With iOS 7, Apple profoundly altered the foundations of their mobile operating system’s design and functionality, and I want to believe that iOS 8, likely due later this year, will allow them to keep building towards new heights of user enjoyment, design refinement, and exploration of features suitable for the post-PC era. The transition to iOS 7 hasn’t been perfectly smooth, but, less than two months away from WWDC, there’s clear, promising potential on the horizon: plenty of new iOS low-hanging fruit.
Posts tagged with "iOS"
In post published yesterday on the Editorial forums, developer Ole Zorn shared more details on Editorial 1.1, announcing some features he's been working on for the update, such as the
ui module, which will allow users to create custom interfaces inside Editorial:
It's not just a module, there's also an integrated visual editor for setting things up without code, and in Editorial there's also a way to build UIs around workflows, without having to write Python at all (though you can also mix and match). Before you get the wrong idea: This is in no way a complete wrapper around UIKit or some kind of Cocoa bridge, so you won't be able to do a all the things you could do in a native app, but it provides a (hopefully) easy-to-use and pythonic way to create UIs that look and feel “at home” on iOS, and it's possible do some relatively advanced stuff with custom drawing and touch handling.
For Editorial, I tend to think of this as a “plugin” interface that allows the creation of workflows that are nearly indistinguishable from native features. Obviously, this won't be for everyone, and there will definitely be a learning curve, but given what I've seen this community come up with, I'm pretty confident that it will enable some people to really push the limits of iOS text automation (and others to reap the rewards via shared workflows).
Make sure to check out Ole's post for screenshots of Editorial 1.1 on the iPad and iPhone.
Drafts, Agile Tortoise’s note-taking app for iOS with support for customizable actions and workflows, has been updated to version 3.6 today, adding Google Drive integration, new clipboard actions, and a handy option to automatically back up a user’s action library to Dropbox every few days.
Google Drive joins Drafts’ existing Dropbox and Evernote actions as it’s based on the same concept: the app can now create text files in your Google Drive account, append/prepend text to existing files, or replace text; every tag that is normally supported by Drafts (such as placeholders for timestamps, date, draft line, or clipboard) will work with Google Drive actions that you can create in the Settings. In my tests, I was able to quickly send text from Drafts to Google Drive by adapting some of my old Dropbox actions, which created a new .txt file in Google Drive and inside a specific folder (Drafts has preference to specify a parent folder for Google Drive actions); overall, if you’ve ever wished you could easily send plain text to notes stored in Google Drive, the addition is welcome.
Append and prepend actions have also been added to Drafts’ iOS clipboard integration: just like with built-in third-party services, Drafts can now append or prepend text to the contents of the clipboard — a feature that may not seem immediately useful, but that could open some interesting possibilities when using the clipboard as a workaround for the lack of automation features in iOS apps.
Aside from adding background refresh support for iOS 7 (for notes stored in the app across the iPhone and iPad versions), Drafts 3.6 also adds a setting for auto-backup: if activated, the app will save actions every few days to Dropbox without having to remember to export an action’s library manually.
The official IFTTT client for iOS has been updated to version 2.0 today, adding an iPad app and a new channel for iOS Notifications to integrate them with IFTTT recipes. IFTTT, a popular web automation service that supports many third-party apps and services, first arrived on iOS in July 2013 when the company released an iPhone app that featured native Contacts, Reminders, and Photos integration.
As I wrote in my original review, IFTTT brought a different kind of automation to iOS thanks to its native integrations built into the app:
IFTTT brings a different kind of automation to iOS that doesn’t need URL schemes or bookmarklets, but that instead looks into native pieces of data to connect services together. It’s an innovative approach to monitoring photos, contacts, and reminders that are added or modified on an iPhone, but it should be familiar to users who already rely on IFTTT for their daily web automation tasks. While I’m not leaving my Mac mini anytime soon, my photo sharing workflow is faster thanks to IFTTT, and I look forward to seeing how the app will evolve over time both in terms of community recipes and new features. I am especially excited for its future on iOS 7, which could broaden the scope of the app’s background refresh system.
With version 2.0, IFTTT has revamped the initial screen of the app with a gallery of popular recipes and curated collections. Likely in an effort to provide a better explanation of what IFTTT is capable of without requiring users to learn on their own through trial and error, the app now showcases the recently launched collections such as “Recipes for the nature lover” or “Recipes for NYC” that include recipes to get weather alerts for NYC, add a Foursquare check-in to Google Calendar, log trips in a Google Drive document, and more.
I’ve always wanted to be able to access my iCloud Tabs directly from Editorial, but, unfortunately, due to the lack of an iCloud Tabs API, that’s currently not possible. Last week, however, when I linked to the iCloudTabs for Alfred project by Kevin Marchand and saw that the workflow was based on a bit of Python code, I realized that I could modify his script to find a way to make Editorial read constantly-updated iCloud Tabs from a text file.
What follows is a combination of a server-side script and an Editorial workflow to read and open iCloud Tabs within the app. The system works and I’ve been using it every day for the past week with good results.
When I'm writing on my iPad at home, there's a chance I have my MacBook on my desk with either iTunes open (to check for app updates or playing music from iTunes Match/Radio) or MailMate running (because I've been having issues with Mail on the beta of iOS 7.1). It's not uncommon for me to use a dual-monitor setup when writing, relying on my MacBook for Google searches and other reference material – effectively, I use it as a secondary display to my iPad when I'm working on articles that require a fair amount of research.
Since the release of Command-C, I've been using Danilo Torrisi's utility to quickly beam text and URLs across all my devices, using Launch Center Pro actions to speed up the process. Command-C has excellent support for URL schemes – a boon to iPad users who fiddle with automation tricks to save time when working on iOS. I recently realized, however, that most of the content I share with Command-C is made of URLs from Safari, therefore I asked myself whether I could put together a solution to send URLs with one click from Safari without using an external app or keyboard shortcut. It was pretty clear from the beginning that I would end up with a bookmarklet, but I have to thank Danilo for providing the necessary guidance I needed to achieve the kind of workflow I wanted.
The bookmarklet is part made for myself, part proof of concept (as always) for others to iterate upon. It doesn't only send URLs from Safari on another device with Command-C – it sends the webpage you're currently viewing in Safari to another app on another device with Command-C.
Joseph Schmitt, writing in response to Greg Pierce's hack to simulate x-callback-url support in Chrome:
However, Greg's technique depends on loading a full-screen iframe on the page and overlaying a back button on top to trigger the x-success url. That gets the job done, but I really prefer how Chrome handles this: make the last page jump to the previous app. I brainstormed for a bit and figured I could probably replicate Chrome's behavior's using Greg's idea, and I was right: xsuc.es was born.
To build actions with xsuc.es, see the URL parameters in Joseph's blog post. The format is easy to understand if you're already familiar with URL schemes; here's a demo action to launch a Google search in Safari based on xsuc.es from Launch Center Pro.
Matthew Panzarino from TechCrunch highlights a new beta distribution tool from Crashlytics, which was acquired by Twitter last year.
The new distribution tool is cross-platform — meaning that it works on both Android and iOS. That puts it on rough parity with Hockey, the other major player in the beta distribution space, though Hockey also supports Windows Phone.
The new tool comes out of Crashlytics Labs, the experimental arm of the crash-reporting and analytics firm. It’s been in private beta for a bit but is now expanding into public beta …
Crashlytics has their own blog post about the new venture here, where you can sign up to try their new tool.
When Launch Center Pro 2.2 was released last month, I mentioned the addition of Dropbox actions for creating and modyfing text files, but I didn't share any action example because I couldn't find a possible use of the feature in my workflow. This morning, I realized that my old workflow to generate and share text files with Dropbox could be simplified with Launch Center Pro, so I rewrote it using the app's new Dropbox functionalities.
I often need to create text files and share them quickly with Dropbox. These are usually notes that don't fit in a Twitter DM or long crash reports for developers of apps I'm testing. In my old workflow, I used to type file name and file contents in Launch Center Pro, then, with two steps of inter-app communication, upload the file with Drafts, get the shareable link back with Launch Center Pro, and start a new tweet with the link in Tweetbot.
The workflow still gets the job done but the new version is simpler, faster, and more flexible. It's just three steps:
- Type file name;
- Type file contents;
- Get public link to text file in Dropbox.
With a single action that doesn't involve switching between apps, I can type a file name in a Launch Center Pro prompt, insert contents manually or by pasting, and hit Done to create a text file in Dropbox. Launch Center Pro gets the link of the just-created file and presents an iOS share sheet with a series of options for the file's public link so that I'm not limited to Tweetbot anymore; I discovered that I often needed to DM or email a link, and with the old workflow I was forced to start a new tweet then select and copy the link manually from it. With the new action, everything happens inside Launch Center Pro in seconds and I can pick the best option for me (it's usually “Copy”).
I was skeptical as to whether I would need Dropbox actions in Launch Center Pro, but this workflow shows some clear benefits of Contrast's app – keyboard prompts and a native share sheet combined with Dropbox text features make for a quick and elegant note-taking and sharing experience.
You can download the action here.