Look, Ma – no laptop!
I write. And I write on my laptop, no matter where the writing is happening. Planes, trains – even on my lap. My laptop used to do everything for me, but it increasingly saw less email action with the invention of that gadget known as the iPhone. So far, so easy. Then that evil genius Steve Jobs went and wooed me with an iPad. I was powerless. I bought one. Maybe you did, too? And in one purchase, I turned into a virtual cliche’, juggling the constant charging of Apple products, phone, laptop and iPad, and having to buy more gadgets to boost the wifi – sigh…
The iPad is a thing of beauty, to be sure – but what is it actually for? I didn’t even know when I bought one. I use it to email and tweet. I use it to read magazines, mostly at that aggregator and app-of-wonder Zite (but not books. Can’t be doing with that) And then when it came time to pack for a weekend away of writing, I hefted the laptop in my handbag and looked at the slim creature I would be leaving behind. What if you could write – and I mean really write – on your iPad?
David Hewson blogged about software for the iPad, so I already knew that my beloved Scrivener was a non-starter, though I believe it is in development. Bring on the day, I say. David recommended Storyist, so after having a Google around, I plumped for the app. It’s straightforward to use, but not to edit in, which is what I wanted to do. It isn’t straightforward to import text into, but not impossible. The app says it will open emails in rich text format, but that didn’t work for me. Storyist didn’t like rtfs and didn’t recognise emails. Having a Dropbox app is a work around and once all your software is synching to Dropbox, you can import straight from there as plain text. A txt file is bug-ugly on screen, but once opened in Storyist, it looks formatted and fine – I don’t know how, but it does. Formatting in Storify isn’t as straightforward, and tabs won’t line up and things, but if that doesn’t get in the way of your editing, it’s plain sailing from there.
Some people are a whiz on the iPad’s keyboard. Not me. I end up jabbing with one finger when I am a touch typist. (Thanks, Ma, for insisting on those high school typing classes – oh, and Happy Mother’s Day!) I may not be picky about a lot of things, but, apparently, I am about keyboards. I had no idea I was so opinionated. The key action has to be “just so”. The keyboard must be full-sized, have return buttons on both sides, as well as a delete key in the correct place, and it must have a wide space bar, just like a “real” keyboard. When looking for travel keyboards, you’d be surprised what they try to fob off on you – from fiddling round with key placement to dinky space bars, as well as messing with the whole QWERTY system, which will, no doubt, go the way of the dinosaurs once all we touch typists have popped our clogs.
After days of obsessive googling, I found the travel keyboard of my dreams. It’s the Logitech Tablet Keyboard for iPad. It connects via Bluetooth to your iPad and ships in a nifty, rigid plastic sleeve that folds back on itself to make a secure easel to tilt the iPad upright into position, like a laptop screen. Lambda Tek shipped it with its four necessary AAA batteries – make sure you have them on hand or it’s tears all round – and after visiting the Logitech site and pushing one little “connect” button, I was off and running. The key action is perfect and there are only a few, random double strikes now and again, which are probably due more to my over enthusiastic typing than to the Bluetooth. I typed happily on the train, on cafe tables and beds. In fact, the only place I couldn’t type happily was in the writing workshops I had packed to travel to, the room of which only suffered from a lack of tables. Perhaps the only drawback to this system is that it isn’t a laptop – it really doesn’t work on your lap, because there’s no where to put the iPad. In the writing workshop, I was forced to use notebook and pen – a drawback for someone with chicken-scrawl like mine. Fortunately, I can read most of what I wrote, so all was not lost. If you have an iPad and want to go commando from your laptop, why give the keyboard and software a spin?
But if you can actually read your own handwriting, why not stick with the notebook and pen? They’re still the lightest things to travel with and you’ll never risk leaving your charger in a hotel socket again.