Live Blogging with an iPad – part 2

iPad with Keyboard and DockScott wrote about his iPad live blogging from The Server Side Java Symposium flurry of posts.  While I wrote a little bit about the iPad at the time, I too wish to reflect.  My perspective is a bit different since I operated almost exclusively with the touch screen keyboard.

My path to blogging

Since this was the first time I was live blogging from my iPad, I was learning as I went.  I encountered a few things that didn’t work over the course of a day and a half.

WordPress iPad App

I was excited to see there was an app for WordPress.  I tried this app at home and it was fine.  Turns out it was fine because I was typing everything in one setting.  Problems:

  1. Despite indications to the contrary you can only have one draft in the iPad app at a time.  This wouldn’t be so bad if they provide a warning when you try to create a new draft.  Instead they silently delete the first draft.  FAIL.  I lost a whole blog entry that way.  The website indicates you can have multiple drafts, but it didn’t work when I tried it.
  2. One of my blog entries posted twice.
  3. I learned of other even worse problems that I didn’t encounter first hand.  Scared me sufficiently to jump ship though.

The WordPress web page

I started out happily typing in the wordpress app.  Then I got to a screenful of content and no scroll bars appeared.  Using one finger to scroll scrolled the whole page and not the textarea.  (see below for solution) My blog posts tend to be long.  Since I didn’t know how to scroll, I deemed the web page approach unusable and looked for a better solution.


I spent a while typing my text in Notes and copy/pasting it into the WordPress app.  This worked ok, but I got frustrated typing HTML characters.

HTML Editor

I thought HTML editor would solve my problems with Notes because it would be less tedious to type “<“.  Turns out not so much.  While the “<” was on the main screen, the “/” was still not.  (Anyone know of an HTML editor that is easier to use.)  Granted this wouldn’t be a problem on a Bluetooth keyboard because then all the keys are on a keyboard.  More importantly, the editor didn’t wrap text making it hard to read what I wrote.

The WordPress web page – redux

I later learned that you can scroll in the textarea by using two fingers.  Once I figured out how to scroll, I stayed with the web page for my blogging.  I’m wondering if the two finger scroll is supposed to be something “everyone knows” ?

The Bluetooth keyboard

Scott lent me his Bluetooth keyboard to try out for blogging a session. Unsurprisingly, it feels like a real keyboard so I touch type faster and more accurately than on the iPad directly. It’s also really easy to configure. Scott paired it to my iPad right in front of me.

I wouldn’t buy one for two reasons:

  1. The point of an iPad is to have less to lug around. I can’t see myself carrying a metal keyboard.
  2. I wouldn’t use it often so it’s not worth it for me.

Why it is useful:

  1. HTML is so much easier to type on a real keyboard. To the point where I am still actively avoiding it when typing on the iPad.
  2. It’s great having arrow keys to move between lines. Turns out I didn’t miss that at all when I was typing on the iPad because then using my finger on the touch screen was convenient. With the iPad screen a good 6 inches from my hands, I revert to my “use the keyboard over the mouse for almost everything” habits.
  3. You get a full screen on the iPad since they keyboard isn’t using half of it. While this is cool, it turns out not to matter for me, because I’m watching the speaker and only looking at the screen rarely to see what the iPad has “auto-uncorrected” for me.

Basically, it’s not better enough to be worth it for my usage pattern.

An interesting side note: I forgot the part where you have to look for a few keys when you get a new keyboard like the “end” button.


I’m surprised how fast my iPad typing speed has gotten. I am able to touch type with all ten fingers at a “fast enough” speed. And I can often do so without looking at the keyboard. Unless I need a single quote of course. Then I need to look to find the special symbols button.

Also, turning off autocorrect helped as Scott noted.  This helps because the iPad un-corrects technical words. There are a lot of those at a conference. The downside is that turning off auto correct also turns off spellcheck. I could still use spellcheck.

All in all, it took a day, but I am able to blog on the iPad in a sustainable fashion.  Six thousand words later, I had fun doing this.

I got a tip yesterday to turn off auto correct.

Live Blogging with an iPad

iPad with Keyboard and Dock As regular readers know, Jeanne and I blogged heavily at TheServerSide Java Symposium 2011, writing over 30 articles in a three-day period. What we may not have had time to mention is that we both did so entirely from a pair of Apple iPads. Below is a summary of some of things I learned during my experience.

1. Set up and Blogging Software
For my blogging spree, I used an Apple iPad 2 with an Apple Wireless Keyboard. I started with the WordPress iPad application, but found it too frustrating to use. The local/remote saving of articles was problematic, as Jeanne explains, and the interface felt very last-minute and cheap. I had three options remaining for blogging: the WordPress web interface in Safari, word processing software such as Apple Pages, or a plain old text editor. Since Internet was unstable at the conference, the first solution was out. I also vetoed fancy word processing software, since in the end the articles would be copied as plain text to the web browser for publishing. I settled on a plain text editor and was pleasantly surprised that my document management app, GoodReader, doubled as a text editor.

2. GoodReader as a Live Blogging Software
I liked blogging in GoodReader right away because it presented me with a full-screen text editor and my documents were always saved locally. I wrote up dozens of articles in GoodReader and then pasted each article into the WordPress web browser editor for publishing, which only took a minute. The only downside of using GoodReader was in the creation and naming of new files. By default, new text files are saved as “New File.txt”. In order to change the name of an article, you have to exit out of writing, open the file management interface, select the file, rename it, close the file management interface, and re-open the file. I would have preferred a more direct approach, such as offering me the chance to name the file when I created it. Also, a spell-checker after I had finished typing would have been nice.

3. iPad + Keyboard
Prior to this conference, I had never used my iPad with a keyboard. After writing thousands of words with the wireless keyboard, I can honestly say I would never go back to touch-typing for blogging. With the keyboard, the iPad became much closer to a real laptop — or more accurately a netbook — but was much smaller, lighter, and lasted a lot longer on a single charge than my full-sized MacBook Pro.


  • Easy access to special characters such as @, #, $, often used in developer presentations. Also easy access to HTML brackets for writing HTML tags quickly.
  • Arrow keys for easy navigation, particularly on web-pages with missing scroll bars. Side note: Jeanne discovered you can use two fingers to scroll in HTML windows with missing scroll bars.
  • Command-Up and Command-Down worked as Home/End keys moving the cursor to the top/bottom of the window.
  • Special keys give instant access to control brightness to prevent people from viewing what I write if I wanted to check my mail.
  • I could type faster with fewer mistakes; tactile feedback means I don’t need to look at my hands while typing.
  • Shortcut keys! I never realized how much I relied on Copy/Paste/Cut/Select All while writing until they were taken away!
  • Shortcut to show/hide on-screen keyboard using the eject button.


  • Turn off AutoCorrect. On a keyboard mistakes are far less common and AutoCorrect often makes mistakes with technical words. Rejecting AutoCorrect suggestions interrupted typing and slowed it to a crawl since it required an on-screen click.
  • No Command-F for find, much needed feature.
  • Command-S for saving with the application. Had to touch the screen to save. This is more likely a limitation of the software than iOS, although it’s difficult know for sure.
  • The Apple Wireless Keyboard desperately needs an “Off” switch. I had a lot of issues on the final day with putting the iPad in my bag only to discover later that the battery had been drained by 10% when I wasn’t using it due to the keyboard waking up and activating.

I loved typing with an iPad, so long as a wireless keyboard was available. Contrasting this to JavaOne two years ago, where I had to go from presentation to presentation hunting power outlets because my MacBook could barely go half the day without power. I could honestly see taking it to business meetings and typing for hours on it. While there are still some additions I’d like to see to iOS, such as Command-F for find, the experience was quite enjoyable.