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iPhone Tripod and Apple Wireless Keyboard

iPhone Writing Ergonomics

iPhone Tripod and Apple Wireless KeyboardHow can you stay productive for longer and avoid repetitive strain injury while writing on your iPhone?

The answer is ergonomics: the process of designing or arranging workspaces so that they fit the people who use them (Ergonomics in Australia 2011).

Ergonomics is usually applied to full-sized computer work stations but can be just as easily applied to writing on your iPhone. When you’re sitting down to write, make sure you do the following things:

1. Sit upright in your chair. Make sure your hips are as far back as they can go and your back is against the back rest.

2. Adjust your chair until your feet are flat on the floor, and your knees are the same height as your hips.

3. Adjust or get rid of your armrests, if they’re in the way.

4. Position your keyboard close and directly in front of you. Your shoulders should be relaxed and your wrists and hands straight.

5. When you’re writing on your iPhone, it’s tempting to use a folding Bluetooth keyboard for maximum portability. But folding keyboards usually lack an ergonomic tilt, and have small, cramped keys in awkward positions. For long-term productivity and comfort, use a full-sized Bluetooth keyboard.

6. Your iPhone needs to be centred in front of you and at eye-level. If you rest it flat on the table, your neck and eyes will start to ache. Buy an inexpensive tripod stand ($5 from eBay) and you will be amazed at the difference it makes to your comfort and productivity.

7. Minimise glare by positioning your iPhone at right angles to windows. The tripod stand makes it easy to adjust your iPhone’s position.

8. Take frequent breaks. Stretch and look away from the screen every twenty to thirty minutes. Once every hour, stash your iPhone, tripod stand and keyboard in your bag and go for a five minute walk.

References

Ergonomics in Australia 2011, Victoria, Australia, viewed 11 February 2011, http://www.ergonomics.com.au.

Arrow Keys

Why No Arrow Keys on the iPhone?

Arrow Keys

Because editing text requires the most precise cursor control of any iPhone function, arrow keys would revolutionise writing on the iPhone with the on-screen keyboard

Being a millimetre or two out when you’re poking your finger at a game sprite is rarely enough to ruin your game. But if you’ve typed wont instead of won’t, and your iPhone hasn’t autocorrected your mistake because wont is a word, sticking the apostrophe in before the W or after the O just won’t work.

iOS4, the current iPhone operating system, relies on a magnifying glass system to place a cursor in text. First, you poke at the portion of the screen where you’d like the cursor to go. Then you wait. It takes a second or so for the magnifying glass to activate, most likely so people won’t accidentally set it off every time they brush their fingers across the screen. These seconds can drag on for years when you have a lot of editing to do and you’re right in the flow of writing.

Finally, the magnifying glass appears, enlarging the text so that you can focus on dragging the cursor where you need it. Usually, the cursor overshoots the area you’re aiming for, and you have to grit your teeth, maintain pressure and drag your finger back, while feeling frustrated at all the time you’re wasting. If you accidentally release pressure, perhaps if you’re on a bus and it hits a bump in the road, the magnifying glass will disappear, and you have to go through it all again.

There’s a simple solution: arrow keys. There’s no wait with arrow keys. Simply press them and the cursor moves immediately, with character-by-character accuracy.

Unfortunately, arrow keys aren’t part of the official iPhone on-screen keyboard. There’s an app called 5-Row QWERTY Keyboard, which adds a top row of number keys to the on-screen keyboard, and a secondary keyboard with arrow keys. But it only works on jailbroken iPhones. There’s no chance of an official arrow key app, according to programmer Brice on Elance.com, when I tried to get one made in July 2010, because such an app would go against the SDK agreement.

If I’m wrong about that, and Apple has changed their minds since then, please let me know!

Until Apple comes to their senses, there is a way to get arrow keys onto your iPhone without jailbreaking your iPhone. Just use a Bluetooth keyboard.

A word processor that fits in your pocket.

Why Do I Write on My iPhone?

A word processor that fits in your pocket.

A word processor that fits in your pocket.

So why have I starting blogging about writing on my iPhone?

Why should anyone even attempt to write on an iPhone at all?

The (rather blurry) photo on the right shows why.

It’s my writing kit, circa October 2010: a MP-0118+ Bluetooth keyboard (inside the black pouch) and an iPhone 3GS.

The whole package fits into the palm of my hand and weighs an incredible 341g (12 ounces). Only a notepad and pen can match an iPhone for sheer writing portability. But an iPhone, depending on the apps you use, can be a full-featured word processor and much, much more.

I use My Writing Nook, a word processing app that saves documents to the phone’s memory without being prompted and backs them up into the Cloud. This means I’ll never lose my documents, even if I lose my phone, and I can access them from any computer. Email backup, for extra peace of mind, is available at the touch of a button. My Writing Nook has a built-in dictionary and thesaurus, and works with a second app – TextExpander – to give me full autocorrect and spell checking on the fly. This is what you’d expect from a word processing program, such as Word, on a laptop or desktop computer. But while Microsoft Office will currently set you back nearly US$300, My Writing Nook is only US$3.99 and TextExpander US$5.99.

I’ll be straight with you; the MP-0118+ Bluetooth Keyboard is not the fastest keyboard I’ve ever used. To achieve its tiny size, it lacks a designated number and punctuation key row. This means a lot of incorrect keystrokes and hunting and pecking, especially in the beginning. But after five minutes, I was touch typing away on it quite happily. Even the most awkward Bluetooth keyboard is about ten times quicker than using the iPhone’s on-screen keyboard.

Of course, writers need more than just a word processor, and the iPhone can help you there too. If you need to research what you’re writing, the World Wide Web is only a press of the Home button away. You can send and receive emails, listen to music, illustrate your work with photos taken by the camera, or doodles from any one of the hundreds of graphical apps. There are apps for blogging, and recording and editing sound and video for uploading to your blog.

In short, an iPhone can be a useful, portable and inexpensive tool for writers. I’ll be using this blog to explore how I get the most out of my iPhone, especially in terms of getting text in and out, and how you can too.