Would it be safe to assume that most Mac or PC users have a love hate relationship with their keyboards? I do. Much of my day is devoted to banging away on a few different keyboards but I have favorites.
The MacBook Pro from a few years ago, prior to the Butterfly Generation, has a decent keyboard. The same holds true for my Apple-branded, battery powered Bluetooth keyboard on both family and office iMac. It might be time to get rid of the keyboard. Maybe iPad Pro can help.
Talk Is Cheap
For most of us, especially the somewhat more mature of our species, the keyboard is the point of entry for our Mac or PC usage. iPad and iPhone both have an onscreen keyboard, and both can accept most Bluetooth keyboards, but the typing experience is not the same.
That brings me to the future. Or, rather, a present day test of what the future might bring.
Frankly, even the thought of life without a keyboard is a strange notion. How else will you enter text? How can you write? My experiment the past week is based upon using an iPad Pro as a Mac. You can, but there are shortcomings and most of it is related to, 1) the iPad is less keyboard centric than the Mac, and, 2) a touchscreen is nice but not if you want to be efficient, and do not want tennis elbow or bursitis.
What I’ve been doing during this iPhone and iPad experiment is simple. No keyboard. No physical Bluetooth keyboard. No onscreen keyboard. So, how does the senior Mincey get anything done? How can you use iOS without a keyboard?
Or, rather, Siri dictation. Every keyboard on every recent iPad and iPhone has an option for Siri to take dictation and if there is one area where Apple’s much maligned digital personal assistant does well, well, it’s dictation. So, I started using dictation to enter text instead of using the keyboard.
Suffice it to say, dictation has issues. It’s a huge paradigm shift moving from keyboard to speaking in a manner that Siri can understand and transcribe. Every iOS keyboard– at least, all those I’ve run into so far during the experiment– have a little microphone. Tap it and Siri goes into dictation mode almost anywhere you can enter text via the keyboard.
The difficulties in using dictation and transcribed text become apparent somewhere after for fourth of fifth word, but like any muscle, speaking what you want to write gets better over time. Siri dictation works very well in Messages; iPhone, iPad, or Watch. Dictation works well in Notes and other apps that do not require many sentences to compose a paragraph. Where dictation seems to bog down has more to do with our thinking processes being translated to words which are then transcribed than even slow hunt and peck typists.
In other words, speaking to Siri in dictation mode requires a different mindset than simply parking a body in front of a keyboard and flailing away– the Delete (backspace) is my favorite keystroke– until something readable is formed. Dictating to Siri requires more mental effort– and effort that does not match the physical effort of using a keyboard.
Try it. Dictating to Siri requires some extra effort to get right. Yet, such dictation might be the forerunner of the future when we kiss the antiquity of keyboards goodbye, in favor of a device that is always on, always listening, and handles spelling and grammar better than any human.
We’re not there. Yet. But try it anyway. Try it on the next text message you send. Tap the microphone icon on the keyboard and start speaking. Siri is surprisingly adept at transcribing what you say. Will such dictations negate the need for a keyboard? Probably not for another few generations, but there may well be life after the keyboard.