I noticed something interesting about people’s responses to the iPad’s virtual keyboard: people who are slow typists tend to like it (or at least not mind it) while people who are touch-typists either avoid it at all costs (got an external keyboard) or didn’t even buy the darn thing because it was a dealbreaker.
Okay, so that’s not very interesting. Of course touch-typists are more sensitive to anything that can slow down their process — like, for example, not having actual keys to press. As a touch typist, I used to be in the “avoid the virtual keyboard” camp. But not anymore. I’m now a firm believer in the power of the virtual keyboard, typing away at it on speeds that I’m now happy with. And all I had to do was… (spoiler alert)
Watch my fingers.
At first it was unintuitive. As a speedy typer, I was taught to watch the screen. The reasoning is that you’ll catch typos quicker that way. Or maybe it’s just to show off.
But if that’s creating more typos than it’s fixing, time to change approaches.
The iPad’s problem isn’t key size. The keys are more than big enough. The problem also isn’t the virtuality of it all. The fingers don’t care whether the button is real or not. The problem is mostly that the keys are spaced out differently than on a typical real keyboard. But instead of retraining my fingers to work on a different space (a massive task), I simply retrained my eyes to look down while I type. The simple act of tracking my fingers erased the vast majority of errors that slowed me down.
My typing still isn’t perfect, and I still prefer to use a real keyboard when I have a tight deadline, but the keyboard is no longer something I warn people about. And now the iPad is one step closer to replacing my laptop completely… (don’t worry, my dear MacBook, there’s still several steps to go, you’ve got some time left…)
ps -yes, I know this isn’t going to help a lot of people… in fact, I suspect the better the typist you are with a standard keyboard, the less any “trick” will help you with non-standard keyboards. But this worked for me, and it’s working for a couple of people who I’ve given this advice to already as well.