Sunday, April 10, 2011

Top 10 iPad typing errors (that auto-correct often doesn't catch)

Overall, I'm fairly impressed with typing on the iPad and with the way autocorrect does its job without getting in the way (much). But I've noticed a few problems that crop up over and over again that constantly require me to use the little magnifying glass to position the cursor just so to fix. (Really, no arrow keys at all, Apple? Anywhere?)

1) Backspppppppppace - Back in the day, I used Linux, as did most people I knew at college. Today you use a strikethrough tag to show something you've "deleted" (but still want people to appreciate your cleverness read the original wording) - back then we typed ^H^H^H, which is how a command line types out "control-H," which was the same as a backspace. Today, I wonder if this may sometimes be replaced by ppppppp - as this is often what I accidentally type while trying to delete something on my iPad. The backspace key is shorter than my hands expect, and while autocorrect catches most instances of hit-the-key-next-to-the-right-one, randomly inserting ppppppppp in the middle of a (already misspelled) word confounds it.

2) Missingnthebspacecbar - Similarly, my fingers don't always make it all the way down to the space bar, and while once or twice autocorrect has correctly noticed a bottom-row letter between two valid words and replaced it with a space, it doesn't happen often. And I usually don't notice what I've done til several words later. (And honorable mention to the rarer times when I hit spacebar instead of a bottom-row letter.)

3) Captcha Is Case Sensitive, Damn It - The iPad's desire to capitalize the first letter of every line or form space can be annoying in many contexts, but usually harmless. I don't really care if my email address is capitalized or not, after all. It's smart enough, at least, to lay off when it comes to passwords. But then you hit a captcha - and if you're not paying close attention, you'll fail, because the first letter has been oh-so-helpfully capitalized against your will.

4) Unintentional. New. Sentences. - When I'm typing something long, like a blog entry, I slide my iPad down into the case's typing position and do my best to touch type. Aside from increasing many of these other errors, one particular habit I have on a real keyboard is hitting the spacebar with both thumbs at once. Unfortunately, the iPad registers both taps independently (I doubt it's ever truly simultaneous anyhow) and helpfully starts a new sentence for me. Now, I've heard others claim that "two spaces = period + space + capital letter" has been a major keystroke-saver for them, so I'm not going to claim it's an altogether bad idea. But until I manage to form new iPad-friendly typing habits it's. A bit. Of an annoyance to me personally (real typos left in there).

5) It's "its" this time, please - Before getting an iPad, I honestly hadn't noticed that "it's" really is a more common word than "its." However, about 90% of the time, when autocorrect changes the latter to the former, it's correct. In general, I've gotten quite used to rarely needing to actually hunt for the apostrophe because autocorrect does such a great job catching all my contractions. Unfortunately, the 10% of the time when I really do mean the possessive, and not "it is" or "it has," it still gets "fixed" and because I actually did type the right thing, I don't notice it til much later. And I am one of those sticklers for proper apostrophe use, so I find it rather embarrassing to look back at my writing and see that particular error.

6) Don't mind me, I'm just5608!( - I understand that sacrifices had to be made when designing the on-screen keyboard. Including numbers and symbols on the main screen would have take up too much real estate, and most people type mostly in letters. And so then you need an easy way to get to that number/symbol screen. I don't know what I'd suggest instead, honestly - but more often than I'd like to admit, my attempts to hit spacebar, shift, comma, or other keys nearby result in my letter keys suddenly changing into other things entirely and my words suddenly devolving into absolute gibberish.

7) Apparently fingernails aren't capacitative - I'm guessing this one gets us ladies more than the guys. On a real keyboard, if your nails are a little long, they'll still press down the key. Worst case, they slide into the space above the key as you hit it with the meat of your finger. On a touchscreen, though, anything but man-short nails can get in the way. Now, in the slid-down touch-typing position I mentioned before, this is less of a problem due to the angle. But if I've got my iPad propped up for viewing and am just typing a quick comment somewhere, my typing is accompanied by the constant clicking of my nails on the screen - and now and then the nail prevents the finger from hitting a letter. Sometimes the resulting skipped letter gets corrected, sometimes it stumps autocorrect.

8) Hardkore - This is a smaller, more specific issue than the others, but it's an amazingly common one for me. Apparently autocorrect recognizes "kore" as a word (but not "hardkore," as I just discovered). This means that my most common simple letter-replacement misspelling that does not get autofixed is when I hit the K rather than the M in the word "more." Which I seem to do all the freaking time.

9) "I am in the United States." - Therefore, I put my periods inside my quotes. Therefore, I want a capital letter after a period + quotation mark. After getting used to autocorrect capitalizing most of my sentences, it's always startling when it misses. There are plenty of other times I could use an auto-cap but don't get one - after the HTML tag plus dash in each of these list items for example. But I know autocorrect can't always read my mind. However, the ." is one of those situations that both comes up a lot, and seems like it should be a built-in rule given that this is standard US usage.

10) Using HTML *sucks* - This isn't a typo per se, but it is an annoyance of the iPad keyboard that interferes with my typing constantly. I am used to blithely sticking italics, bold, link, and image tags into my text as I type with little extra thought. However, the greater than and less than brackets on the iPad are hidden away not just on the number screen, but on the second screen of symbols that takes two taps to get to. So that's "tap tap < tap I tap tap > tap words to italicize tap tap < tap / tap I tap tap >" - and of course that's the minimum assuming you don't lose track of which screen you're in and have to tap extra times to switch screens some more.

Sure, for some things I can use a WYSIWYG editor to insert the tags automatically (I've previously noted that I appreciate this feature on BlogPress due to this problem), but for example many comment sections take tags but don't offer WYSIWYG, and on other sites it's quite a pain to change my account prefs back and forth depending on whether I'm on my iPad or a regular computer. So instead I find myself making more use of asterisks (which are still on screen 3) or CAPS for emphasis, feeling like I'm stuck in 1999 instead of on a state-of-the-art post-PC. Apple could make this a bit simpler by shortening the extra-long number screen key on the bottom left of the main page and thus making the #+= screen accessible with only one tap. Or perhaps a fourth screen with single-key HTML tags (and hey, maybe even arrow keys?) much like the appearance of Undo and Redo buttons?

I've only had my iPad for about three weeks, so in time my typing on it may adjust to make up for some of these issues. But all of these are prevalent enough for me right now that I encountered them multiple times while typing up this single blog entry. Did I miss any that particularly irk you?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

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