Up until this week, I rarely used an external keyboard with my iPad. The on-screen keyboard was fine for what I needed to do and unlike a lot of people, I really have no problem typing on the screen. I can’t type as fast as I can on a standard keyboard, but I can type fast enough to churn out emails and blog posts with no real concerns. This week, however, I decided to try something a little different. I resolved to use the iPad as my only device for a week.
On a “normal” week I would spend my time switching between a MacBook, a Surface Pro 4, and my iPad for the tasks that I need to get done. However, I happened to read an article entitled, Stop Using A Laptop in 2017; It’s Time To Use A Tablet. In it, the author made a case that desktop operating systems are less relevant than they used to be, so that got me thinking. Could I use an iPad, and only an iPad, for a week? No reason why not, right?! The challenge was on, and I took a Bluetooth keyboard along for the ride.
External Keyboards for iPads
There are lots of Bluetooth keyboards available for the iPad, and by lots I mean LOTS. Some are better than others, but in theory just about any Bluetooth keyboard will work with an iPad. I have been using one at work for about four years now when I dock my MacBook Pro or Surface Pro 4 and connect it to a monitor. The one I like best is the Logitech K811. It has 3 easy-switch Bluetooth buttons that you can use to quickly move between multiple devices. With one tap you can use it to type on your iPad, press a button and you are typing on your phone, press another button and you can start typing on your laptop. It has backlit keys, good key travel and chiclet key spacing that suits the way I type.
I use my iPad with a simple tablet desktop stand because I like the convenience of being able to quickly switch between using the iPad with an external keyboard and using it without one. There are some great iPad keyboard cases available, but I know for a fact I won’t use a keyboard all the time so I if I don’t have to wrestle with sliding the iPad in and out of a keyboard case, I won’t. The stand lets me pick it up and go whenever I want. It also lets me choose whatever case I want to use, and to switch out my case when I feel like I need a new one.
If the K811 is too rich for your blood and you don’t really need the backlit keys, try the Logitech K380. It is less than half the price and also supports multiple devices. My wife loves a number keypad, (she won’t buy a laptop without one). If you are the same way, you might prefer the Logitech K780. It has an integrated phone and tablet stand and includes a battery that will last up to two years on a single charge! Other keyboards are available, but of late I am somewhat partial to Logitech, purely based on previous experiences.
iPad Keyboard Shortcuts for External Keyboards
One of the nice things that Apple introduced in iOS 9 was a range of keyboard shortcuts that are designed to speed up your productivity on an iPad. Like all keybaord shortcuts, these are only good if you remember what they are. However, if you only remember one iPad shortcut for external keyboards, remember this one. Hold down the Command (Cmd) key. When you hold down the Cmd key on an external keyboard connected to an iPad you get a cheat sheet of the keyboard shortcuts that are available to you at any given time. This list will vary depending on what app you are using, but it is an insanely useful idea and perfect for when you are still learning which ones you will actually use.
Some of the ones worth committing to memory are the ones you reveal if you hold down the Cmd key on the home screen. These are universal keyboard shortcuts that work in basically all iPad apps and they are perfect for navigating your way around the iPad. They include:
- Cmd + H = Return to your Home screen
- Cmd + Space = Activate a Spotlight search
- Cmd + Shift + 3 = Take a Screenshot
- Cmd + Tab = Use the App switcher
Other useful shortcuts are ones that you may be familiar with from using an Mac. For instance, copy, cut and paste is the same on both devices, (Cmd + C, Cmd + X, Cmd + V), and the same goes for things like Bold, Italic and Underline. In text editors you can tap where you want the cursor to go, hold down shift and use the arrow keys to select text. You can also move around your text with things like Cmd + right arrow or Cmd + up arrow, and use the spacebar to scroll in Safari.
I have actually enjoyed using an iPad keyboard more than I thought. In the past I pretty much dismissed them as unncessary, (and in some ways they still are), but the recent improvements that Apple have made to iOS make them a much more compelling choice for if you have a lot of typing to do. So, if you haven’t tried one recently, give it a go. You might just surprise yourself with how useful an iPad keyboard can be.
Note: In case you were wondering, this blog post was created entirely on an iPad! Also, some of the links in this post are affiliate links to online stores. If you purchase anything at one of these stores after clicking a link, I will receive a small credit, at no cost to you, in order to help fund the development of this blog.