I have rarely posted to the forums, but now feel compelled to. I have been in TREG now for almost 4 weeks. I have been putting off writing about my experience while I figure what I can contribute to our group that hasn’t already been said. First, however, I think I should echo a few things that fellow TREGers have said.
- This thing is amazing!
- Since so many people posted about it being smaller than expected, I was certain I knew what was coming… Nope! This thing is tiny. The box itself is so small, I didn’t think it was the TB!
- It is a game changer. It is so easy to set up and get running!
I’d like to tell you about my first hour with TextBlade. I work in Post-Production Sound. Within a minute of unpacking the TB, I was called to a stage for a playback. I was crushed, because all I wanted to do was get the TB running. I quickly folded up the TB and grabbed my iPad. A playback in my world involves sitting in a dark room, watching part of the film and then taking notes. Usually, I either write notes with an Apple Pencil in Penultimate or typing on glass in Drafts. Within the first few minutes on the dark stage, I paired the TB to my iPad and was typing away in Drafts. After a few more minutes, I couldn’t help myself. I pulled out my iPhone, propped it up against the iPad, paired it to another Jump slot, and continued typing in the same note in Drafts. It was amazing! I was typing on the iPhone and watching my note update on the iPad. In moments, I was jumping back and forth. Of course, this isn’t a real world use case, but I was giddy that I was doing my work on multiple devices with the TB within 30 minutes of opening the box. After we were finished, I returned to my editing room and went to pair the TB with my desktop. My desktop, for various technical reasons, is a hot-rodded metal MacPro, which has BT3.0. but no matter, I had the WayTools provided dongle for testing on older machines. Once I figured out that it was preprogrammed to jump slot 6, I was up and running on three devices! My 4th machine is a MacPro at home which is identical to the work machine. For know, I carry the dongle back and forth. Once we get to GR, I will buy another dongle, because truth be told, some days I forget it.
A few things about me… I never learned to properly touch type. They did not require it when I was in school. That said, I have been plenty fast enough in the past. I would say that I am a hybrid typist. I would still look at my fingers but not always. Once the TextBlade arrived, I learned a few things about my typing technique:
- I almost never used my pinkies
- I never used the right Shift key
- I looked at the keyboard more often than I realized
For all of you non-touch typists, I can tell you this: the TextBlade is still awesome and you do not need to have perfect form to reap the rewards of this device. That said, it helps. And I have been slowly practicing my form in order to improve my technique. On a side note, I showed my wife the TB when I got home on the first night. She learned to touch type in school. I won’t tell you how long ago that was, because I might get into trouble. Suffice it to say, after only a few minutes she asked when I was getting her one… I had to do some serious coaxing to pry it away from her. The second part of the acclimation is understanding the layers. In this instance, I think there is a bit of a curve for everyone, but the layers are so thoughtfully laid out, that most things transition pretty easily. For example, the green layer. It was pretty easy for me to get used to press/hold on the SpaceBlade and type numbers from the top row. Which, btw is way easier than the physical finger stretch to get the to number keys on a regular keyboard. It took me a few days to not instinctively hit shift when wanting to type !@#$%. The bottom row of green is also new to me, since I have always associated those symbols with my right hand. All that said, as I acclimate, these new locations become second nature pretty quickly.
I think I should devote a separate paragraph to the other layers. Since I work exclusively on macOS and iOS, my instincts were to try and continue using the keyboard shortcuts I knew. But, I am finding that accessing the various layers ultimately is more intuitive and faster once you get used to it. For example, it’s pretty easy for me to switch apps on my iPad & Mac by holding down cmd on the SpaceBlade and hitting tab. However, training myself to switch apps in the app layer now means that I don’t have to think about anything being different on the rare occasions that I find myself on a PC. That to me is the secret genius of the TextBlade. It does all of the keystroke thinking for you. Since I rarely work in Windows, I am constantly fumbling with the keyboard. That problem is solved. The other aspect of layers that I find amazing is that even though I feel that I have room to improve with my technique, I feel more productive with the TB, because my hands barely move at all. I have never had any RSI injuries, but during particularly busy times, I get sore in my forearms. In just the past month with the TB, I can notice a difference. Using it really reduces the stress on your arms.
I had my call with Mark nine days after I received the TextBlade. I had read the forum posts about the long calls. All of the praise for Mark’s passion for the product and all of the criticisms of Mark for spending too much time talking to TREGers instead of getting us to GR. I was also certain, that our call would not be a long one. For one, I felt pretty comfortable with the TB already and secondly, TREG has been going on for awhile. Mark must be a bit burnt out after all of these calls. Well, I was wrong! I don’t know how many calls he’s made, but he was amazing! Super passionate about this device and very excited to talk to me and walk me through the things I didn’t know. There were quite a few of those. Time on the call? 4 hours 51 minutes. I wouldn’t have cut it short for a million bucks. Well… Anyway, I would like to point out one thing about the call, that I think is significant. As I mentioned, I work in film sound. My hours tend to be long. I was concerned that my schedule would make it difficult for Mark to fit me in. Initially, I asked for an evening slot after 7p and was told that on weekdays, Mark was available after 8p or on the weekends. We ended up chatting on a Saturday morning. My point here is for the folks that post complaining about Mark wasting company time talking to us. He isn’t. He is ‘wasting’ his personal time outside of business hours to help us get the best out of this product and thereby help him get this thing out to the public. I wouldn’t want anyone else steering the ship.
What’s in your bag?
I love that thread on the forums and I will get some pictures up there soon. I have 2 daily modes: iPad in small messenger bag and iPhone in iBand. I discovered the iBand from a post by a TREGer a few months ago and bought one primarily for baseball games. This was in the Spring, long before getting into TREG. I have never done any long form writing on an iPhone and thought it was time to try. I loaded up the iBand with TB, iPhone X, and a small stand; slung it over my shoulder, took a delightful walk by the ocean to a coffee shop. I settled in and spent an hour writing and answering long overdue emails as if I was sitting at a desktop. It was truly wonderful! The iPhone has always been capable, but my ability to input efficiently wasn’t until now. Yep, that’s game changing for me.
What’s the takeaway? The single sentence summary? I already can’t imagine life without the TextBlade. I would say that my usage at the moment is 80% across all devices. There are a couple of issues with the TB and Pro Tools which cause me to need an old fashioned keyboard. These are not deal breakers and do not gate general release. They should be pretty easy fixes in firmware, but they are also extreme edge cases that are probably low priority. The other use case for me is Keyboard Maestro. I have written a lot of macros that are triggered by keystrokes that while intuitive on an old fashioned keyboard, are a little complicated on the TB. Some coming updates will change that. I know that every other TREGer has said this, but I have to say it again. The TextBlade is real. It’s amazing. And once you get your hands on it, you will agree. For those that are still waiting (patiently & impatiently), I was right there with you. Trust me, the wait will be worth it. Please feel free to ask me anything. I will do my best to answer in a timely fashion.