2 min read

My iPad, my accidental typewriter

As Robin Williams’ book title says: The Mac is not a typewriter.

Yet Apple's iPad might be.

My iPad links to an Apple Wireless Keyboard and runs iA Writer. This combination gives me the closest thing I’ve seen in 25 years of computing to an old-school manual typewriter.

For a journalist that’s a good thing.

Typewriter easy

Apple didn’t design the iPad with word processing in mind.

On its own the iPad is a poor writing tool. Although the larger on-screen keyboard makes for better typing than using a smartphone.

Yet here I am tapping away and loving the experience more than I have done since my last typewriter ribbon dried up back in the 1980s.

Have I taken leave of my senses?

Let me count the ways I love you

Three things make the iPad typewriter-like:

1. Radical simplicity.

The iPad, Apple’s Wireless Keyboard and iA Writer make for simple and distraction free writing.

There’s no mouse. That’s great because lifting hands off the keyboard to point and click is the number one cause of pain for old-school touch typists working on PCs.

Until you stop writing, the keyboard controls everything.

At the same time, the crisp serif text on a plain screen is the nearest thing to a type on a sheet of paper. Wonderful.

2. Text editor

iA Writer is a text editor. Not a word processor.

There’s nothing dancing on my screen. No pop-ups, no incoming email. At least not the way I’ve set things up.

It is just me and my words. The only word processor-like feature is the iPad’s built-in spell checker, which mainly stays out of the way.

Best of all, iA Writer doesn’t do page layout. I don’t care how my words look because I can’t tinker. That’s one less thing to worry about.

This all adds up to fast, productive writing.

3. Quick on the draw

Typewriters don’t need to warm-up, to boot or load applications. Nor does the iPad.

My normal morning practice with a laptop was to make a cup of tea while waiting for the PC to be ready for writing. The iPad is ready in seconds.

I can get my thoughts down while they are still fresh. The first 100 words or so are nailed on the iPad before I’d get started on the PC.

The best computer bits are still there

While my iPad writing combination kills the bad stuff about word processing, it keeps the best feature: The ability to go back over copy and make corrections. This was always a pain when using a typewriter.

And I send my writing to just about anywhere in the world in a matter of seconds. Try doing that with a real typewriter.

Other iPad typewriter plus points

My iPad and keyboard are a lot easier to carry than my ageing and neglected portable typewriter – and easier than my laptop.

The battery life is long. I can work a whole day without needing to find a power point.

iA Writer uses cloud storage. You can choose DropBox or Apple’s iCloud. This means my work is available to me on any computer anywhere in the world.

The Mac still might not be a typewriter, but the iPad does the job.