Saturday, August 20, 2011

Initial Review of Belkin iPad2 Keyboard Folio

Having had an iPad for a few months now, I've started to use it to take notes, but have become frustrated by the screen keyboard when typing, so I decided to buy an external keyboard. But I wanted to keep it looking nice and new, too.

At first, I had the Apple Smart cover, but that does nothing to protect the rest of the machine's body, so I ended up buying a Timbuk2 quilted cover (at such a good sale price, as Homer has said, "I couldn't afford *not* to buy it!"). I can be clumsy in general, so this seemed a wise investment and has served me well in terms of protection.

However, I needed to do something about that keyboard.

Really, I don't want to lug around a whole lot of extra stuff, so a wrap-around case that incorporated a keyboard really seemed like the best option. I'd looked at a couple, talked to some people and read some reviews, but each seemed to have its problems. Zagg looks fabulous, but I can't flip the whole thing behind the iPad if i'm just reading.

Plus, as a writer who takes way too many notes, I'm a sucker for a decent keyboard.

So when on August 5, Belkin announced its iPad2 Keyboard Folio, I knew I had to give this a shot. Couldn't find anywhere to buy it online immediately, but found it at a local Target.

Although I'm curious that there were no real reviews--only product announcements. Maybe there's a reason for that?

The Good
After an exercise in origami, I ended up abandoning the wordless graphic directions, and just wrestled the iPad into the case, paired up the iPad with the easy Settings directions in the booklet, and went to town.

First off, the keyboard feel is really superb. The TruType keyboard rocks. It really is comfortable to type, and although I don't have man hands, I have long fingers and some keyboards feel too cramped for me. Not this one.

I touch-type around 100 WPM, and get immensely frustrated by keyboards that can't keep up. But these keys have just enough give, there's no clicking, they're not too wobbly or mushy. Overall, it makes typing longer entries on the iPad easy.

It's editing where I'm stymied.

The Bad
OK, the Belkin's Quick Install Guide is really just that: the absolute bare-minimum basics when it comes to this device, some Bluetooth info, legal mumbo-jumbo, and service, safety and warranty blurbs. A loose little piece of paper added to the guide tells you that the Command key activates alternate keys, including Delete.

As a daily PC user who types to get the ideas out fast enough, the Delete key is an important tool--no, the most important tool--in my editing arsenal. I type and correct on the fly, using Delete as needed. Only now I have no Delete.

Although the little loose paper of additional instructions says Command activates Delete, maybe it technically does, but not in the way I'd expect. If I used Macs all day, it might be a non-issue for me. But using Command + Backspace/Delete deletes to the beginning of the line, not just the following character as a PC's delete button does.

Surprise! (Grr...)

I just keep Command+Z at the ready for these situations.

Also, the Belkin iPad2 Keyboard Folio would be really good if they'd incorporated Apple Smart Cover technology into the cover. That would have made it at least a bit more functional.

The absence of a magnetized cover also means that the cover just flaps open at will. I keep wishing for a Moleskine-type band to keep the cover closed, but I guess it would get int the way of the cover when it's opened up and positioned to type.

The Ugly
OK, I have to say it, this case is just plain ugly. Ugly, industrial grey pseudo-suede. But I get that they need to make a limited number of colors to appeal to the broadest number of people.

But I would have preferred black. And you can't really tell from the photos on the packaging that it's not black.

So that was something of a disappointment.

More Later
This has been just a few days with this keyboard, so I'll see how things go. I need to use it more to figure out how to use the function keys and do more research online to see if what I've experienced is just inexperienced-user syndrome, or if they're real deficiencies.

For now, I'm keeping my iPad2 enveloped in the Belkin Keyboard Folio.

But it's got me wondering if another product might take these small annoyances into account. Stay tuned.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Revisiting Grace

Too often, I fall into the habit of just chugging along, not really paying close attention, until something makes me sit up with a start. It's occurred to me that I could stand to look up, take stock and see more of the bright side of things. And to do it more often than I've been, too. So, here are a few things I'm grateful for...

1. Mr Spandrel is keeping us rolling forward with painting our bedroom and the painstaking prep involved. There is so much to be done that I tend to get overwhelmed by the thought of massive disruption... but the end result will be beautiful and serene, I know.

2. This holiday weekend was full of connecting with family and friends, without the stress of entertaining. This is a long weekend that I've largely been able to savor, whereas recent ones have been a flurry of preparation followed by recuperation. This is more fun.

3. A two-day business trip in New York recently that, although it was super busy and left little time for exploring, gave me a jolt of that city energy that I crave once in a while. Awakens the creative spirit, too.

4. Hammocks swaying in summer breezes.

5. A short work week awaits, and who wouldn't be grateful for that?

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Filofax Chameleon Planner

As someone who readily embraces technology, it has been hard for me to come to terms with one simple fact about the way I work: After many years of managing my schedule either on a computer or on a handheld device, 6 years ago I switched back to a paper planner to manage my tasks and my schedule.

This is the Filofax Chameleon Personal planner that I bought a few weeks ago after hobbling along with another planner for 2011 that didn't suit my big, sloppy writing and jam-packed work schedule.

My workday is spent either in meetings or in front of a computer getting things done. It's a good thing I'm a fairly accurate touch-typist, because I do let my gaze drift away to the artwork on my wall or to whatever notes I'm working from, just to give my eyes a break every once in a while.

Otherwise, the more hours I log in front of a PC, the more eyestrain I suffer. And because I still use an iPhone with its teensy screen it gets even worse.

So, about the paper planner.

There's just something about putting pen to paper that I really like. It's easier for me to just jot down an idea for a project as it comes to me, rather than add something to Outlook's task list, hunt down a task management app, or even open the simple Notepad file I once kept on my desktop to manage my tasks.

When someone is standing in my office talking about a request, it's faster -- and more polite? -- to write it down in my planner as we talk than it is to turn away from them to tap away on a keyboard.

For the first few years after I returned to a paper planner, I used the Julie Morgenstern model by a planner company that has fallen out of favor with me (for publishing her format only up to the middle of a year, mind you... Who does that? Grr!). I write pretty large, so the format was perfect: there was a page opposite each day's schedule where I could write down my projects, tasks and priorities.

Too many page-a-day planners seem built for people who don't have that much to track, whether it be tasks or meetings.
And did I mention I don't write very small or neatly?

As for the Chameleon style Personal Filofax, it is working quite nicely, although I'm a bit disappointed with the binder cover itself. The leather cover was gorgeous out of the box, it is still rather stiff after a few weeks of use and doesn't lie flat yet. The edges of the tab closure and the binding are showing some wear, graying a bit already.

Since I'm all about texture, one of the smooth leather covers might be on the list, next.

But the two-pages-per day personal size suits me well so far. And, I'm proud to admit, although the sheer number of tasks I have to complete on any given day can sometimes give me agita, no projects have fallen through the cracks!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Fashion Week

During my first job out of college, I traveled quite a bit to conferences and industry meetings, covering new technologies for a trade magazine.

It was the perfect job for me -- satisfy my curiosity, change up the routine a bit, and go to cities I'd never visited before.

My first business trip was to Manhattan, and to make it in time for an early-morning conference start, I'd arrived a day earlier, a Sunday. Leaving my bags at the hotel, I ventured out.

But I was prepared.

This was the days before the Internet, but I'd done some reconnaissance on shopping in New York, and it was research that paid off handsomely.

Beyond window-shopping, I wasn't too interested in high-end shopping, mind you, which is easy to come by in New York. I needed stuff I could actually afford on a journalism graduate's salary.

And I proceeded to have a mind-boggling shopping experience at Shulie's, a plain-Jane store on the Lower East Side, supposedly run by the sister of designer Elie Tahari. It promised discounted Tahari fashions from "last season," which I'd long ogled from afar.

After discussing my budget, the two saleswomen brought me loads and loads of clothes. Dresses. Jackets. Trousers. They patiently helped me piece together a 5-piece purchase that was more than I'd ever spent on clothes, but that served me well for at least 10 years, including a dress that made me feel fantastic each and every time I wore it.

So I have a special place in my heart for Elie Tahari. I still have to watch my budget, and buy anything made by the label on steep discount or deep markdown.

But I love to watch the Fashion Week shows online, and his line this year is just gorgeous. Shulie's is long gone, but I'm sure there's a deal to be found out there, somewhere.