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1Keyboard to Rule them All

Cobble stones arranged in such a way that they resemble a keyboardLast fall, I finally got a smartphone. There was a lot to like about suddenly being able to get to my email, contacts, and maps while traveling on the New York subway system. And I could suddenly start making use of all those great ProfHacker tips for using my smartphone.

But there was one thing that I didn’t like as much: the keyboard. Despite being dumb, my previous phone had a full QWERTY keypad with physical buttons, and I had been able to send text messages and tweets faster than anyone really wanted me to. While adding Launch Center Pro allowed me to do everything on my phone faster, there is the simple fact that typing on a glass screen isn’t as fast for me as using a physical keyboard.

For this reason, I was delighted when I heard about 1Keyboard. 1Keyboard allows me to use the keyboard on my Mac to type on almost any device that I can connect to with Bluetooth: an iPhone, an iPad, or an Apple TV. But it’s not just Apple products that 1Keyboard works with; I’ve also connected my keyboard to type on another computer and my colleague’s Android phone. What this means is that instead of typing a text message on my phone’s virtual keyboard, I can type on my laptop’s keyboard and watch the characters appear on the phone. I’m also editing a book collection at the moment, reading through drafts of essays on my iPad in iAnnotate, which Jason called a fabulous app for marking up PDFs and for which Mark subsequently provided tips for making the most of its capabilities. Now, I can type comments on the drafts with a real keyboard.

Installation of 1Keyboard is incredibly simple, taking less than four steps which the developer carefully outlines. In short, once the utility is installed, you simply have a secondary device request to pair with your computer’s Bluetooth. Once the pairing has happened you get a pop-up from 1Keyboard asking if you’d like to enable 1Keyboard to work with that device. You can choose an icon and a keyboard shortcut (I love keyboard shortcuts for any- and everything) for each device, and then you’re ready to go. There’s no secondary app to download for the different peripherals; 1Keyboard only needs to be installed on the computer that you’re going to use as your universal keyboard.

Switching between where you’re typing is as easy as invoking the keyboard shortcuts or going to the icon in the menubar and selecting a new tool. I connect to my phone by hitting Command-Shift-2, to the iPad I’m using with Command-Shift-I, and switch back to typing on the computer with Command-Shift-1. When I’m typing on another device, my computer screen displays a new icon to remind me where the keyboard is working.

Screenshot of 1Keyboard icon

Although you can connect to non-Apple devices, 1Keyboard only runs on a Mac. If you’re interested in trying it out, you can demo the software for free for 48 hours. After that, it costs $6.99. That might sound a bit expensive, but I found after 48 hours that I really had used it enough to justify the cost, so I bought a license.

When Steve Jobs first introduced the iPad, he called it “truly magical and revolutionary.” I’ll let you decide for yourself if touch-tablet computing really is as awesome as Apple, Microsoft, and Google want you to believe it is. But I’ll say that I’ve never used a tool that feels quite so magical as 1Keyboard. I’ve been showing it off to people for the last week because I can’t believe that it works as well as it does. And while it’s true that you could accomplish these tasks with a separate Bluetooth keyboard, the ability to have one less device that I carry around with me feels all the more revolutionary.

How do you type on your different devices? Have you tried 1Keyboard or anything like it? Let us know in the comments!

[Lead image: Keyboard From Stone Age / http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/]

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