Dvorak

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iPad Reflections

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Before leaving home for L.A., I took possession of a new iPad. I knew I'd be carrying my computer with me wherever I went, and the MacBook Pro can get heavy after a while. I should clarify that when I'm in L.A., I invariably walk everywhere, only taking the public transport when I have to travel longer distances. It's not unusual for me to walk 4 to 5 miles in a single day while I'm here. Needless to say, my waist is getting smaller :-)

So, I brought the iPad with me. Right from the beginning, it has been a great help to me, especially allowing me to communicate with others when I couldn't speak (I can speak now btw). It's small, light, and the display is great. I have no idea how the PC companies are going to beat it except perhaps in I.T. and geek communities where access to everything under the hood is preferred.

It does have its flaws however.

Typing is difficult to get used to. You cannot rest your hands downward between taps because every contact with the screen types another character. It's also difficult to keep your hands in the right place positionally when you're typing. With a physical keyboard, you're calibrating your hand positions every time you press a key. It happens automatically. It's not possible with a meta-physical keyboard though.

To make things more difficult, I usually type using the Dvorak keyboard layout, and Apple has not provided that layout on the iPad. I hope it arrives with iOS 4.

Speaking of omissions in the current iPad OS, there's no Traditional Chinese on the iPad. Ouch! Hopefully, we'll see it with iOS 4 too.

And if you're a touch typist, the iPad might not be able to sense your fingers on the 'keyboard' when you're typing very quickly.

But all of those problems aren't overly difficult to deal with. There is one problem however that is potentially very serious. Ergonomically, the iPad is a nightmare.

The ideal posture for someone on a computer is to sit with the screen just below their horizontal line of sight, and with the keyboard lower than the wrists which are in turn lower than the elbows. That's not possible when the screen and keyboard are one and the same. The result is significant back strain and pain if you type for any length of time. I spent 4 hours today editing and updating my web site and I can certainly feel the pain in my back.

The solution is an external keyboard. The iPad supports Bluetooth keyboards, so I'm going to have to get one soon. Another advantage of having an external keyboard is that I'll be able to use the Dvorak layout again, because while the iPad doesn't provide a Dvorak meta-physical keyboard, it does support the Dvorak mapping on external keyboards. And incidentally, when using an external keyboard, you get to see all of the screen rather than just half.

There is one disadvantage to using an external keyboard though. The iPad by its very nature is interactive. If you have the iPad in front of you and the keyboard near or on your knees, the distance between the keyboard and the iPad will be a long way to move your hands every time you need to interact directly with the iPad. Oh well. You can't win them all.

Last note. Trying to edit a web site on the iPad is extremely challenging. None of the code editors available for the iPad are even close to being capable and useful editors, unless you're someone who can code with one eye closed. CSS and HTML editors on the iPad have a long way to go. If only we had something like Espresso on the iPad.

I need to stop now so my back can relax.

Take care all.