Transloader: Download URLs On A Mac From iOS

Nice new utility by Matthias Gansrigler (creator of Yoink and ScreenFloat, among other apps): Transloader is a $2.99 Mac app that can download URLs remotely. What this means is that, from an iPhone or iPad running the free companion app, you can send a URL to download on your Mac using iCloud.

Have you ever stumbled upon a Mac demo, a zip or dmg file, an image or a movie on your iPhone and wished you could download it to your Mac right away? Transloader uses your iCloud account to transfer URLs you enter on your iOS device to your Mac for download. Once you’re back on your Mac, your downloads will be ready for you.

The idea is interesting, and it reminds me of the old NoteTote app based on Simplenote. In my tests, Transloader has worked as advertised with .zip archives and PDFs, but I’d like to see an option to download webpages as .html files as well. iCloud took a couple of seconds to beam URLs from my iPhone to my Mac, but I have to mention iCloud has been far from reliable for me lately. Transloader’s concept is executed well in this version; I’d also like to have support for notifications for completed downloads and Preferences to set a specific destination folder; on iOS, it’d be nice to have automatic recognition of URLs already in the clipboard.

Transloader for Mac is available at $2.99 on the Mac App Store; the iOS app is free and Universal.

The (Un)Obviousness of iCloud

Chris Bowler writes (via Shawn Blanc) about his slow yet inexorable migration to iCloud:

And so it has gone with iCloud overall. I never really set out to use it to its fullness, but it has become integral to my computing experience. It should have been an obvious transition, but instead it was subtle. This past year came with migrations to two new laptops. The ease of setting up each blew me away both times. The combination of Dropbox (my data), Rdio (my music) and iCloud (preferences, OS X integrations, applications and everything else) is a powerful one and a testament to the time we live in.

I have previously written about how, for the end user, iCloud may as well look like “the operating system”.

When I think about it, I’m thankful for the kind of integration that iCloud provides. I use Calendar, Safari Tabs, and Find My iPhone on a regular basis and I enjoy their functionality. On the other hand, I’m less excited about iCloud Mail and its continuous downtimes, and I understand third-party developers who lament the poor state of iCloud sync and APIs for their apps.

Major shifts like iCloud take time. When you consider that Apple hasn’t traditionally been great at web services, what they have managed to make work reliably is quite a remarkable achievement. Yet, like Maps, average users don’t care about this: they just want their devices to work. And if Apple gave them iCloud, then Apple needs to make sure users can trust it.

As an aside, I’d point out that several friends of mine constantly ask me about iCloud — the things it does and what it is. Maybe my friends are lazy, but I’d go all the way out to guess perhaps Apple needs to tweak the initial guided setup to make iCloud even more understandable. I’ve always thought the short trackpad videos Apple embeds in OS X are nice and effective because they show features in context. Rather than using an animated cloud, short videos and actual screenshots would be a nice addition to iOS’ first setup guide.

iCloud and Document Sharing

Over at Macworld, Dan Moren writes about the poor state of iCloud document sharing between apps and users:

For example, if you’d like to take a text file created in TextEdit and stored in iCloud, and then edit it in some other program, there’s no easy way to do so. No other program can see that data, either on the Mac or the iPad. In fact, no iOS program at all can see the files stored in TextEdit, because there’s no equivalent Apple text editor on that platform.

And about collaboration:

Imagine being able to see other documents that friends or co-workers share with you, right in that same iCloud Open dialog box. You open a file and work on it, all of your changes are automatically saved and versioned so that when your collaborators edit it later, they’re sure to be working on the most up-to-date version.

Realistically, I imagine “simple collaboration” with other people (“send John a document”) would be the easiest for Apple to integrate in iCloud. Just like you can “find friends”, Apple could leverage the same infrastructure to “work with friends” — obviously making the necessary adjustments to switch from a location app to tools like Pages or Keynote.

It gets more complicated with stuff like real-time editing, sync, and tracking changes or differences. I believe there is plenty of room in the iCloud Document Library for a “Your Collaborators” tab that would show people working on a project with you or editing a document you are “subscribed” to. Imagine being able to receive “updates” for a document via iCloud email, or to assign to-dos of a document to a Reminders list. Imagine asking Siri “has John updated the presentation yet”? Once you start thinking about pulling all the iCloud strings together, the possibilities are endless.

Question remains as to whether it’s in Apple’s plans to tackle these requests in the short term. Which brings me to the issue with sharing files across iCloud-enabled apps. In my Mountain Lion review, I had a whole section dedicated to this subject. I concluded with:

I’d like an app’s visual Document Library — not just the Mobile Documents folder — to display files from other apps that can be opened and edited. It would enable me to use an elegant interface without giving up on the filesystem-oriented nature of the Mac, which, as much as it may be hidden by default in some areas, is still there and still part of my daily workflow.

On the flip side, I recognize how the majority of users don’t see this option as a must-have. The average user doesn’t fiddle with dozens of text editors, nor do they try 10 different PDF apps to see which one has the best support for annotations (I am guilty of this too). Still, I think there could be some edge cases in which those users would miss “shared iCloud documents” — for example, they could be using TextEdit on the desktop, but another text editor on iOS — so once again, I restate my hope that Apple will someday consider the possibility of making iCloud documents app-independent…as an option if nothing else.

After three months, I keep hoping that Apple is considering the possibility of real iCloud documents, not just app documents. Like Dan and I suggested, they could be the same files with an extra “shared” privilege; or — mine is a more futuristic alternative — iCloud could simply have its own “Documents” area that contains files any app can open and send updates to.

These things take time. As I said, though, I hope Apple isn’t simply dismissing the idea as a “power user request”. After talking to people who have upgraded to 10.8 for the past three months, I’m convinced file portability and inter-app access is something a lot of folks understand, not just nerds.

Read Dan’s full story here.

Windows Users Get the Bare Minimum for iCloud

Andrew Cunningham for Ars Technica:

iCloud for Windows remains an effort aimed mostly at iOS users who also have Windows PCs. Between the new Control Panel and iCloud.com, it’s possible for these people to keep their mail, calendars, contacts, reminders, notes, and iWork documents accessible, but it works less well alongside Macs, especially since neither the Windows control panel nor the Web portal allow you to access documents and data created in applications that aren’t Pages, Numbers, or Keynote.

Despite having a Windows box, iCloud has never been something I wanted to use on it. Just as Apple maintains iTunes for Windows, they maintain some semblance of support for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch customers by giving Windows users a basic iCloud implementation that, at least in style, mirrors the iCloud pane in System Preferences.

Obviously you can’t open a document with a .pages extension in Windows, but there weird restrictions with e-mail, calendars, and tasks for example, which requires Outlook 2007 or 2010. Syncing bookmarks still requires Internet Explorer. With iCloud data being buried in iCloud > Storage & Backup > Manage Store in the iOS Settings app, there’s really no need for home (i.e. not enterprise) Windows users to even consider installing iCloud onto their Windows machines unless Calendar and e-mail syncing is a must. Even your iOS device can be backed up to iCloud, obviating the need for iTunes unless you have slow upstream bandwidth with your home Internet connection.

Although… As everything on iOS is mirrored into Photo Stream as of iOS 5, Windows users can take advantage of one fringe benefit — Photo Stream photos can be dumped into any folder of your choice, making Dropbox a suitable location if you’d like to have your photos on all of your devices. (Mac users wanting to move photos from iPhoto to Dropbox may want to check out Federico’s guide.)

As noted by 9to5mac, Apple today launched an updated version of its iCloud.com website to include new apps and tweaks to existing ones. Surfaced online earlier this year, the new iCloud.com — meant to be a web-based companion to native iCloud software on iOS and OS X — features the new Notes and Reminders apps introduced with Mountain Lion, and design and user experience changes to Mail and Find My iPhone. (more…)

iCloud and Schools

Bradley Chambers thinks iCloud should have better support for the education market:

Now you may be saying that personal iCloud accounts is just the way it is and get over it. In the iOS 3 and 4 days, we said the same thing about managing iPads. Apple has DRAMATICALLY improved this process. In iOS 5, they released a lot of MDM (Mobile Device Management) APIs and they also released Apple Configurator. Apple Configurator made it a lot easier to work with the Volume Purchase Program. It also dramatically improved the work flow for loading apps and settings onto iPads in bulk. This was a breath of fresh air for schools with even a few iPads.

Apple has made serious improvements to volume purchase programs and device management in the past few years, so I guess that with iCloud, they simply need more time. Still, this has been a real concern for educators and IT since last June.

Apple is thinking about iCloud in education, but they haven’t made significant improvements recently. For The iPad Project, Fraser Speirs noted how iTunes U supported iCloud sync for notes, albeit with standard individual Apple ID management.

Primarily, this is another nail in the coffin of the “shared Apple ID” deployment model that we’ve been using up until now. If you have multiple pupils and devices all using the same Apple ID, you’re going to get sync issues all over the place. Pupils’ notes will intermingle, their read/unread statuses will get mixed up. It will be a hot mess.

Scanner Pro Gets iCloud Support For Scans

Scanner Pro by Readdle is a powerful application to use your device’s camera to scan receipts or just about any document on the go. When version 4.0 was released, I was positively impressed by the iPad version, which sported an elegant interface and a terrific set of functionalities to turn photos into documents while adjusting borders and colors through multitouch. The app also came with Evernote and Dropbox integration, making it easier to, say, automatically upload scanned items into the same Dropbox folder also used by Readdle’s PDF Expert.

Last night, Readdle released a major 4.1 update to the app that brings the new UI design to the iPhone version, and adds iCloud sync for scans. Readdle writes:

Having introduced Scanner Pro 4 two months ago, we released an iPad version of Scanner Pro (making it universal) with a revamped interface and applied a bunch of new things we’ve learned from Scanner Pro users during the last 3 years. The latest version of Scanner Pro (4.1), brings a completely new interface to the iPhone, focusing on the most important things to make the scanning process easier and more intuitive. With Scanner Pro 4.1 users will enjoy the new design and experience, which are consistent on both iPhone and iPad.

In my tests, I installed Scanner Pro on my iPhone, and scanned a receipt from the Apple Store. After some basic cropping, I went back to the app’s main screen, and noticed an iCloud indicator that made it clear the app was uploading that scan to the cloud. I then updated the iPad app, and, after confirming I wanted to use iCloud, seconds later the scan was there. While it was downloading the item, the thumbnail preview was slightly dimmed and the iCloud indicator progressively filling in blue. This is a good iCloud workflow and seamless presentation to the user.

Scanner Pro was already a solid app, and this latest update adds the convenience of using the iPhone’s camera — particularly with the 4S, you’ll undoubtedly be producing better results than the images returned by the iPad’s camera. All of the features I mentioned in my review of version 4.0 are still there; as a bonus tip, iCloud integration means you’ll find PDF documents on your Mac as well by visiting the Mobile Documents folder inside Library (and perhaps you could set up a Hazel rule to automatically rename those scans or mirror them to Dropbox).

Scanner Pro is $6.99 on the App Store.

May
22
2012

Review: iTV Shows 2

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iTV Shows 2 is a handy app for keeping track of your favorite TV shows across all of your iOS devices. It has an improved interface, a slick new icon, local notifications for shows about to air, and it supports iCloud sync just to name a few of its features.

The user interface in iTV Shows 2 is extremely well done; the developers definitely hit the mark with this version of the app because not only is it gorgeous but it is also easy to use and contains all the features one would expect from an app dedicated to informing you about TV shows. To use the app, one needs only to search for (and add) some TV shows to the “My Shows” list. I immediately noticed an improved performance when simply searching for a few TV show titles. iTV Shows 2 definitely seemed snappier and more accurate with its search results. After adding my favorites “How I Met Your Mother” and “The Big Bang Theory”, I jumped back to the main screen and noticed the large beautiful icons separating out the shows. These are simply categories to help the user visualize when the TV show is going to air, if it has already aired, or if the next season has yet to announce a specific start date.

Another feature I enjoyed in iTV Shows 2 was the Genius tab which displays TV shows it thinks I might also enjoy watching. It was extremely accurate with its selections, however I am not entirely sure how it derives these suggestions. Perhaps I just enjoy very common and popular TV shows. Some of the shows it suggested that I happen to truly enjoy include “Dexter”, “Breaking Bad”, and “New Girl”. These are very different shows, but the app was spot on suggesting that I check them out.

Other features include a handy calendar view in which you can tap around and view episodes throughout the month. It also supports all of the latest iOS buzz words including universal, Retina Display ready, local notifications, and iCloud synchronization. I know people have come to expect iOS apps to be universal but I still appreciate each developer that decides to essentially give away two apps for the price of one. The iPad app seemed to have all of the love and detail that went in to the iPhone version. The iCloud sync worked flawlessly during my brief test, all of the shows I added while setting up the app on my phone were already added to the iPad version after simply launching the app on the second device.

The only issue I experienced was with the local notifications. I had received my first notification for an episode of “How I Met Your Mother” exactly 1 hour late. I immediately assumed it was a time zone setting issue in the app. Sure enough, I figured out that I had to go in to Settings > Preferences > Time Zone > and enable “Perform correction”. The note by the developers state to only use this setting if the app fails to automatically perform the time zone, so perhaps you readers will experience no issues at all. Other than this small hiccup the first day using iTV Shows 2, it has been very reliable.

I have to admit, at first I questioned whether or not I needed an app to remind myself to watch a TV show since 90 percent of the time I don’t watch TV shows live anyway, I use a DVR or stream the show on a network-connected device. This touches on what I feel is an industry wide shift in how consumers are interested in viewing TV shows – many of which are opting out of standard cable television services in favor of web services like Hulu Plus, Netflix, and Amazon Prime Video on Demand. I actually have traditional cable service but still subscribe to all three of these services (don’t ask me why), yet I was surprised to find as much value in iTV Shows 2 as I did. My wife and I enjoy watching entire seasons of TV shows at a time so checking off episodes as we watched them was a useful feature. I would be nice if the app eventually added some statistics about the number of TV shows I watch: maybe it could calculate the number hours I spend on TV (I am a statistics geek). Furthermore, I enjoyed the supplied information per show, e.g. what TV shows have seasons coming up, like HBO’s True Blood which is starting soon. iTV Shows 2 even has Twitter integration to share episode details with friends which was a pleasant surprise.

Overall, iTV Shows 2 has a sharp new user interface along with some pretty unique features. It may not be my most used app but it does serve a specific purpose and has definitely earned a permanent spot on my iOS devices.

iTV Shows 2 is available on the App Store for $2.99

WSJ: iCloud Getting Photo Sharing, Commenting, Video Syncing at WWDC

A new report by The Wall Street Journals claims Apple will be announcing a series of new features for iCloud at WWDC, including a revamped photo sharing system with support for user comments.

The new features, expected to be announced at Apple’s world-wide developer conference beginning June 11, will allow iCloud users to share sets of photos with other iCloud users and to comment on them, these people said. Currently, users can only store one set of photos in iCloud through a feature called Photo Stream, which is designed to sync those photos to other Apple devices, not share them.

The full report is available (behind paywall) at The Wall Street Journal. The publication also confirms iCloud.com will be getting support for Notes and Reminders web apps, as we previously detailed based on a “leaked” beta version of the service.

However, to say that “users can only store one set of photos in iCloud through a feature called Photo Stream” is incorrect. A feature of iPhoto for iOS called “Journals” and released in early March allows users to build sets of photos and share them publicly with a URL through iCloud. These Journals even support additional graphics such as backgrounds, text captions, and they can be viewed in any browser, allowing users to zoom in on single photos and download them. Here is an example of iCloud Journal.

Whilst it would make sense for Apple to simplify iCloud photo sharing and allow easier commenting especially from mobile devices, Photo Stream isn’t the only option to “store one set of photos”. Journals are limited to iPhoto, which is a separate app sold on the App Store that doesn’t come pre-installed on iOS devices, but they certainly show that Apple has been experimenting with iCloud-based public sharing for quite some time, even offering an API to developers for that (albeit limited to storage, with no display options as the WSJ implies here). With MobileMe approaching its deadline of June 30, it’s also worth keeping in mind that Apple’s existing solution to store and share photos, MobileMe Gallery, will stop functioning alongside the service, so it wouldn’t be a surprise for Apple to offer an alternative.

Apple’s WWDC is scheduled to kick off in San Francisco on June 11. Developers have been asking for more tools to integrate their apps with iCloud, and it’s very likely that Apple will announce additions to the service, as well as offer previews of iOS 6 and OS X Mountain Lion at its upcoming developer event.