Writing Tools: Hardware

I’ve been blogging for over ten years, but I’ve been doing it much more intentionally over the last several weeks. On my old blog, I’d write a post whenever it occurred to me do so and I happened to have the time. In the early days, that was often once a day; in later years, it was twice a week at most, and sometimes nothing for several weeks or months. But this is a new start, and I’ve made a commitment to myself to have at least one post up every day. That means doing a lot more writing, and it means writing in more locations.

It’s odd. I’ve written as part of my profession for over twenty-five years, but it’s only now that I’m trying to write semi-professionally.

Anyway, in order to write you need the right hardware. Me, I like to type. My dad built a minicomputer from a kit when I was fourteen; it had a dumb terminal, and I saw the writing on the wall and learned to touch type in high school (do they still teaching typing in school?). I think I got a C in the class—I was too slow on the old manual typewriters we used, and I was too used to having a “delete” key to be really accurate—but I’ve been touch-typing in my possibly idiosyncratic way ever since.

I used to like to write while sitting in a recliner with my feet up and a laptop on my lap. I was relaxed, I was comfortable, and I could sit that way and work for hours. I can’t do that anymore, possibly because I used to sit and work that way for hours. My neck and shoulders began to complain, and so I replaced my laptop with an iMac and learned to sit up straight. I like my iMac, and I especially like the Apple bluetooth keyboard that came with it. Some people criticize it because of the minimal key travel, but it works for me. I can type quickly and happily, and all is good.

But on the other hand, I’m not always working at my desk. What to use while I’m out and about, as I so often am? Turns out, you really can do serious writing on an iPad, at least for first drafts. You need the right software (of which more another time)…and you need some hardware. It’s possible, sort of, to touch-type using the on-screen keyboard, and I’ve been known to do that, but it’s no one’s idea of a good time.

A couple of years ago I reflected that the iPad supports bluetooth keyboards, and that I really like my Apple bluetooth keyboard…and so I bought one to go with the iPad. It’s not something I could carry everywhere, but if I was going out specifically to write, I’d bring it along. It’s not too big, and it fits in the little backpack I use, with room for the iPad and a couple of trade paperbacks. I wrote an entire novel using the iPad and that keyboard. And then I got involved in some other projects for about six months, and the Apple Wireless Keyboard uses AA batteries, and when I picked it up a few weeks ago and tried to open the battery compartment to put new batteries in it so that I could do some blogging on the go, I discovered that the batteries had done what batteries do, and the battery compartment was corroded shut, and I couldn’t get it open. I still can’t. Hmmm. Perhaps a keyboard that takes AA batteries isn’t the best investment if you’re not going to use it every day.

Consequently, I’m typing these words on a Logitech Keyboard Cover for iPad. It attaches magnetically to the side of the iPad just like Apple’s own flip cover does; when closed, it looks like a little teeny laptop. To use it, you separate the two pieces, and slide the iPad into the stand built in to the keyboard.

It works pretty well. The keys are small, but not too small for my fingers; it’s not uncomfortable, I don’t hit any more wrong keys than usual, and I can type faster than I can think of things to type, which is all I need. It takes up considerably less room in my backpack than the Apple keyboard, and you recharge it by connecting it to a USB port. The docs claim that one charge is good for about two hours of typing a day for six weeks, which is enough that you don’t even need to worry about it most of the time. The only problem I’ve had with it is that once it got stuck in key repeat mode: whatever key I pressed would just continuing being entered into the current document. Turning the keyboard off and then on again handled that, and it hasn’t come back.

I’ve not tried the other iPad keyboard cases on the market, so I can’t compare it; but it’s working for me.

Update: Or is it? I was using it today, and was getting all sorts of doubled characters. Odd. I’ll continue to use it, and post any additional experience with it.

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