As much as we iPad devotees say we can type just fine with the on-screen virtual keyboard, truth be told taping on-screen gets old after a few paragraphs. Oh sure, for writing an email, updating Twitter, chatting on Facebook, the on-screen keyboard is fine. And yes, with practice, you can type pretty quickly on it. Saying you’re “touch typing” is a little generous though. You can get pretty fast, but without the tactile response of a real keyboard, I’d say touch typing it isn’t. So then, what about hooking up a keyboard to your iPad? It’s easy (Bluetooth FTW), not too expensive (I’ve seen options in the <$30 range), and can turn your iPad into a real workhorse, so what to pick? Over the next while and over a series of posts I’m going to talk about the various options (even a non-Bluetooth way!) so you can turn your iPad into a real typing machine. First up, the simple and basic Apple Wireless Keyboard.
From the start Apple suggested the Apple Wireless Keyboard as a great way to extend the abilities of the iPad. Okay, Apple also launched the iPad keyboard dock which, well, sucked. But let’s stay on task here and talk about the Wireless Keyboard. You’ve probably seen it already. It’s the standard keyboard that comes with the iMac. At $69 this nice Bluetooth keyboard doesn’t break the bank and and be used with your MacBook (or even a PC!) as well as your iPad. The key feel (this is essential folks) is awesome—just like the Apple Wired keyboard—it’s just smaller. Nope, no number pad here, but it is light, compact, and durable (though mine got a little bent somehow). The keyboard needs a couple AA batteries to run it and I’ve found that they last a long while even if you use the keyboard a lot.
Since it’s a Bluetooth keyboard, pairing it with your iPad is easy. Just head to Settings->General->Bluetooth, turn on the keyboard and pair. Once paired there are some really important things to know. First, if the keyboard gets turned on in your bag, it will connect even if your iPad is locked/asleep. Which also means that if your iPad has a passcode just moving around in your bag will likely start “entering” codes for you. I got locked out of my iPad for a good hour once because of that. Since then when I travel with the keyboard I flip one of the batteries backwards so it can’t turn on. Also, once paired and on, you pretty much lose access to the on-screen keyboard. Some keyboard I’ve found will let you pull it back up, but I haven’t found a way for the Apple one to do the same.
Pros: Inexpensive, works out of the box, works with other Macs you might have as well as other computers, light, relatively small. Great key feel and typing ability. Replaceable batteries so you can swap out fast without needing to stop and “recharge”. Separate unit, so positioning the keyboard to suit is easy.
Cons: Bulky. If you carry a slim iPad bag that doesn’t fit much else, carrying this keyboard too can be awkward. Have to keep an eye on battery levels (it’s a good idea to keep spare batteries handy). If you’re looking for a compact solution that just slides in your bag with your iPad, this isn’t it.
Final word: I bought one of these keyboards when I got my first gen iPad two years ago. I really love the key feel and the ability to type fast on it. Also as a backup keyboard for other Macs at home, it’s a serious plus. On the downside it becomes an extra thing to tote with you. Not and sleek and cool as a folio or integrated unit, though. If you already tote your iPad in a bad with some extra space, this is a solid option to carry with you all the time. Use it if you need it, keep it stowed if you don’t. Just remember, if you have the keyboard in your bag I recommend flipping one battery so it doesn’t turn itself on in your bag!
The cable-free Apple Wireless Keyboard uses Bluetooth technology to connect with your Mac or iPad. It gives you the freedom to move the keyboard just about anywhere within range and wirelessly type away. And its slim, compact design takes up much less space on your desk.
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