The recent announcements of new iPads came with a disappointment for me – still no trackpad support. Really all Apple needs to do to revolutionise their device is give it support for a mouse.
I recently spent a few days trying to write on an iPad. Not just writing a couple of notes, it’s fine for that, but writing error-free articles, including pictures. It was a nightmare.
Usually when I travel I take a Macbook Air to use for writing. But recently I decided to go even lighter and leave the computer at home, relying solely on my trusty and much-loved iPad. Knowing that typing a lot on the iPad keyboard would leave my fumbling fingers challenged I also took an external Bluetooth keyboard. The keyboard worked like a charm for getting the bulk of the text into the iPad, but it was there that problems set in.
I can’t believe I’m the only person who tends to type in the bulk of what they are dealing with and then go back and fix up the typing errors, check spelling, polish the prose, add in pictures and so on. Now all this is do-able on the iPad, but it is incredibly time-consuming and cumbersome. A job that would take moments with a mouse or trackpad suddenly stretches into a lifetime of frustration. It’s bad enough if you’re solely using the iPad, but if you add in an external keyboard the iPad seems to assume you want to use it for everything and defaults to a set of extremely strange behaviours involving the external keyboard’s arrow keys.
It has been argued that I’m showing my age with these comments. That the younger generation can handle the technology and manage fine. Frankly that is rubbish. Any generation can use the iPad or iPhone for simple text messages or a short email. That’s not the same thing as writing an article, or a paper for work, or an essay for school. It doesn’t matter how technically native you are when the technology simply doesn’t lend itself to a productive output.
All-in-all I came to two conclusions from the experience. The first was that I’m not going to do it again – the task of writing turned from a pleasant way to round out the day, into a frustrating nightmare. The technology got in the way of what I was trying to achieve. As it stands, the iPad is simply not designed for any sort of even half-way serious content creation.
The second was that if Apple would just see past its obsessive focus on fingers for input it would revolutionise the iPad as a useful content creation device. I get that there’s no cursor on the screen as a default, but given that holding your finger over text eventually brings up a cursor it doesn’t seem to be beyond the wit of the Apple designers to create a toggle that would allow for a cursor when needed.
The again, maybe Apple already has this situation covered from a different angle. My iPad wont do content creation so I’m forced to go back to my Macbook Air – that’s two sales for Apple. They didn’t get to be that rich by accident, did they?