Since the original iPad was released, there has been this idea that tablets are only really good for media consumption, rather than media creation. Watching videos, web surfing and viewing photos? Fine. Writing a script? Penning long form blog entries? Absolutely not.
The first question that usually arises is: why not just use a laptop?
For starters, it is quite difficult to find a notebook computer that gets close to 10 hours battery life, has a touchscreen, and weighs less than 3lbs. Being able to CHOOSE when and where to use a keyboard gives iPad an advantage When you aren't in productivity mode, it is easier to remove the keyboard and use iPad for reading, web surfing and watching movies around the house. Versatility and portability are on display here.
What follows is a 2-part walk through on using an iPad as a productivity powerhouse. This first article focuses on choosing the right keyboard. The second will focus on which apps make it all click.
One of the great things about iPad (and most other tablets for that matter) is that they have compatibility with any Bluetooth keyboard. If you have one lying around the house, it would certainly work with your iPad. There are a few keyboards that provide extra convenience and utility however. Apple's Wireless Keyboard is a wonderful option. Small, light and stylish, while retaining solid build quality. It has the additional perk of working with any Mac or PC computer. The main caveat with this choice is the lack of an included stand. Since it's technically a product made for a computer it doesn't include a way to dock or sit your iPad upright, thus adding the price of a stand into the initial cost.
Logitech's Ultrathin Keyboard is at or near the top of the class of iPad peripherals. Designed with the same magnetic latching system as Apple's official Smart Cover, it provides a tough hard cover for the front of your iPad. The keyboard also wakes and sleeps iPad as you open or close the cover. When ready to work, simply detach the latch, flip the keyboard over and dock your iPad. This provides a sort of pseudo laptop configuration. The base is solid enough that it can be used on a lap if a table isn't handy. The keys are as comfortable as any desktop keyboard one would come across. The Ultrathin Cover is a bit pricier than some other models, but the Smart Cover functionality, along with tremendous battery life (thanks to the rechargeable lithium-ion battery) give it great value for the price.
If you desire something lighter, or perhaps don't need the cover element, the Logitech Tablet Keyboard for iPad is a great option.
Instead of a magnetic docking station, this keyboard comes with a carrying case that folds out to make a stand for iPad or iPad mini. The keys retain the high quality of it's more expensive sibling, and the same great battery life, although this uses 4 AA batteries (included) rather than a rechargeable internal battery. It's slightly less convenient to have to carry the keyboard and tablet separately but both can easily fit inside a small messenger bag. A side note: for iPad mini users this keyboard is the best option since the Ultrathin cover is sized to fit the larger iPad family. In that case, the keyboard would still work since it operates over standard Bluetooth but the cover itself wouldn't fit.
It should be noted that these keyboards do include arrow keys for cursor movement, and function keys for the Home button, and volume control. Most iOS writing apps recognize typical Mac keyboard shortcuts as well, such as Command+a to select all, or command-c to copy selected text.
Input method is only one half of the equation obviously. Now that you've picked out a keyboard for your iPad, what software should you use for your writing? How should you export your documents to a usable format? These questions will be answered in the next part of this informative series.