Monday, May 20, 2013

Touchfire: Typing on your iPad!

I don't know about the rest of you, but I essentially don't "type" with my iPad, but rather I "text". The keyboard looks like a keyboard, but it doesn't feel like a keyboard. I hold the iPad like a giant iPhone and type with my thumbs.  This is because there is no tactile information, and so typing by touch feels impossible.  I don't necessarily want a big keyboard to bring with my iPad, as that defeats the whole point of the elegant tablet. So ultimately, if I have a significant amount of writing to do, I wait until I'm at my desktop.

Approximately a year ago a colleague brought to my attention an interesting Kickstarter site for an unusual keyboard. The  product was called the Touchfire, and it was to be a silicon overlay for your iPad keyboard, essentially providing you with tactile feedback as you type.  We bandied the idea back and forth, thinking it interesting, but then moved on to problems that were facing us.

Almost a year later, reading a tech blog, I ran into the Touchfire again. Only now, it's a product that is available for consumers. When I realized it was available, I was intrigued again, and went to their website to learn what I could about it.  The Touchfire retails for $49.95, and ships within 24 hours. You can purchase the keypad straight from the website.  What you receive is the silicon keypad, a carry-case, and magnets to attach to your smart-cover if your using one. The keypad is as thin as two credit cards and weighs just 3/8 of an ounce.

The Touchfire seems simple, and on one hand it is... after all, it's just a clear piece of silicon right? Well, yes and no. The high-grade silcon is very durable. It wipes clean easily. The keypad is compatible with all four generations of iPad. In addition it is compatible with Canadian French, Catalan, Cherokee, Chinese Simple, and Traditional Pinyin, Chinese Traditional Cangie, Croation, Czech, Dutch, English, Estonian, German (QWERTY), Hawaiian, Hungarian, Icelandic, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Romaji, Korean, Latvain, Lithuanian, Malay, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Swiss French, Serbian Latin, Tibetan, Turkish, and Vietnamese keyboards.

So, what is it like?

The Touchfire keypad is like typing on my computer, but a little gentler. 

Turns out the silicon is nicer to strike (I am a rather aggressive typist) than my normal keyboard.  The keypad is a tad more sensitive then my typical one, and there was a small learning curve to ease up a bit, but after just a few minutes I was typing at my normal ferocious rate! Folding the keypad out of the way is easy to navigate the full iPad screen, but I found it even easier just to take the keypad off and put it back on when I needed it. I also use a Smart-Cover and found the keypad rolled up nicely in it.

I think the Touchfire is a great add-on that will make the iPad a viable writing tool. It's light portability will appeal to folks who really want to keep the iPad lean and streamlined.

I've written this blog using the Touchfire and have been pleased with it's performance. My intention is to keep using the Touchfire for awhile and I hope to report back in several months regarding it's resilience under heavy usage.

Assuming that it is as durable as I hope, the Touchfire can definitely contribute to our students with special needs utilizing an iPad to access their curriculum. 

Happy Keyboarding!

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