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Revisiting the iPad Keyboard Problem

By | Jan.03.13 | Daily Dispatch, Law Practice Management, Legal Technology, Productivity, Tablets

As the holiday season draws to a close, we’re celebrating Attorney at Work’s second year of delivering “one really good idea every day”—every working day, that is. During this holiday hiatus, we’ve been bringing back some of our most popular posts. Today, a discussion among a few of our favorite legal technologists about the iPad keyboard “problem,” and how to solve it. 

We’ve been hearing some mumbling among our iPad-owning colleagues lately. Something about the keyboard? Given that most iPad owners are passionately in love with the device, this grumbling is surprising. Is it an actual flaw? Or is it that we want the iPad to be something that it isn’t? Inquiring minds wanted to know. So we asked some of our iPad expert friends in the legal community to share their thoughts—and their personal solutions. Here’s what they said:

Jeff Richardson

“When I am typing something on my iPad that will be a paragraph or longer, I often use the Apple Wireless Keyboard. I love this Bluetooth keyboard because it has full-size, no-compromise keys. Indeed, it is the exact same keyboard that you get with many Apple desktop computers. But I am increasingly finding it useful to use the voice dictation feature that is built-in to the latest iPad (and iPhone) when I am in an environment where it is not awkward to speak out loud. I find that talking to my iPad is often the fastest and easiest way to respond to an email.”

Jeff Richardson is a Partner in the New Orleans office of Adams and Reese LLP, and publisher of iPhone J.D. Follow his iPhone and iPad tweets @iphonejd.

Reid Trautz

“I don’t try to stretch the functionality of the iPad. The iPad was designed for reading, watching and listening, not extended data entry. So my solution is not to use a keyboard for anything longer than a paragraph or two. I bought a Hype HY-1023-BT aluminum Bluetooth keyboard stand and case for $20 just to see if I liked a physical keyboard. It works, but only for short emails and notes. Instead of using a keyboard, try the free Dragon Dictation speech recognition app coupled with ear buds or earphones with an in-line microphone. You may be very surprised how productive this can be!”

Reid Trautz is Director of the AILA Practice & Professionalism Center. He was Chair of ABA TECHSHOW 2012, and he blogs at Reid My Blog!. Follow Reid @rtrautz.

Jim Calloway

“I have an Apple keyboard and a ZaggFolio for my iPad 2. I like them both at different times. The ZaggFolio makes the iPad more like a netbook. So it is a good tool if I am going to be typing notes for an extended period, like sitting in a CLE program for hours. But it also gets in the way if I want to pick up the iPad and use it like an iPad. The separate Apple keyboard works well because I can use the iPad as it was meant to be used at any time, but have the keyboard handy. But the downside is two separate things to carry. Not as good, if I am moving from room to room. On road trips the ZagFolio is also a protective cover when my iPad is in my computer bag with lots of other items.”

“The PMA Tips blog has me all ready to try out the new Touchfire keyboard. From the reviews, it looks like it could be a real winner. I hope to combine it with the original iPad 2 magnetic cover.”

Jim Calloway is Director of the Oklahoma Bar Association Management Assistance Program. a popular author and speaker on technology and practice management and blogger at Jim Calloway’s Law Practice Tips. Follow Jim @jimcalloway.

Joe Bahgat

“Keyboards? We don’t need no stinkin’ keyboards! When the iPad came out I didn’t even want one. Now, I can’t imagine not having one. Needless to say, I don’t think of the iPad as having a “keyboard problem.” It’s not a laptop/notebook computer, it is what it is—not a tablet, because that categorization implies that it’s an iPad knockoff—and it doesn’t have a keyboard.”

“Having said that it’s not a notebook, my iPad has replaced my MacBook Pro for just about everything except drafting and editing Microsoft Word documents. I do use it for writing, but when I do, I am usually writing in plain text (Byword and Evernote are my go-to apps, depending on the purpose), and 99 percent of the time I use the built-in screen typewriter. The other 1 percent, I’ll hook up one of my spare Apple wireless keyboards.”

“Even though I don’t use my iPad for the heavy lifting of drafting documents, it has nonetheless made me a better writer because it’s changed the way I write. This is probably because I use my iPad for the most important part of the writing process—everything that precedes the rough draft. I start my research on the iPad and, whether it’s bona fide, black-letter law, reading briefs, treatises, or other ebooks, searching PACER, or even garden variety Internet research, it’s so easy to get my thoughts down and organized (oftentimes clipped into Evernote). If I’m writing an article or appellate brief, or preparing for trial or oral argument, I almost always create a mind map (using iThoughts HD). After going through that process, my message or argument is much more focused, and I spend a lot less time creating sections and headings (which, in my opinion, is the most important and daunting task in effective legal writing).”

“The bottom line: Don’t get caught up in trying to make the iPad something that it isn’t. If you really need the functionality of a computer, get a MacBook Air.”

Joseph A. Bahgat is a trial attorney at Baghat Law LLC. He blogs at Sports & Entertainment Law Playbook, and you can follow him @NJatty.

Marc Matheny

“I have used a Bluetooth keyboard since day one, on my iPad. I use a Brookstone iPad Keyboard Case, which I find convenient, but which is not one of the more popular models. I cannot use the iPad keyboard for any useful word processing, note-taking and so forth, so whenever there is much typing to do, I use the Bluetooth keyboard. The Brookstone comes with its own case, which I find very convenient and it protects the iPad well.”

Marc W. Matheny is a general practitioner in Indianapolis and frequent speaker on law technology topics. Follow him @Indysoloesq.

Carol Gerber

“I only use the iPad’s on-screen keyboard, and I have found that a three-part solution works for me.

  1. The best way that I’ve found to speed up my iPad typing is to slow down. At regular keyboard-frenzy speed, my iPad just can’t keep up with my fingers, but if I slow down ever so slightly I find that my iPad has no problem keeping up with me.
  2. Switching between iPad keyboards also slows my writing process down. You can avoid switching keyboards if you learn the ‘swipe up’ shortcuts, like swiping up on the comma to get a single parenthesis, or perfect the ‘tap, hold and slide’ move that lets you tap and hold the number keyboard key and then slide to the @, for example. When you pick your finger up, you’ll type that character and get your main keyboard back automatically without having to switch back to it.
  3. Finally, I use shortcuts for contact information, alternate signatures and other things that I type often and want to type quickly and correctly. Go to ‘Settings/General/Keyboard/Add New Shortcut … ‘ to enter a ‘Phrase’ (the fully-expanded text that you want to end up with on your iPad’s screen) and the ‘Shortcut’ (the unique, memorable abbreviation that you will type to prompt the iPad to insert the Phrase).”

Carol J. Gerber is owner of Gerber Amalgamated LLC, and a frequent contributor to Attorney at Work. Follow her @CGerberlegal.

How About You?

How do you handle the iPad keyboard issue? Leave a comment, please.

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3 Responses to “Revisiting the iPad Keyboard Problem”

  1. Vivian Manning
    3 January 2013 at 8:35 am #

    I use the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover. It acts as a Smart Cover for the ipad, is very light and thin. The ipad can be used vertically or horizontally.

    I’ve taken minutes for 3 hour meetings using it, and find the keyboard comfortable and responsive,despite its small size. It has been my iPad’s constant companion since I purchased it.

  2. Bill Latham
    3 January 2013 at 10:30 pm #

    I also use the logitech ultrathin. It’s great. See my video review at http://hytechlawyer.com/?p=1291

  3. Devan Bennett
    4 January 2013 at 3:21 am #

    I’ve been using a Touchfire keypad with huge success. I take almost all of my notes on the iPad now. It’s a sheet of clear silicone that sits on the surface of the iPad, over the iPad. It has raised “keys” that allow you to touch-type using the on-screen keyboard.

    It’s thin enough to just flop over the back of the keyboard. If you use a smart cover, out will also stick to it with magnets (if you’re using a real case, it will only kind-of stick at best).

    Every time I whip it out, someone comments on it. Next to my case (the Fit Folio), it’s the best accessory I have.


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