What Experts Do

The iPad Keyboard “Problem”

By | Aug.08.12 | Daily Dispatch, Productivity, Tablets

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”—email the editors, or leave a comment, please.

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12 Responses to “The iPad Keyboard “Problem””

  1. Lisa Solomon
    8 August 2012 at 9:38 am #

    Because my 17″ laptop is fairly heavy gets such pathetic battery life, I use my new ipad 3 to work whenever I’m out of the office. I can’t imagine *not* having a keyboard.

    I didn’t want to break the bank with a case and keyboard, so I knew I’d be getting a case/keyboard combo. After extensive research, I chose a keyboard/case combo by QQ Tech that is available only at Amazon (http://tinyurl.com/cj55zmw). The keyboard was a snap to set up and the keys have a good feel. The case is stylish in an understated way (well, it would be more understated if I hadn’t gotten the red one 🙂 but, even so, it still looks professional).

    The very first day I took the ipad out in the QQ Tech case/keyboard, a friend saw it and was interested in it. I demonstrated some of my favorite features, such as how the keyboard is removable, yet “clicks” back into the case magnetically. The keyboard’s battery life is phenomenal (when it does need a charge, it charges using your ipad charging cable).

    In sum, a great keyboard/case combo for a great price.

  2. Nancy Myrland
    8 August 2012 at 9:55 am #

    Great post! I am a fairly new owner of an iPad, and look forward to incorporating some of the apps and practices mentioned above. My heavy laptop is too much to carry everywhere, so I will try to learn how to use it as a replacement for travel.

    I have a ZaggFolio, also, and like the feel of they keyboard. It’s only slightly smaller than my laptop keyboard, so I just have to make sure I practice enough to feel comfortable typing at a good clip so I’m ready for my next conference or on-the-go blog post.

    We’ll see….one of these days I might actually venture in to a MacBook Air, but for now, this is my entry product in to the Apple world.

  3. Adrian Dayton
    8 August 2012 at 10:05 am #

    Love the iPad, hate using it for content creation.

    I was hoping that buying the iPad would decrease my luggage, but the opposite is the case. Now I take my iPad AND my suitcase with me when I travel.

    I give a lot of presentations and write a lot. These are essential tasks to my work, and the iPad keyboard just doesn’t hack it for me. Even if I had a bluetooth keyboard, it still wouldn’t be the same because I can’t cut and paste and grab screen shots as easily.

    The iPad doesn’t just have a keyboard problem, it has a content creation problem. I still love it though.

  4. Jim Brashear
    8 August 2012 at 10:07 am #

    I have the Logitech ultrathin Bluetooth keypad cover for the iPad and love it. It gives the iPad the look and feel of a mini MacBook.


  5. Pryce Tucker
    8 August 2012 at 2:20 pm #

    I have two keyboards. I use the Apple keyboard dock on my desk. That way, my iPad is always charged (or at least charging) and ready for use. It’s perfect for entering time and taking notes without interrupting whatever task I’m working on with my PC. And since I started using the Notability app for my case file notes (with automatic syncing to Dropbox for backup), I always have access to my notes as long as I have my iPad—which is significantly better than lugging around multiple legal pads.

    On the road, I use the Logitech Bluetooth keyboard/stand/carrying case combo. Like Apple’s keyboard dock, this keyboard is nearly full size, which is great for my clumsy fingers. It has a sturdy, hard-plastic carrying case that converts into an iPad stand. I find that it works well on airplane seatback trays and conference tables.

  6. Mark Smith
    9 August 2012 at 1:48 am #

    I bought the logitech ultra thin bluetooth keyboard off the back of the review on this site, and absolutely love it.

  7. William Balena
    9 August 2012 at 1:09 pm #

    A few weeks back my ipad 2 slipped out of my briefcase and fell about a foot and a half landing on edge, shattering the screen. $249 later for the relplacement, I decided to move away from just the magnetic cover to a case. Only then did I even consider a keyboard. Ultimately I bought the Logitech Solar Keyboard Folio. It is thinner than most folios and has a bluetooth keyboard. It charges with a solar panel on the cover. It was a bit pricey at $129.00, but I find it works great. The last thing I wanted in my briefcase was another cable to charge a keyboard.

  8. Nancy Patterson
    3 September 2012 at 9:07 am #

    Your article inspired some really great threads here and on LinkedIn, and I was inspired to write this post recently about the upcoming iPad keyboard BRYDGE, Like Carol Gerber, I prefer the on-screen approach, but I am intrigued by the potential Brydge has:


  9. A
    28 September 2012 at 11:17 pm #

    If I have a thought, a creative thought, and I want to jot it down before I lose it, I need to type quick. When I have a thought I have to type as fast as I can or I will lose that thought. But when I type fast on my ext keyboard for my ipad, both made by apple, something besides cerative thoughts happen. I am interrupted by the virtual keyboard popping up on my ipad, then I realize when that happens, my ipad and my keybaord have lost their sinc, and I have to wait for them to sync again. I type on my beyboard close to my ipad, on the same table in the same room, but I did try typing from another room. This is not about connectivity. This is about typing. This happens when I am typing fast. I don’t like it when that happens, sort of interrupts my chain of thought. And it means I have to look at the screen while I type. And since I never learned to type, I just like to look at the keyboard while I type. I don’t need to see that there’s a space between my words, I know there is because I watched myself hit the space bar. Otherwise, great hardware.

  10. Karen
    22 December 2013 at 12:14 am #

    Funny, you all try to accomodate what is obviously a flaw in the iPad. They need to fix it not have every user try to slow down and buy keyboards. The purpose of the iPad is to communicate! Not to carry around another product!