Ryan Christoffel

187 posts on MacStories since November 2016

Ryan is a regular contributor to MacStories. He most commonly works and plays on his iPad Pro and bears no regrets about moving on from the Mac. He and his wife live in Texas, where he works for his church.


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Replacing Bing, Google Will Now Power Siri and Spotlight Web Search Results

Matthew Panzarino, reporting for TechCrunch:

Apple is switching the default provider of its web searches from Siri, Search inside iOS (formerly called Spotlight) and Spotlight on the Mac. So, for instance, if Siri falls back to a web search on iOS when you ask it a question, you’re now going to get Google results instead of Bing.
“Switching to Google as the web search provider for Siri, Search within iOS and Spotlight on Mac will allow these services to have a consistent web search experience with the default in Safari,” reads an Apple statement sent this morning.

As pointed out by Zac Hall of 9to5Mac, the timing of this change coincides well with Apple’s upcoming HomePod. Though the details of Google search’s implementation for HomePod are unclear, it’s possible that this switch will enable HomePod to provide the same answers to common web queries that its competing home speaker, Google Home, offers. Even if support doesn’t extend that far, with this change Siri should at least be able to supply the type of reliable search results Google users expect.


Dropbox Integrates with iOS 11’s Files App in Latest Update

Fulfilling its recent promise of integrating with iOS 11’s Files app during the OS’s launch week, Dropbox today released an updated iOS app that does just that. It is now a full-fledged file provider in Files, allowing you to access and manage all of your Dropbox files directly from the Files app.

Adding Files support means Dropbox files can now live alongside files from iCloud Drive and other file providers. This enables things like copying files between cloud services with ease, organizing files from different providers with the same tags, and of course, using drag and drop to rearrange files (on either iPhone or iPad), or to move files to other apps (iPad only). Not all functionality from the main Dropbox app has made its way to Files, but there’s surprisingly little missing here. You can still download files on demand, and you can even share files without needing to open the Dropbox app – simply long-press the file you’d like to share and hit the Copy Link button. For me personally at least, I don’t see any reason I would need to open Dropbox anymore.

Several major cloud services pledged to support Files back in June following WWDC, and it’s great to see that, at least for one of them, that support came swiftly. Here’s hoping the rest will follow soon.

LookUp 4.0 Adds Object Recognition via Vision Framework, Plus Drag and Drop

LookUp is a beautifully designed dictionary app that we first reviewed earlier this year. With its effective use of bold headings and colorful graphics atop a white background, Lookup visually looks like a sister app to Apple’s new App Store – and considering how much I love the new App Store, that’s high praise. I won’t spend any time on the basics of the app though, as you can check out Jake’s original review for that. Instead, I want to focus on how LookUp harnesses the power of new iOS 11 technologies.

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TeamViewer Quick Support Adds Live Screen Sharing for iOS 11

TeamViewer Quick Support has been available on the App Store for several years, but due to the sandboxed nature of iOS, it hasn’t been as powerful or helpful as I’m sure its makers would have liked. But among a host of exciting new technologies in iOS 11, Apple has introduced a screen sharing feature that makes an app like Quick Support a truly powerful tool for giving or receiving support.

Quick Support uses a new and improved version of Apple’s ReplayKit framework to enable true screen sharing; with it, you can broadcast a live recording of your iPhone or iPad’s screen so that anyone with the broadcast link will be able to follow, in real-time, your actions on the device.

Getting started with Quick Support couldn’t be easier. First, you’ll need to make sure that the new Screen Recording option is set up in Control Center. Once it is, open Control Center, use 3D Touch (or a long-press) on the Screen Recording icon, select TeamViewer, then hit Start Broadcast. At this point you’ve officially begun streaming your device’s display online. In order to let others access it, open Quick Support and tap Send Your ID. The share sheet will come up, allowing you to send the broadcast link to others so they can view it from any other device.

As the app’s name implies, the focus of Quick Support is to serve as a support tool. If you need help with one of your iOS devices, you can broadcast your screen to the people working to assist you. Or, perhaps a more likely scenario most MacStories readers will find themselves in, you can install Quick Support on the device of a family member or friend who needs your help to figure out, for instance, why on earth their newly-updated iOS 11 iPad is acting so strange. The quick and easy setup, aided by a step-by-step walkthrough in the app, makes Quick Support an ideal option for non-techies.

In my testing, Quick Support worked great and provided a seamless experience for those viewing my screen broadcast. Viewers do have to download the TeamViewer app for whichever device they’re using, whether a Mac, PC, or iOS device, but it’s still a user-friendly process – the download will trigger upon clicking the given link, and once the app’s installed, future broadcast-viewing is effortless.

TeamViewer Quick Support is available for iPhone and iPad on the App Store.

iPad Shelf Apps: A Roundup of the Best

Left to right: Dropped, Workshelf, The Shelf, Scrawl Pouch

Left to right: Dropped, Workshelf, The Shelf, Scrawl Pouch

The iPad platform has come a long way in a mere matter of months, thanks to new iPad Pro models and, of course, iOS 11. Earlier this year Federico laid out his wishes for iOS 11 in a concept video and accompanying article, and many of his hopes came true: we now have drag and drop, the Files app, and a variety of other improvements in iOS 11. But one major idea from the concept is missing from iOS 11: a shelf where content can be dropped and stored temporarily. Fortunately though, the App Store has a robust developer base, and several third-party apps are launching alongside iOS 11 to remedy this omission.

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MeasureKit Brings AR Measuring Tools to the iPhone

When was the last time you wanted to measure something, and the tool you needed was already within arm’s reach? I can’t think of a single time that’s happened to me. I don’t work in construction, so I don’t carry measuring tape or any similar tools around with me. But you know what I do always have with me? My iPhone. With AR MeasureKit, developer Rinat Khanov has created a toolkit that can be carried around with no extra baggage – all you need is your phone.

In late June when developer ARKit demos began showing up online, one of the first prominent videos featured digital measuring tape. Many people were amazed at ARKit’s ability to measure distance with such accuracy, while others simply wrote the idea off as a silly use of AR. While I think a simple AR ruler as seen in that first demo would have still been useful, MeasureKit offers much more than that. The app contains a comprehensive set of tools that makes your iPhone or iPad into a sort of Swiss Army Knife of measuring.

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Slør Enhances the iPhone’s Portrait Mode with Depth Adjustment Tools

Apple introduced depth photography to iOS last year with the iPhone 7 Plus’s Portrait Mode. This new camera feature brought professional-like photography to the masses, and spawned several memorable ads that demonstrated just how far smartphone cameras have come.

In iOS 11, Apple upgraded Portrait Mode with several enhancements, such as much-improved low light performance and optical image stabilization. But one of the more exciting updates is that developers can now tinker with Portrait Mode photos via the new Depth API. Thanks to that new API, Slør was born.

Slør contains a very simple, one-screen interface that lets you get straight to work editing your Portrait Mode photos. There are three adjustment tools at your disposal for modifying an existing depth effect: Aperture, Radial, and Tilt. These allow you to adjust how much out-of-focus blur is present, select the image’s focus point, adjust the focal plane, and more. You can also preview depth information by using 3D Touch on an image at any time. All of these tools can even be used from Photos without opening the full app, thanks to Slør’s photo editing extension.

When you’re done editing, you can hit the Save button to save changes to the original image in your library, or hit the share icon to save a copy or select from any other share option.

Slør’s simplicity makes it an intuitive, accessible way for casual photographers to play around and tweak Portrait photos to make them look best. I must warn you though: if you have an iPhone 7 or newer, then like me you may get distracted by the pleasant haptic feedback Slør invokes when adjusting sliders. It’s a delightful touch that I’ve spent way too much time testing.

Slør is available for iPhone on the App Store.