The fake news phenomena really interests me. And with hindsight, I don’t know why it’s only become a mainstream issue in the past couple of years.
After all, everyone can be a publisher these days. And most of us are. Billions of people have social network accounts and hundreds of millions of us have blogs too. In other words, we’re all equipped to spread whatever information or misinformation we choose.
I was thinking about this recently, when my friend told me about the challenge he had, helping his daughter with some school work. He explained that time and again, it was easier to find low quality “content” than expertly-crafted articles. For instance, Google regularly ranks Pinterest posts above museum articles, when you’re looking for a reliable source of historic information.
Technology certainly has a huge role to play. And the tech companies who have profited mightily from fake news need to start taking it seriously, rather than offering platitudes.
But I don’t think technology is the answer by itself.
Ultimately, the solution to the fake news problem has to be education. More specifically, education on how to discern between reliable / credible sources and those that are not. There needs to be a clear message, that just because an article is ranked highly on Google, or a Facebook post has a ton of likes, it doesn’t mean the source is credible (or the information is reliable).
We’re part of the problem
That’s because search engines, social networks and our friends can’t be fooled without our help.
When we link to a fake news story, it’s (almost) like voting for it. Each link sends Google and the other search engines a signal. And the more links a story gets, the higher it will rank in search results.
When we like or share a Facebook post, (or retweet something) we give it added visibility and increase it’s social proof.
Thankfully, this also means we can become part of the solution. We can choose to ensure we check the source of information, before we link to it or share it.
And we can ask our friends to do the same. Like I just did.
However, both of these devices provide an alternative to hardware keyboards. That’s right, they both offer onscreen keyboards. So, I thought I’d see what the writing experience was like with these 2 devices. Specifically, I wanted to see how easy it would be to type a 500 word article, without a hardware keyboard.
Here’s what I found.
The iPad Air 2 onscreen keyboard
As a pretty fast touch typer, who writes all day every day, I was worried that the small screen size on the Air 2 would make typing really tricky. The onscreen keyboard is far narrower than a regular keyboard. My fingers are trained to expect keys to be a certain distance apart. That was clearly not going to be possible with this device.
I soon discovered that although the Air’s onscreen keyboard is very narrow, everything has been designed to make typing as easy as possible. I found that the keyboard, which was initially designed for the iPhone, where people input with 1 or 2 fingers, is a breeze to use with 10 digits.
One of the major benefits is the exceptionally useful predictive typing feature. Apple has been refining this for years. After typing a few letters, the 3 words that most closely match what you are typing, appear on the screen. With a quick glance at the 3 options, you’re able to find the right word and select it with a click. However, that’s not all. The iOS predictive text feature also guesses what word you’re most likely to type next. This often allows me to type 2 words in a row, with just 2 clicks… without spelling errors or typos.
It’s not perfect though. For some reason, when I type “i” with a space before and after it, it remains lower case. I have to use the shift key to get an “I”. This should happen by default, as soon as you tap the space bar. Another niggle is that some commonly used characters are hard to find. For example, accessing the %, + and – characters requires scrolling through 2 additional screens.
Overall, I was able to get my 500 words written with relative ease and with very little real frustration. And pretty quickly too.
The Surface Pro 3 onscreen keyboard
Whilst I was initially concerned that the iPad Air 2 would be too narrow, I assumed the Surface Pro’s wide screen would make onscreen typing a relative breeze. It wasn’t. In fact, the devices offered almost polar opposite writing experiences.
The Surface’s Windows 10 onscreen keyboard is considerably wider. This made it easy to type on and I found my typing to be more accurate too. And those hard to access characters on the iPad Air 2 were easy to find. This should have been a home-run for the Surface, however, the Surface’s Windows 10 onscreen keyboard is not as intuitive as its iOS counterpart.
Finding the correct keys was easier on the Windows 10 onscreen keyboard, however, the predictive text was less accurate. Also, unlike iOS, which gives you 3 predictive options, the Windows 10 onscreen keyboard offers you up to 8 choices. It places what it thinks are the closest matches on the left, with match quality dropping as you read across. You’d think that more choice would lead to a better experience. What actually happens, is that you find yourself presented with too many alternatives. This slows you down. Whereas the iOS predictive text made things easier, on Windows 10 it became a distraction. I found myself hardly using it by the end of the article.
Here’s the winner and why it doesn’t really matter
The iPad’s iOS onscreen keyboard was a clear winner for me. It’s easily good enough for articles up to around 750 / 1000 words. Personally, that covers around 99% of my work flow.
However, it doesn’t matter.
The thing is, the iPad needs a great onscreen keyboard, but the Surface doesn’t.
The vast majority of iPad users, excluding the iPad Pro, don’t buy a hardware keyboard. So they need an excellent onscreen keyboard. The opposite is true of the Surface Pro. That’s because unlike the iPad, almost everyone who buys a Surface device will use a hardware keyboard. Microsoft sell a Surface Pro 4 Type Cover, which doubles as a keyboard / track pad and screen cover. It’s extremely good. To put that into context, it offers a far better writing experience than most laptops. Unlike the iPad, Surface devices also have a USB port, so any USB keyboard can be used on them.
As you’d expect, neither device offers a good enough writing experience, to replace a hardware keyboard. That said, it’s good to know that if you find yourself without a keyboard and you need to get some work done, you can.
Oh, and in case you were wondering… I wrote this on my iPad, using the Logitech Tablet Keyboard for iPad.
As readers of my marketing blog will know, I have recently been focusing on the best tools for blogging on-the-go. By on-the-go, I’m referring to blogging outdoors, often without anywhere to plug a device in.
Thus far, I’ve used a Microsoft Surface Pro 3 with the excellent Pro 4 Type Cover and an iPad Air 2, with the Apple wireless keyboard. Today, I’m looking at the Logitech Tablet Keyboard For iPad. I’ve sent the past 2 days putting it through its paces and here are my thoughts.
The Logitech Tablet Keyboard For iPad was launched in 2011 and the design hasn’t changed. That said, it didn’t need to. It still looks fresh and while I am not keen on the light blue accent colours, the overall appearance is stylish and, dare I say it, Apple-like.
The keyboard is full sized and has a premium look and feel. It’s heavy. Not too heavy to carry, far from it. It just has that heft that a quality, solid keyboard has. The keys are island style, with plenty of space between them, which makes for more accurate typing. Above the keys to the right is an on / off switch for Bluetooth. There’s also a battery light, which remains off until the battery level is low. It takes 4 AAA batteries. I’ve no idea how long these last.
On the bottom of the keyboard are 5 rubber pads, which do a great job of stopping the keyboard from slipping. They also add to the solid overall feel of the keyboard.
Although sold as a keyboard, the device comes with 2 components; a wireless keyboard, plus a cover, which doubles as an adjustable iPad stand [see below]. The cover only covers the keys, deliberately leaving the top of the keyboard exposed. You then slide the keyboard into the cover.
When used as a stand, the cover has 2 positions. Both seem to work well in either portrait or landscape. When used as a cover, it closes via a strong magnetic clasp. The inside has a soft fabric finish.
The keyboard connects effortlessly with my iPad every time. I simply turn bluetooth on and the iPad recognises it. Boom… I’m ready to write.
There are a number of iPad specific keys, including home, search and lock as well as media keys to play, skip forward and backward and increase / decrease the volume of your music. Having access to these functions on the keyboard means you spend less time touching the screen.
The writing experience is very close to Apple’s wireless keyboard [one of my favourite keyboards] and better than Apple’s new Magic Keyboard. I was able to set it up and write at my normal speed and accuracy immediately. The island key design is well implemented, with just the right amount of space between keys. This improves accuracy and makes it less likely you’ll press 2 keys at the same time. The key travel is superb and makes for a very comfortable writing experience. I wrote a 1500 word article using it yesterday and the experience was like working on a laptop, rather than a tablet.
The Logitech Tablet Keyboard For iPad is an exceptionally good device. It works great and looks sleek. It’s a pleasure to use and has transformed my iPad Air 2 into a productivity monster. I’m delighted to have this in my mobile productivity toolkit. I think you will be too, which is why I recommend it.
Steven Woodgate from Microsoft kindly sent me a Surface Pro 4 Type Cover. I’ve now had a chance to use it for a full week of heavy writing. Here’s what my experience has been.
I need to start by saying that I write almost all day, 5 days a week. Over the past 30 years, I have used many different keyboards. I’ve found that there’s usually a link between the price of a keyboard and the writing experience. As the Surface Pro 4 Type Cover [without finger print id] retails in the UK at £109.99, my expectations were high.
NB: Although it’s called the Surface Pro 4 Type Cover, it works perfectly with the Pro 3.
The keyboard doubles as a screen cover for the device. It’s thin and connects via a very strong magnet. There’s a satisfying click that lets you immediately know it has attached correctly.
Like the previous model, the keyboard is covered on both sides [excluding they keys and touch-pad] in a felt-like fabric. As Apple also use a fabric keyboard for their iPad Pro, I’m assuming there’s an engineering reason for it. I don’t like the look or feel of the fabric. It’s also impractical. The felt texture gets worn looking, where the keyboard’s underside rests on a desk / table. That’s the side, which is visible when you’re carrying the Surface Pro. Also, because it’s textured, it’s easier to stain and harder to clean than a traditional wipe-clean keyboard. However, unlike the Apple Pro’s keyboard, the keys themselves are not covered by the fabric.
The Surface Pro 4 Type Cover keyboard is a massive improvement over the previous one. The new keyboard uses so-called island keys. This means each key is raised and has a distinct gap all around it. The key travel is very good for such a slim keyboard. And whilst there’s some flex in the keyboard, it’s not enough to negatively impact typing. The keys are also back-lit, making it easy to work in low light conditions.
The shortcut keys on the Surface Pro 4 Type Cover consist of media controls, back-lighting controls and the usual Print Screen, Home, End, Page up, Page down and Insert. The keyboard is also powered by the device, meaning no need for additional batteries.
The track pad is a huge improvement over its predecessor. It’s larger, extremely smooth and feels like glass. To qualify that, it’s better than the track pad on any of the Windows laptops I have owned. Throughout the day, I never needed to add a mouse. I was able, comfortably, to do everything with the track pad.
The Surface Pro 4 Type Cover offers a better typing experience than most Windows laptops. Yes, it’s that good.
I was immediately able to write on the new keyboard with my usual speed and accuracy. That’s quite unusual for me. I have slight arthritis in both hands, which means I am prone to a little pain unless I’m using a decent quality keyboard. I found the Surface Pro 4 Type Cover to be comfortable and intuitive. The key travel, spacing between keys and slightly raised keyboard design, combine to make typing effortless and fast.
I seldom use a laptop on my lap, however, I know lots of you do. So, I tried using the Surface Pro 4 Type Cover on my lap and it worked okay, though it’s not quite as lappable as a regular laptop. This is partly because of the distance between the keyboard and the Surface Pro’s kickstand. With a traditional laptop, the base is the same size the keyboard and track pad. With a Surface Pro, you have the extra depth required by the kickstand.
I have to admit to being very pleasantly surprised with the Surface Pro 4 Type Cover. I had often used the previous version and found it extremely limited for anything other than short notes. The new Type Cover is not only a good mobile keyboard, it’s a business grade performer, which is good enough for working on all day.
The price tag seemed high, before I used the keyboard. However, it’s worth every penny. If, like me, you’re a Surface Pro 3 user, this keyboard is an excellent upgrade and will give your device a new lease of life.
All in all, an outstanding keyboard.