April 5 2010

Hello, iPad

I bought an iPad because multitouch interfaces are going to be big and I couldn’t wait to get started with them. Multitouch is for making things, not just consumption; someday soon people will boggle at the idea of getting real work done with just keyboard and mouse.

So today I tried working: adapting Kragen Sitaker’s online photo jigsaw puzzle to the multitouch interface. First hitch: iPad’s soft keyboard. You get a choice of three layouts: QWERTY, AZERTY, or QWERTZ. Dvorak typists are shit out of luck. There’s been a petition out for quite a while saying “Please, Apple, can we please have Dvorak on the iPhone?” which Apple has ignored. (It’s always been there on Macs.) There’s also some weird, not fully satisfactory third-party workaround adapting a Russian keyboard or something. (More when I try it.)

Second hitch: while tweaking Kragen’s web app, I created a variation of it with a different filename. Safari seems to give no way to edit the current URL except by retyping every character from the start. Pecking it out in QWERTY, paging back and forth between alphabet keys and punctuation. (You can copy/paste, but only one word, not the whole.) [Update: There is a way to do it. I don’t know whether I missed it in experimenting or Apple updated Safari. Thanks to [xach](http://www.xach.com/) for the tip.]

These are trivial complaints, except there’s no escape here in Apple-land: the layouts are the layouts and the browser is the browser. Someone could make a new app supplying an alternative input mechanism, just like on a open, programmable computer, except you can only run one app at a time—switching back and forth just to type is not going to win. Someone could make a browser with improved URL-bar editing, but with that sort of redundancy so frowned upon by the censors—well, do you want to try it?

Apple’s patent lawsuit tries to block my next workaround: buying from a competitor.

So far, the iPad is a beautiful appliance. Apple, I want to buy a computer. Don’t tell me a computer has to become a cesspool of complexity and malware. I know better.