I’d seen mentions of Type2Phone by Clark Goble and Stephen Hackett, but I didn’t get around to looking at it until Justin Blanton linked to it earlier this week. Well, now I have it installed on both of my computers, and even though it was hard to get working and has a weird display, it seems like a useful tool to have.

The purpose of Type2Phone is to allow you to use your Mac as a Bluetooth keyboard for your iPhone or iPad. This is functionality that Apple should have built-in (we stay within the Apple ecosystem because of its excellent product integration—this is an area where the integration fails), but until it does Type2Phone will fill the gap.

If you don’t see the value of having a full-sized keyboard for your iPhone, you must not get texts while you’re at your computer. I do, and I’ve always felt ridiculous typing away on the phone’s small keyboard when real one is right in front of me.

Before you can use Type2Phone, you have to pair your Mac with your iPhone, which I found difficult at best. With both my iMac and my MacBook Air, I had to resort to Houdah’s “Troubleshooting” tips to even get the phone to see that the Mac was available:

On the iMac, I had to do this at least five times before it worked. The first few times, I just got an error message on the phone saying a connection was impossible. Eventually, I found this message on Houdah’s support forum, which suggested turning off WiFi on the devices before trying to pair them via Bluetooth. Since my iPhone uses my iMac’s WiFi sharing at work, that seemed like reasonable advice. It still didn’t work the next couple of times I tried it, but then it did. I have no idea why it didn’t work at first or why it finally did.

The phone didn’t see the MB Air immediately either, but it did on the first try with the “Troubleshooting” technique.

The actual pairing procedure—which only starts after you go through all those steps to get the phone to see the Mac—was different on the two machines. With the iMac, I had to type in a set of numbers on both devices; with the MB Air, I just had to tap an onscreen button. I’m sorry I can’t give you screenshots or a better description of the process, but I felt the need to work quickly so I wouldn’t lose the connection. I didn’t have time to take notes.

Luckily, this awful pairing experience seems to be required only once per computer. After the phone and computer know each other, they reconnect immediately.1 That, at least, has been my experience so far, and because that’s how pairing works with Bluetooth mice, keyboards, and earpieces, I expect it to work that way with the computer, too.

Using Type2Phone is blessedly simple:

  1. Launch Type2Phone, which brings up a long, horizontal window.
  2. Choose your phone from the popup menu of paired devices.
  3. Tap in a text field on you phone to get the cursor blinking.
  4. Type.

What you type on your Mac magically appears in the iPhone’s text field. Cursor control keys work, as do the Shift, Option, and Command modifier keys. ⌘A selects all the text in the field, ⌘X cuts, ⌘C copies, and ⌘V pastes. It’s wonderful.

What isn’t wonderful, at least not initially, is what goes on in the Type2Phone window as you type. Every keystroke shows up in a little white chiclet which scrolls from right to left as you type. It’s really distracting.

Using Type2Phone

As you can see from the photograph, each editing command appears in its own chiclet. So what you see on your Mac is not what appears on your iPhone; it’s more like the output of a keylogger program. Weird.

But if you ignore the Mac’s screen and set your attention to the iPhone’s screen while you type, you can move along very quickly with Type2Phone.

It’s possible that when iMessage2 comes to the Mac, this sort of workaround will become moot. Until then, if you do a lot of texting near your computer, Type2Phone will make it faster and easier.

  1. Also, turning the WiFi back on after pairing didn’t break the connection between the phone and the iMac. 

  2. By the way, in the comments to my iMessage post from a couple of months ago, I was roundly ridiculed for saying that a 14-year-old girl could rack up 10,000 texts per month. Have you seen this report from Nielsen? Teen girls average about 4,000 messages per month. Average. I expect apologies to come pouring in forthwith. 

7 Responses to “Type2Phone”

  1. simba says:

    Hey Dr Drang, There is an amazing little unintrusive, and free, app for this that I stumbled upon a short while back:


    Well worth a mention

  2. Clark says:

    I actually haven’t used it even though I mentioned it. Back when I jailbroke I would just use a VNC server on my iPhone and then connect from the Finder. However the iOS5 jailbreak was not a pleasant experience. So I may look at this again.

  3. Luciano Fuentes says:

    I was in the same situation not long ago.. I’d need to reply to sms messages while at my computer. I knew there had to be a better way.

    1 - My first solution. I simply would type out responses into NVAlt on the desktop, wait a couple of minutes, then pop open Simplenote on the iPhone, cut and paste into sms. 2 - My most recent solution, which I’m very happy with, is by using the app http://www.myphonedesktop.com It runs a little menu bar application where you type your sms messages (it can also receive plain text, urls, map addresses) The best part is that there’s no copy/paste involved. It generates a notification, which sends you to the app when pressed (if you’re already in the app the text just appears) If you designate the text as an sms message on the desktop - including the contact it’s meant for, you only need to press one button that “pipes” the sms through to the sms client and sends it on it’s way. Perfect.

  4. Dr. Drang says:

    Luciano, while MyPhoneDesktop would certainly work for me for the most common situation (me at work with an internet connection), because it’s web-based, it won’t work when my computer is offline. Type2Phone doesn’t have that problem because the two devices talk to each other directly.

  5. Matthias says:

    There’s a ‘collapsed’ mode (under the View menu) that you can run the application in so all you see is the long titlebar.

  6. Dr. Drang says:

    Good tip, Matthias. I’ve been running it with the window down at the bottom of the screen so all I see is the title bar. Similar result.

  7. Jan Marcel says:

    After reading your article, I was finally able to correctly pair my iPhone and MacBook Air and use Type2Phone. Thank you so much!

    If you don’t mind, could you please clarify one point? You wrote that “After the phone and computer know each other, they reconnect immediately.” In order for that to happen, does the Bluetooth on my Mac need to remain set to be discoverable? Thank you!