I’ve written before about the strange fascination I have with the concept of using just an iPad and a stand (usually a Smart Cover) for writing. The major problem for me is that my wrists really haven’t liked it in the past. I’ve tried all manner of wrist positions and chair heights. I’ve kept the iPad farther in on the desk so my elbows had support, and I’ve tried leaving the iPad near the edge of the desk, so my wrists didn’t have to bend so far up to hit the keys. None of that has really worked on previous iPads and I do think it has to do with the fact that I can’t rest my fingers on the keys. Without having somewhere to give my wrists a break, my fingers and palms can quickly start to sweat. That usually forecasts some wrist pain soon after.
What’s interesting to me is that some other writers on Twitter have been trying to use the iPad without a hardware keyboard. Ben Brooks at stated he typed 1800 words on the iPad Pro, and Josh Ginter told me he got more used to the iPad Pro after the first weekend. They don’t have any history of wrist pain or RSI, but they still piqued my interest in the device’s software keyboard. The iPad Pro may lack Force Touch, but its software keys very closely mimic the size of a full hardware keyboard. That’s a first for an iPad.
I’ve now written over 3000 words on this keyboard and my feelings are are still up and down. I’m still slower in writing on an iPad, and I still try to type far too quickly for my own good. I’m a pretty fast and accurate typist on hardware keyboards, and my finger as often fly too quickly for the software keyboard to register keystrokes or gestures properly. A big part of learning to use this iPad pro has been to slow down a little bit.
However, to my surprise, this experiment has been working out. I started out by just leaving the iPad flat on the table. It actually works quite well and makes the keys very easy to press. However, it’s definitely a recipe for a sore neck if you’re going to type more than a few hundred words in a sitting. I tried using the Compass stand from TwelveSouth, but the iPad Pro is just too large for it. The best stands for the iPad Pro are actually those designed for laptops. I pulled out my old AviiQ foldable laptop stand and it’s working wonderfully for the Pro. The entire tablet screen is supported, so there isn’t any shaking of the device as I type.
The full keyboard layout is definitely an asset. It’s easier to hit the keys because the spacing is a little more generous. It’s also far more convenient to reach numbers and symbols without ever having to dig into the specialized symbols menu. Writing in Markdown on the iPad Pro is awesome, especially with the trackpad mode added in iOS 9. I’m starting to prefer this trackpad style selection to using the arrow keys on a MacBook.
I still think that Force Touch could be an asset to the iPads that Apple releases next year, and I really hope they find a way to let us rest our hands on the screen. However, for the first time in the history of the iPad, I can actually write on this device without pain long enough to pump out 600-word posts like this one — which is something I haven’t been able to say of any previous generation iPad. A MacBook would still be the more sensible portable computer for me, but I have to admit that there’s some charm to an iPad-only writing setup.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say that this is defining feature of the iPad Pro, but it’s definitely useful for other writers who have wanted to use “just the iPad” but always required a hardware keyboard for the previous models.