Mobile writing

Moving to working on mobile devices, and for serious work this means a full sized tablet, is not something you can do overnight, and if you try you will be disappointed. Since I got an iPad, I considered and resisted the idea of buying a Bluetooth keyboard. I convinced myself that the logic of the mobile working was to learn to use the iOS keyboard, even if it was not as good as the alternatives which I installed on my various Android devices.

My main justification for considering a Bluetooth keyboard was that I am gradually moving from young hacker to silver fox, and having learnt to type badly on a physical keyboard, I would stick to a physical keyboard, even if it meant carrying another gadget in my bag.

In fact, what I have noticed over the past month or two, having had an IPad for over a year, is that I am now quite happy to write pieces of up to 1,500 words on the iPad keyboard. That is about as much as most people would write in a burst, or while away from the office anyway, so it is perfectly fine for me.

Initially, I hated the iOS keyboard, because I couldn’t replace it with Switfkey. ¬†Swiftkey certainly speeded up my work on Android devices, and reduced the number of typos – and when you type as badly as I do, that is a significant consideration. Over time, however, I have become comfortable with it, and now I can write on it as quickly as on my Android tablet. I’ve also learned to use the press and use the magnifier trick for cursor placement for fine editing, which I thought I would never master.

Today I went the final step and installed the WordPress client on my iPad so I can blog on the move. Most of my recent blog posts were drafted using Evernote on the iPad, and finished at my desk, but the messy extra HTML created by that was annoying. So now, after a year, I’ve gone the whole hog to having the whole workflow for my short writing on the iPad, and most of the tools I use to research, read and draft longer work on the iPad as well. The one thing that is not yet quite there is a browser integrated Zotero client.

What this confirms to me thought is that if you are doing serious work – academic writing, long form writing, course design and similar – you cannot always decide to move to a new technology or not based on playing with it in the shop. Assuming you can find the tools you need for your work, and that is not always the case, you still need time to get comfortable with using mobile devices for serious work. If your ‘go to’ device is a desktop PC or even a laptop, you won’t transition to a tablet in a week or two, and it’s a delusion to think you will.

But a year into my relationship with iOS, I’ve finally got to doing a blog post from draft to publish on an iOS app. It was, as they say, Worth the wait, even if i’ve been waiting since I first tested an Apple Newton on loan for Horizon in Cork many years ago.

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