Month: May 2021

Logitech Combo Touch vs Magic Keyboard

Logitech recently came out with an updated keyboard case for the iPad Pro line called the Combo Touch. If it looks familiar, that’s because it is very similar to the Folio Touch, which came out almost a year ago. I wrote about my initial impressions of it after the announcement if you want to learn more.

This keyboard case touts four different modes: reading, typing, viewing, and drawing. Aside from the Reading mode, which isn’t great after a few minutes of holding up like a magazine or book, we will cover everything.

The case covers the entire iPad and has special connectors for the Smart Connector on the back of the iPad, which then powers the detachable keyboard magnetically. You read that right, detachable keyboard.

This case has a lot to offer and could very well be an alternative to the Apple Magic Keyboard given the $199 price point compared to the $299 price tag for the Magic Keyboard. But is it good enough to use over the premium first-party option? Logitech sent me a review unit a couple of weeks ago, and I have that answer as well as my final review for you today.

Look and Feel

If I were to drop my iPad from desk height with this Combo Touch case attached, I wouldn’t be worried about whether or not my iPad would survive. It is absolutely secure and safe inside this sturdy and thick case.

I say thick, but it is by no means cumbersome. It feels just a smidge thicker than Apple’s Magic Keyboard case, and about the same weight as well.

The outside of the case is covered with a gray “woven fabric” leaving it to look nice in most settings. The color is muted enough to not clash with anything you might have in your office, but also stylish enough to stand out on its own.

One downside with the build is how the keyboard stays flush against the iPad case. When I want to open the keyboard or detach it I have a hard time finding where the keyboard and case separate. I fiddle with it just enough to be annoyed every time I want to use it. I’m sure over time it will work itself out but for now it’s annoying at times.

Keyboard Experience

After using the Magic Keyboard for months, when I made the switch to the Combo Touch it wasn’t quite as satisfying to type on. Don’t get me wrong, Logitech makes great keyboards and I know this is a reliable keyboard. I never had any issues with mistyping or multiple letters after one press. There is nothing functionally wrong with this keyboard, it just feels mushy by comparison to the Magic Keyboard. Something about the scissor switches Apple uses feels gratifying to type on, and Logitech can’t quite compare to it. The feel of these keys aren’t bad I just prefer the Magic Keyboard keys instead. One keyboard that I think is a great comparison to the Combo Touch is the K380 by Logitech. I use this keyboard anytime I need an external keyboard for my iPad or Mac. It’s a work horse of a keyboard for me and works great.

I will say this keyboard is far and away better than any Brydge keyboard I have used to date. Honestly, I think it is a solid second choice for typists like myself. If you aren’t interested in spending the extra $99 for the Magic Keyboard you won’t be disappointed by the keys, but if you already have the Magic Keyboard you may want to test it out before you buy it.

Keyboard layout

The keyboard layout is uniform for all of the keys. Aside form the modifier keys like Tab, Shift, Command, etc. all alphanumeric keys are the same size.

This can’t be said about the Magic Keyboard. Certain keys like the “]” key and both “-” and “=” keys are slivers on the 11″ Magic Keyboard. If I were comparing the 12.9″ Magic Keyboard layouts here this would be a different story, but sacrifices were made to fit a “full size keyboard” on the Magic Keyboard. If we take a look at the keyboard layout side-by-side I would be shocked to find anyone who prefers the Magic Keyboard layout over the Combo Touch.

Hell, Logitech wins just because of the media keys. One thing that baffles me with the Magic Keyboard is that media keys weren’t a priority for Apple. If Apple wants to say the iPad is a computer, the iPad should have media keys by now.

I know that the layout for the Magic Keyboard has significantly less real estate, and Apple has done a good job all things considered. However, I would argue that if Apple had to sacrifice the keyboard layout and media keys perhaps a second or third option might have been worth the time.

Trackpad

Compared the the Magic Keyboard, the trackpad is larger on the Logitech Combo touch. That being said, the size increase isn’t anything to write home about. It is nicer to have a larger trackpad, but I never had an issue with the trackpad on the Magic Keyboard. If you have found the trackpad on the Magic Keyboard to be too small though, the size increase might be what you’re looking for with the Combo Touch.

What is something to write home about is the “new click-anywhere trackpad” the Combo Touch ships with. Previously, the Logitech trackpad on the Folio Touch had a diving board trackpad, which meant a section across the top of the trackpad wasn’t made to be clicked but instead to be used as leverage for the rest of the trackpad.

Now, that section at the top is completely clickable, making for a much more pleasant experience. The Apple Magic Keyboard come out with this ability to click anywhere on it and was the only keyboard I know of (until now) that did this. Both the Combo Touch and Magic Keyboard, unlike the trackpad on a MacBook, it is a mechanical button of sorts that clicks regardless of whether it is powered or not.

I am not sure if this was something that Apple helped Logitech with, but regardless of how this technology made its way to the Combo Touch it is a welcome addition.

Footprint and Kickstand

The only reason the Combo Touch is able to have media keys, a larger trackpad, and a uniform keyboard layout is because of the real estate it gains by having a kickstand that keeps the iPad upright. Granted, the Combo Touch offers the ability to take the keyboard off the iPad case and use it as a canvas, but for right now I want to talk about it in a laptop setting.

The keyboard and kickstand make the iPad Pro longer than it is wide when using it. It is the only instance where you have to worry about the length of your desk or table rather than the width.

I did some measurements of the footprint the Magic Keyboard and my 13.3″ M1 MacBook Air have for comparison and found some interesting results.

Length in footprint:

  • M1 MacBook Pro – 8.5” (21.6 cm)
  • 11” Magic Keyboard – 7.5” (19 cm)
  • 11” Combo Touch – 13” (33 cm)

It takes over a foot for the kickstand and keyboard of the Combo Touch to be free and clear to use as a laptop. When the Magic Keyboard has nearly half of that footprint it is hard to consider the Combo Touch portable. For me, I find myself wanting to use the Combo Touch on my desk but move to the Magic Keyboard when I am taking my iPad to work or if I were traveling. While I prefer the keyboard on the Combo Touch, when portability is the name of the game the Magic Keyboard wins hands down.

Lapability

As you could guess after talking about the gigantic footprint the Combo Touch has, the Logitech Combo Touch is not usable on your lap with the keyboard and kickstand. It is entirely too large to get anything done comfortably on your lap.

You can use the touch screen without a keyboard just fine on your lap, so if you just want a couch device this can work for you.

Drawing Mode

The kickstand isn’t all bad though. Because of this kickstand (and the ability to remove the keyboard when you don’t want it), I can finally have an iPad case that has both a keyboard and the ability to draw on it comfortably.

I love the fact that I can use this iPad in a drawing mode without having to move it to a different case. In fact, that was the largest gripe I had about the Magic Keyboard when it came out. As someone that uses my iPad as a canvas for notes and/or drawing from time to time I love this added feature with the Combo Touch.

I can go from typing up something on the iPad to using it as a notepad in a matter of seconds. When I am using the Magic Keyboard I either have to use it in the keyboard case or flat on the table. Both of those options can wreak havoc on my hands after a short time. The Combo Touch, however, is angled at a comfortable position and can be adjusted thanks to the kickstand.

Speed Round

There are a number of other features and changes this keyboard has compared to other models; but for time sake I have just a quick one-sentence writeup for each feature.

Backlit Keys – The brightness is about the same as the Magic Keyboard and works great.

Updated Media Key – Spotlight search replaces mission control which is a no-brainer change.

Apple Pencil Cutout – This isn’t new, but the cutout for the Apple Pencil is great and doesn’t affect the protection of the iPad at all.

Speaker and USB-C Port Cutouts – The speakers and USB-C port isn’t hindered by the case in any way and allows for crisp sound and most charging cables to fit.

Smart Connector Connection – I was skeptical about this case with the smart connector being on the back, but Logitech makes it work without any issues.

Conclusion

All-in-all, the Logitech Combo Touch has some fantastic refinements to previous iPad keyboard cases and some new features that were much needed.

The keys feel like most Logitech keys, reliable and better than most other keyboards. The build quality is noticeably well though out, and the iPad feels protected and snug in the case.

This case isn’t the most portable on the market, but works great on a desk or at a cafe. If you want to type with it on your lap you might want the Apple Magic Keyboard instead.

If you want an all-in-one iPad case the Logitech Combo Touch is one you should absolutely consider buying.

You can buy the Combo Touch today for $199 from Logitech or Amazon.

Why Craft is the Note Taking King

This weeks issue of Tablet Habit is going to be all things Craft. This was originally going to just be an interview with CEO Balint Orosz but after spending more and more time with Craft I went into a rabbit hole.

I promise this isn’t sponsored, this is just such an amazing app that I have been thinking about a lot this week and this was literally the only thing on my mind for the newsletter.

Today we are going to talk about what Craft is, the history of how it came to be, how things are going now, and what makes it such a great app to use.

Finally there will be a litany of resources below as well as interesting workflows for Craft if you are interested in trying this app out yourself.

What is Craft?

Craft is a note taking app created by Luki Labs. Released in November 2020, it quickly became the latest hot note taking app in the Apple ecosystem.

I think that Ryan Christoffel from MacStories said it best in his review of Craft:

Craft is launching today across iPhone, iPad, and Mac as a new note-taker that blends the block-based approach of Notion with a thoroughly native experience, taking advantage of all the OS technologies you would hope for and throwing in valuable features like real-time collaboration. It’s the most exciting note-taking debut I’ve seen in years.

Craft offers some interesting features including excellent collaboration tools, full markdown support, native iOS and macOS apps, beautiful design, and the ability to link notes together.

Linking Notes

If you aren’t familiar with what it means to link notes, think of it as you have two pieces of paper on a board, and you want to link the two together because they are related in some kind of way. Craft allows you to create. a metaphorical piece of yarn to connect those two pieces of information.

All you have to do in order for that to happen is type the “@“ symbol and start writing out the note you want to link. You can even create a new note if you find yourself wanting to have a separate note that will link up with information in the note you are currently working on.

For instance, if I were working on a note that is for a review of a product and I find myself wanting to write out some more background information about the company, I can create a new note and have it linked to the note I am currently working on by typing “@Company Info.”

Not only can you use Markdown to write in Craft but you can export it in Markdown with multiple different variation options. With support for CommonMark, iA Writer, Bear, Ulysses, and Notion you can export your notes into pretty much any flavor of Markdown you want. You also have the ability to export it as a PDF, TextBundle, Microsoft Word, and more.

Speaking of exporting, there are direct app integrations with apps like Drafts, OmniFocus, Things 3, Ulysses, and more. With just a simple tap in the export options you can send your Craft note to the app of your choosing like magic.

These are just a few of the plethora of options Craft has to offer, and I want to dive deeper than a review for Craft. With that said, if you want to learn more about Craft feel free to look at the resources below from both Craft and from others who have shared some very interesting and cool ways to use Craft.

You can download Craft today for free at Craft.do. If you decide that Craft is your kind of note taking app you can purchase a Pro membership for $44.99 a year.

History of Craft

Craft was spearheaded by founder and CEO Balint Orosz, who began this note taking journey back in 2018. Balint began researching and creating the app that is now formerly known as Craft. In an interview I conducted with him, Balint tells me that this app was created because he wanted to do more with touch screens saying:

I just simply didn’t feel I can be productive on touch devices. It took me a good 6-9 months of thinking and researching to figure out the exact reason – which was mainly related around organizing/restructuring content on touch devices was horrible – and for my thinking process that is crucial.

One thing that got Balint to think that this kind of touch-first note taking can be accomplished was an app that had actually nothing to do with note taking.

After seeing TikTok, Instagram stories, etc. which effectively simplify video editing (one of the most complex desktop software) in a way where billions of people can use it, I thought that for sure we can do it for text.

Nearly 18 months later after a long beta season with users, of which I was a part of, Craft was ready to launch.

Release Day

By November 2020 Craft had become publicly available for people to download and use. Version 1.0 was officially out, and with it came some challenges.

One of the challenges was feedback and bug reports. As Balint explained to me, when you have a beta app you get different kinds of feedback than you would a public app.

[I]n beta very few people actually used Craft as their primary tool – while a lot of them started doing so once we were publicly available – and this meant that some smaller bugs which have been overlooked became critical. Balancing these, with new features our users are requesting is very challenging.

Even though there was more work to be done, it was clear that Craft had managed to catch lightning in a bottle. It gained momentum right out of the gate.

Balint Orosz on the user response from launch:

You get tons of (new/different) user feedback you want to address as soon as possible – so a mix of joy & dopamine from the positive feedback with the longer than usual shifts to get the first few fixes shipped ASAP.

Overall as the feedback, download & revenue numbers were above expectations we were very happy – recognizing there’s so much more we need to do.

Craft was out, and people were flocking to it. The reason, from my persecutive, was two-pronged. The first is that it is simply a great note taking environment on all three Apple platforms. Second, it is a native iOS and macOS app that simply oozes Apple aesthetics and design prowess.

I wasn’t the only one thinking this, in fact a lot of people have seemed to join the Craft bandwagon because of these two reasons.

Christopher Lawley on Craft:

Personally I have gone all in on Craft for note taking and research. I like their implementation, I like what they’re doing with the app, they are constantly updating it.

Curtis McHale:

The big thing Craft did was give me a truly excellent iPad app for my writing and research. Obsidian only had desktop at the time and their predicted iPad app was not what we have now. Craft was an excellent app on iPad which let me used my preferred platform for focused writing and research.

Reception and “Best New App” Award

By December 2020, just one month after public release, MacStories gave Craft the award of “Best New App” award, with editor-in-chief Federico Viticci saying:

I’ve been reviewing apps at MacStories for well over a decade at this point, and it’s only natural that, over the course of several years, it’s become increasingly rare for a new app to genuinely surprise me and upend my expectations in a specific category. I don’t mean this in the context of “I’ve seen it all, everything is boring now”; it’s just that after writing hundreds of app reviews in 11 years, testing even more betas, and following the evolution of App Store trends on both MacStories and AppStories, my threshold for being impressed by the 1.0 version of a new app or service is very high.

Present Day

Craft has been out for nearly 6 months now to the public at the time of this publishing. I wanted to know from Balint how the company felt about the reception of the app and the numbers they have for Craft subscribers.

We’re very happy with the numbers, but most importantly the user engagement (both within the product, but also the level of communication between the internal team and users) is just amazing. We’re getting a tremendous amount of insight from our users, and this makes our job both very challenging in one way, and easy on the other.

Using Craft

When Craft came out, I originally thought that this app was nearing its maximum capacity. Thankfully, I was dead wrong.

Ryan Christoffel from MacStories explained just how powerful Craft was as a 1.0 app in a way I couldn’t.

Craft is the strongest 1.0 note-taking app I’ve ever used. It offers a thoroughly native experience, taking advantage of all the best system features across its respective platforms, while also retaining the power and versatility of modern web-based services like Notion. Real-time collaboration is an especially exciting feature, and I love that even if someone doesn’t have a Craft account, they can add comments to your notes through public webpages.

Just as a user of this app, there is a lot going for it. Where I find I am using this the most is on my iPad, for obvious reasons.

Since launch, Craft has had numerous updates. Among them are some strong features added and bugs squashed. Here are the highlights:

  • Faster Search
  • Trash Can for deleted items
  • Web Editor (currently in beta)
  • Dedicated sidebar for iPad
  • Tabs in both iPadOS and macOS
  • Universal Attachment support
  • Surround selections (You can add ( ), [ ], { } easily to the beginning and end of the selected text by simply type ( or [ or {.)
  • Swipe to indent lines
  • External Locations
  • Notion, Roam, and batch Markdown import
  • Spotlight Search integration
  • Backlinks
  • iOS 14 widgets

The iPad Experience

One app that comes to mind a lot when I think about the design, usability, and versatility of Craft is Things 3. To me, they both offer a similar feeling with me, and I think it is because it is also native, frictionless and beautiful.

If you have ever used Craft or Things 3 you will know right away that it isn’t like every other app. It has an aesthetic that shows care, finesse, and obsession. Someone who worked on this app put their heart and soul into how this app looks and feels for the user.

I love that Craft decided early on to focus on being a native app, rather than doing something like Notion, a competitor for Craft, where it is a web app wrapped into an iOS and Mac app.

Balint commented on this decision saying:

From the start we wanted to create a Mac App which isn’t a blown up iPad app – but rather something you feel is built for the Mac itself – and Catalyst doesn’t provide much for you in that area (with the new MacOS 11 design language it’s better – but at the time with MacOS 10.15 you still had a very different visual environment). This meant we had to re-build pretty much the whole UI – different visuals, interactions, overall structure – and all of this had to be done in a way where we don’t have two apps – but one. So any feature we introduce on one platform should be available on the other platform as well.

Looking back moving to Mac early on was one of the best decisions we made. It forced us to re-think components and interactions in a more holistic and cross-platform way. It provided plenty of challenges, but both our design language and codebase is now a lot stronger because we made that decision – and with the M1 Macs Catalyst performance is just amazing.

It is interesting to see from a developer standpoint how integrating macOS can cause a complete overhaul for the iPhone and iPad apps as well. This decision could not have been made lightly, thankfully it was absolutely the right call. The native iOS and macOS experience is something that Apple users can sense and when it is done wrong, it leaves a bad taste in their mouths.

Personally, I can’t count how many times I have tried an app and leave it feeling like it is trying to be a Mac app but it feels like a web app. One app that is like that for me is Notion.

Recently I was talking on Twitter about Notion, and many were telling me that, when it comes to iOS and iPadOS, the best note taking experience between Notion and Craft is by far and away Craft.

James Eaton wrote:

One of my favorite things about Craft is how easy it is to just start taking notes. I tend to take somewhat of stream-of-conscious notes in meetings and I love how I can just type my thoughts and then sort, add lists, and develop blocks after the meeting is over. To put it simply: Craft does not get in my way when I want to capture text.

It’s clear that the current success for Craft is prosperous, but what does the future hold for Craft? According to Balint, quite a bit.

The Future of Craft

While Craft is still in its first year of release, it is clear that there’s more to come. Each update is indicative of that.

I wanted to know what Balint had planned for Craft, and when I asked about what the future of Craft looks like this is what he had to say.

Most of the things you see in Craft are the result of us learning from our users. We have a strong vision of creating the “next generation writing app” – i.e. one that supports workflows for knowledge workers in today’s ecosystem, not one which was built 20-30 years ago. This means we have very strong principles around :

  1. Cross platform and form factor usage (users are no longer working on just one device)
  2. Integration to other services / tools vs being the “all-in-one” (respecting that others across domains built amazing tools – we shouldn’t try to replicate that into one monster, but figure out ways that tools can be effectively co-used)
  3. Privacy & Data Accessibility – Your data is yours, and we should actively help you exercise those rights.There’s lots of details and nuances in all of these – and that’s where user input and feedback drives majority of the implementation details.

    The biggest thing we’ve learned is that every individual has a different set of preferences & needs for them to become productive – in other words to please hundreds of millions of users (which we want to do) one needs to provide a large number of features – or features in a way where these are customizable – while making sure the product doesn’t become overly complicated or bloated. In other words we are not in a sprint – but rather a marathon.

What also sends a clear message is $8 million in funding they received earlier this year in Series A funding. Craft made it clear that this funding will help grow Craft and expand its reach in a recent email to users saying:

What this means for you is that we will have plenty of resources to continue & build Craft for years ahead.

As for what Craft plans to work on in the near future, Balint tells me it is actually one of the most common requests they have received since launch.

On the very top of our list is of course tables – it’s challenging to get it right on touch, but we’re making good progress – and of course we’ve just launched our web editor, which has also been requested by many users.

The new Web Editor mentioned is something I didn’t expect to see so soon. Alas, I am pleasantly surprised by this. Like many, I work in an office environment that is completely Windows based which doesn’t bode well for apps that are only in the Apple ecosystem. Thankfully, the new web editor is working on fixing that for users.

I don’t want to talk too much about this as it is still in beta but I will say that even as a beta app it is surprisingly full-featured. Craft continues to raise the bar for beta and version 1.0 apps and for that we can all be grateful.

If you want to give the web editor a shot you can sign up for the waitlist of the beta.

Wrap Up

Craft has been a welcome addition to my workflows and I can’t wait to use this app more and see what kind of benefits I receive once I invest even more into the app.

If you are at all interested in trying out Craft you can start with the free tier and see how you like it. The features you get even in the free tier are vast and the amount of notes you can write before hitting its limits is large. I highly recommend giving this a go for a project you are working on or as a system of saving notes for different aspects of your life.

Finally, if you want to learn more about what you can do with Craft or how to use the app please look below at the multitude of resources I have curated of the last month.


Craft Resources

Below are a ton or resources I have been saving over the last few weeks that I think might be helpful for new and intermediate users of Craft looking to learn more about how this app works, organizing your notes, and more.

From Craft

Keyboard Shortcuts

Other Blogs/Websites

A Quick Overview of My Craft Workflow

Videos and Screencasts

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