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Pixure 2.2 with PanelKit

Pixure is Louis D'hauwe's excellent pixel art studio app for iOS that lets you create retro-styled illustrations. Pixure was already best suited for the iPad's bigger display, but the latest version 2.2 adds PanelKit – a UI framework created by D'hauwe himself to turn traditional iPad popovers into floating panels.

Popovers are a staple of the iPad's interface, and I was skeptical when I saw the first details of PanelKit in February. After testing Pixure on my 12.9" iPad Pro, though, I think D'hauwe is onto something – when the app is in full-screen, it's nice to be able to re-arrange a palette of tools so it doesn't hide your content. The best part, in my opinion, is that panels can be converted back to sidebars by snapping them to the edge of the display, which is a fantastic use of the iPad Pro's large screen. There's an argument to be made about PanelKit bringing the cognitive load of desktop window management to the iPad, but I believe that, for some apps (such as graphic editors like Pixure), floating controls that you can re-arrange around the canvas are necessary.

I'm testing a few iPad apps that try to optimize for the iPad Pro's screen with additional popovers and sidebars, and none of them feel as flexible or as intuitive as D'hauwe's app. If you're an iPad user, you should check out Pixure.

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iTunes Adds Rent Once, Watch Anywhere Feature

In the aftermath of Apple’s announcements earlier today, it released an update to iTunes with a new feature described as rent once, watch anywhere. The release notes for iTunes 12.6, which is available as a free upgrade on the Mac App Store, say:

Now you can enjoy your iTunes movie rentals across your devices with iOS 10.3 or tvOS 10.2.

With this new feature, you should be able to start a movie rental on an iOS device and finish it at home on an Apple TV for example, which is a welcome change to what was an overly inflexible system.

iOS 10.3 and tvOS 10.2 are currently in beta but are expected to be released soon, at which time this new feature will be available to everyone who upgrades to those versions of the OSes.


Interact Scratchpad for Mac Takes the Pain Out of Adding Contacts

Last year, Agile Tortoise introduced Interact for iOS, a powerful app for managing contacts. One of the most popular features of that app is the scratchpad that parses contact information, making quick work of turning a block of text into a new contact. Agile Tortoise has ported that functionality to the Mac in the form of a menu bar app called Interact Scratchpad.

Adding information to contacts is tedious. Too often I find myself switching back and forth between a webpage and the Contacts app typing information into field after field or copying little bits of text and pasting them into those fields. Scratchpad does the monotonous part for you by automatically recognizing all kinds of contact information.

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Swift Playgrounds Gains Support for New Languages

Today Apple added support for five new languages to its Swift Playgrounds app for iPad: Simplified Chinese, Japanese, French, German and Latin American Spanish.

In its announcement, Apple quoted Xiaoming Bao of Hangzhou Foreign Languages School:

"Swift Playgrounds is the perfect app to help our students learn to code, and I’m very excited students in China are now are able to use it with Simplified Chinese support...Last year, we created an optional coding class for my students to learn fundamental coding concepts using Swift Playgrounds. I had no previous experience with coding, but the engaging and easy-to-learn app, along with the comprehensive teacher guide developed by Apple, made me confident that I could inspire and facilitate my students to learn to code, and understand coding as a way of thinking that can be applied to other subjects and everyday life. Chinese language support will make the learning experience with Swift Playgrounds even easier for students.”

Swift Playgrounds is available on the App Store.

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Apple Introduces New ‘iPad’ Model with 9.7″ Display and A9 Chip Starting at $329

Following a 5-hour downtime of its online store this morning, Apple announced a new base model of the 9.7" iPad.

Starting at $329 for the 32 GB Wi-Fi version and simply called 'iPad', the new device appears to be a lower-cost replacement for the iPad Air line as the company's iPad lineup now includes iPad mini 4, the new 'iPad', and the iPad Pro in existing 9.7" and 12.9" configurations. Neither iPad Pro model received any update this morning. The iPad mini 4, on the other hand, now offers more capacity for the same price: the 128 GB Wi-Fi model is now priced at $399, while the 128 GB Wi-Fi + Cellular is available at $529.

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John Gruber on the 2017 iPad Lineup

John Gruber on what may be coming next in terms of iPad refreshes:

What doesn’t make sense to me is a new 10.5-inch model. The idea makes sense — keeping the physical footprint of the current 9.7-inch models but reducing the bezels and putting in a bigger display. The ideal form factor for iPads and iPhones is just a screen, like the phones in Rian Johnson’s Looper — reducing the size of bezels and moving toward edge-to-edge displays is inevitable. Even the pixel density math works out for a 10.5-inch display.

What doesn’t make sense to me is the timing. I don’t see how an iPad with an exciting new design could debut alongside updated versions of the existing 9.7-inch and 12.9-inch iPads. Who would buy the updated 9.7-inch iPad Pro with the traditional bezels if there’s a 10.5-inch model without bezels? No one.

If Apple is going to position both the second-gen 12.9" and 9.7" iPad Pros as the high-end models, I don't see where a simultaneous release of a drastically different 10.5" iPad Pro would fit. But if the second-gen iPad Pros (with the current form factors) move to the low end of the lineup, that means the 10.5" iPad Pro could introduce an edge-to-edge design with no Home button before the iPhone gets such treatment (supposedly) later this year.

That idea always seemed odd to me. Traditionally, the iPad doesn't get major hardware changes before the iPhone. The iPad hardware tends to follow the iPhone. True Tone and the four-speaker system were iPad Pro-first features, but they weren't fundamental platform changes such as Touch ID or Retina. Both of those came to the iPhone first. (I won't even count the Smart Connector here.) An edge-to-edge design with no Home button is a major platform shift – particularly if it includes new developer APIs, which would have to launch in the Spring before iOS 11 if the rumor of an imminent iPad Pro 10.5" is to be believed. At this point, I find that somewhat hard to believe.

Instead, I think spec-bumps across the entire iPad lineup would make more sense in the short term. I can see Apple bringing consistency to the product line (True Tone, USB 3 speeds, and fast charging for every iPad Pro model) and adding faster CPUs/more RAM for powerful iPad-only features coming with iOS 11. I'm curious to see if Apple will revive the iPad mini by making a 7.9" iPad Pro and if iPad accessories will receive substantial improvements at all (it'd be nice to get an upgraded Smart Cover or a Pencil with superior battery life).

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