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2010-09-26

Multi-touch versus keyboard

For recent travels I bought an Apple bluetooth keyboard (following the lead of my brother). It is a joy to have a real keyboard for typing longer texts (such as this one). Arrow keys are great for moving the cursor and for selecting text.

Apple has done an awesome job of supporting Bluetooth keyboards on the iPad. This surprises, because I don’t think there are many people who use one. Examples: All keys work, even strange ones like curly quotes. The same holds for the function keys (next track, pause music, screen brightness etc.). Selecting text with shift and arrow keys and the shortcuts for cut, copy, paste work, too. Furthermore, when the iPad is paired with a keyboard, the soft keyboard does not pop up, any more, saving screen space. The only current drawback is that I would love to have an English spell check while using the German keyboard layout (also know as “kezboard lazout” in the exotic circles that have this need).

Yet, the user experience is also a bit strange. It is liberating to have the iPad screen propped up in front of oneself and to be able to move around with the keyboard. But once I do that, I switch to “remote control mode”. Then a trackpad attached to the keyboard makes more sense than having to reach for the screen and touch. This might point to a new kind of hybrid notebook: The screen not being clamshell makes the iPad quicker to operate in most situations. For typing, an external keyboard is perfectly usable (I wish it didn’t need batteries, but at least they last long). But it probably needs to be foldable and have a trackpad. Then future user interfaces would be designed to be operated both by keyboard and by touch. Android’s use of cursor keys is exemplary in this regard.

Update:

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