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The Trail Mix of iOS Keyboards

  • August 22, 2018
  • Blog

With my iPad only lifestyle, there has been a pain point that’s been present with a lot of iPad Pro users: keyboards.

There never seems to be a perfect keyboard for the iPad that is agreed upon with everyone. In fact there are a number of choices that seem to have some sort of drawback no matter how you look at it.

I like to to think of iOS keyboards like that of trail mix. By that I mean there are lots of options, but you are never satisfied with what you get.

The Peanut

The Magic Keyboard is the peanut, simple yet reliable and gets you where you are going. However, it is missing the sweetness and delight that you want. With no backlighting and a Bluetooth only connection, you often have to wake it from its all too frequent sleep mode just to get the keys to work with the iPad. Sure you can simply tap an arrow key when you want to use it, but when it is such a prevalent and repetitive thing to do it becomes tedious and tiring.

The Sunflower Seed

The Smart Keyboard is the sunflower seed. Small and plentiful, but doesn’t provide enough sustenance in its own. The Smart Keyboard is the most frequently recommended keyboard for an iPad Pro, but it doesn’t check all the boxes. Again, with no backlighting working on the keyboard in a dark room just doesn’t work. Now as a step up from the Magic Keyboard it does have a Smart Connector, but with that comes sacrifice in keyboard size. Especially in the 10.5 iPad. The key size is small, space between keys takes some getting used to, and even some less used keys are squished to fit the footprint necessary to be used as a Smart Cover.

The Raisin

The Logitech Keyboard is the raisin of the bunch where some people like and is “healthy” competition in theory. In reality it sucks and nearly everyone hates them. Honestly the bulky keyboard ironically named Slim Combo seems to be a slap in the  face to the people who decided to buy it. It has a Microsoft Surface knockoff okickstand in the case making the footprint of this keyboard when in use take up more space than any other keyboard I have used. It does have backlighting, but the keys are even more cramped than that of the Smart Keyboard. This is the one keyboard I tell almost everyone to steer clear from because the cons outweighs the pros ten to one.

The M&M

Finally, the Brydge Keyboard is a lot like the cheap M&M knockoff in trail mix. It seems like the best option but it still tastes awful once you bite into it. I had high hopes for the Brydge Keyboard when it was first announced. It’s only issue for me was that it had a Bluetooth connection, but I was willing to let that go for what it offered. The backlit keyboards and comfortable keyboard layout alongside a detachable clamshell design looks both functional and beautiful. Sadly, much like trail mix, the execution was lacking and it ended with a hunk of aluminum that barely worked properly. The keys were mushy and unresponsive in all 3 models I received when I order this keyboard. I have heard from people that you need to expect to send your keyboard back a few times before getting one that works properly, but to me that isn’t acceptable in this ecosystem where a product that costs over $100 needs to be checked for quality and most likely sent back several times before a customer is satisfied. With that said, if you are willing to deal with that kind of hassle the Brydge Keyboard is worth a shot, the support team there is very nice and responsive, but you have been warned.

My Pick

I am not sure what the answer to this is, but as of right now I am sticking with the Smart Keyboard because portability and connectivity are my two biggest needs in a keyboard for my iPad and nothing compares to the Smart Keyboard in these areas. I also am a fan of the butterfly key switches in the Smart Keyboard as I have gotten akin to the MacBrook Pro keyboard when I was using it. I am able to write without much incidents of mistakes and I have zero latency and missed keys when writing on it. So for now this is what I am using.

With that said if a new keyboard came into play for my 10.5″ iPad that executed on these areas and other things like a backlit keyboard and a better key layout I would happily spend my money on it. Sadly, I am not sure we will see anything new come to these iPads with the shadow of new iPads on the horizon, so I won’t be holding my breath.

The Power of iOS Keyboard Shortcuts

  • July 17, 2018
  • Blog

Using keyboard shortcuts on iOS allows you to fly through the tedious tasks of editing, formatting, and moving items to where you want them to be.

Since I use the Smart Keyboard with my iPad a vast majority of the time I am working on it, keyboard shortcuts have been my bread and butter. To not use them means I have to tap on the screen to modify what it is I am working on. It adds friction to my work. Not being able to use the most efficient way of doing things on my devices can drive me up a wall, and I know I am not alone in this.

Which is why keyboard shortcuts can be so useful. Shortcuts isn’t a word that is arbitrary on this scenario, it really is a literal shortcut to get to your destination faster, and who doesn’t want that? But not all apps are created equal when it comes to shortcuts.

Who Does Keyboard Shortcuts Right

Before I start to go over the things that needs work, I have to give credit where credit is due. That credit goes to the 3rd party developers that embrace those that are using a keyboard with their iPads and making it a staple in their workflows. I have two specific apps in mind, but they are by no means the only ones doing great work for the keyboard users on iOS.

Ferrite

The quintessential example of getting keyboard shortcuts right on iOS is that of Ferrite which I adore. Not only can do everything from a keyboard, but you can even assign each action to the key binding of your choosing.

In fact, Ferrite offers a lot of great presets for popular digital audio workstations (DAWs) for those that are familiar with them. For me, I have a custom key binding as I use an app that does not have presets built into Ferrite called Hindenburg.

Things 3

Cultured Code came out with Things 3 a while back, and I wasn’t happy with the space keyboard shortcuts when it shipped, but that all changed when they released version 3.6 in May. That update offered what they consider “Desktop-Class Productivity”. Nearly everything can be on with just the keyboard on the iPad app of Things.

This was when I finally felt like Things 3 was now ready to ship, and I began to use it as my task manager of choice from there on. One thing I want to note though is that Things only shows the keyboard actions you can do in the current situation you are in so you won’t see the plethora of keyboard shortcuts in the pop up box when you hold the Command key. If you want to see all of the shortcuts available Cultured Code has a great list on their blog.

Problems With iOS Keyboard Shortcuts

Some apps provide a vast array of commands and shortcuts to allow iPad users to use their keyboard 100% of the time. Others though, they don’t think much of the keyboard users. Which brings me to the first speed bump in iOS for keyboard users: you are at the mercy of developers to provide the shortcuts you need.

Developers Have to Do All The Heavy Lifting

This is not to condemn developers for this problem, many developers often have plans to integrate shortcuts in their apps in the future. The only problem is time and resources. Many of my favorite apps. like Drafts 5 for example, are developed solely by one person and they can’t always get to secondary things like shortcuts immediately after launch. They have other things to worry about like making sure the app doesn’t crash regularly and the features that people want the most is what goes to the topi of the to-do list. Which makes things like keyboard shortcuts fall lower and lower on the list of priorities.

But this isn’t just a developer issue, this is also an issue that Apple can help in with their iOS operating system as a whole.

Lack of Apple Subtleties

For instance, it can be hard to tell which app is currently connected to the keyboard.

When you work in split view it can be hard to tell which app has the keyboard connected to it, there is no kind of indication outside of a blinking cursor if you are using a text editor that supports that.

One thing I have noticed that helps is if you quickly tap on the app you want to use the keyboard with. This isn’t ideal, but it is the best option I have found that works with iOS 11 as of now (and the iOS 12 beta as well).

A simple indication of what app is currently active could solve this problem easily, and I think iOS needs this in their software.

Final Thoughts

The keyboard for iOS isn’t perfect, but if you implement more keyboard shortcuts it can help you do your work even a little bit better. One thing I tell all of the people I know who are using an iPad with a keyboard is to press and hold the Command key in the apps they use, because it will show all of the keyboard shortcuts you can do.

In the future I would love Apple to really make it clear that you can do all of the things you want from a MacBook in an iPad, including keyboard shortcuts. If Apple embraces the fact that this touch device is also a true laptop replacement, they need to start with they keyboard and the software behind it.

In a perfect world Apple would make everything possible on an iPad also an option on the keyboard. Until then though, I will just have to contact the developers, who work so hard on these apps, and ask them politely to embrace the keyboard like so many of us have.

If you are looking for other keyboard shortcuts, check out Apple’s documentation online and see some of the things you can do on iOS with a keyboard.

How To Clean iPad Smart Keyboard

  • April 12, 2018
  • Blog

When you are working hard and doing the important things in your day you can find that your iPad Smart Cover might not be in the pristine condition as you would hope. Things like crumbs, dust, cat hair, and other residue on your keyboard can make the typing experience less than ideal. This can be easily fixed with some water and a couple of paper towels. So let’s make a clean iPad Smart Keyboard.

How to Clean Your iPad Smart Keyboard

One thing you can do, according to Apple, is get a damp cloth (or in my case a paper towel) and wipe the Smart Cover to get any residue or dust off the device. Once you do that you will want to get a dry cloth or paper towel and wipe away any water off the devices before they cause any damage.

Make sure your iPad is not connected to the keyboard. Once you start cleaning the keyboard don’t be shy with getting in between the keys. I found using some elbow grease really made the difference. Don’t use all your might to clean this but don’t be afraid to press down on the keys to scrub off whatever is on the keyboard.

I also found that having a clean microfiber cloth also helped get those pesky pieces of dust and cat hair off the keyboard. In my case, I had a microfiber cloth I got at my local Dollar Store. If that doesn’t work the first time around I would give it another go with just a little more water.

One thing I cannot stress enough is that the cloth or paper towel you use only needs to be a bit damp. It doesn’t need to be sopping wet, a dab will do you. While the Smart Keyboard is water resistant, there are small holes on the back of the keyboard to vent air out of the keyboard every time you press a key.

So if you can’t stand the dust and hair stuck to your keyboard, give it a quick once over and make it shine like new again.

Logitech iPad Pro Slim Combo Review – One Month Later

  • September 18, 2017
  • Blog

The iPad is my main computing device, I do all of my work on it, and I needed a case/keyboard that allowed me to do everything I needed without getting in the way, and for me the only option that seemed logical (no pun intended) was the Logitech Slim Comb; and after a solid month of using my iPad Pro 10.5” with the Logitech Slim Combo it is clear I made the right decision.

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