iPad Input Methods



My iPad is a wonderful tool, and while I read a lot of material on it I also use it to compose emails, take notes and take meeting minutes. While the iPad on-screen keyboard is useful for small input tasks, particularly if you have a way to stabilise the screen, I’ve found that other input methods are helpful in certain situations.

Siri

I snickered at Siri’s foibles when it was released but it’s definitely improved over time. I find Siri useful when I’m on my own and I want to dictate notes or dump ideas and don’t care about formatting or correct spelling. I find myself using Siri while I’m walking, which is a situation where I can’t edit documents effectively anyway and most of the time it’ll do a good job of capturing my ideas so that I can incorporate them later into a more structured document (I dictated the key ideas for this blog post via Siri while I was walking to the train station).

Stylus

I learnt to use a stylus when I had a Palm M500 and I found it quite an effective input method, and faster than a touch-screen keyboard. On the iPad I use MyScript Notes, with a Kensington Virtuoso stylus and it’s working well for me. MyScript Notes has very good handwriting recognition and a number of easy gestures to erase and move text which help with the iPad’s inability to easily edit text (my finger always makes it hard to place the cursor when I want to correct a spelling mistake). It also exports the text to other applications but I see that as a workaround because it’s an App and not a system-wide service , like it was on the Palm Pilot. I do wish stylus input were available for all applications in the way that Siri is; I can live in hope. There are other iOS applications that support stylus input, including Penultimate, but they didn’t have the features that I was looking for. There are reviews out there that compare them, so I won’t bother 1.

External Keyboards

I find typing and editing with a physical keyboard to be a much better experience than using the on-screen keyboard. I use a spare Apple Bluetooth job that we had lying around but there are also keyboards that are integrated into the case like the Logitech Ultrathin which makes transport easier. I prefer a full-sized keyboard, and I’m really fond of my Portenzo BookCase case so I’m happy to lug an extra device for the times that I plan to do a bunch of typing, at least until something better comes along!

In summary

It makes no sense for me to recommend one method over another as it all depends on your usage patterns. I use them all, and exploring others is fun too!

Table Reference Appendix Thing

Comparing iPad input methods
Type Extra equipment? Easy editing? Usable system-wide? Hands-free?
On-screen keyboard No No Yes No
Siri No No Yes Yes
Stylus Yes Yes No Yes
External keyboard Yes Yes Yes No
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