The iPad is great for looking at things, or what the industry calls 'consumption'. Watching videos, surfing the web, emailing, playing games, or reading an e-Book is considered consumption. While not a true replacement for a laptop, the iPad can also be used to create documents, artwork, or even record sound and with the new iPad 2, photos and video.
I had been thinking of getting a keyboard to use with my iPad 1. The on-screen keyboard is nice and is fine for surfing and email. On the screen, I can two-finger type pretty fast, as long as the auto correct works. When I want to add text to my blog or start writing a new article, having a real keyboard just makes more sense. The problem is whether to go wired or wireless.
I looked at the Apple Bluetooth wireless keyboard ($69). It's small, light, and very sturdy. It is very thin and has no angle adjustment, which some people don't like (the wired version is the same way). Since keyboards are something you use practically every day it is really down to personal preference. You need to try out keyboards to get one that feels good to you.
The Apple Bluetooth wireless keyboard is perfect to go with the iPad. Apple also makes a special Keyboard Dock for the iPad (also $69). Unfortunately, it's not quite as portable as a wireless keyboard. The iPad sits vertically on the dock, using the 30-pin dock connection. Because of its awkward shape, the Apple keyboard dock works great at home, just not so well on the road.
Last year, Apple released a camera kit for the iPad that consisted of an SD card reader module and a USB module that plug into the 30-pin dock connection. The idea was that you would connect your digital camera directly to the iPad using the USB module and the USB cable that came with your camera. If you had a camera that uses the SD type memory cards (SD is the most popular) then you would insert the camera's SD memory card into the SD module. Either way, you could transfer photos to the iPad and view them on the larger screen.
Many were pleasantly surprised when a few curious iPad owners tried other USB devices with the camera kit's USB module, and they worked. It seems as long as the peripheral doesn't use too much power it would work. Some of the things that will work are - microphones, speakers, headsets, and keyboards. Mice don't work so don't bother.
Since I already had the iPad camera kit all I had to do was find a USB keyboard. A friend recently purchased a unique folding keyboard to use with his MacBook (he needed the extra navigation keys and keypad keys). It was the Folding Keyboard made by Matias. I found it at OWC, Other World Computing - a great online store full of Apple related items. This Apple compatible USB keyboard is a bargain at only $29 and works beautifully on the iPad, iPhone, Touch, and of course any Mac laptop or desktop.
This is a full 'hard' keyboard that folds in half. It is fairly thin so the folded unit doesn't take up too much space in my case. The keys are full size and feel great. Typing is fast and sure. Typing on the iPad is now a breeze.
The first thing I noticed using an external keyboard with the iPad is that your screen real estate is much larger. This is due to the fact that the onboard keyboard doesn't pop up taking away all that valuable space. It's amazing to be able to use arrow keys to move around a document to correct things. The Folding Keyboard is a true Mac compatible keyboard so it has the proper Control-Option-Command keys. It even has three volume control keys (mute-down-up) that work on the iPad.
The biggest surprise came when I tried the command key. I tried Command-Z and it did an UNDO. Several other commands also work, CMD-A, CMD-X, CMD-C, and CMD-V. Holding down the Option key while typing will even get you special characters, like symbols and letters with diacritical marks. Of course, I'm doing all these things in Pages, Apple's word-processing/page-layout App for the iPad. It can be found on the App Store for $9.99.
An external keyboard should work in most Apps, but not all. I tried it with Pages, Numbers, Keynote, Notepad, Mail, and Contacts. They all work with an external keyboard. I even tried a calculator App I recently downloaded called Jumbo Calculator. It worked and I was even able to use the numeric keypad something the shortened Apple Bluetooth keyboard doesn't have.
I think the iPad is rapidly becoming a device that I can use more and more to help me create documents. With Apps like Pages, Keynote, Numbers, Garage Band, Photoshop Express, and Penultimate together with utilities like Drop Box, and Mobile Me, I can create and share my work with others or easily transfer them back to my Mac to finish what I started. We'll just have to watch and see what evolutionary changes the iPad, iOS, and Mac OS will bring in the next few years.