While I know the iPad is being promoted mainly as a content consumption device, at some point you need to enter information, such as when entering a URL to open a web page, so data input is important. No matter how good the iPad will be for displaying web pages, or watching movies, if it is infuriating to enter text on the device, it is going to be hard to sell. With that in mind I took great interest in watching Laptop Magazine’s demonstration of the on-screen keyboard.
In the demonstration the reviewer states his belief that entry is fastest using the keyboard in portrait mode and typing with your thumbs. That is the same method most of us use to type on touchscreen smartphones, but in watching the video I can’t help but think that the portrait mode, thumbing typing technique is only going to work well for those who have large hands. It would seem to me most of us will use one finger to type in portrait mode while holding the iPad in their other hand.
Typing in landscape mode while holding the device appears to be more difficult, so I understand the point of view that holding the device in portrait mode and typing is a better approach. In the demonstration of typing while the iPad is on a table, the reviewer uses his index fingers and doesn’t appear to attempt to touch type. One of the things I want to test is whether one could touch type on the screen, though I anticipate that I’ll use the index finger approach shown in the video, and it seems to me that will be a reasonably good way to enter text.
Laptop Magazine rightly points out that the most efficient means for entering a significant amount of text is to use an external keyboard. While the iPad keyboard dock looks appealing, I am going to try getting by with a Stowaway Bluetooth keyboard as I own the same one that Todd shows in a picture with this post on accessories. One idea that ocurred to me is that it would be nice to be able to share a keyboard between a PC and the iPad. If you use the iPad sitting in the dock like a second monitor on a desk next to a computer, it would be nice to just click a button on the PC and then be able to use the keyboard with the iPad. There are a few Windows Mobile programs that provide this type of functionality for Windows Mobile phones, and I could see that as real useful for the iPad. (I am not referring to what iDisplay enables, I want the iPad to function as normal, I just want to be able to use a PC keyboard with it.)