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How Apple could improve typing on the iPad

Ted Landau | May 3, 2013
When it comes to my iPad, I fear I'm like the proud-but-overbearing parent to a very talented child. I continue to be impressed by the capabilities of my iPad. I praise the device's merits to everyone I know. I can no longer recall how I got along without an iPad. And yet ... I keep wanting more. "You're a wonderful kid, iPad, but you could be better. Couldn't you try just a bit harder?"

When it comes to my iPad, I fear I'm like the proud-but-overbearing parent to a very talented child. I continue to be impressed by the capabilities of my iPad. I praise the device's merits to everyone I know. I can no longer recall how I got along without an iPad. And yet ... I keep wanting more. "You're a wonderful kid, iPad, but you could be better. Couldn't you try just a bit harder?"

The activity that most often triggers this reaction is typing on the iPad's virtual keyboard. I'm not talking about tweeting or sending text messages. I mean the extended typing I might do in apps such as Pages, or QuickOffice, or Elements.

The iPad's keyboard and typing problems are shared with other iOS devices. If anything, the smaller screen size of the iPhone and iPod touch exaggerate the problems. However, as I never attempt extended typing on my iPhone, I'm much less bothered by its keyboard difficulties.

It's a given that, as a typing instrument, a virtual keyboard is a poor alternative to a physical one in almost every imaginable way. That's why there's a booming market for physical keyboards designed to work with iPads.

Still, let's suppose that you are willing to put up with the inherent limitations of a virtual keyboard. My lament is that, even so, the iPad's virtual keyboard could be better than it is. Furthermore, some of the issues here extend to both physical and virtual keyboards.

The keyboard's weaknesses are not new--they've been around for several iterations of iOS--but they remain irksome, especially the longer they go unaddressed.

Sidestep the loupe tool

The loupe tool is the magnifying-glass icon that appears when you tap and hold on text. It's what allows you to move the text cursor to different locations. It is also the most irritating thing about typing on an iOS device. Whenever I have to invoke the loupe tool, it is almost certain that I will be wasting time.

Let's say I intended to type the word "sequester" and typed "saquester" instead. (We'll ignore autocorrect for the moment; I'll get to that later.) How do I go about fixing the typo?

I could backspace to the incorrect letter. But that would delete all the correctly typed letters--wasting time and opening the door to more errors when I retype.

The other alternative, the one I am pretty much forced to use, is the loupe tool. To invoke it, I tap and hold at the desired location. Maybe it's because my fingers are on the fat side, but I'm rarely able to position the cursor in the precise desired location on my initial attempt. Instead, I have to slide the loupe tool around until it stops at just the right point. Having zeroed in on my target, I can now delete the incorrect letter and type in the new one. But now, I need to invoke the loupe tool yet again--this time to return to the location where I had left off. That's a significant amount of wasted time just to change one letter.

 

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