Friday, November 18, 2011

Writing on a Tablet

I do a lot of writing these days, some on my high end Windows laptop with dual 20 inch monitors and some on my 10 inch tablet with Bluetooth keyboard.

I have surprisingly discovered that I am far more efficient on the tablet. This is surprising because on the tablet I have much smaller screen (less than 100 square inches versus more than 700 square inches), I don’t have a mouse, and switching from my writing app to email or the web is more involved.

That last item proves to be the key item. Because the tablet is primarily not a multitasking device I tend to focus on writing when I’m writing. The lure of the emails lurking in my system tray is gone. The other browser windows in my giant multimonitor display do not call to me. The fact that my tablet can really only do one thing at time is not a limitation it is a benefit.

While at a certain level this is obvious it’s also interesting given the current debates about multitasking operating systems. At the same time that some OSs are claiming to be better because of multitasking some of the mainstream OSs are adding features to discourage multitasking! For example various flavors of Linux have the option to automatically dim all windows other than the active one. The idea is to reduce the lure of context switching.

All kinds of current research is showing that humans cannot really multitask, yet we want to pretend that we can. At the same time, we know that the key to writing is to…well…write. And as much as we love to write we also love anything that can distract us from writing. So using a “limited” system to do our writing on is really to our advantage.

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