Poll: Writing on an iPad / iPad for Writing

What is your experience of writing and working with text on an iPad?

  • It’s perfect — no software or hardware concerns.

    Votes: 15 45.5%
  • I use an iPad but have trouble with the software side of writing/editing

    Votes: 5 15.2%
  • I use an iPad but have trouble with the hardware options available

    Votes: 2 6.1%
  • I use an iPad but have trouble with both hardware and software

    Votes: 5 15.2%
  • I just use a laptop for writing

    Votes: 6 18.2%

  • Total voters
    33

va1984

macrumors regular
Original poster
Jan 27, 2011
139
130
When the first generation iPad came out, I bought it and along with it I bought that wonderful keyboard dock made by Apple which held the device in portrait mode and charged it and gave you a maginificent, real keyboard to type on. It was a wonderful experience. Focused, portrait-oriented typing. You could literally see the whole page come to fill with your words.

Fast forward 8 years or so, and I am arguably a bit disappointed with how things are progressing.
Let me say it clearly:
In my case, I don’t use the iPad Pro because I think it is the best tool for writing. I use it because it is the best tool for annotating PDFs and grading student essays. And because the 12.9 iPP +SKF offer the lightest display area / weight ratio in Apple’s line-up. And because the OS is lean, battery life is great, and modern and LTE enables continuous iCloud back-ups of your writing. And because carrying two devices every day around the university campus is, for me, unwieldy.
So there are reasons other than writing to want to make the 12.9 iPP my primary device, and my only mobile computer.
The question is, how to cope with the compromises this choice entails with writing specifically? Writing is at least 60% of my job, so one could actually argue that I need to get the best machine for that task (a laptop) and then accept a less-than-optimal solution for other tasks like annotating. But is writing on an iPad really that compromised?

For me, the problem areas are:

1) quality of hardware keyboards available
2) external monitor still requires you to look down to the iPad in order to move “cursor” and select text
3) selecting text is a little awkward even when no external monitor is involved.
4) limited number of open documents at the same time (ie. Cannot have two instances of Pages, Word, or two sheets in Ulysses — although with Scrivener you can sort of do that).

What do you like and do not like about writing and working with text on an iPad?
If you accept that there are compromises and yet still choose to make iPad your primary device for writing, what are your reasons for this choice?
 
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zhenya

macrumors 603
Jan 6, 2005
6,358
2,823
Selecting text is still a nightmare on the iPad. Not only do you need to use the text handles (made somewhat easier with a keyboard and using Shift + Arrow keys), but those text handles don’t behave consistently. There are still bugs where you sometimes can’t select exactly the block you want. Sometimes the cursor disappears entirely. When you switch between apps the cursor may not be active without a tap on the screen, and then it may or may not be in the place you left off.

The multi-tasking abilities of iOS are also too limited for my liking for extensive writing. If you need to regularly switch between multiple apps for reference, it’s too cumbersome.

So while I’m sure some people can make do on an iPad, there is pretty much no question that as it stands now, using a laptop will be a LOT more efficient unless writing for you simply means stream of consciousness typing with little editing and little reference to other documents or sources.
 

wittyphrase

macrumors regular
Jan 6, 2017
131
144
New York
I’ll chime in here because writing is something I do a lot of on the iPad Pro, both typing and handwriting.

I work in legal & HR. A significant portion of my job has me drafting, reviewing and editing documents of my own or those that have been prepared by others. I am also requently reviewing data that’s been prepared by others for my review/consideration or use in drafting the above mentioned documents. I am able to make use of the iPP as a primary mobile tool for my work. I do have a work laptop and a personal laptop, but both of those typically stay parked in the office/home office. I also write personally. Then there’s also the email that’s done constantly vs. phone calls for purposes of record keeping. I share all this to give you the context in which I’m talking about “writing.”

The executive summary on this is that I think the iPad Pro is a fantastic tool for my work with the conditions that exist around my role in the organization. I like the size, weight and all around portability of the iPP combined with its versatility compared to a traditional laptop, even those designed with portability in mind. I accept the limitations on the device in exchange for the versatility it allows. But again, I think environmental factors are a big part of this. If I were more junior and responsible for some of the tasks I can now assign to other people, I’m not sure it would be as effective.

Now, to be more specific, I just recently I was able to complete a week-long negotiation without having to open an actual computer. I just used my 9.7” iPad Pro (I switched to the 2018 11” this week). OneNote is, in my view, an incredible tool for the iPad. Especially if you’ve got LTE or are on WiFi so it’s always syncing. But if I had to work on spreadsheets myself I don’t think I’d have been comfortable with just the iPad. I also had people that would handle printing and such for me, so didn’t have to worry about the ability to print via our networked printers in the remote offices.

The writing part is the simplest part to me and I find the Smart Keyboard, while not perfect, to be very well suited to the task. I’ve found that with the iPad, compromise is the name of the game. I cannot compare two Word documents side-by-side the way I might like to. I can compare a PDF to a Word doc though, which is what I’m doing most often. So this works for me. For the most part, when it comes to the actual writing or annotating part, the device is perfect in both the hardware and software. It’s in the areas of multitasking and organization that it starts to show its limitations.

I wouldn’t agree that you should get a laptop because it’s the best tool for writing. But I would agree that if the kind of writing and work you do requires regularly needing more than one document open, or you have a workflow that can’t be easily accomplished by iOS and it’s “file system” then a traditional machine is probably better for you.

The only additional note I’ll make as far as hardware goes is that I haven’t found anything that can match the Apple Pencil for handwriting. I’ve tried a lot of styli (is that right?). None compare in my opinion. Grateful for the new finish and charging method on the v2. If you’re doing a lot of annotation and marking up students’ papers you’ve already received electronically, I don’t think you’re going to find a better tool than the iPad/Pencil combo especially as far as portability and the opportunity to carry one device vs. 20 printed documents. I use PDF expert, which allows you to open multiple documents within tabs for annotation either by hand or typed. I haven’t used the Adobe since I let the subscription for some other products lapse, but I’m sure it’s probably fairly capable as well.
 
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phunigai

Suspended
Nov 12, 2018
193
187
for my comix i create i can now type the captions, set the type size and rows, rasterize- then draw circles. sounds easy enough, luckily the app i'm using lets me do this while these new adding layers atop the outline and color parts. i need to have the image positioned on the ipad a certain way to check spelling, (mine) which can be a hassle buy all in all i'm happy that i can do this without a laptop or computer , if this helps or answers the topic
 

TrueBlou

macrumors 68040
Sep 16, 2014
3,779
2,487
Scotland
I do a fair bit of writing these days, I’ve taken up journalism - much to the surprise of my English teacher I’d imagine.

I really don’t have an issue with the iPad Pro and writing. I find the Pencil great for jotting down notes, aside from its drawing capabilities.

With a keyboard, I use the Apple one, I’ve grown used to it over the past couple of years and this years version is much the same.
All of the keyboard shortcuts for selecting and editing text I use on my Mac also work on iPad Pro. So I don’t really use the little on-screen handles very much when writing.

Is it as good as a laptop? Well, no, not quite. But for me at least, it’s not a million miles away.
 

Greenmeenie

macrumors 65816
Jan 14, 2013
1,284
1,721
I just saw an article using the new Mac mini and the new iPad Pro as a monitor wirelessly with a mouse and external keyboard set up. Looked like a cool home solution, and then take the iPad with you when you go mobile.

I’m an artist, but I do write a lot too. Funny thing is tho...I never adopted the external Smart Keyboard. I’ve always typed using the virtual keyboard on my iPad. I am quite fast at typing on it now after years of practice. May not be a solution for you, but it works for me.
 

hovscorpion12

macrumors 65816
Sep 12, 2011
1,236
253
USA
I am currently working on three writing projects (script, book and web article) and can confirm that we can not split screen Word, however I was able to get one side Word (App), the other side safari (web word) and chrome (web word) on top of safari. It was a bit of a hassle, but I was able to figure out the keyboard shortcuts to switch between tabs.

I do hope Microsoft would update their Apps.
 

flur

macrumors 68020
Nov 12, 2012
2,191
914
I’m a novelist, and I just finished grad school about a year ago. I write at home on a 13” MBP and on the go on an iPad. I’ve had an Air 2 since launch and have just upgraded to the new IPP this month. I probably write 25-40% of the time on my iPad, using Scrivener for drafts and Word for edits. I love it, and am very happy with the experience. There are only two issues I’ve seen that impact me: it’s hard to copy/move a large block of text, and you can’t have multiple windows of Word open at once. The only time either of these things were a problem for me was when I was querying, because usually if I need two windows open or am moving around large chunks of text, I’m doing it in Scrivener, where it’s super easy. Now, to be fair, I also do a lot of work on my MBP, and it’s possible that my need to do things that the iPad isn’t great at has just happened when I’m home, so I haven’t seen it. But given how often, and how unpredictably, I’m working on the iPad, it seems unlikely that I’ve only used it for the “easy” stuff. In addition to several novels, I also wrote both my grad school theses part-time on the iPad, and I gave my grad lecture, with slides and notes in keynote, entirely from my iPad.

We’ll see how things progress with the iPad and MBPs, but I fully expect to keep my mid-2015 MBP until it dies and gradually my iPad will become my primary device, because I think it’s capable for my needs. I won’t be surprised if my MBP is the last laptop I own.

FYI, I occasionally use a keys-to-go keyboard when I’m looking to go really lightweight, but most of the time I use an Apple Wireless keyboard (the predecessor to the magic keyboard). Because writing is typing-intensive, I don’t mess around there, I go desktop-quality. It makes a huge difference in the writing experience and doesn’t add much weight to the bag.
 
Last edited:

sracer

macrumors G3
Apr 9, 2010
8,354
8,707
Prescott Valley, AZ
When the first generation iPad came out, I bought it and along with it I bought that wonderful keyboard dock made by Apple which held the device in portrait mode and charged it and gave you a maginificent, real keyboard to type on. It was a wonderful experience. Focused, portrait-oriented typing. You could literally see the whole page come to fill with your words.

Fast forward 8 years or so, and I am arguably a bit disappointed with how things are progressing.
Let me say it clearly:
In my case, I don’t use the iPad Pro because I think it is the best tool for writing. I use it because it is the best tool for annotating PDFs and grading student essays. And because the 12.9 iPP +SKF offer the lightest display area / weight ratio in Apple’s line-up. And because the OS is lean, battery life is great, and modern and LTE enables continuous iCloud back-ups of your writing. And because carrying two devices every day around the university campus is, for me, unwieldy.
So there are reasons other than writing to want to make the 12.9 iPP my primary device, and my only mobile computer.
The question is, how to cope with the compromises this choice entails with writing specifically? Writing is at least 60% of my job, so one could actually argue that I need to get the best machine for that task (a laptop) and then accept a less-than-optimal solution for other tasks like annotating. But is writing on an iPad really that compromised?

For me, the problem areas are:

1) quality of hardware keyboards available
2) external monitor still requires you to look down to the iPad in order to move “cursor” and select text
3) selecting text is a little awkward even when no external monitor is involved.
4) limited number of open documents at the same time (ie. Cannot have two instances of Pages, Word, or two sheets in Ulysses — although with Scrivener you can sort of do that).

What do you like and do not like about writing and working with text on an iPad?
If you accept that there are compromises and yet still choose to make iPad your primary device for writing, what are your reasons for this choice?
Ha! You and I were probably the only 2 people bought that keyboard dock for the iPad 1. :eek::D
I miss the portrait orientation when writing. That is why I no longer use keyboard covers/cases. I have a 1st gen Apple bluetooth keyboard (with the barrel) and the Fintie origami case for it. It works great with the iPad (I use the 2018 non-Pro iPad) and allows me to stand the iPad up in portrait orientation.

I make heavy use of the keyboard shortcuts that are available in iOS and I find that greatly helps in navigating through a document, applying styles, and switching between apps.

Yes, the lack of having multiple instances of an app open is an impediment and requires a bit of planning to ensure that the other-sourced text is available beforehand.

I use to use the 12.9 Pro but found that the larger size was an impediment because other than full view in 50/50 splitview, it didn't offer anything beyond the 9.7" iPad form factor and its size prevented using it in a portrait orientation with a physical keyboard.
 
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Treebark

macrumors 6502
May 24, 2010
296
157
I'd say I am not represented in your poll...there has to be some ground between "Perfect" and having "troubles" doesn't there? ;)

I'd say really the biggest thing that could be improved is selecting text. But the clunkiness of that isn't going to make me run to a laptop anytime soon.
 

secretk

macrumors 6502
Oct 19, 2018
480
288
I don't use the iPad to type in general because it's just frustrating for me. I like to type fast and I cannot do that on an iPad. There are few reasons for this:

1. Software keyboards are in general not efficient for me
2. It's not easy to select text
3. It's not easy to edit text
4. My experience with the current hardware keyboard I have (have in mind it's the first one I have and it's a regular Bluetooth keyboard for 6th gen iPad) is not a good one.

Lastly I am used to bigger keyboards in general. The ergonomics on those small keyboards just do not work out for me.

Luckily I did not buy the iPad for typing so this experience do not stop me. However the moment I go home I just fire up my laptop and my iPad stays in my purse. I do not use iPad at home at all. Even for consumption media I am all about my laptop.

I use iPad for annotating documents and taking handwritten notes and for that it works great.
 

Tom G.

macrumors 68020
Jun 16, 2009
2,137
865
Champaign/Urbana Illinois
Interesting thread, I was considering starting a similar discussion but now I’d don’t need to.

I do a bit of preaching (as a lay preacher) and therefore the majority of my writing is sermon length (for me about 1800 to 2000 words). I use Apple’s Pages app exclusively for my writing as I find I can easily do all that I need to with it. When I started doing this I had a Microsoft based laptop, but very quickly became tired of the constant virus problems. I wanted to get to my writing not spend time running or upgrading virus programs before I could start doing what I needed to do. I went and got an Apple MacBook and haven’t had a problem since, I can do what I need, or want, to do without problems. When the first iPad came out I got one and found it could help me do the research needed for a sermon in even more places than the MacBook and I fell in love with it. When the first generation 12.9” iPad Pro came out I quickly got one with the Smart Keyboard and pencil. I found out that I liked the keyboard but really didn’t use the pencil as much as I thought I would. I got the Pen & Quill leather case for it because I could use the Smart Keyboard with the iPad in the case and then use the case while preaching as the leather case kind makes it look like I’m using a notebook instead of a tablet. I use an app called PromptSmart when actually preaching as it is a poor man’s TelePrompter, and works really well on the iPad.

The more I used this set up the less I found I was using the MacBook. I usually start a document on the iPad as I realize that the IOS version of Pages is a bit simpler than the Mac OS version, and if I switch to the MacBook there is very little problems with things not working. I found early on that if I started on the MacBook and switched to the iPad that at times there were small but annoying glitches casused by the fact that the Mac OS version of Pages could do things that IOS version could not support. By starting on the iPad, even if all I did was write the title, I have not had a problem.

I have upgraded to the 12.9” 3rd generation iPad Pro and am very pleased with it. Although I have not yet used it when preaching, I look forward to doing this for one reason and that is it’s weight and size. I was always the one to “tut tut” those who complain about the weight of the 12.9” iPad as being to heavy, thinking, “come on, its only 1.5 pounds.” However, when you hold one in one hand while speaking for about 10 to 15 minutes, you come to realize that it can get uncomfortable, you develop a “crick” in your arm. The new 12.9” unit with its smaller size and slightly less weight will be easier on my arm. I already practiced giving one of my sermons to my dog while holding the new iPad, and it seems that it will be much better.

I have decided for the time being not to get the Smart Keyboard nor the pencil. As I said before I really didn’t use the pencil as much as thought I would and with the raise in its price I’ll hold off. I may get it later. As far as the keyboard goes, I found out that I could use my Apple Magic Keyboard that I had gotten to use with an iMac that I had a few years ago. When I sold the iMac the buyer did not want the keyboard as he had his own. Had I known earlier that it works as well as it does with the iPad I most likely would not have gotten the Smart Keyboard. It’s only a bit larger than the Smart Keyboard and does all that I need it to do. Plus it fits as easily into the bag that I have for the iPad as the Smart Keyboard. I also like the tactile feel of it better than the Smart Keyboard.

All in all I am very pleased with my 3rd generation iPad Pro as it does all that I ask of it and more. I find that now I use it about 75 — 80% of the time especially when I’m writing. Who knows, in a couple of years I may not have a laptop at all. I don’t believe that Apple will combine the two together, as some people wish, I think that a lot of people will find that they don’t really need an actual computer to do things, and with tablets becoming more and more powerful they will find that for the most part it can replace the home computer.
 
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kazmac

macrumors 604
Mar 24, 2010
7,761
5,326
Any place but here or there....
For long form writing, I use my iMac or my iPhone actually. For handwriting, I'll do a little bit in Notability but nothing too beyond three pages max.

I've disliked all of the keyboards (especially the ASK) for my long gone 2nd gen 12.5, so I would just use the on screen keyboard instead.