12 iPad tips and tricks

Get the most from Apple's new tablet

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Get the Apple Wireless Keyboard. The iPad's onscreen keyboard is adequate for short bits of typing, but if you really want to enter a lot of text, go with the Wireless Keyboard.

Apple Wireless Keyboard
Apple's Wireless Keyboard connects to your iPad via Bluetooth.

It's a standard Bluetooth keyboard, the same one you'd use with a Mac. And that's its great strength. I've used portable keyboards for handheld devices in the past. Sometimes they're small, wobbly or otherwise awkward, and it's always a bit of an adjustment to use a strange keyboard I'm not used to. But the Wireless Keyboard is the standard Apple keyboard, so there was no need for me to get used to it; I just sat down and typed.

Many of the standard Mac keyboard shortcuts work on the Wireless Keyboard: Cmd-C for cut, Cmd-V for paste, and so forth. Other keyboard shortcuts don't work -- for example, Cmd-L, which takes your cursor to the address bar in Safari and other desktop Web browsers, doesn't work on the iPad.

If you want to use the onscreen keyboard when your Wireless Keyboard is paired, just tap the eject button on the top-right corner of the Wireless Keyboard. The onscreen keyboard pops up. Tap the same button again and the onscreen keyboard disappears.

The iPad's auto-suggest feature, where it anticipates what you're typing and suggests words and punctuation, works great as an auto-correct function for typos when you're using a keyboard. I wrote much of this article on the iPad using the Wireless Keyboard.

Already have a Bluetooth keyboard? Try it with your iPad. You're not tied to just using the Apple Wireless Keyboard. Any standard Bluetooth keyboard will work with the iPad, according to Macworld's Frakes, so if you've got one you're already comfortable with, might as well keep using it.

Novelist Steven Gould, for instance, told me he's been using his Stowaway fold-up Bluetooth keyboard successfully with the iPad. (Sadly, vendor iGo says it has discontinued the clever Stowaway. But the devices seem to still be available for sale.)

Skip the Keyboard Dock. It's the standard Apple keyboard, attached to a hardware dock for your iPad. The benefits of the Keyboard Dock are that it doesn't rely on a wireless connection, it doesn't need batteries, and you can attach it to your computer to sync and power the iPad while you work.

On the downside: It's heavy, it's bulky, and you can't adjust the position of the iPad when you're using it. Apple's Wireless Keyboard is much more comfortable and portable.

Get the iPad Case. I'm not a big fan of iPhone cases -- I've tried a couple and always come back to just putting the naked iPhone in my pocket. But I feel differently about Apple's $39 iPad case.

It's got rigid sides, and it folds to make a stand for the iPad that will either tilt it a little bit for easier viewing when holding the iPad on a horizontal surface, or prop it nearly vertically for use with an external keyboard. It's got an attractive black microfiber finish, with a rough surface that makes it a bit easier to keep a grip on the iPad.

True, you don't really need a case for the iPad -- it's a rugged, attractive machine that's designed to be used as is. But get the case anyway; it's extremely useful.

Skip the iPad Dock. It's like a giant iPhone dock, but for your iPad. It's pretty useless, even more so because it doesn't work with Apple's iPad case. You're already spending a lot of money on the iPad; save yourself $29 and skip the dock.

Go MacGyver on your accessories. You already have iPad accessories lying around the house. My wife came up with the idea of putting a rubbery shelf liner under the iPad to keep it from skidding around on a lap desk; you can also use a mouse pad. Use a bookstand -- or even a 69-cent business card holder -- to prop the iPad up vertically. Use a leather folio as an iPad case. Rainy Day Magazine has more tips for turning household items into iPad accessories.

My final entry isn't a tip, just a kvetch:

The screen gets really schmutzy. I haven't found a good fix for that. The iPad's screen does have the same oil-resistant coating found on the latest iPhones, but I still find that one minute after I've wiped it clean with the tail of a T-shirt, the screen looks like a camel blew its nose on it. Anybody have any tips to help?

Mitch Wagner is a freelance technology journalist and Internet marketing consultant. He blogs at the Computerworld Tool Talk Blog. Follow him on Twitter: @MitchWagner.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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