Posts in reviews

Taking a Tour of OS X Yosemite’s Revamped Spotlight

Spotlight in OS X Yosemite is improved not only in its appearance, but also utility. The biggest and most obvious change is that Spotlight no longer resides in the right corner of your menu bar. Triggered by the usual CMD+Space keyboard shortcut, it now appears as a floating bar in the center of your screen. As you start typing, the bar will expand downward to display your results on the left and a Quick Look-esque panel on the right.

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Drafts 4 Review

Drafts is one of my all-time favorite apps on iOS, not only for its amazing utility, but also because it was the app that got me started writing about technology, so it has a special place in my heart. However, surveying what the app has looked like since its last big update over a year ago, it’s been clear to me that an unchanged Drafts would stagnate in the post-iOS 8 world. In the face of new methods of inter-app communication such as extensions, documents pickers, and widgets, surviving on URL scheme-based utilities alone would likely not be enough to keep Drafts relevant.

This is Drafts though, an app that has been at the forefront of iOS automation since the field began. I should not have been worried. Released today on the App Store as a new, iOS 8-only, and Universal app, Drafts 4 is an evolution which boasts a huge number of improvements and represents a much needed shift in direction. With a UI refresh, a smarter and more accessible interface for building actions, a fantastic Share extension, a customizable extended keyboard, an enhanced URL scheme, and the intriguing introduction of JavaScript scripts for text manipulation, Drafts 4 is Agile Tortoise’s statement that they are ready for the challenges of a modern iOS.

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Clips Review: Actionable Clipboard Management for iOS 8

When I’m researching an article for MacStories or taking notes for an episode of our shows on my MacBook Air, I have full access to the system clipboard. I can copy a URL, a few bits of text, and perhaps even some images, and, when I’m done, navigate through past clipboard entries and put everything back together in Byword, Evernote, or Google Drive. For over six years, I’ve been using a nifty utility called ClipMenu, but I’ve been playing with Alfred’s clipboard history tool lately and I think I’m going to stick with it.

I’ve never had a clipboard manager on my iPhone or iPad. Clipboard apps existed before, but they were severely limited by the way iOS handled background processes: because an iOS app couldn’t monitor the clipboard in the background all the time, clipboard management utilities such as Pastebot or EverClip had to rely on manual activation and they could run in the background for approximately 10 minutes. After that, they’d stop monitoring the clipboard and you’d have to launch them again.

Clips, developed by Muh Hon Cheng and Lin Junjie (the same folks behind Dispatch), seeks to reinvent clipboard management on iOS by embracing the fact that it can’t replicate the experience of Alfred, LaunchBar, or ClipMenu. Instead, Clips takes advantage of new technologies available in iOS 8 to make it as effortless as possible to save bits of text from anywhere, archive your clipboard, and retrieve it in any app.

Clips is one of the most useful iOS 8 apps I’ve tried in the past couple of months, and it’s become a key piece of my iOS workflow. Rather than mimicking a desktop experience that still can’t happen on iPhones and iPads (even with iOS 8), Clips tries to go back to the underlying problem: how can you shift multiple pieces of information from Point A to Point B with fewer taps and less app-switching?

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Keymoji Custom Keyboard Lets You Add Emoji by Typing Their Name

Emoji keyboards have become one of the most popular consequences to Apple offering third-party keyboard replacements in iOS 8. Apple's default emoji keyboard leaves much to be desired, and developers are finding a new opportunity in being able to give users better input methods for the emoji millions of people use every day. Last week, I covered David Smith's excellent Emoji++, but I've also been enjoying Keymoji, available for free on the App Store.

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Emoji++ Is an Emoji Keyboard That Makes Sense

I wouldn't consider myself a professional emoji user as Casey Liss, but, like many others, I do use emoji to enrich communications with friends and colleagues on a daily basis. Apple's Emoji keyboard never made much sense to me: it's hard to find the right emoji in the keyboard's questionable category choices and characters are organized in pages that you need to swipe multiple times. I often want to use new emoji I haven't sent before, and it always feels like I'm playing a guessing game against iOS to remember where the koala or the monkeys are.

Thankfully, Underscore David Smith has accepted the challenge of improving the emoji keyboard and released Emoji++ today, an iOS 8 custom keyboard that makes it easier to find and use emoji.

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Paste+, a Clipboard Action Widget

When iOS 8 launched three weeks ago, I came across a company called Avanio Labs that had launched a set of three apps on the App Store: Paste+, Agenda+, and Forecast+. The apps were presented as Notification Center widgets, and I found that interesting as I assumed that Apple would reject apps that only offered widgets with no primary functionality. Of Avanio's three apps, I've been using Paste+ on a daily basis. I think it's a nice little utility to save taps and launch specific iOS features faster with Notification Center.

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Built for iOS 8, DateStamper Lets You Apply Date Stamps to Photos

Photo shot on iPhone 6 and modified with DateStamper (vibrancy effect).

Photo shot on iPhone 6 and modified with DateStamper (vibrancy effect).

When I was a kid, my parents used to take a lot of pictures. Family gatherings, vacations, Sunday road trips, our dog growing up. They weren't photographers by any means – they just wanted to document our lives and create memories. They useddisposable Kodak cameras most of the time – lots of them. Before smartphones and when “cellphones” meant this, those thousands of pictures collected in dozens of photo albums are the ones that stuck around to this day. They haven't been lost in a cloud backup. They're in my closet.

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Saving Recipes with the AnyList Extension

My girlfriend and I are moving into a new apartment next month, and to justify the expense of a new kitchen I promised myself (and my friends) that I would learn new recipes to go beyond my repertoire of a couple of dozen pizza types and pasta sauces. Cooking is a passion of mine, but I feel like I need to extend my knowledge to a wider catalogue of recipes and ingredients. Therefore, I'm in the process of reading and bookmarking several recipe websites (primarily Italian ones) and I thought it'd be interesting to combine that with recipe apps for iOS 8.

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