Writing on the iPad?

Two articles from well-respected writers were published recently that focus on the creation of text on an iPad. The idea that the iPad is a consumption machine first, production machine second has surrounded the device since its launch. The reasons for such a positioning of the device are obvious: it’s cheaper than most computers, the screen is smaller than most computers, and there is no keyboard or trackpad, which makes accurate input of content difficult.

Jason Snell, the “senior vice president and editorial director at IDG Consumer” (which basically means he’s the man behind MacWorld and TechHive) wrote an article title “Why I’m writing on the iPad.” From the beginning, it’s obvious that Snell is a fan of the iPad. He believes the advantages of using the iPad as opposed to a traditional Mac are in the fact that the iPad removes distraction, and that it is so portable:

On the iPad, I am more focused—and when I do finally take a break to check my email, it feels like an actual break, not a distraction.

I can’t argue with the results. Pieces I’ve been promising myself to write for weeks remain empty text files in my MacBook’s Dropbox folder, while 800-word essays sprout from my iPad in no time.

I have personally tried this method, though I didn’t find it acceptable. Part of the issue was that the app was built for short notes, and not long-form writing. It seems that the app does play a big part.

On the other side of this is an article by Frederico Viticci on the ways that the iOS keyboard is inadequate for long text input. He argues – and rightly so, I believe – that the issue with iOS isn’t in its keyboard, but in the fact that it has an incredibly clunky and slow way to select and edit text.

I think the discussion on the iOS keyboard often mixes writing with editing. Personally, I believe the iOS keyboard is great for writing, because it’s just a normal keyboard, but iOS text selection is in serious need of an update, because it feels outdated. I’m not sure the average user cares about better text selection, but for the sake of the argument, I will say that a better solution should be explored.

Viticci’s thoughts are in response to a post by Chris Bowler. My personal thoughts are that this rings true: the editing options in iOS have not changed in years, and they are very slow. The very design of the keyboard and its text editing options conveys the idea that Apple never considered the iPhone or iPad to be used for long-form writing. However, with the development of various applications, long-form writing is well within the realm of possibility on iOS devices. It would be fanastic to see at least some changes in iOS 7 to the keyboard, but specifically the text editing and input options available on iOS.
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2 responses to Writing on the iPad? and 5 more on the forums.
  1. My big hang up with writing on the iPad is the lack of a driver for a mouse or trackpad in the Bluetooth stack. Using a finger to edit long text is just not efficient. I understand why the omitted it in the first iPad. It forced developers to write for multitouch. But now I think there is no reason to prevent content creators from using a mouse or trackpad with their iPad. (I know you can jailbreak your device and get this functionality – but the vast majority people will never go that route and they shouldn’t have to.)

  2. I love my iPad, yes I love it. One thing that I agree with in this article is the text editing options. The keyboard is fine. It’s the text editing process. It needs desperate updating. When the iPad was introduced, it was said by apple that we are entering the post PC era. Well if its going to be the post PC era then what replaces the PC should be better. That’s not the case with the text editing process. Hope things get better soon.

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