How to use an external keyboard with your iPad

You may be able to ditch your heavy laptop and take along your iPad instead, if you use an external keyboard for long typing sessions. In this video, I show you how to use a keyboard with your iPad and we take a look at some keyboards made especially for that purpose.

Transcript

This is Macworld senior editor Scholle Sawyer McFarland.

It’s light. It’s portable. And the iPad is powerful enough that many of us have wondered if we could skip lugging the laptop around and use it instead. But the sticking point is what to do about a keyboard.

The iPad’s onscreen keyboard is OK for typing in URLs and short messages, but for long typing sessions—taking notes at meetings or in class, or writing in coffee shops—you can’t beat the comfort and feedback of a real keyboard.

Today I’ll show you how to use your iPad with an external keyboard as well as some of the cool keyboards you can choose from.

First, what kind of keyboard can you use?

You don’t have to buy anything special. Any wireless, bluetooth keyboard will do. For instance, Apple’s $69 Wireless Keyboard comes standard now with iMacs.

Tap on Settings. Tap on Bluetooth. Move the slider to On. You’ll see a list of “discoverable” devices near your iPad. Don’t see your keyboard? Turn it off and then on again. You may see a warning that asks you to type a code on the external keyboard. Do this, and then your iPad and the keyboard will “pair” or connect.

That’s it. Now you can type on your iPad using the keyboard. You’ll need a stand of some sort to prop the iPad up, but you can throw everything in your bag and go.

What about keyboards made for the iPad?

There are dozens of keyboards made especially for use with the iPad. My colleague Dan Frakes recently tested about forty of them. See his comprehensive buying guide on Macworld.com.

Let me show you a few of the keyboards we recommend.

Logitech’s $100 Bluetooth Easy-Switch Keyboard is a step up from Apple’s Wireless keyboard in that it can pair with three devices: your iPad, your iPhone, and your Mac. Just push a button to switch between them.

An inexpensive option is Amazon’s AmazonBasics Bluetooth Keyboard for iPad. It only costs $30 and comes with a simple stand that works well.

Full size keyboards like those are the most comfortable, but what about portability?

Here is Zagg’s $130 ZaggKeys ProFolio+ for iPad. It’s an example of a folio-case keyboard that turns your iPad into sort of a mini laptop. The keyboard is narrower to fit the profile of the iPad. It’s solid, steady, and a bit heavy.

Open it up, switch on the keyboard, and start typing. The keys give nice feedback.

Notice that like many of the keyboards built especially for the iPad, the ZaggKeys includes special iPad-function keys: Press a key to go the home screen. Press a key to search. Control the volume and screen brightness. It even offers dedicated buttons to make your typing experience easier, for example, buttons for cut, copy, and paste.

Logitech’s $130 Solar Keyboard Folio is similar, but offers two viewing angles—one for typing and the other for media viewing. The solar-powered case charges itself and the keyboard switches on and off automatically when you open the case. That means you don’t have to worry about forgetting to turn off the keyboard and ending up with dead batteries.

Folio cases are fantastic if you do a lot of typing on your iPad, but they can be cumbersome when you just want to play games or surf the web.

A lighter, thinner option is a keyboard shell. Here is Logitech’s $100 Ultrathin Keyboard Cover for the iPad 2, 3, 4. The keyboard covers your iPad’s screen. When you get where you’re going, pop it off and set up for typing. I like that you can use the ipad in portrait or landscape orientation. Still, this wouldn’t be my first choice for long typing sessions. The keys feel thin under my fingers and don’t offer much feedback.

There’s also a $79 version of the Ultrathin Keyboard Cover for the iPad mini. It’s cute, but small even for my fingers.

So that’s how you use an external keyboard with your iPad and a few of your keyboard options. Make sure to check out our buying guide for many more.

Using an external keyboard can make typing on your iPad more comfortable and convenient.

Thanks for watching.

Subscribe to the iOS Tips & Trends Newsletter

Comments