While Remembary gives you lots of extra context for your diary's entry, it's still built around the core idea of WRITING about each day. The act of writing helps you reflect on and understand your day differently from just reading about it. Even with helpful features like voice dictation and tapping to copy your Tweets or Facebook statuses into your diary, you'll probably be spending a lot of time typing into the app.

Some people are able to type with the iPad's on-screen keyboard very quickly and accurately. However, if you're used to regular keyboards, and especially if you're a touch-typist, then the lack of physical feedback can make it frustrating. Also, to save space the on-screen keyboard requires modifier keys to access commonly used characters like & and $. It doesn't have easy navigation keys either, and reaching out to tap on the iPad isn't very accurate with smaller fonts.

Because of this, quite a market has grown to help you type on your iPad. Here are three different things I've tried, and what I think of them.

Apple Bluetooth Keyboard (w/ Origami Case)

This is an iconic Apple design that has been around since 2007. It's rugged and beautiful, and the full-size keys make it a pleasure to type with. I already had one of these keyboards when the iPad came out and one of the first things I did when I got it home was pair them up. 

The fact that the iPad and the keyboard are completely separate has its pros and cons. You can put the iPad on a stand at eye level while keeping the keyboard down at a better position for your hands, for example. On the other hand, it can sometimes be awkward if you're sitting on a couch or in bed, or are otherwise in cramped conditions: you have to find *two* ergonomically correct resting places.

There's one big problem I've had with this Apple keyboard: I think it was designed as a space-saving desktop item, not as a travel accessory. It has a large power button on the side which is very exposed and easy to hit as you're putting the keyboard into a bag. This not only turns on the keyboard but can wake up your iPad as well and drain batteries on both. If they've both been turned on and something in your bag jostles the music control keys at the top of the keyboard, your bag might suddenly start playing music while you're walking down the street. The first time it happened to me I was in a hotel corridor when the soundtrack to Inception suddenly started playing - quite scary until I figured out what was happening! 

Also, instead of being a simple on/off switch, the button has to be held down for a while to turn off. This is supposed to take five seconds, but I've been using this keyboard for years and it *still* takes me several tries to actually turn it off correctly.

The best solution I've found for these problems is the InCase Origami Workstation.  It wraps around and protects your keyboard, making it much less likely for buttons and keys to be pressed accidentally.  When you want to type, it cleverly folds back and velcros into a nice stand. The whole combination looks like a laptop when the iPad is in landscape mode, but it's even nicer in portrait mode - I like seeing Remembary's book themes at their full height. Typing on a long screen makes it feel more like a piece of paper or a book, too (and reminds me a bit of Apple's early Macintosh inspiration, the Xerox Alto).

I kept a handwritten diary for years before I started Remembary, and over the years I've been gradually typing in all of my old entries (at least the ones where I can read my handwriting!). I've found the Origami also makes a great book stand for transcription:

InCase Origami case as transcription stand. Victorian fireplace and Carmenère not included!

InCase Origami case as transcription stand. Victorian fireplace and Carmenère not included!

Touchfire Keyboard

The Apple keyboard is nice, but it's an extra thing to have to carry around with you, and with the case it takes up almost as much volume as the iPad itself. For those who want to travel light, or who only occasionally need to do heavy typing, there's the really cool Touchfire Keyboard

The Touchfire isn't a standalone keyboard, but instead it's a clear cover that fits over your iPad and gives the virtual keyboard a physical presence. It's just a thin piece of silicone rubber, so it takes up virtually no space, especially when it's folded up. It has built-in magnets that lock it into place, and which can even help it stow away inside a Smart Cover. 

I was given a Touchfire keyboard while I was at a conference last year and it turned out to be great for taking presentation notes. It greatly improved my typing while still letting me just keep the iPad on my lap. However, when I settled into my hotel room that night to write in my diary, I found I much preferred using a full-sized 'real' keyboard. 

Also, the rubbery silicone of the Touchfire can attract cat hair, cracker crumbs, dust, and other such debris, although it cleans pretty easily. I also found that when folded up it looks a little creepy, like a leftover molted skin from a snake or an Alien, or something like that.

If you spend a lot of time in lecture halls or on airplanes or in other contexts with cramped seating, the Touchfire is great. Otherwise, you might get more mileage out of a physical keyboard. The Touchfire is so small that I used to travel with both the Bluetooth keyboard and the Touchfire, so I would have plenty of options.

Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover

I said I "used to" travel with two keyboards, because my newest iPad keyboard is the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover. This is a keyboard that also doubles as an iPad cover. It snaps into place as a cover using the iPad's built-in magnets. Then when you want to use it as a keyboard, the iPad fits into an angled slot. 

Logitech.png

The clickable cover idea might make you want to dance in a Microsoft Surface commercial, but this is nicer than the Surface keyboard since it has just enough depth for real spring-action keys.

Unlike the Apple keyboard, this has a proper hard-to-hit-accidentally sunken power switch. Since it's usually locked in place as the iPad's cover, it's also much less likely to inadvertently play music or drain your iPad batttery.

The keyboard/cover isn't cheap at $100, but you could easily pay that much for a separate Bluetooth keyboard and protective cover anyhow.

There are a few downsides, though:

First, the cover is made out of similar aluminum to the iPad itself and doesn't provide any protection for the device's back - and the keyboard/cover combination is too big for most cases. So if you often pack your iPad with other gear, you're likely to scratch and maybe even dent both the cover and the iPad.

Second, to be able to fit a full keyboard into the available space of an iPad cover, Logitech had to make the keys a bit smaller than a regular keyboard. Also, at the top left where I'm expecting either an ESC or a "1" key, Logitech has put a "Home" button - so when I'm about to type in a date like "December 11", I frequently end up leaving the app and going back to the iPad launch screen.

Third, the aluminum can dent relatively easily. A few days after getting mine, I dropped it on a hard floor, and while at least it didn't break it now doesn't fit quite so nicely anymore.

Lastly, because the iPad fits into a slot instead of resting on a stand, it doesn't work as well for transcription as the Apple keyboard/Origami combo.

Posted
AuthorAndrew Burke