriter.


Anyone try these with the ipad?


Heh. No tactile feedback and I like the way all the promo videos and photographs are shown in a darkened room -- daylight? Not so much!


I believe if you hold the power button down for four seconds, the keyboard LED will flash and it'll switch off until the button is pressed again. Briefly pushing the button puts it to sleep but yes, it wakes up.

Correct you are. Apple store friend was wrong. I'll have to beat him with a wet noodle when I next see him.


The Apple Bluetooth keyboard does power off when you hold the button for four seconds, but the battery compartment spring gets weak over time, and if you jostle it just right the batteries disconnect and reconnect, which causes it to power back on.

So even protecting the button from being hit doesn't work: if you want your keyboard not to turn your iPad on in the carrying case, you have to disable bluetooth on the iPad before you pack up and move. A toggle switch would be nice; probably not impossible to dremel one in, considering how much excess aluminum there is on these keyboards.

Have you seen this iPad-specific bluetooth keyboard from Logitech? It looks interesting, but I can't tell if it has a hard switch or not. It sort of looks like it does. It looks like it gets less lift from the battery compartment than the Apple keyboard, and it comes with a case that doubles as a stand—a nice touch.

My main complaint about iPads and keyboards remains that the iPad keyboard API utterly prevents one from accessing non-ascii keys. You can't use meta shortcuts, and you can't use arrow keys. I hacked around this in an ssh app I wrote, but I can't sell it in the app store because it uses an undocumented private API. I guess this isn't a big problem for regular text entry, though.


Once Upon a Time when I was gainfully employed and devoted to warding of any intention by my Managers to give me Network Manager Privileges and make my utterly unqualified IT status really uncomfortable ?I'd be Summoned from time to time by the HELP DESK along the lines of .. Want help with the Vile Greek Cypriot Male Students and their ' I want a REAL Technician ' well you carefully prepare this Crib Sheet -as He calls it - and then..well do you read Terry P ? weel its a bit like having Death on call for this will be the third time this morning .. and Oh but I'm going to enjoy watching him stalk into 'our' IT resources centre ..that he doesn't really like very much .. which was true enough ..though, as well disposed to female techs as I am I could have done without ..ah, go on DO " Cower BRIEF Mortals " just for ME?

The thing is that I did possees the Authority to have aquired any number of IBM model M keyboards that did live in my Secret Squirrel Store Room after having been discarded from active use in favour of readily disgardible THROW AWAY Keyboards that came generation upon next generation of cheap kit .... and I ..SOB!!! ..didn't!

Thanks to our host ...Curses! Rude Baron! .. ?I've been browsing for a nice Ancient of Daze model M after my Lady friend complained bitterly about my newish curvy key board which fits my rather large and lumpy hands..

as an instantly goggled example.

Nearly £70 from e bay plus postage for an IBM model M ! and I could have had one or three for nothing way back when if I hadn't assumed that such things would get better and not worse..oh, woe is Me!


There are 2 folding keyboards available from the US Applestore that I don't see mentioned here. I haven't used either.

Matias is allegedly longer than the iPad when folded in half, but does have a full numeric keypad.

HiPPiH is smaller than the iPad when folded in half.

Personally I find that once you get used to the lack of travel on the glass, you can type fairly fast. The lack of special keys is of course a downer, but the bigger problem is getting the iPad into a position where you can both see and type - impossible while sitting at the bar in Starbucks for example.

There are a whole host of Markdown text editors, many with an extra row of keys for the Markdown syntax. In some cases these are programmable, which would get around the special key issue but that would no doubt warrant a whole new article.


The Matias bluetooth keyboard is full-width -- there's one on the shelf next to me. However, it's also full-weight: it weighs over 600 grams, as much as the ipad itself. Full sized keys and layout, which is good: but twice as heavy as a regular Apple USB full-width keyboard, which is not. Also, the hinge in the middle doesn't seem to want to lock rigidly flat, which is a major no-no in my books -- it bounces side-to-side when I type on it.

The other keyboard, the iEagle, weighs 0.97lb, which is to say 440 grams. Around 50% more than the keyboards I've been looking at, unless that's the weight with shipping package. (I generally dislike keyboards that hinge in the middle because you end up with two half-length space bars and losing the staggered offset of the 5-T-G-B column on a QWERTY layout. I make an exception for the Think Outside W-folder because it ingeniously preserves the staggered offset key layout.)


I ran into this iPad 2 keyboard review today, and the keyboard itself might be worth looking at: the price for the keyboard is pretty competitive.


Bruce, that looks like a variation on the ZAGG/Logitech keyboard case, aka ZAGGMate.

Pluses: nicer aluminium finished (curvy) and no plastic kick-stand to hold the iPad upright in the docking slot.

Minuses: it suffers from Chinese Right Shift Key Atrophy, like too damn many keyboards on machines from parts of the world with an ideographic character set: touch-typists will be livid because the right shift key is the size of a normal key, rather than easy to hit in combo with a character on the left side of the keyboard.


Report on my new iPad-specific bluetooth keyboard from Logitech -

Bill Gates once said that every time somebody brought an iPad to a meeting, they spent a lot of time fiddling around with it trying to make it into a laptop. For this whole arrangement to pass the Gates Test, it has to be possible to get to typing into the iPad in an eyeblink.

Secondly, the Jobs / Ive test: item passes if you can imagine Steve Jobs or Jonathan Ives using it; fail otherwise.

  • Key type: similar key mechanism to Apple wireless keyboards (not rubbery)
  • Length: less than 1cm longer than Apple wireless keyboard
  • Weight: 596g including the case. 384g without case. Apple wireless keyboard is 324g on the same scale.

  • Right shift key: not atrophied; actually as wide as the arrow key group and wider than the same shift key on the Apple keyboard.

  • iPad specific keys: plenty, including Home key on top left of keyboard, where ` and ~ are on Apple wireless keyboard
  • Fn key: gives access to `, ~ and iPad specific keys

  • Power switch: little slider top right, note that this is NOT inside the case.

  • Bluetooth switch: little button on the back, again not inside the case Power: 4 AAAs. Provided with Duracells already fitted.

Note, Duracell now make rechargeable AAA and AA cells which keep their charge for a long time. I use them for keyboards, trackpads and mice already. An important part of the strategy is a container to store spare charged batteries.

The case is rigid and is held together magnetically. The keyboard can slide in and out without opening the case. However, when you open the case, you can pop out a plastic insert which snaps together with the case to make a stand which you can prop the iPad on. This works, but is very fiddly and seems like it might be easily broken. However, it's not really necessary to use this stand if you have any other means to prop up the iPad.

Plus: good typing experience and iPad specific keys, complete with rigid case to protect keys in transit. Case has soft suede-like finish inside. Got keyboard working immediately without reading the instructions.

Minus: Instructions are printed on the INSIDE of the box. Helpful scissor marks are provided where you should cut the box apart if you want to read them. An extra yellow sticker is glued to the troublesome plastic insert, explaining how to click it together. The glue is rubber cement which can be removed readily, but this is still not a typical Apple unboxing experience. Do not attempt to assemble the tacky plastic insert in front of other people especially Bill Gates, Steve Jobs or Jonathan Ives.

Overall: Fine keyboard, good case, ideally use another way to prop up the iPad while typing.


Observation on the iPad 2 version of the Zagg/Logitech keyboard cover. I checked this out while I was in BestBuy. The key mechanisms in this version of the keyboard are similar to the "iPad-specific bluetooth keyboard" and Apple wireless keyboard, i.e. not rubbery. The right shift key is larger than a single letter key. It's definitely worth seeing this in person if you have an iPad 2.



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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on June 21, 2011 1:38 PM.

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