iOS 8.3 and Desktop File Managers

I missed this when reports first came out last week: with iOS 8.3, file managers such as iMazing and iExplorer can no longer access the document libraries of iOS apps over a USB connection.

Joe Rossignol writes:

Apple has changed security settings in iOS 8.3 that prevent file managers and transfer utilities such as iFunBox, iTools, iExplorer, iBackupBot and PhoneView from gaining access to app directories on an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch. The change breaks current versions of transfer utilities for OS X and Windows, forcing many developers to release new versions of their software with workarounds that restore at least partial sandbox access.

If Apple's argument is that the ability to access app files has been disabled for security concerns, I may understand that position. But that doesn't change the fact that, while some apps can still pass along files over USB to the aforementioned file managers if they support iTunes File Sharing, other apps are now cut off from USB file transfers if they don't support iTunes.

Or, if they can't support iTunes File Sharing.

Case in point: Pythonista. Due to rules that prevent Python scripts from being manually copied with iTunes File Sharing from a computer to Pythonista (that's a whole other topic worth arguing), Ole Zorn's app doesn't show up in iTunes. And because of other Apple rules (App Store Review Guidelines, 2.8), Pythonista can't sync scripts with iCloud or other services across devices either.

Still, before iOS 8.3, I could transfer Python scripts from my Mac to my iPad (and vice versa) using iMazing; now I get this error:

I wanted to save a backup of scripts I created on my iPad over the weekend (as I always do), but I couldn't access them over USB anymore due to iOS 8.3. Instead, I ended up having to copy and paste code as plain text, create text files in Dropbox, and sync everything back to my Mac.

I don't know what would be better for Apple's users – whether it'd be preferable to reinstate USB access to all app directories through third-party file managers, let users decide which kind of files they want to sync between devices, or open up iTunes File Sharing (even if Apple doesn't recommend it anymore) to more file formats.

A basic question remains: if I program on an iPad and I want to access my script files within reasonable security measures, why shouldn't I be able to?

TextBar Puts Your Text into the Menu Bar

TextBar is an awesome app which solves a problem that I have been struggling with for at least three years: “How can I put some text into the menu bar, such as the output of a shell script?” TextBar can do that, but it does it even better than I had hoped, because it also:

  • Lets you configure multiple items
  • Copies the item to the clipboard when you click it
  • Easily enables/disables individual items
  • Updates each item on its own time interval (some items might need to be updated every minute, some every 5, some 10, etc)

Here are some ways that I have been using TextBar.

Read more

Apple Details Apple Watch Heart Rate Sensor

New to me, via 9to5Mac this morning, a support document by Apple detailing how exactly the heart rate sensor in the Apple Watch measures a wearer's heartbeat:

The heart rate sensor in Apple Watch uses what is known as photoplethysmography. This technology, while difficult to pronounce, is based on a very simple fact: Blood is red because it reflects red light and absorbs green light. Apple Watch uses green LED lights paired with light‑sensitive photodiodes to detect the amount of blood flowing through your wrist at any given moment. When your heart beats, the blood flow in your wrist — and the green light absorption — is greater. Between beats, it’s less. By flashing its LED lights hundreds of times per second, Apple Watch can calculate the number of times the heart beats each minute — your heart rate.

The document also explains other conditions and factors that may influence the sensor:

Many factors can affect the performance of the Apple Watch heart rate sensor. Skin perfusion is one. A fancy way of describing how much blood flows through your skin, skin perfusion varies significantly from person to person and can also be impacted by the environment. If you’re exercising in the cold, for example, the skin perfusion in your wrist may be too low for the heart rate sensor to get a reading. Motion is another factor. Rhythmic movements, such as running or cycling, give better results compared to irregular movements, like tennis or boxing.


Twitter Rolls Out Option to Receive DMs from Anyone

Vindu Goel, writing for The New York Times:

Twitter announced Monday that its users will be able to change a setting on their accounts to allow anyone to send them a private message. In addition, if a person follows a big account — for example, from a company like United Airlines — the Twitter user can respond to messages sent by that account even if the account, United in this case, does not follow that individual.

According to early reports, the option is off by default and can be managed from a user's Settings on the Twitter website. On the Twitter blog, the company explains how businesses and other profiles could benefit from the new setting:

Communicating with people you may or may not know in real life just got easier. Previously, if you wanted to send a Direct Message to the ice cream shop down the street about how much you love their salted caramel flavor, you’d have to ask them to follow you first. With today’s changes, the ice cream shop can opt to receive Direct Messages from anyone; so you can privately send your appreciation for the salted caramel without any barriers.

The Twitter apps for iPhone (iPad not mentioned) and Android will get a new icon to indicate whether a user can receive direct messages from anyone or not. This new DM feature is not exactly new as, like many other options, the company first rolled it out for a limited amount of time in late 2013.



A new Kickstarter project by Chris Harris, Glide aims to simplify app creation with drag & drop of text and images in Dropbox and a variety of templates for different app types and native iOS features.

From the project's page:

Building an app yourself is hard work. Normally you need a lot of technical skills that most people don't have. Glide makes it easy to create beautiful apps that look professional right from the start.

You simply put text, images and movies into folders, and Glide will build the app for you. When you change the content, the app updates automatically.

We have created a number of award winning apps using Glide, but we believe that everyone should be able to afford their own app. This Kickstarter is our way of making this happen.

If this sounds too good to be true, Harris and team have been building apps with Glide for years, including The Loop Magazine and Wonders of Life. Glide has been optimized for various app types, and it also sports integration with iOS features such as push notifications and iBeacon.

This is an interesting project for me, especially because it's entirely based on files in Dropbox, which makes content creation easy for someone who primarily works on iOS.

Here's how Marco Arment describes Glide:

I’ve never seen anything quite like Glide, and I think it’s going to be huge.

The best way I can explain it is that Glide is to apps as Squarespace is to websites: it lets you build a lot of common app types (especially content, informational, and portfolio apps), with very little effort or expertise, and yields stunning results.

I'll keep an eye on this. You can check out the Kickstarter campaign here.


Day One for Apple Watch

Another one of my favorite iOS apps, Day One, is coming to Apple Watch with a slimmed down UI focused on quick logging of new journal entries.

The Day One team has only shared one screenshot of the Watch app, but it gives a good idea of what it'll be capable of. Like others, I often forget to create new entries in my Day One journal because I get distracted by all the other apps on my iPhone and creating a new location check-in takes too many taps. Day One for the Watch will have shortcuts for one-tap check-ins, dictation, and even customizable entries with tags. I'm curious to see if easier access to Day One will help me save journal entries more often.


Twitterrific for Apple Watch

I'm a big fan of The Iconfactory's continued development of Twitterrific in spite of the restrictions on third-party clients imposed by Twitter. I'm happy to see that Twitterrific is already available on Apple Watch with version 5.11 (released last night), which uses notifications and Glances to offer an overview of recent Twitter changes in your account.

Twitterrific’s glance gives you a fun, visual digest of the total number of favorites, retweets and new followers you’ve received over the past 24 hours. Think of it as a lightweight version of the Today View from the iOS app. It also displays the number of unread tweets currently waiting for you the next time you launch the iOS app. Note that Twitterrific’s push notifications (available as a one-time in-app purchase) are needed to take full advantage of the app’s features on Apple Watch.

The Twitterrific watch app displays a list of your most recent 25 replies, mentions, direct messages, favs, RT’s and new followers right on your wrist. This helps you focus on the part of Twitter that’s most important to you and frees you from information overload common when viewing your entire timeline. Simply tap any item in the list to view its details and respond in a number of ways. Favorite a reply or mention, give a new friend a follow back and even reply to mentions and direct messages using Apple Watch’s dictation feature. It’s just that simple.

I look forward to trying Twitterrific once I get my Watch. Also in this update, you can now see fave and RT counts for selected tweets. These counts are one of my favorite features in Twitter for iOS, and while Twitterrific can't fetch them for all tweets and update them in real time (due to API restrictions), they managed to find a good compromise that helps add context to tweets. Well done.


‘What Does Google Need on Mobile?’

Fascinating take on Google by Benedict Evans from earlier this week:

Apps cut off Google’s reach, both to get data into its systems, since apps are opaque, and to surface data out to internet users, since any search in Yelp’s specialist app is a search that wasn’t on Google, and such apps are stronger on mobile than on the desktop. Apps reduce Google’s reach in both senses. This of course is why (like Facebook) it has been pursuing deep links, and is probably also one reason why it is keeping Chrome OS warm as a standby mobile platform. But it also means that Google has conflicting incentives - as a provider of services, should it try always to make things as part of the web, or embrace the new experiences that apps and everything else happening on smartphones can provide? What would the web search team say if Hangouts became a development platform, for example?

Just yesterday, Google announced a new search initiative on Android: now, users will be able to find content inside apps they don't have installed (powered by App Indexing), start downloading an app within search, and continue their activity directly into the just-downloaded app.

As explained by Frederic Lardinois at TechCrunch:

Here is what all of this will look like in practice: say you are searching for a recipe and Google’s algorithms determine that there is an app that has just the right recipe for black forest cake for you. You will now see a carousel with relevant apps and a prominent install button right next to them. From there, you’re taken to the Google Play store to install the app. Once the app is installed, you simply click “continue” and the app will open with the content you were looking for.


Behind the App: Working with the Press

This week we take a look at how developers tease their apps to build hype, how they manage relationships with the press, and how journalists feel about this themselves.

Over the years, I've often been asked to share my process for evaluating app pitches and tips/best practices for developers who want to work with the press for a successful app launch. I'm very happy to have contributed some thoughts for Myke Hurley's excellent Inquisitive series, Behind the App. The episode features some great guests, and, if you're a developer, I strongly recommend listening to this.

If you're not familiar with Behind the App, it's a fantastic series on Relay FM about app making and the people behind the apps we use every day. It's an Inquisitive series, so start from this episode and work your way up to #35 (the latest one).