iPad for iProse: diss-iPointing?
July 16, 2010 8:52 AM   Subscribe

iPad + wireless keyboard as a semi-serious writing tool?

I haven't splurged on anything in quite a while, and I'm on the cusp of buying an iPad which -- with a Mac wireless keyboard -- I hope will do all the things an iPad is supposed to, but also let me write.

This'd be writing in short bursts, on lunch breaks at work, moving from room to room if I feel like I'm stagnating, jotting things down in the middle of the night, etc. Not eight hours cranking out a novel, but downtime writing and short-sprint creative work.

Is this a bad idea? I'm aware of netbooks, but they just seem like "sub-laptops" and not, well, their own thing like the iPad is. I'm also planning on using the iPad for, well, iPaddy stuff -- the Internet, eBooks, movie-watching, etc. But the writing part is a significant part of the purchase idea -- something light, portable, and fast-booting that I can set up at the drop of a hat and spend 15-20 minutes writing with.
posted by Shepherd to Computers & Internet (22 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I survive on cut and paste and based on the iPhone, it is much more difficult to highlight text on a touch screen.
posted by 2bucksplus at 8:54 AM on July 16, 2010

I think it would work well. There are already quite a few good note taking apps on the iPad, plus there is Pages. The keyboard works really well. The keyboard and the iPad taken together are still quite light and pretty portable. The bluetooth keyboard will definitely be nicer to type on than any Netbook keyboard, I suspect.
posted by chunking express at 8:57 AM on July 16, 2010

MetaFilter's own Charlie Stross has been experimenting with the iPad while traveling, and wrote about it a bit here. You might drop him a line for more insight.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 9:02 AM on July 16, 2010

Honestly, as huge Apple fan, this seems like overkill. Do you really want be moving an iPad and it's keyboard around, when laptop computer with it's all in one design is much easier to move?

If all the other features of the iPad are tipping the scales, great, but again it sounds like overkill if writing in the way you posted above is supposed to be a main goal of the device.
posted by new brand day at 9:02 AM on July 16, 2010

Best answer: new brand day: "Do you really want be moving an iPad and it's keyboard around, when laptop computer with it's all in one design is much easier to move?"

Speaking as an enraptured iPad owner of 7 days duration: The difference is that you can literally keep the iPad within arm's reach every minute of the day. It reduces the time required to start working to something like three seconds. Hence, there is essentially no downtime it can't fill. We're talking about elevator rides between floors now. There's no way a laptop competes with that.
posted by Joe Beese at 9:18 AM on July 16, 2010

I agree. I think the iPad is much more portable and less cumbersome. I don't use it for extended writing, but I do think it's probably easier to toss the ipad and keyboard around most anywhere than it would be to lug a MacBook around.
posted by chunking express at 9:21 AM on July 16, 2010

I'm not sure whether it's really a good writing tool in practice, but when the iPad was on the verge of coming out, half the bloggers I know were heavily into fantasizing about how perfect a setup this would be. It might have just been gadget lust, or trying to convince yourself that this new toy is going to be super useful to your work. But there was a lot of talk about using it for exactly the purpose you want to put it to - casual bursts of writing, on the go.

I mean, I don't think it's much better than a notepad for jotting down personal notes on the fly, but would I blog on it? Sure, if they keyboard is actually functional and feels right to type on. Especially if I could work smoothly in google docs.
posted by Sara C. at 9:30 AM on July 16, 2010

Response by poster: (as portability goes: I'm currently working with a leather crafter on Etsy to find a way to make a pad + keyboard sleeve that I can slip both the iPad and the keyboard into and out of for transport).
posted by Shepherd at 9:36 AM on July 16, 2010

I'm aware of netbooks, but they just seem like "sub-laptops" and not, well, their own thing like the iPad is.

Dunno about the iPad but I get a lot of use out of a netbook running Ubuntu for the writing purposes you mention. It takes a few seconds to wake up but that's probably equivalent to the time you'd spend fiddling with the keyboard.

Though it has to be said I;ve not particularly used it for the other, more iPaddy things.
posted by Artw at 9:41 AM on July 16, 2010

Metafilter's own cstross is pretty happy with his for light writing duties and as an effective laptop replacement for short periods, it would seem.
posted by Happy Dave at 9:44 AM on July 16, 2010

Balls, should have previewed.
posted by Happy Dave at 9:45 AM on July 16, 2010

Best answer: I use mine for writing all the time. (I've done it both ways, using the onscreen keyboard and using a regular keyboard.) Often I'll use the iPad for drafting stuff -- writing a rough draft of a chapter, or jotting down ideas that surface in the middle of the night or first thing in the morning or whenever, or writing when I'm on the road -- and then when it's time for real refining/editing work, I'll send myself those files and break out my laptop (because I like to work in Scrivener for the big project I'm currently working on). But it's been very useful, and I have no complaints. The battery's great, it doesn't overheat like my laptop, it's super convenient... I've probably written 30K words on the thing over the past month or so.
posted by mothershock at 10:54 AM on July 16, 2010

Lifehacker describes this very setup as The Holy Grail Of Ubiquitous Plain Text Capture.
posted by Ian A.T. at 11:45 AM on July 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm aware of netbooks, but they just seem like "sub-laptops" and not, well, their own thing like the iPad is.

Your mushy arguments against netbooks make no sense. A 10" netbook would be ideal for the task you want to accomplish! They are light, portable, the keyboard is included, and the battery will last long enough that you shouldn't have to boot it very often. But if shiny Appleness and "iPaddy stuff" is worth a few extra dollars to you, it sounds like you'd be happier with an iPad.
posted by oulipian at 1:16 PM on July 16, 2010

Best answer: I do exactly this and find that iPad + wireless keyboard suits my needs perfectly. In addition to the lack of downtime that Joe Beese mentioned, I can use the iPad in any position. Lying down, at a cafe, on the couch, on a train, in the grass, etc. It doesn't get hot like a laptop does and it has great battery life, so I can use it almost anywhere without thinking twice. It's an extremely comfortable, usable device.
posted by a sourceless light at 1:30 PM on July 16, 2010

I've been messsing around with taking notes for work and personal uses in Pages on mine. It's not bad. I'm pretty happy with it. My only drawback is that so far I'm using a full size logitech bluetooth keyboard because I happened to have an extra one at work, and it's too big to spontaneously haul around with the iPad.

I'm debating an apple bluetooth keyboard in the very near future to see if that makes me a little more likely to run with it.
posted by BZArcher at 2:09 PM on July 16, 2010

I agree about a netbook maybe not being ideal, if only because the keyboard is scaled down oddly. I'm sure I'd get used to if if I had one, but if I didn't have either product I'd probably be more likely to go with the iPad as a stand-alone gadget I want, with the added benefit of being able to include a keyboard. It seems a little more multi-tasky to me.

Though I already have a laptop, so I have a whole other set of parameters for my ideal lifetime electronics configuration.
posted by Sara C. at 2:15 PM on July 16, 2010

From one reviewer:
In DC, I did little more than web surfing and check email. But on the way home Wednesday evening (with still 40% of juice left on the machine), I needed to work on a long document I was writing in Word. I had emailed it to myself before leaving on the trip, so it was waiting for me in Gmail. I clicked the link, and Google Docs opened it up for me. A button asked me if I wanted to open it up in Pages, Apple's word processor. I said I did, and I was suddenly faced with a 30-page document requiring heavy editing. Hmmm. The onscreen keyboard wasn't going to cut it here if I wanted to be efficient, and I did.

So I ignored the airline's prohibition against "any device that transmit signals, such as a cellphone or Bluetooth device", and fired up my Bluetooth keyboard. It synched up perfectly and the plane didn't crash. Success! I twittered my rule breaking so everyone knew I was such a rebel (did I mention how great Tweetdeck is on the iPad? Stellar!), and then got to work.

I propped up the iPad on the tray table, the keyboard on my lap, and got to work. And I've got to say, there was ZERO difference between the work I was doing, and doing it on my laptop. It was just as fast and efficient. The word processor worked great. Note, I wasn't doing fancy shit like version controls, track changes, adding footnotes, or things like that. This is not a full-fledged word processor, and had I needed that kind of functionality, I would've been SOL. But I didn't need those bells and whistles, so I was golden. BETTER than golden, because I worked on that machine the entire six-hour flight without having to worry about power, something that would've been impossible with my laptop.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 8:49 PM on July 16, 2010

Response by poster: Quick follow-up: I went for it! And it's going very, very well after Week One: the chief problem I have isn't that the iPad + keyboard isn't good for writing, but that the iPad is the ultimate distraction device. But it's turning into a great five-minutes-free tool for filling time with writing -- especially a project that's composed of a lot of microchapters that I've been meaning to get around to for years but hadn't yet.
posted by Shepherd at 10:47 AM on July 26, 2010

Those of you using bluetooth keyboards with the ipad's -- how do you set the keyboard and ipad up so that you can type comfortably, and see the ipad screen?
posted by garlic at 2:41 PM on October 7, 2010

I use a GorillaPod as a make shift stand. I also made one out of a coat hanger. I also sometimes just lay it flat on a table. That's not so ideal.

Also, both Writer and Plaintext are pretty slick text editors for the iPad.
posted by chunking express at 3:57 PM on October 7, 2010

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