Grounded & Steadfast

The journal of Chris Bowler, a collection of thoughts on faith, business, design, and the creative process.

Define Writing

Federico Viticci, in a response to my thoughts about the iOS keyboard:

I think the discussion on the iOS keyboard often mixes writing with editing. Personally, I believe the iOS keyboard is great for writing, because it’s just a normal keyboard, but iOS text selection is in serious need of an update, because it feels outdated.

He makes a good point, if you only consider one type of writing. But the act of writing can come in many different forms. It would depend on how the individual defines writing.

Perhaps Viticci would have made his point better if the verb typing replaced his use of writing. Certainly, the iOS keyboard allows one to simply type. But write? Only if your definition of writing is dump everything out of your head in a stream-of-consciousness with no care for fixing grammatical errors, typos or modifying something you said.

That type of writing may be a focus for blog writers like Viticci. But I would doubt that's the only type or writing he performs on his iPad. Personally, I perform 4 types of writing on my iPad: emails, journal entries, blog posts, and Bible study notes. Two of the four activities take place in iA Writer, one in Mail and one in Day One. There are times when I simply want to perform a brain dump — journal entries for example. But even they would benefit from the improvements the iA Writer keyboard brings.

The truth is that typing on a digital keyboard results in more errors, despite how clever the autocorrect functionality is. Even a brain dump requires some modification when iOS makes a correction and the result is nothing like what you intended to type. And much of my writing requires swapping between apps — grabbing verses from my Bible app for example. Selecting text, copying and pasting, and typing would comprise what I call writing on my iPad. I'm creating a document that is made up of words to be used in a certain context. I'm not sure you can define that as anything but writing.

In linking to Viticci's piece, Gruber has this to add:

As Viticci goes on to say, the answer is not adding more rows to the keyboard.

I couldn't agree with that thought less. Every time I type in Mail or Day One on my iPad, I miss the extra line that exists on the iA Writer keyboard. And if stream-of-consciousness writing is the thrust of Viticci's point, then an additional line on the keyboard is not a problem at all. That extra line means you see less of what you've already written, making editing less of a distraction (similar to IA Writer's focus mode).

I stand by my original point. The iOS keyboard could be significantly improved with that additional line. Gruber and Viticci may be right that text selection itself could be improved. But for this writer, personal usage has shown that cursor placement is a key to making writing on my iPad more enjoyable. And iA Writer is where I've experienced that improvement.