iPad + Keyboard or MacBook Air?

I have had an iPad since day one and up and until last week I had never once attached a keyboard to either of my iPads. I simply never saw the point and wasn’t the least bit curious.

Then two writers came out and started talking about using an iPad 2 as their writing machine — attaching various keyboard contraptions to them. This had me intrigued, as I previously just used the on screen keyboard — which I know I am slower on, but it doesn’t require any more space.

Then Dan Frakes had to go and post that mega-guide for Macworld of all the different iPad keyboard options out there. That’s when I saw it: the Origami Workstation. I really wanted it when I saw it.

After all I have several Apple Wireless Keyboards, it’s my favorite keyboard, and the Origami didn’t add extra bulk to the iPad since it didn’t actually connect to the iPad.

I bought one to check it out.

In short I am very happy with this little keyboard case, but I am not sure if it is better than just taking my MacBook Air (more on this later).

The Origami Workstation is a solidly built case. It is more than rigid enough to place in your lap and type away on. The iPad isn’t locked in, but also never felt as though it was about to tip out of the stand when on my lap.

This case does add bulk to the Apple Wireless keyboard, but not an awful lot. In fact, I actually never realized how much bigger the Wireless keyboard is than the iPad 2 until I wrapped it in the Origami and packed them in my bag — and that’s certainly not the fault of the Origami.

There’s only one complaint I can lodge about the Origami case: velcro. Essentially you snap the battery compartment of the Wireless keyboard into a bit of plastic and friction holds it in place (and does so really well). The case covers the entire bottom and top of the keyboard — not the sides.

To secure the top flap over the keyboard you have two velcro tabs that further wrap around the front of the keyboard. These tabs are also used to transform the case into a stand for your iPad. While the velcro holds fantastically well — I despise velcro.

To me velcro is just a more civilized version of duct tape.

It’s noisy and bulky — fully inelegant. I loathe velcro.

Yet I don’t have a better solution that would hold as well as velcro, so I give this a passing grade — just barely.

The Origami Workstation does just what it says it will and I have no real qualms with the product (outside of velcro) — what’s more interesting to me is the usage of the iPad + keyboard setup.

Keyboard + iPad

I tried to pair my Apple Wireless keyboard and it failed the first time. Worked on the second, but now I was afraid that using the keyboard with the iPad would prove extremely disappointing.

I had 30 minutes to spare, a chair without a desk or table, a review to write and a case to test. I opened iA Writer on the iPad and got to the task at hand.

Forty-five minutes later I realized I was running late and had written a ton.

The ideas were flowing.

Later I cleared my email inbox writing typo-free replies. I worked some more on that review and lost track of time because I stayed on task.

That may be the best summation of the iPad + keyboard combination that I can give — but it has nothing to do with the case and everything to do with one missing shortcut: CMD + Tab. I couldn’t figure why I was more focused on the iPad, then I realized it is actually quite a pain to switch apps on the iPad.

I am a huge user of CMD + Tab on my MacBook Air — it might just be the most used shortcut on my Mac. It is also the most distracting shortcut, taking me away from writing to Twitter and Reeder.

The disconnect of having to reach up to the iPad to switch apps, instead of doing it on the keyboard, is what makes it such a fantastically focused writing device for me. It certainly is just as good with the on screen keyboard, but by adding in the external keyboard both my accuracy and speed increased significantly — as did my confidence.

It’s truly a fantastic experience, but not to the point where I am about to go all iPad all the time.

iPad + Keyboard or MacBook Air

This is the real conundrum for me. Carrying my iPad 2 with Origami case is no different than carrying my MacBook Air — from weight and room in my bag perspectives. The only difference is that I have the option of just carrying the iPad 2, sans keyboard, if I so choose.

The question then becomes: do I take the iPad 2 and keyboard on trips, or the MacBook Air and iPad 2 (since I can’t seem to leave the iPad behind)?

I really don’t have a good answer to this. My mind tells me that, logically, I can do most everything I will want to do with just the iPad. My heart though can’t stand the notion of leaving behind the MacBook Air.

Truth be told I could probably go on vacation and only bring my iPhone and remain perfectly happy and productive, but that doesn’t help me solve this other problem.

No matter what I do I seem to have my mind made up that my iPad 2 must travel with me — nothing can beat it when you are on a plane, or in otherwise cramped areas.

That means the decision is really between bringing my iPad 2 and Origami, or my iPad 2 and MacBook Air.

I have put off writing this post because I don’t have a good answer to this question — and I couldn’t suss out why I didn’t have a good answer. Today, though, I finally figured it out: Amazon S3.

There’s three critical things I need to be able to do when away:

  1. Remote login to my property management server.
  2. SSH into the TBR server.
  3. Post new content here.

One and two are no problem for the iPad 2 — but surprisingly it was number three that I have trouble accomplishing. I can certainly post links and text, but it is when I want/need to add in an image to a post that things really start to become troublesome if all I have is an iPad — and that is because I choose to host all images on Amazon S3. 1

There simply is no good way to upload an image to Amazon S3 and then set it public and grab the direct URL to that image. I have tried just about every Amazon S3 client I could get my hands on: all of them suck.

I can do it, but it means using two apps — both of which are incredibly horrible to use. I have to use one app to upload the images — one at a time — then a second to set each file (individually) to public. Then generate a time sensitive URL to email for each image, but copy out just the normal bit of the URL.

All in all: it’s a horrible experience.

Until that experience changes I will be toting the MacBook Air.

While it is not as lightweight, I can do pretty much everything on it much faster and with far less friction than I can with the iPad 2 and a keyboard.

I do hope that changes, but for now it is a major stumbling block.

  1. This makes server load times faster and keeps the site up under extreme traffic.
Originally posted for members on: January 4, 2012
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