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Keyboards and “tablets”, and writing

It seems to me that people who love the Microsoft Surface RT because of its keyboard (for example, Jeff Atwood) just needed to buy a Zagg keyboard for iPad.[1]

Jeff Atwood does indeed make a good point about keyboards and tablets in general:

On screen keyboards get the job done, but if I have to scrawl more than a Twitter length reply to someone on a tablet or phone, it’s so much effort that I just avoid doing it altogether, postponing indefinitely until I can be in front of a keyboard. By the time that happens I’ve probably forgotten what I wanted to say in the first place, or that I even needed to reply at all. Multiply that by millions or billions, and you have a whole generation technologically locked into a backwater of minimal communication. Yelp, for example, does not allow posting reviews from their mobile app because when they did, all they got was LOL OMG raspberry poop Emoji.

Most people who know me also know I’m part-time working on a PhD in a non-technology field.[2] One that therefore involves lots and lots of writing; not to put too fine a point on it, but I do a lot of my thinking with a keyboard.

My friend Robert commented on Facebook that; “I don’t feel a great need to carry the keyboard with the iPad, personally.” and I have to say I feel the polar opposite to him on that point.

The reason I like the Zagg keyboard with my iPad 2 is because I’m never sure when i want to write with it. If they keyboard is just “at home” then I’m never far away from a real computer with a real keyboard (I still use the wired ones because I prefer them) or even, a laptop. For writing, i.e. getting out complex ideas quickly without interrupting flow, a keyboard is supreme (for the moment at the least). For example, when I went to Los Angeles six weeks ago (a 14 hour flight from Brisbane) I had the iPad with the Zagg with me on the plane and I had a compelling thought that was going to feed into a paper I am writing for ASCS 2013 conference; I was able to quickly churn out about 1200 words for the paper right there on the plane. Now I also had the laptop (a MacBook Pro 15″) on the plane in the overhead locker, but really, the iPad with the Zagg keyboard is exactly perfect for this.

Also, when I’m at uni sometimes I haul it out and go and and sit somewhere nice outside (rather than at my desk with the Mac) and write few paragraphs. In fact I find it ideal for getting a good uninterrupted writing flow happening; I’m not so tempted to waste all that flow with cross-checking against all my references in Papers or hunting down new ones. I can get my ideas down freely, bring it back to the computer and desk (with books) and spend time there double-checking the references and doing new research. So I need the keyboard with my iPad at all times. The Zagg allows me to do that and I don’t have to type into MS Word on the Surface.

[1]. This was originally a tweet.

[2]. Incidentally, that is the reason why I have a lot less hard-core programming and application architecture posts on this blog; Outside of work, most of my thinking about technology is about things that do or don’t get in the way of me being able to spend my time researching and writing; and at work, I’m engaged on a mission critical and time sensitive project for a very high profile company that I best not share my technology opinions on until it’s complete.

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