What a Difference a Trackpad Makes
I've not really hidden my disdain for the iPad as an all around computing device. I had a pretty serious neck injury about 25 years ago, and if I spend too much time looking down the way one does while reading on an iPad on your lap, my neck gets irritated. So most casual iPad use-cases are out of the question for me. More often than not, it's out of battery in my bag, not ready-to-go on my desk.
It's definitely useful for reading if held correctly (Kindle, Apple Books) and writing with the pen (daily Bullet Journal, marking up papers, as a projected "whiteboard" during class). Beyond that, I've always found it vaguely irritating to use. Most things I'd use it for require typing a non-trivial amount of text, and that really requires a physical keyboard. Even ignoring the fact that most of the available keyboards were crappy, the need to reach up and touch the screen frequently was a show stopper.
Any Intro HCI or Human Factors instructor will probably tell you why "light pens" (early pens for CRT displays) failed, as an example of poor ergonomics: holding your arm and hand up for any length of time is tiring, and the time it takes to reach up is too slow. Touch screens are great when you're holding a iPad on your lap or in one hand, but when you stand the iPad up on the desk and your hands are on a keyboard, they are terrible. Imaging a Windows 10 laptop, with a touchscreen but no other pointing device.
Which brings me to this morning.
With the continuing enhancements to iPadOS to support pointing devices (mice, trackpads), I recently picked up a new Magic Keyboard for the small iPad Pro I have and see how it works. The keyboard sounded pretty good, the rigid frame meant it might not be too squishy, and the way it slightly raises the screen above the keyboard was also appealing.
I decided to read some email and news on the back porch with the new keyboard setup, and I am happy to say it's like night and day compared to the previous setups I'd tried to use. The picture above is my scrolling through an article in Safari using two fingers on the trackpad; being able to rest my wrist on the table and scroll (rather than hold up my whole arm like in the banner picture) is like night and day in terms of speed and comfort.
Support for the keyboard and trackpad at the OS level is finally good enough to use. Firefox and Ulysses and the Office apps seem to work pretty well. I'm writing this blog post in Firefox using the Ghost built-in editor, and aside from a few small glitches (selecting text sometimes only brings up the iPad selection tools, not the Ghost tools), it's actually a good experience. Most of the Mac keyboard shortcuts seem to work, etc.
If we ever have the need to carry a device somewhere to work outside of the house, I could see this working fine for when I need both pen and keyboard.