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Typing on the Playbook; One week in

As a techie, I know that ideally software should be designed to match the way we already work. But to some extent, we always have to open ourselves up to learning how to use a new device. I have given myself a week to get used to the Playbook, and here are my thoughts on its keyboard . . .

Typical keyboard size, large iPad keyboard size and large Playbook keyboard size

After about a week with my iPad I understood exactly how I would use the keyboard.  In portrait mode I would use my thumbs (a stretch, but doable). In landscape mode, I would set it down and type on the wider keyboard with all fingers, like a traditional keyboard.

I have given the Playbook keyboard just about a week of use now and after spending some time with the keyboard in both layouts, it has become clear that this is a thumb typing device through and through.

Portrait mode typing is the easiest and fastest way to type on the Playbook. In portrait mode, the device is inches 5 wide. My thumbs are roughly inches 3 long. Thus, both thumbs can easily reach across the keyboard to type out this post.

My thumb can reach across to the center of the keyboard without any extra effort.

Two thumb typing doesn't need any stretching.

Landscape mode seems like a promising keyboard for ten finger typing, but in reality, its just a wider thumb keyboard.  No surprise here,the typing experiences are largely the same. Using all your fingers crowds the screen and feels uncomfortable. If you have longer thumbs or don’t mind reaching, then thumb typing is possible–as possible as the iPad.


Using multiple fingers, even in the landscape mode is uncomfortable and clearly not an intended use.

In landscape the Playbook is 7.5 inches wide, the same as the iPad in portrait mode. With a 3 inch thumb on each side, there is a 1 and a half inch dead-space at the middle of the keyboard. You can get to the entire keyboard if you reach over the bezels, which is more than adequate for short typing. But if you want to type out a longer document, the portrait Playbook keyboard is going to be a lot more comfortable.

When not typing, holding the Playbook in landscape with two hands gives you a great general grip on the device.

But a typical thumb will have problems reaching the buttons at the center of the keyboard without stretching over the edges of the device.



5 total comments on this postSubmit your comment!
  1. Was interested in what you were going to say. What I am dieing for and will spend $ for is a good on screen note pad that you can actually write on with a stylus. This may not be possible since even the iPad doesn’t have it.

    Having said that I just got out of a meeting where I used the keyboard in landscape to jot down note using Simple Notes.

    Several observations:

    1)It was easier than I thought it would be
    2) I didn’t feel like a dork with a big pad in front of me – the playbook is discreet.
    3) After the meeting when I was holding it in my hand with the convertible case closed, several people said “THAT’S NICE”! and one even said “yeah that’s much nicer than walking about with an iPad which really looks like a game player.

    I think the playbook will be a hit with business types!

    • I’m curious, when typing in landscape, how many fingers did you use to type? Also, did you not type in portrait because then you would have had to hold it up during the meeting?

      • Yes, I didn’t type in portrait because I don’t think it would have looked good in the meeting. Also with the case on a little heavy and awkward for thumb typing.

        I use both hands. I wouldn’t call it full typing, but close. Definitely more than pecking. Many fewer spelling errors than I thought, although I’d like an auto correct built in.

        • Just add that I’m thinking of getting the slip case. If I had that I might have thumb typed since there would be no case on, although I’m not sure that Simple Notes rotates.

          But many people liked my little black book :)

  2. gooo Playbook … woooohooo!

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