I am happy to report that Apple finally got something right with iOS8. The JIS wireless keyboard problem I had been blogging about seems to have been fixed once and for all!
All the apps that have not worked with an external keyboard now seems to work. I have tested so far
- Byword (on which I am writing this post)
- Adobe Reader
all work perfectly with the wireless keyboard!
If you haven’t update your iOS version yet I suggest you do so. The improvements are important. Why it has taken this long is anybody’s guess.
UX Write is an iOS app for really serious word processing. There are five big reasons why you want to use this for, say, writing a PhD thesis.
Firstly, since February 2013 UX Write has been the best .docx supported app for the iOS. This means what you write in UX Write can be used directly in your Windows PC Microsoft Word program. Without exaggeration no other app can claim to support .docx this well.
Secondly, Auto-correct works even with an external wireless keyboard. Even Apple’s own word processing app Pages cannot do this at the moment. For now most iOS apps used to an external keyboard just does not work with auto-correct even though the touchscreen keyboard does. Why Apple cannot make this work with external keyboards even after so many complaints is baffling.
Thirdly, relating again to the keyboard is UX Write’s support for
non-English layout keyboards [Update: all apps now work with JIS layout keyboards after the iOS8 update. I am not sure of other language layout keyboards but I presume Apple has fixed this problem across board.]. While Pages does support this it fails in autocorrection (effectively rendering keyboard input less useful). All word processing apps will connect to the keyboard but because of the lack of understanding of keyboard standards only a handful will actually recognise a non-English keyboard’s layout. UX Write is one of these.
Fourthly, UX Write has a useful control system for the cursor to help accurately manipulate it. Even with external keyboard it can be brought up by summoning the touchscreen keyboard.
And finally, UX Write syncs easily with cloud storage services like Dropbox smoothly. It even has a file manager like interface to help you navigate your storage’s directories. In turn you file is ready for use on your PC without any need to download or convert the file to .docx. This is very slick and boosts productivity on the iPad as well as across your devises and work environment.
As a standalone product UX Write is already very nice to use. But the entire cross-platform support experience makes it ultimately very useful. It baffles me then why the UX Write creators have not highlighted these features with lights and bells since they are the ones which everyone using Windows are looking for. To cap these reasons make it a great app:
- High level of .docx support (perhaps the highest level)
- Auto-correct with external keyboard (no other word processing app to my knowledge supports this)
- Non-English language layout external keyboards supported (North American monolingual developers are guilty of non-support)
- Excellent cursor navigation system
- Sync and file management top rate, raising productivity across the entire computing ecosystem
Because the app was produced from scratch many features were not just ports from established designs like Microsoft Word or Pages but were thought through for the iOS/iPad environment. It also demotes print layout in word processing to below content, a shrewd move in the flexible layout environment of today’s devices. By doing so it made making compatibility to Word and .docx possible thus bring together two systems which were once quite separate.
I can’t believe it’s true but autocorrect works while using an external keyboard with the UX Write app for iPad!! That’s right folks! For some reason this feature is not highlighted by its creator and it is nowhere to be found on the official website. Nor have I seen much mention of it in discussion forums about the impossibility of getting external keyboards to work with autocorrection even though this is exactly what everyone has been looking for. It is possibly the only writing productivity app that does this right now even in 2014.
On top of that it works in the free basic version! Wow!
Here are some of the other features which I have liked so far with the Basic Version:
One has to stunned as to why Apple’s Pages cannot do some or all of these things as well as UX Write. It may be well worth the money at $24.99 (or try for a one month subscription for $0.99). I am going to test some more before making the one-off payment. But what I have seen so far I think this one is a real winner.
I have compiled two lists of apps which I use which are compatible and not compatible with JIS layout keyboards. It can be found here.
I keep coming back to this issue of pairing and setting up an external foreign language external keyboard with the iPad Air. The problem is not that it outright rejects such a keyboard but that it depends on a particular app’s ability to recognise it or not.
Strangely enough Apple’s very own wireless keyboard for its own desktop computer does not work alway recognise the keyboard. Apple of course seems to know how to make its own software to work but that is lost on third party app makers so that buying apps which rely on keyboard input (productivity apps, for example) could mean your input method may have to forego keyboard hardware (or else rely on your memory of where certain punctuations are).
Of course if you are using the virtual keyboard this is not a problem. But that makes my purchase of an external keyboard (an Apple one at that) seem downright silly and a waste of money.
Still nothing beats a physical keyboard for the input experience which why we still want to buy one. The ability to be wireless is again part of the deal. The hardware – an iPad with its minimalistic external keyboard – is just so sexy.
So why is it that Apple can’t get the software or OS right, least of all its own?
Equipment used in this problem: iPad Air, Apple wireless keyboard (MC184J/B), Apple Pages app (2.2.1).
This problem occurs when you are using an external keyboard like Apple’s wireless keyboard on an iPad to input Japanese text into Apple’s Pages.
When zoomed at greater than the width of the entire page text alternatives for your input is off the left side of your page as in the image below. This makes it difficult to select which input alternative you want.
To work around this bring up the virtual keyboard. The alternatives are then displayed at the top of this. You lose a lot of screen space but at least it works.
Not sure why Apple has not noticed this problem before or even fixed it (where do customers go to make complaints and suggestions?).
The other day I made friends with someone who had a similar approach to technology as me. He had bought an Apple wireless keyboard to go with his iPad.
As logic would dictate genuine Apple products should work seamlessly with their other products. But this was not the case.
Soon after I bought my keyboard I immediately found problems with compatibility. Not so much that it didn’t connect with the iPad but rather some apps just didn’t recognize the keyboard as Japanese layout (which is the country I bought the keyboard in). That really isn’t the problem as I also require Japanese. But not being to find characters because your iPad thinks you are using an English keyboard is really really annoying.
Thinking that this was an issue with the keyboard and Apple’s manufacturing error I went online to find a solution but to no avail. I gave up and continued to rubbish Apple for its lack of language compatibility.
But as I said, I made friends with this guy who had a similar to mine and asked him about whether he had this problem or not.
“No,” was his answer.
So this got me thinking: perhaps the problem isn’t with the keyboard but with specific apps.
So I went home and began testing all my apps to see which worked with keyboard and which didn’t. And these were the results.
Text-input-driven apps that didn’t work with the keyboard:
Text-input-driven apps that worked with the keyboard:
ALL Apple made apps (including Pages, Numbers, Keynote, Notes and Calendar)
My Wonderful Days (journal)
Of all the apps listed Gmail and Simplemind are perhaps the most missed. It literally means I cannot write emails or produce mindmaps effectively with the keyboard hardware. The point of a keyboard is to make typing easier, as an alternative to the virtual keyboard. But since most of my work is done on the Apple apps and the WordPress app not all is lost.
And Apple are not the ones to blame for this since this seems to be a problem on the individual app makers’ part. So now I wish there is a list of apps out there that would tell me which apps are not compatible with Japanese keyboards. This would save me from buying unusable apps.