Last fall, I wrote about the technology I use on campus at SPSU. At the time, it included my iPod Touch (now replaced with an iPhone) and my MacBook Pro. Last semester, I did a ton of in-class writing for English. The class did take place in a computer lab, but I preferred to bring my own laptop so I didn’t have to fiddle with saving my work to a thumb drive. This semester, I just assumed that my class would work the same way. Well, it doesn’t. The professor is running it as a mostly online course, and we barely meet in class at all. This means that I do all my writing at home, not at school. For some reason, though, I kept bringing my laptop anyway. I realized over spring break that about the only thing I use the laptop for at school is writing this little blog I do called Staring at Phones. Then it hit me: what if I could do that on my iPad Mini, using a Bluetooth keyboard?
First, I knew I’d have to make some sacrifices. Microsoft Word for iPad is pretty good, but not quite as good as Word for Mac. If I ever needed to do any writing, it would be a little bit of a pain. Also, I can’t upload documents to my online assignment submission from the iPad. However, I figured that I could always submit when I got home, or if I absolutely had to submit right then I could go to the library and use a computer there. So I decided that the hurdles wouldn’t be too big of a deal.
Then I needed a keyboard. I wasn’t yet sure if this would really work out, so before buying a keyboard, I borrowed one that my dad had but didn’t really use. I used this on campus for about two weeks (in fact, last week’s post was written on it), and decided…
…that I was still a little unsure. However, I was intrigued enough to go ahead and buy a keyboard, since my dad’s is a little cramped. It’s meant to be a cover for an iPad, so it’s narrower than a laptop keyboard. Since I have an iPad Mini, a keyboard cover is completely impractical anyway, so I wanted a full-sized keyboard. I found what looked to be a good one on Amazon* for only $11 (with Prime shipping). It had good reviews, and I thought that for $11, it was worth the risk.
I’ve had the keyboard for about a week now, and so far it’s working well (I’m using it to write these very words). I definitely like leaving my laptop at home; it’s much easier to just grab my iPad as I go and let the keyboard live in my backpack. The keyboard is the exact same size as my laptop keyboard, and the layout is a total ripoff of an Apple keyboard. This all means I get the same typing experience that I do on my laptop, which is really nice. I’m using the WordPress mobile app to write posts, and so far it’s working pretty well. It’s surprisingly robust. It doesn’t quite have all the features that WordPress.com has, but I’ve found I can write a post on the iPad and then tidy up the little details the next day when I’m on the computer. So it’s been working out OK.
The one thing I don’t like about the keyboard is that it’s really loud. That’s not that big of a deal, but it is a little annoying. Also, the Bluetooth connection sometimes drops out; I’m still unsure whether this is going to be a real problem or just a minor annoyance.*
In conclusion, I really like using an iPad as my school “computer.” It’s so much lighter than my laptop, and the tools for content creation are getting better all the time. (To be fair, though, the whole reason I’m using the iPad is because I’m not creating as much content.) The iPad is a fascinating device, and it will be interesting to see where it goes as a productivity machine in the next few years. I’ve got high hopes for it. ••
*Update 4/9/15: The keyboard I bought is a little finicky. The connection drops out from time to time, sometimes constantly so it’s impossible to use. I’ve removed the link above, and I don’t recommend that you buy it (the link is here in case you still want to look at it).