How to Connect a Keyboard to Your iPad

Type Faster by Skipping the On-Screen Keyboard

In the span of a few years, the iPad has gone from a novelty used to consumed music, video and the web to a device used to create those very things, and now with the iPad Pro models, it is just as powerful as a laptop or a desktop PC.   So how do you begin using it like a PC?  For many people, it is a simple matter of pulling up the on-screen keyboard and typing away, but if you are going to do a heavy amount of typing, the tactile feel of a real keyboard might be preferable.   

Microsoft may want to convince the world that the Surface tablet is the tablet for people who want a keyboard, but there are two major problems with that bit of marketing: (1) the iPad has supported wireless keyboards since day one and (2) the Surface doesn't even come with a keyboard.  It's just an accessory you have to purchase... just like the iPad.  

It is pretty easy to connect a keyboard to the iPad.  And it won't cost you an arm and a leg unless you really have your heart set on Apple's Smart Keyboard.

The Wireless Keyboard

The 9.7-inch iPad Pro
The new Smart Keyboard debuted alongside the iPad Pro, but it will take a Pro tablet to use it. Apple, Inc.

The most simple and direct approach is to use a wireless keyboard. Right out of the box, the iPad is compatible with most wireless keyboards. This includes those not specifically marked for the iPad, although to be safe, you should always check for compatibility. Apple's wireless keyboard is a safe choice.  It has all of the features you'll want and you'll be able to use shorcut keys to common functions like command-c for copy and command-v to paste.  But you don't need to even spend that much.  A cheap wireless keyboard from Amazon can work out quite well.  

One of the big pros of using a wireless keyboard is that it is easy to connect and start using, but you always have the option of leaving it behind.  This can make it a better choice than a keyboard-case, which turns your iPad into a quasi-laptop.   

has long been used for the iMac and Mac Mini, and it works perfectly fine for the iPad. It's also sturdy and relatively small, but it is also one of the more expensive wireless keyboards.

Most wireless keyboards will require you to pair the device.  The exact method for doing so may vary.  For example, some will require you to input a code that is displayed on the iPad's screen to complete the pairing.   But you'll always start in the Bluetooth settings.

First, launch the iPad's settings.  On the left-side menu, find and tap "Bluetooth."  If Bluetooth is off, you can turn it on by tapping the on/off switch.  

It may take a few seconds for your iPad to "discover" the wireless keyboard.  When it appears in the list, simply tap it.  If it requires you to input a code, the iPad will display a code onscreen that you can enter on the keyboard. 

If the keyboard doesn't appear on the list, make sure it is turned on and/or the batteries aren't dead.  If the keyboard has a Bluetooth button to make it "discoverable", you will need to tap it before the iPad will recognize the keyboard.   Read more about pairing devices to the iPad. Buy from Amazon »

The Keyboard Case

If you want to use your iPad like a laptop, why not turn it into a laptop? There are plenty of keyboard cases on the market offering different solutions to the typing problem. The keyboard case might seem a little counter intuitive, taking the tablet right out of the iPad, but it really isn't much different than hooking a laptop into a docking station to make it act more like a desktop while at work.

One advantage of the keyboard case is that it offers better mobility than carrying around both an iPad and a wireless keyboard.  If you are constantly typing on the keyboard when you are using your iPad, this can be a very good choice.  It's also a two-in-one package because it both protects your iPad as well as serving as a keyboard.   

The biggest disadvantages are that it adds a lot of bulk and it can be pricier than other solutions.  And while you may think you'll just remove it from the case when you want to use it as a tablet, you may find it is more hassle than its worth, so you'll end up just keeping it in the case 90% of the time.   More »

The Wired Keyboard

Did you know you can hook up most wired (USB) keyboards to the iPad? The iPad's Camera Connection Adapter may be advertised as a solution for getting pictures from your camera to your iPad, but it actually works well with many USB devices, including keyboards. 

This is a great solution if you want the ability to use a keyboard with your iPad but you don't think you'll use it very often.  You can even unplug the wired keyboard from your PC and use it on your iPad. 

However, the Camera Connection Kit will cost as much as some of the cheaper wireless keyboard.  It does have the advantage of letting you hook up a camera to your iPad or even a MIDI instrument like a musical keyboard, but if you don't have any use other than using it for typing, it might actually be cheaper to go with a wireless keyboard.  

Buy the Camera Connection Kit on Amazon

The Touchfire Keyboard

Touchfire has created a keyboard that's not a keyboard. Designed to work with Apple's Smart Cover and Smart Case, the Touchfire keyboard is a transparent silicon pad that fits over the iPad's onscreen keyboard, giving it the same type of texture and feel you might expect from a real keyboard. This is great for touch typists who miss the tactile feel of keys beneath their fingertips, and because the keyboard pad is designed to stick to the underside of the Smart Cover, it is the most mobile of the keyboard solutions.

Overall, the Touchfire keyboard does a great job of giving you that tactile feeling of a keyboard without actually hooking up a keyboard.  But you still use the on-screen keyboard for typing, which means you'll lose a chunk of screen space.  And it's not exactly the same as typing on a real keyboard, so if you want to go 60+ words-per-minute, you may want to get the real deal instead of the Touchfire.   More »

Voice Dictation

Who needs a keyboard? One nice benefit of Siri is the ability to utilize the voice recognition anytime you would normally use the keyboard. Simply push the microphone button and start talking. This isn't the best solution for heavy use, but if you just occasionally wish you could input a large chunk of text without hunting and pecking on that on-screen keyboard, voice recognition might do the trick. And because Siri is free, there is no need to spend actual money. 

Voice recognition is available almost any time the keyboard is up. And you can use Siri to bypass even opening some apps.  For example, instead of opening the Notes app to create a new note, you can tell Siri to "make a new note". Read about more cool things Siri can do for you.  

However, you won't want to write a novel through voice dictation.  If you have heavy typing needs, voice dictation isn't the best route.  And if you have a very thick accent, Siri may have trouble figuring out what the heck it is you are saying.   More »

Did You Know There's a Touchpad on the iPad?

The latest versions of the iPad's operating system includes a Virtual Touchpad that is accessed when you put two fingers down on the iPad's on-screen keyboard at the same time. You can use this method to quickly select text or position cursor within text.

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