1Keyboard is a Mac app that enables you to use your Mac keyboard to type directly to any iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, desktop computer, or Android device. I picked it up on sale this week for $4.99, and I’m really happy with it.
How 1Keyboard works, is that you pair your second device to your Mac using a Bluetooth connection. 1Keyboard puts a small icon in your Mac’s status bar, and any time you want to type on the external device, you click on the icon and connect to it. It takes something in the order of 1 to 3 seconds to connect. In my experience so far, its usually on the lower end of that range. That is, the connection time isn’t enough to make it inconvenient to switch back and forth between typing on your Mac and the external device. (A long connection time – as is the case with many iOS apps that perform the same function – was my primary concern before purchasing 1Keyboard.) When the device connects to your Mac, you hear an alert, and an icon appears on your Mac screen that shows which device you’re currently connected to. Simply click in any window or app that is open on your Mac to return to typing on your computer.
It’s all pretty simple.
I bought 1Keyboard because I want to be able to quickly and accurately type on my iPhone. I’m not so great at typing on my iPhone, particularly in chat apps, and this software efficiently solves this problem, without the need for an external keyboard.
My old workflow, was to download desktop versions of apps like Viber, WeChat and WhatsApp, and having conversations via those apps on my Mac. However, using 1Keyboard, I can quickly type text in these apps on my iPhone. Also, I can type text in apps that don’t offer companion Mac apps, like Instagram. Obviously, there’s a lot of other uses for an app like 1Keyboard. For instance, you could type emails, notes, edit documents, and so on on an iPhone or iPad. Others use it to control their Apple TV or gaming device.
So far, I have just one complaint. I occasionally get a pop-up notification explaining how I can use the function key, even though I haven’t actually hit the function key. My sense is this is a bug in the app, and, as I discuss next, it likely won’t be fixed. It doesn’t happen enough though to make it a deal breaker.
There’s just one caveat when purchasing this app, 1Keyboard is essentially abandonware. The developer did not respond to an email I sent, and I see reviews in the App Store from others that have not been able to contact them. Basically, if you have a problem with 1Keyboard, you should not expect it to be supported. Also, this app may not work properly (or at all) at some point in the future where there is an upgrade to the Mac OS.
However, the developer did reduce the price of the app, so they’re still around, somewhere! My expectation is that they drop the app price periodically to capture extra revenue from those that are waiting for a price change.
Its hard to be overly critical of developers abandoning apps, given I know how much work goes into their creation. I have seen so many great apps, products and services that have failed to capture enough sales to make them sustainable for their creator. Developers cannot be expected to support them forever, for free. If I buy an app like this, I buy it with the understanding that at some point in the future, its likely not going to work.
Typeeto and other Alternatives to 1Keyboard
Probably the best alternative app in this space is an app called Typeeto. It has essentially exactly the same functions as 1Keyboard, and so everything I have written above (except for the bug), applies to Typeeto. If I were to post the screenshots of the app and its menus and pop-ups here, they would look almost identical. One noticeable difference is an animation on the icon of the external device which displays on your Mac, its to let you know you’re typing on an external device.
The other difference is price. Typeeto is $19.99 in the Mac App Store. You can also get a free, fully functioning 7-day trial direct from the developer’s website. I was offered a 30% discount if I bought the app (direct via their store) within those 7 days – and that makes sense for them, because they’re not paying Apple a cut. When you purchase Typeeto directly, you can also buy a family license at an additional fee. I’m not sure what that deal includes, but if you have a few people in your family, it would make sense.
In any case, before purchasing either app, I would recommend you get the free trial to see how it works for your usage case. I read a review where someone had trouble getting 1Keyboard to work with their Apple TV. You want to make sure the app does what you want it to, with the version of Mac OS that you’re using. (For various reasons, I’m using Sierra, and don’t automatically upgrade each year.) Also, unlike with 1Keyboard, the developer still responds to reviews on the App Store, and by email. Buying direct from the developer supports continued updates of the product.
I note here that you can find apps in the iOS App Store that enable you to type on your iPhone or iPad using your Mac. The problem with nearly all of these apps is the way they connect to your Mac. They tend to have a convoluted Bluetooth connection process that you have to go through each time you want to use it. Basically, it takes too much time to connect via their pairing process to make it worthwhile using regularly. Using an app like 1Keyboard or Typeeto, all you need to do is click on an icon in the Mac status bar and start typing.
How to purchase Mac and iOS Apps on sale
The best way I know for finding apps on sale, is to use a website like App Sliced. At this site, you can view the update and price history of any app in the App Store and sign up to receive email alerts when its price changes. Its useful to look at the update history of an app to see how active the developer is in fixing bugs and releasing improvements. It can also give you an idea of whether they’ve abandoned the app. By examining the price history of the app, you can get an idea of how often the price falls, and by how much. I picked up this app for $5 by setting up a price alert on App Sliced, and even if it were to stop functioning in the future, it will have been worth that price.