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 consume music, video, and the web to a device that creates those very things. With the iPad Pro models, it's as powerful as a laptop or a desktop PC.

To use the iPad as a PC, pull up the on-screen keyboard and type away. However, if you do a heavy amount of typing, the tactile feel of a real keyboard might be preferable.

An iPad Pro and smart keyboard.
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The Wireless Keyboard

The most simple and direct approach is to use a wireless keyboard. 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, always check for compatibility.

The Apple wireless keyboard is a safe choice. It has all of the features you'll want, and you can use shortcut keys for common functions like Command+C to copy and Command+V to paste. A wireless keyboard from Amazon also works well. And it won't cost you an arm and a leg unless you want an Apple Smart Keyboard.

One of the big pros of using a wireless keyboard is that it is easy to connect and use, but you 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.

Wireless keyboards for the iMac and Mac Mini work fine for the iPad. These are sturdy and relatively small but are also some of the more expensive wireless keyboards.

Most wireless keyboards require you to pair the device. The method for doing so may vary. For example, some require you to input a code that displays on the iPad screen to complete the pairing. In all cases, you'll start in the Bluetooth settings.

To pair the devices, launch the iPad Settings app. On the left-side menu, find and tap Bluetooth. If Bluetooth is off, turn it on by tapping the on/off switch. It may take a few seconds for the iPad to discover the wireless keyboard. When it appears in the list, tap it. If it requires you to input a code, the iPad displays a code on the screen that you enter on the keyboard.

If the keyboard doesn't appear on the list, make sure it is turned on and the batteries aren't dead. If the keyboard has a Bluetooth button to make it discoverable, tap it so that the iPad will recognize the keyboard.

The Keyboard Case

If you want to use your iPad as a laptop, turn it into a laptop. Several keyboard cases on the market offer different solutions to the typing problem. The keyboard case might seem a little counter-intuitive, taking the tablet out of the iPad, but it isn't much different than hooking a laptop into a docking station to make it act more like a desktop.

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

The biggest disadvantages are that it adds bulk, and it can be pricier than other solutions. And while you can remove it from the case when you want to use it as a tablet, it may be more hassle than its worth. Many people keep it in the case 90% of the time.

The Wired Keyboard

Most wired (USB) keyboards can be hooked up to the iPad. The iPad Camera Connection Adapter may be advertised as a solution for getting pictures from a camera to an iPad, but it 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 unplug the wired keyboard from your PC and use it on your iPad. 

However, the Camera Connection Kit costs as much as some of the cheaper wireless keyboards. It has the advantage of letting you hook up a camera to your iPad or a MIDI instrument like a musical keyboard. However, if you only want it for typing, it might be cheaper to go with a wireless keyboard.

The Touchfire Keyboard

Touchfire created a keyboard that's not a keyboard. Designed to work with the Apple Smart Cover and Smart Case, the Touchfire keyboard is a transparent silicon pad that fits over the iPad on-screen 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 sticks 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 the tactile feeling of a keyboard without hooking up a keyboard. However, you still use the on-screen keyboard for typing, which means you lose a chunk of screen space. Also, it's not 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.

Voice Dictation

One benefit of Siri is the ability to use voice recognition instead of using the keyboard. Simply push the microphone button and start talking. This isn't the best solution for heavy use, but if you want to input a large chunk of text without hunting and pecking on the on-screen keyboard, voice recognition might do the trick. And because Siri is free, there's no need to spend money.

Voice recognition is available almost any time the keyboard is up. And you can use Siri to bypass 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.

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. Also, if you have a thick accent, Siri may have trouble figuring out what you are saying.

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

The latest versions of the iPad operating system include a Virtual Trackpad that is accessed when you put two fingers on the iPad on-screen keyboard at the same time. Use this method to select text or position the cursor within text quickly.