Many consider the iPad to be a content-consumption device, with little to no possibility of creating something with the large screen and limited hardware capabilities. I’d like to say that, with all fairness, those people are out of their minds! The iPad makes it easy to do many things, and can replace laptops for a fair number of people.
Aside from the computer-illiterate, the iPad may be best for writers. How can you turn your iPad into the ultimate writing machine? Read on to find out.
With all the different types of apps in the App Store, finding a specific type can become difficult. There are many different options for writing apps, each with a different featureset and specific niche. Below are some of the best, along with their ideal use-case.
The de-facto writing app on the Mac has translated well to the iPad. Pages is useful if you’re working on a paper with strict design requirements or if you need advanced control over page elements. It’s powerful, and at $9.99 it’s priced to match. Whether or not it will be worth the cost is up to you, but our review is sure to help.
One of the more popular writing apps on the iPad, Writer is designed to get out of the way and allow you to focus on your words. This article (the first draft, anyway) is actually being written with Writer on the iPad. With beautiful typography, a custom keyboard bar, and the semi-controversial Focus Mode, Writer is well worth its $4.99 cost of entry. If you still aren’t convinced, you can check out our full review right here.
Writing Kit is an interesting app, designed to offer you all the tools that you might need while you’re writing. With an in-app browser for quick research and other stand-out features that move beyond your words, Writing Kit is a strong tool that can help you stay within one app while doing your writing and research. Just like with the others, we’ve got a full review of this app right over here. For $3.99 it’s a steal.
Any writer worth his salt is going to keep notes somewhere. The iPad has some excellent options available, but the two standby note-taking apps take the cake in my book.
Evernote is my note-taking app of choice. With a robust featureset and apps available across every platform (including the web) I’ve found Evernote to be a powerful writing aide, allowing me to get little snippets out (or things that need to be referenced later in) with the minimal amount of effort.
Simplenote (that’s a review) is the popular alternative to Evernote. With apps on the iPad, iPhone, and Web, the app focuses on blazing fast syncing and simplicity (as evidenced by its name). Choosing between this app and Evernote ultimately comes down to personal preference, as both are excellent applications and services.
Mind Your Typing
Of course, any writer has to be at least mildly good at typing. Getting used to the iPad’s on-screen keyboard can take some getting used to. Luckily, we’re here to help.
Learning how to type without looking at the keyboard was one of my proudest achievements when I was younger. While others were still hunting with two fingers I was able to type proficiently with both hands and with my eyes glued anywhere but the keyboard.
Learning how to type on the iPad is a bit different. With no tactile feedback, you’ll have to learn where the keys are based on position alone. This is where TapTyping comes into play, teaching you where the keys are through various tests and measurements of how well you did during each session. We have a great article on this app that you should read.
Of course, there are a few general tips that we have for you. First, mind your fingernails; they don’t conduct electricity, necessary to work the on-screen keyboard. The tapping will also drive you crazy, and if a scratch were to happen, well… there’s only yourself to blame.
Second, with the small size of the iPad’s keyboard it’s best to only use three fingers, relegating your thumbs and pinkies to floating duty. While it seems odd at first, I guarantee that your typos will go down and your speed will go up.
Now, while it is possible to tap-type a longer piece (again, as I’m doing with this article) nothing can beat a good, physical keyboard when it comes to longform writing. We’ve previously looked at the virtues of an external keyboard, and I can say that I wouldn’t even consider using the iPad as a main writing tool without access to an Apple Wireless Keyboard.
Seeing Your Screen
Leaning over the iPad isn’t exactly the best position for optimal posture. In order to type the most comfortably, assuming you have an external keyboard, you’ll want to invest in a stand of some kind.
The Smart Cover can put your iPad at an incline, which is more ideal for typing than having it flat on a desk.
While it isn’t technically a stand, the Smart Cover can prop your iPad up so you can better see what you’re doing. You also have the added benefit of using a cover to protect that screen of yours as you travel between coffee shops searching for your muse, saving that all-important window from accidental nicks and scratches.
Let's face it. You'd want one of these bad boys even if you didn't need a stand.
A true stand, the Compass is described as an ’easel’ by its creators. No matter what you choose to call it, the Compass is a solid case that comes in three nice colors and can hold your iPad very securely. It’s more expensive than the cheap (polyurethane) Smart Cover, but also more durable and reliable.
Share Your Tips
That’s all that I have for you. Hopefully this will help you get started with using the iPad as a real writing tool; these apps and accessories are some of the best available.
If you have any other tips, we invite you to share them in the comments below.