Monthly Archives: April 2012

$110 Makes New iPad Best Writing System I’ve EVER Used…

New iPad, in Origami stand, with Apple wireless keyboard: best writing system in the world!

IT’S GREAT WHEN A REAL LANDMARK EVENT HAPPENS. This past weekend, I finally got the writing system for which I’ve been waiting since I began my writing career at the age of 7, almost 56 years ago.

As anyone who reads this blog knows, I love the iPad – and especially the new iPad, with the high-resolution screen every human visual system deserves. At the weekend – thanks to my friend Wes Miller – I turned it into the best writing system I have ever used in my life. For only $110.

I began my long writing career on an ancient Remington typewriter I rescued from a junk shop in Glasgow. I’ve never actually learned how to type: I use both index fingers only. But I’m very, very fast with them.

When I was 14 years old, I launched and edited an unofficial magazine at my school, Allan Glen’s High School of Science in Glasgow. Its name was a word-play on Writer’s Cramp. I wanted to call it Writer’s Crap – but my English teacher baulked at that, and it ended up being called Writers Cramped…
The joy of jammed keys…

It was produced by typing on waxed xerography paper using another ancient typewriter, and copies were run off on a Xerox machine and stapled together.

My English teacher, “Paddy” Inglis, let me work in a tiny room behind his classroom. Since he was a heavy pipe smoker, the room stank of his tobacco. And since it had a window that opened, it meant I could smoke, too. It was the start of an association between writing and cigarettes that was to last for decades. When I finally gave up smoking in the 1980s, it was a real struggle for a while, trying to write without a cigarette burning in the ashtray beside me.

Glasgow Deputy News Editor, The Scotsman, 1970s.
No, I didn’t dress like that every day – I was going out to a dinner. Note the cigarette…

In 1968, I became a professional newspaperman. I normally used a portable typewriter, and on a typical day might write a couple of thousand words of news stories. My two-fingered ninja style was so forceful that I had to use two carbons; the top sheet of copy paper (newsprint, cut to typewriter size) was always completely shredded, and there was a layer of confetti constantly swirling around me.

In the early 1980s, I realized that computer technology was about to change publishing forever and began teaching myself how to use one. The first computer I actually owned, though, was a Macintosh, which I got within six weeks of the US ship date in 1984.

Technology has improved over the years, and I’ve had a long series of Windows and Macintosh laptops. (The MacBook was the best – even for running Windows, which was compulsory when I worked for Microsoft).

But still, nothing was ever ideal. Screens had resolutions too low for ideal reading (apart from my 204ppi desktop display). Even laptops were too heavy. I had many of the original Windows TabletPCs. But they were mostly heavy, convertible tablets, low resolution and with short battery life.

When I got my first iPad, that was the biggest improvement yet. Good screen (if still not good enough). Light. 10-hour battery life.

Trouble with the iPad is that while the onscreen keyboard is great for short typing sessions, or when you have no alternative, you wouldn’t want to live there. If you’re a writer who spends hours at the keyboard, as I am, you really need an industry-strength solution. I tried one of the iPad cases with integrated Bluetooth keyboard. But – those chiclet keys! Just awful!

I decided to pair the new iPad with an Apple wireless keyboard. Then my friend Wes Miller told me he used the Origami stand/case with his, and really liked it. So I ordered the keyboard and the case from the Apple Store, and drove into the Apple Store at Bellevue Square Mall to pick them up. WARNING: the iPad is still new enough that any Apple Store, on a Saturday afternoon, will be like a zoo…

Got the gear back home, set it all up in seconds. Keyboard paired flawlessly with my iPad, and the case took about five seconds to fold up into a stand. It looks like it will be a really good way of protecting the keyboard while traveling, too.

I’m writing a book just now. So I’ve spent the last two days at the keyboard, cranking out more than 5000 words. And this system is a joy to use. If I want to wander around, hands-free, I can use Dictation, which works really well even if it’s not perfect.

If I’m going out, the iPad goes with me. If I have a thought I need to get down, or I have half an hour in Starbucks, I can use the soft keyboard.

And when I really need to get down to business, I have the Origami setup. Another thing I really love about writing on the iPad is that when I want to review what I’ve written, I just lift the iPad off the stand, find a comfortable chair, lean back and read at leisure. And, of course, the 264ppi resolution makes reading a joy.

Now I have a flexible, portable, yet 100% industrial-strength writing system. It’s the best I’ve ever used in my entire writing life. If you do any amount of serious writing, this is the system you want.

I’ve also made huge progress this morning on using the iPad for blogging. I’m typing this on it now. I’ve been struggling for a while because of the really crappy behavior of Blogger on the iPad, and I’ve been seriously tempted to change to WordPress or some other blog host, at the same time hoping Blogger would catch up to the iPad.

However, today I found a great solution. I’m typing this using Blogsy, which is a really neat interface to Blogger, WordPress or any other blog. And I’m using Web Albums HD for Picasa to upload pictures. Blogsy lets you drag-and-drop them into place.
Blogsy. Much more usable than Blogger’s own UI
Another problem solved. Now, back to the book…