AMITIAE - Saturday 8 December 2012

Apple Wireless Keyboard: Trying to Work More with the iPad

apple and chopsticks


By Graham K. Rogers

Apple wireless keyboard

In the last year or so, I have had a couple of stabs at moving more of my daily work over to the iPad, but have always ended up doing most of the writing on my Macs and transferring what I need over to the iOS devices. After a couple of failed attempts, I finally went for an Apple wireless keyboard which gives me far better input than I have been able to produce before.

I shall blame Jason Snell of MacWorld for my latest attempt. He made me jealous when he wrote of the way he is able to work more with the iPad, and told readers that he is able to input a (to me) staggering 120 words per minute, although unlike him I often resort to pen and paper, especially when testing or installing (software or hardware) and certainly for presentations.

A few months ago my second attempt to shift to the iPad (the first was with the iPad built-in keyboard) involved the use of a fairly nice looking, locally marketed case for the iPad with a combined Bluetooth keyboard: the Neolution Bluetooth Keyboard case for 1796 baht. At that time, I had considered the Apple wireless keyboard, but decided the weight penalty was too much. After a few days with the Neolution case I was not so sure. That had its own extra weight with the case and keyboard structure; but then the keyboard was not always as accurate as I wanted.

A colleague who had already proved to me that it was possible to type on the iPad keyboard had a go and said it was reasonable, but that even she was missing one or two of the keys as the length of travel was not consistent. For around another 600 baht ($18) I should have taken the leap to the Apple product.

I have just typed four small paragraphs with that Apple wireless keyboard - making a few corrections on the way - and see that I have a dozen uncorrected errors to fix before I finalise the text. There is nothing unusual there for my output and I could probably improve this, but I am working straight out of the box with the keyboard on my knees and the iPad on a table to one side. I am not looking at the screen as I type, so I am asking for trouble really, but this is beginning to seem like the solution I should have gone for months ago.

I do a lot of work in WriteRoom on the iMac at work and on the iPad (sometimes the iPhone too) which synchronises almost seamlessly via Dropbox. Once on the workhorse MacBook Pro, I can quickly copy the text into the software I use. The wireless keyboard is edging me to more use of the iPad as a creative vehicle, on top of the photo-editing and graphics work I can already do.

Apple wireless keyboard

Unlike some markets, accessories may not always be available here. For example, in the late 1980s when computers were just becoming available, the number of outlets where basic things like connectors and cables could be bought, were few and far between. Software was a whole different story and the rampant piracy that has existed here for many years was due in part because developers would not (would not) sell to users here, in case of piracy: their argument creating the very monster it was meant to defeat.

When I began looking for a keyboard that would suit the iPad I had a choice of two. Amazon will not ship hardware here, Logitech had not made their keyboard products available and there was precious little else. Apple is a bit of a white knight here as most of the products (and accessories) are available, either in the iStudio shops, or via the online store. There were hundreds of cases, loads of screen protectors, but only the two keyboards.

For reasons I have put here and in the article I wrote at the time I bought the Neolution keyboard and cover, I decided against the Apple product.

Having made the decision to buy the Apple wireless keyboard at last, I picked it up at one of the two iStudio outlets that are within 500 metres of where I live now. The young man who served me was polite and asked me first if I wanted one with the dual language keys (English and Thai). As friends will probably use this, that was a Yes. It was in my hands within a couple of minutes after I parted with my 2,390 baht ($49 in the USA): the same price as the Magic Mouse and the Magic Trackpad.

I also asked him a couple of questions about RAM (I want more). He told me that the other store a couple of floors lower down would be able to do this. When I asked the cost, there was a wonderful moment when he told me "I don't know". Anyone who has been in Thailand for a while will grasp the significance of that candid response.

Back home I ripped off the wrapping and opened the box: always a great moment with Apple products as the user first lays hands on the device. The angle of the keys - as well as the on/off button and the battery access - are reminiscent of the Magic Trackpad I have at work. As with that device, I pressed the button and a light was shown, indicating the keyboard was discoverable. In the Bluetooth Settings of the iPad, I saw that the new keyboard was now shown. When I touched the list item, I was asked to type in a number. I did this, pressed Enter. The job was done.

Apart from a few typing errors that is.

Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs.



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