The pros and cons of using a separate Bluetooth keyboard with an iPad Pro
One of my current goals is to spend more time writing. Not necessarily words that will go on to be published, but more time capturing my thoughts and ideas. Linked to that, I am keen to push the limits of what I do with my iPad and cut out using my Mac for personal, home usage at all.
Much as it is very possible to write on an iPad – and indeed an iPhone – it is not as good an experience as using a proper, physical keyboard. So while I will still use the onscreen keyboard for all casual use of my iPad, when it comes to doing lengthier writing, I wanted to see how having a separate keyboard would help.
The main benefit I can appreciate already is the extra space on screen for what I am writing. The onscreen keyboard takes up close to fifty percent of the entire screen on my iPad Pro (9.7") and it feels so good to have multiple paragraphs visible at the same time. It’s made me realise how much time I spend moving the screen up and down to view what I’m writing when the keyboard is taking up so much of the screen. This alone feels like a huge improvement.
On top of that, there is the keyboard itself. I’ve gone for Apple’s Magic Keyboard. This is a keyboard I’m very familiar with as it’s what I use at work with my iMac. Having a full size keyboard when writing with my iPad makes a significant difference. Competent as I am with the onscreen keyboard, there’s no doubt I can write faster and with fewer mistakes using the Magic Keyboard. (And no, it’s not because of any magic with the keyboard – that’s just bad product naming!)
One thing I was a little worried about when using the separate keyboard with the iPad was whether I would constantly have to lean forward to touch the screen for functions that, on a Mac, I’d use my mouse for. And though to some extent I do, instead of using my finger I decided to use the Apple Pencil. So if I want to move the cursor to a different paragraph or sentence, I’ve been using the Pencil to point to where I want the cursor to be.
The benefit of this is both greater precision and avoiding finger prints on the screen. Normally fingerprints on the iPad are fine. But when it’s propped up with a stand and I’m in writing mode, anything like that becomes a distraction. So I’m very happy with my Apple Pencil as an editing aid when I'm using the iPad for my writing.
I did consider getting Apple’s Smart Keyboard for the iPad Pro. And if I went for the 12.9" Pro, I might well have. But the benefits of a full size keyboard outweighed the benefits of a keyboard that I could use on my lap. The reality of the separate Magic Keyboard is that usage is very much limited to the desk. But that’s a compromise I’m happy with and I think too it will force me to make sure I go to the office in our house and concentrate more fully on writing.
One potential downside to this iPad on the desk with a Bluetooth keyboard approach is the impact on my neck. So far, I’ve set the iPad on the desk as pictured above. But the height of the screen definitely means I have to look down slightly compared to when I’m sat at work with my iMac. It’s probably not any different to using a laptop, but I think it might be something I’d notice if sat using the iPad like this for long periods of time.
All in all, though, I’m very happy with this new writing setup. When it comes to focused writing, I already prefer this setup to my Mac. Now I just need to maintain my discipline in writing more consistently.