School kids might be able to put away their pencils and head for the park, but that doesn’t mean everyone gets the summer off from their keyboards. For most of us, the writing continues, whether we’re tapping away on an essay, book, or that report for the boss. And while tablets are great for surfing the web, they can fall short when it comes to getting some real work done. Here are a few ways to turn your tablet into a workhorse and still travel light.
The problem with serious writing on a tablet isn’t the screen size or the horsepower. It’s the keyboard. Onscreen keyboards are great, but if You’re ever tried typing anything more than a Tweet or text, you’ve soon realized the headache it would be to write an essay on one. So how do you add a keyboard without adding bulk?
The most obvious option is a case and keyboard in one, and there are plenty of choices, whether you’ve got an iPad, Microsoft Surface, or Android tablet. they’re convenient?but that convenience comes at a price, and it can really drive up the overall cost of your kit. Even the off-brand ones start around $50, and most name-brand case-keyboard combos are about $80 and can run well over $100.
A second option is to attach an external keyboard via Bluetooth. Most tablets are Bluetooth enabled, and a quick online search will give you plenty of options and video tutorials. For instance, this Macworld tutorial offers ideas that cost as little as $30. And for the popular Google Nexus tablets, here’s the official help page.
If You’re not a fan of wireless keyboards, there’s also the option of using a wired keyboard. It’s a surprisingly easy and inexpensive choice as long as your tablet has a USB port. (This isn’t quite as simple on the iPad, but it is possible.) For other tablets, if you’ve already got a basic USB keyboard lying around, the only extra item you’ll need is a USB on-the-go cable. It’s a short cable that connects a standard USB item to a micro-USB port, and this YouTube tutorial is just one of many that will show you how to get things set up.
Those are all good alternatives that will make your writing tasks go more smoothly, but for truly lightweight writing on the go you just can’t beat a solid onscreen keyboard app. There are plenty in the various app stores, and many of the most popular ones are either free or allow you to download a free trial. Believe it or not, these apps can make a huge difference in your typing speed, even though the screen size is the same.
If you don’t believe it, here’s a great one to try for Android tablets: SwiftKey. I was amazed at its ease of use, even on my smart phone, and it supports up to three languages at one time. At a price of $3.99, it sure beats the much higher cost of a case/keyboard combo.
Whichever option you choose, make sure you ask questions and check compatibility before investing too much time or money. But with so many choices available, It’s easy to travel light and still get some serious writing done.
S.D. Livingston is the author of several books, including the new suspense novel Kings of Providence. Visit her website for information on her writing (and for more musings on the literary world!).