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On iPads and Styli

…”Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground.”… John 8:6

When the iPad was introduced in April 2010, Steve Jobs remarked that a stylus would not be needed. The capacitative touchscreen is designed to be sensitive to the electromagnetic properties of the human body and present in the fingers. No stylus was shipped with the iPad then or now. There is no Apple branded stylus. Despite this, styli are available in almost any retail electronics store and are advertised for use on iPhones, iPads, and competing devices with touchsrceens. So do you or don’t you need a stylus? Technically, you do not, but as with many things in life, once you have one it is doubtful that you’ll give it up.

The utiility of a stylus becomes apparrent when you attempt any kind of drawing or writing. I don’t draw very much much but I do take a considerable amount of notes. In the “early” days of the iPad notetaking was accomplished by using the built-in virtual keyboard. It works well but it is a keyboard. A “hunt and peck” typist like myself can work much faster writing on the screen with  a stylus, sloppy as one’s handwriting might be. Several excellent note taking apps are available including Notes Plus, Noteshelf, and Note Taker HD. The developers of these apps have done some remarkable engineering actually making it more pleasurable to write on the screen than on actual paper!

As I said, the touchscreen relies on properties of the human body to work. A gloved hand will not work. Neither will a simple blunt instrument like a chopstick. Do a little searching on YouTube and you will find instructions on how to construct a makeshift stylus from a blunt insrument, some aluminum foil and some scotch tape. It works by extending the body’s electrical properties through the foil. While it does work do you really want to rub on your your screen with a foil tipped makeshift device? I also know how to fold piece of paper into a clever wallet that will hold a few bills and credit cards. I might give one of these to a waitress with a tip inside but I’m certainly not going to replace my leather wallet with it. Commercial styli mimic the body’s electrical properties and have soft tips not unlike fingers. They can’t scratch a screen and they can be used with a gloved hand.

Prices for styli vary greatly. I have two, a modestly priced ($13) Targus model and a higher priced ($30) Wacom “Bamboo” model. The Wacom stylus is a bit longer, a little heavier, and has a smaller tip than the Targus model. The smaller tip offers a little more precision while drawing and might be preferable for people who do this type of work. For simple notetaking either one works well. I have seen advertisments for other, more expensive models. They undoubtedly have their merits, but for a first purchase I would recommend something cheaper.

After buying your iPad, the first accessory you should purchase is a carrying case, the second should be a stylus.



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