I have been thinking more about the on-screen iPad keyboard and think I see a way it could be greatly improved.
First, the problem. Neither Apple nor app developers know what we need from a keyboard. We don't even know ourselves because our needs can vary even within the same application. I might use Notepad or SimpleNote to write a letter, a small Perl script or a hand crafted HTML page - my keyboard needs will be different within each.
Or say I'm using the iSSH app (and I do, often). I might be ssh'ed to a command line or VNCed to a client. If it's VNC, the keyboard I need depends on whether I am on a Mac, Windows or Unix host. Even if it is command line access, my needs may differ: a Bash session could use arrow keys, a Ksh session might not.
I may even want to switch keyboards within the same session. Apple anticipated that need with International keyboards - when you add other keyboards in Settings, you get a new key to the left of your space bar. That key lets your cycle through your keyboards. What if you could have your own custom keyboards instead of just choosing from the ones Apple supplies?
I could have a keyboard with "<" and ">" or even "<p>" for when I am writing HTML. I could have a keyboard with ctrl, alt, command and arrow keys for use with VNC and Bash. I could have what I need when I need it.
This can't be hard, can it?
Update: the iSSH app (Zingersoft iSSH) has recently added a programmable soft custom keyboard. I've programmed it to change the function keys (which I seldom use) into macros for common commands and to make inconvenient characters like angle brackets more easily accessible. I also swapped the shifted/unshifted ":" and ";" because I use ":" in 'vi' far more often than I use a semicolon in writing.
This is the type of functionality Apple should build right in.
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