The iPad is officially on the loose this morning, and while I still haven’t had a chance to play with one in person, I finally did get an answer to a question I’ve had since day one: How exactly are we supposed to type on this thing? Steve Jobs has made it clear that he things the iPad is the device you should buy if you want something in between a smartphone and a laptop, not a netbook. But while the iPad is clearly designed primarily for consuming content rather than creating it, the only way it could really serve that niche is if it can handle text input at least comfortably enough to write a few email messages and maybe type up a short document or two.

Laptop Magazine has posted a video overview of the on-screen keyboard, and it really doesn’t look all that bad. While most of the promotional videos Apple has released show people typing by sticking their feet up on a table and propping the iPad on their knees, Laptop Magazine shows that you actually can hold the tablet in both hands and use your thumbs to type the same way you would with an iPhone. In fact, in portrait mode, you can probably type faster on the iPad than an iPhone, thanks to the larger keys — although things get tricky in landscape mode where your thumbs have to reach a lot further.

If you pick up the optional iPad case for $39, you can also use it to prop up the iPad to a more comfortable typing angle. That’s because there’s a flap that folds out on the back of the case that makes a sort of triangle/wedge shape which tilts the iPad so that you can look at the screen while you type with the tablet on your lap or on a desk.

To be honest, it still looks like you’d have to bend over a bit to get a good look at the display while typing with the iPad on a table, even with the case. But overall the experience of using the on-screen keyboard doesn’t look that bad. I don’t expect users to be able to type as fast on the iPad as they can on a netbook with a physical keyboard. But on-screen keyboards do have their advantages. For example, the keyboard can take a different shape and configuration depending on which application you’re using. Need a numeric keypad for editing spreadsheets? No problem. One is included at no extra cost.

I’m not ready to throw out my physical keyboards just yet. But I am pleasantly surprised.

Hit up Laptop Magazine for a look at the typing test. And if you don’t feel like spending $39 on an official case/laptop stand, Boing Boing spotted a set of instructions for building your own.

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11 replies on “How to type on an iPad”

  1. My understanding is that these devices are replacing pcs already (it’s why HP is going to stop making pcs-everyone is going to ipads and they couldn’t compete).  How can ipads and similar devices completely replace pcs if they’re all about consuming content and not creating it (where pcs allow you to do both)?

  2. oh… ill never be able to reach by beloved 120 WPM on an iPad(60-70 WPM) like I do on a sony vaio W netbook(124 WPM average)
    I somehow can’t get the swing of typing on a virtual keyboard because I don’t hear the rat-tat-tat of the keyboard when I type and the feel of the keys depressing and popping up again. But then again, (60-70 WPM) on a iPad is above average. How fast do you guys type on a normal keyboard?

  3. As a long time netbook pc user, my first impressions a pretty positive.
    So far the browser experience is the fastest i’ve had. Pages load very quickly. Quicker than my quad core desktop (although lack of flash might have something to do with that).

    In regards to erogonomics, the experience is less than perfect. Brad’s initial thoughts about typing on general browsing were spot on. The unit is fairlt heavy and does require two hands to hold it or needs to be balanced on your belly or legs for comfortable browsing With the iPad in your lap you can type with a modified touch typing experience and is more than adequate. However since you need to lay it flat I have found myself craning my neck down into an un comfortable position since the screen is almost perpendicular to your body.

    In portrait mode a quick thumb type to enter a URL is a fine experience but due to it’s weight can only be done for a short time.

    The build quality, screen quality and software available already makes this a really enjoyable experience. YouTube HD videos look amazing on this screen.

  4. Thumb typing in portrait mode looks like it would work, providing you have adult male hands. Everybody else has to support the device in one hand, and use the other to hunt and peck, just like you have to when using a netbook. I guess you have to go to a 7 inch screen to type in landscape with both thumbs.

  5. A virtual qwerty keyboard is just wrong for a device like this.

    *Physical* qwerty keyboards are designed for touch typing with all of your fingers, not just two (although some of you probably hunt and peck anyways).

    Presenting a *virtual* qwerty keyboard, which at first glance sounds intuitive, winds up being as wrong as the volume control that they put on Quicktime a long time ago, which mimicked a physical thumb knob… which you tried to actuate with a mouse. It was just the wrong thing to do because you’d click on the thing, spin it a little, then you’d have to drag the mouse back and drag it a little more to get it to spin more.

    So much for Apple “innovation”. They could have done something a bit more tailored to this device (which other “tablets” have at least tried), but I guess they were too busy innovating how to restrict the functionality of the device.

    On second thought, considering the “segment” that Apple is intentionally targeting (by producing a dumbed down device), I guess the virtual keyboard actually was the logical choice, in an illogical sort of way. Because it makes perfect sense to produce a device with a virtual qwerty keyboard for non-tech-savvy people who would be even less likely to be actual typists on physical qwerty keyboards in the first place. Yep, makes sense to me.

    1. It turns out iPad typing is pretty great. People are already able to reach speeds of 50-60 words per minute. There are tons of customer reactions on twitter already of people saying they are surprised how easy typing is.

      Why is it wrong exactly?

  6. I’m not sure I agree-

    People are already able to reach speeds of 50-60 words per minute on their iPads. We have created a typing training app called TapTyping ( to help with this task.

    Using your thumbs while in landscape mode is silly. That’s what portrait is for. In landscape you set the device down and use all 10 fingers with a style similar to touch typing.

    The laptop magazine video is ridiculous. Typing with just your index fingers? C’mon.

  7. I stopped at a Best Buy about 15 minutes ago, they had a bunch on display with one not in use so I got a chance to try it out for a few minutes.

    I was able to touch type at modest speeds with adequate accuracy, but the keys under the right pinky were wrong for a touch typist which caused a lot of my problems. With more practice I’d probably get quite a bit better. The other problem for me was the screen was too sensitive, it would be nice if Apple could temporary reduce the sensitivity under the onscreen keyboard so you could at least lightly rest your fingers on the surface; this is another thing that some practice would probably help with.

    1. Oh, one other thing, I’m pretty sure the screen is at least four point multitouch.

  8. In reality, most surfing, which is what netbooks and tablets and pads do best don’t need much typing.

    At the most, its merely typing a URL ie https web address. That also, 90% of the time, its bookmarked as an address in Explorer or any browser one is using.

    The virtual keyboard is also ideal to answer short emails.

    Like Brad said clearly, its more to consuming content rather than creating it. Well put Brad.

    Bear in mind that most netbook users merely consume content too. Thus the virtual keyboard should and would be ideal for anybody wanting to answer quick emails and chat on any IM software.

    I just bought a smartphone and to be honest, typing ont he virtual keyboard is so easy. Of course one cannot be writing essays but I have to admit, its fast and efficient.

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