My Mobile Writing Set-Up

I’ve been writing quite a bit more in the last couple weeks. As the days are grow shorter, I find myself wanting more time outside, to enjoy the sun[1] and nature. But I also have deadlines to deal with, and longhand writing takes time! What is a writer to do?

Well, if you’re me, you end up accumulating stuff over a year that turns you into a mobile writing station. I thought I’d take some time today to share this gadgety setup with you fine folks:

Mobile Writing Setup-full

iPad, keyboard, cases, portable USB battery, stylus, mini surge protector, split charge cable (Not pictured: iPhone)

What you see there, from left to right:

What isn’t in that picture, because I used it to take the photo, is my iPhone (3Gs right now) with the standard Apple headphones.

The portable battery takes a bit longer than overnight to charge, but once it does, it has enough juice for around 40-50 hours of iPhone use, and less for my iPad. That’s a necessity for using my iPhone on the go, given how much data & music, like running Pandora, can kill the battery. It also helps when I forget to charge my iPad. The battery has a single USB outlet and a simple indicator to tell how much power is left on it. It also automatically shuts off after around a minute of not charging, so if I unplug my phone from it, I don’t have to worry about it continuing to operate fruitlessly.

The writeosphere has talked quite a bit about writing with an iPad, so I’ll save you a lengthy explanation. I like the fact that it requires me to focus, being a unitask device (even if you can multitask via background), and when I’m not near wifi I can’t get too distracted by doing a “quick” Wikipedia search. For the times when I need to look up something on the Internet or want to take a quick Twitter break, that’s why I have my iPhone.

Of course, I need to get back to wi-fi to sync. Right now, I use Notably along with Dropbox (while I have Pages for my iPad I haven’t used it in ages). I have tried also editing off of Google Docs directly, but that requires an Internet connection and honestly the iPad editing web software is so not ready for primetime. I did nothing but mangle a doc I was working with, causing me to just revert back to an earlier version. Ugh.

For a few months, I stopped using my iPad to write. This is mainly because while the Apple wireless keyboard is sturdy enough to just toss in my bag, whoever thought it was a smart idea to make a sensitive touch on/off switch is an asshole. I would more often than not find that my iPad was disabled because in transit it would get turned on and keys would get pressed, attempting to insert a code to unlock my iPad. When that failed, the iPad would lock up for a bit. I recall one time where I had to wait 45 minute before I could fucking write.

I was pissed. If someone meets that product designer, buy him or her a beer. And then throw it in his/her face.[2] At least they got the on switch right on the Magic Mouse.

My iPad was still good as a TV, game station and library, so it’s not like it was a waste. But writing on it wasn’t going to fly.

Then I got the Incase Origami workstation. It’s a case for the standard wireless keyboard that, when opened and folded. gives you a place to set your iPad. It works great with the standard-at-the-time iPad case from Apple. It protects my keyboard from scratches & dings, but more than that it keeps it from turning on or getting pressed. :) And then it gives me a place to use my iPad like a netbook.

There’s no attachment, it’s just a place to put the iPad. I sometimes use it apart, when there’s not a good place to put the setup but there’s a good place to sit and a place to  put my iPad at eye level. I then cross my leg and use that to rest the keyboard on.

Mobile Writing Setup-separate

iPad & keyboard station separated

I also have a simple stylus for my iPad, and man is it great. It helps keep oils from my fingers from messing up the screen, it’s more comfortable, and it just feels a little bit classier. The stylus I have us an insert in the cap where it attaches to the headphone port. Since I use my iPhone for music 95% of the time, that’s not a problem. And if it is, I can take out the stylus cap for a little bit, whatev.

The split cable is nice. It’ll charge one device and work as a charge & sync cable for another. Now, it won’t jive with the portable battery because that doesn’t produce enough juice to power two devices, but that’s cool. It’s mainly for when I’m out at a coffee shop and don’t want to take up two outlets. Also, it lets me use my long cord to benefit both, giving me more choice of seating in a shop.

Finally, I have my mini surge protector, or as I like to call it, the device that makes friends. If I need an outlet and it’s crowded, I’ll ask someone if I can unplug theirs long enough to put the mini in. And now we have power for three 110s and two USBs.


So, that’s how I roll. Here’s the kicker: all together, it’s still lighter than my MacBook Pro, which is the main reason I use this setup instead.

– Ryan

[1] Which, since I intend on moving to Seattle in the coming months, is part of why I’m trying to get my sun fix right now. :)

[2] I get a huge hate-on for shitty product design. It magnifies when dealing with cross-OS/device applications where it’s clear the UI developers on each app don’t talk to each other. Hi Twitter, Facebook, and Wunderlist (which, aside from that, I’m liking so far).


6 Responses to My Mobile Writing Set-Up

  1. John Powell says:

    The Origami Workstation is just soooo cool. Thanks for sharing!

    • Ryan Macklin says:


      Man, it’s so awesome. :) But I did not have a good experience with Incase customer service, when they decided to hold a sale the same time the new iPhone came out, and their shipper was overwhelmed. For future Incase purchases, I’m going to use Amazon instead.

      – Ryan

  2. Eddy Webb says:

    The Origami solves an exact problem I’ve been having with carrying my keyboard on my bag. Brilliant.

  3. Troy says:

    I use my Bluetooth keyboard a LOT, with both the iPhone and iPad, and I emphatically share your hate for the ever-lovin’ lack of a simple off switch.

  4. Wayne says:

    Sweet rig you’ve got there, I love those BT keyboards. I still shlep my MacBook Pro in a backpack, but it’s over 4 years old and may be dying, and if that happens, it’ll be replaced by an Air. I don’t have an iPad yet, but rumor has it that one will be coming for my birthday next month, and hopefully I’ll be getting a 4S next week when I’m in Phoenix for Turkey Day.

  5. Laura Bishop says:

    Hey Ryan,

    Thanks for the heads up about the Origami Workstation! :)

    I use my iPad for THE MAD WRITING ACTION daily, and originally carried my bluetooth keyboard around in my backpack in its original box (separate from the iPad itself, which was annoying on multiple levels). But, like you, had issues with it turning itself on all the fucking time, so went to the Logitech Keyboard Case by ZAGG for iPad 2. And then I tucked all of THAT into a 10″ notebook neoprene zip case.

    While a workable solution, it’s never been perfect. The Zagg’s keys are kind of small for my Big Russian Peasant Stock hands, and popping the iPad in and out of the case itself has jacked the edges up on my sticker-screen-protector-thingie (which is replaceable, but still annoying). And really, for $30, it’s affordable enough to give it a test go if it means I can have the full sized bluetooth keyboard back again.

    As for what I write in, I tend to stick with Notebooks coordinated with Bento, though I’ll use Pages occasionally.

    Again, thanks for the heads up review! Muy helpful. :D