Writing on a Tablet

Some time ago, I wrote about my Android tablet, focusing on how it worked as an e-reader. My verdict at the time: As an e-reader stand-in, it’s not perfect, but it’s serviceable. It’s much heavier than a Kindle or a Nook, and battery life is its biggest barrier to being a proper e-reader. I have yet to finish reading a full-length novel on the device. However, an Android tablet is useful for reading stuff on the web and monitoring email, even sending a few short replies.

Would it be possible, I wondered, to write a full-length blog post on the tablet? (Saving this paragraph crashed the WordPress app, so the answer–so far–is “maybe”.)

WordPress app for Android. On-screen keyboard not shown.

In my last post about Android, I wrote that the OS is far from perfect and tries to do too many things. This is still my opinion, and to those grievances I’d like to add that Android’s text editing is terrible. It’s difficult to select a word and nearly impossible to position the cursor. Even copy and paste, features that should be usable in any OS are clumsy. The Android WordPress app has crashed a handful of times while writing this draft, and I’ve had to rewrite more than one sentence.

One would think that all of these are rough edges that’ll probably be smoothed out over time. Given how many bugs are in the WordPress web software, I wouldn’t count on a bug-free app anytime soon, but I could always write this in a text editor, like I do on my real computer.

But how difficult is writing on a tiny screen?

For two years in college, I wrote most of my papers on a typewriter with a built-in word processing function. You typed into the ether and could later inspect the device’s memory on the “display” that showed two half-lines of text. After making corrections, you’d have this “portable” contraption print out the document. If you then found one or two mistakes on the page, it was quicker to use correction tape and physically fix them rather than fix the errors in the file.

Writing this post is making me feel nineteen again.

When writing is slow but editing is even slower, thinking ahead is vital. However, I’m an editor at heart. My custom is to type until I have a few hundred words, then go back and look for my central point. This kind of improvisation doesn’t work very well on a tablet. On the other hand, I already know where this essay will end, so the change in tools is good for my mental discipline.

To anyone who wants to get a bluetooth keyboard and spew text into the cloud for later clean-up, a tablet could be a light, simple solution. But if you want to work on that second or final draft? Let’s just say that I’m heading to my laptop to clean this post up before posting it.

This post was written on a Samsung tablet and edited on a Mac. Thanks to Martha Turner Fein for proofreading, but any remaining errors are undoubtedly the fault of Android’s on-screen keyboard.

Neil Fein is a freelance editor who specializes in novels. If you’ve written a manuscript or are getting close to finishing, you can get in touch with him here, and even ask for a free sample edit. He rides his bicycle as much as he can, and he paints when he damn well feels like it. He also plays acoustic guitar in the bands Baroque & Hungry, and The Trouvères.


3 thoughts on “Writing on a Tablet

  1. I’m with you! When it comes to working on my book, I stick to my computer. Just so you know, I have an iPad. Last year I was blogging from the Toronto International Film Festival. It was a major pain with the iPad — despite the fact that I have a wireless keyboard. It was slow — saving a post to finish later was a nightmare. And there were times that it crashed and I lost everything.

  2. I’d be interested in knowing if anyone’s using a tablet as the equivalent of a journal. So far, jotting down notes in my Moleskine is much easier than writing anything on a tablet. However, I understand that there are note-taking programs out there.

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