It’s been about a year and half since iOS 11 was released into the wild, and with it, the long-awaited system document browser. PDF Viewer was one of the first applications that truly went all in with this new component, and we did this by fully replacing our custom solution with it on devices that were upgraded to iOS 11. This move certainly got us a lot of attention and praise from power users, but it also caused a lot of frustration for others who were unlucky enough to stumble upon the bugs and limitations of this new component. From a developer’s point of view, it was a mixed bag as well. On one hand, it allowed us to stop developing our custom document browser, thereby saving ourselves a lot of valuable development time in the process. On the other hand, it forced us to make do with a system we did not own and couldn’t even “hack” around when there were problems.
PDF Viewer will drop support for iOS 10 shortly, which will get rid of the final remains of our custom document browser, so we thought it might be a good time to take a closer look at how its system replacement is doing and go over the good, the bad, and the ugly.
File management is one of the main sections of an in-depth iPad story I’m working on right now, and the document browser is a key functionality I’m going to describe in detail. Overall, I agree with Bukovinski’s take: the document browser has brought consistency and speed to a lot of document-based apps, and I’m happy to see fewer custom file managers in apps these days, but it could use more customization options for developers, and the reliability of third-party file provider extensions is still largely hit or miss.
Today Apple released iOS 11.4, likely the final major release for the operating system before its successor, iOS 12, reaches the public in September. The update includes two major features that were originally revealed last June as iOS 11 features, but were later delayed: AirPlay 2 and Messages in iCloud.
Apple’s dramatically redesigned App Store got a decent amount of attention when it debuted last year with iOS 11, but its unique success as a hybrid of product design and editorial design has gone little noticed since. That’s a shame, because it’s a huge breakthrough.
I myself paid it scant attention until one day this past winter when I realized that the company was commissioning original illustration to accompany its new format. If you check the App Store front page a few times a week, you’ll see a quietly remarkable display of unique art alongside unique stories about apps, games and “content” (movies, TV shows, comics, etc.). To be clear: this isn’t work lifted from the marketing materials created by app publishers. It’s drawings, paintings, photographs, collages and/or animations that have been created expressly for the App Store.
We don’t see this particular flavor of artistic ambition from many companies today, especially tech companies. The predominant mode of product design almost exclusively favors templates and automation, what can be done without human intervention. The very idea of asking living, breathing art directors who need to be paid real salaries to hire living, breathing illustrators who also need to be paid a living wage in order to create so-called works of art that have no demonstrably reproducible effect on actual profits is outlandish, absurd even. The mere suggestion would get you laughed off of most design teams in Silicon Valley. Design in this century has little use for anything that can’t be quantified.
I haven’t seen a lot of praise for the artistic side of the App Store’s Today page. I think it’s remarkable that Apple is commissioning these illustrations and making them instrumental in highlighting apps and developer stories. Don’t miss Vinh’s roundup of his favorites.
I was editing a Markdown text file in Pretext yesterday, when it occurred to me how naturally I was able to create a document and upload it to GitHub without dealing with the limitations and workarounds that used to be commonplace in older versions of iOS. Here’s a brief account of what happened.
In a recent episode of Connected, we rounded up some of our favorite “iOS little wonders” and Myke was surprised by one of my picks: the ability to launch individual notes on iOS through shared links. The ensuing discussion inspired me to assemble a list of tips and tricks to improve how you can work on an iPad with iOS 11.
Even though I covered or mentioned some of these suggestions in my iOS 11 review or podcast segments before, I realized that it would useful to explain them in detail again for those who missed them. From keyboard recommendations and shortcuts to gestures and Siri, I’ve tried to remember all the little tricks I use to get work done on my iPad Pro on a daily basis.
After several years of being iPad-only for the majority of my work, I often take some of these features for granted. And admittedly, Apple doesn’t always do a great job at teaching users about these lesser known details, which have become especially important after the productivity-focused iPad update in iOS 11. I hope this collection can be useful for those who haven’t yet explored the fascinating world of iPad productivity.
I’ve just recently worked on invoice scanning for Finances. It lets you scan invoices on iPhone or iPad and add them as a PDF document to transactions. In this post I will show you how I’ve implemented that feature using the frameworks available on iOS.
Let’s start by looking at the final result. You can see the invoice scanning in the Finances trailer. The user interface looks very similar to the document scanning UI in Apple’s Notes app on iOS 11. That’s not a coincident. I’ve reimplemented the exact same user interface, because most iOS users are already familiar with it. Also I found it an interesting challenge to implement it myself.
I’ve been considering Finances (which is available both on Mac and iOS and is on sale for both platforms today) as a replacement for the system I built in Numbers last year, which isn’t scaling anymore (my accountant now wants me to upload PDF receipts to a Trello board, and traditional spreadsheets do not support inline file attachments). I’m intrigued by the cross-platform nature of Finances, its double-entry bookkeeping system, and this new Notes-like scanning mode built using Vision technologies in iOS 11. I haven’t seen other apps publicly advertise scanning functionalities built using Vision and the implementation in Finances looks extremely well done.
I will be playing around with Finances over the weekend (I know; usually, this isn’t what I do with my weekends but I also need to keep my accountant happy). You can take a look at Finances’ new trailer below.
Up to this point, commercial accessories were also required to incorporate Apple’s hardware-based Authentication Coprocessor in order to obtain HomeKit certification. The coprocessor handled Apple’s strict rules for encryption and security for HomeKit-enabled accessories. Apple takes HomeKit security seriously — the company says all HomeKit sessions are end-to-end encrypted and mutually authenticated (authenticated by all parties). Each communication session also includes something called “perfect forward secrecy,” meaning that encryption keys aren’t reused — a new key is generated for every session.
These strict rules meant most companies had to build accessories specifically with Apple’s HomeKit requirements in mind. It was a beneficial rule for consumers in terms of privacy and security, but it also meant — at least at the beginning — fewer available HomeKit-enabled accessories. Companies who already had smart home products on the market would need to rethink their products if they wanted to offer HomeKit-enabled accessories. That changes as of iOS 11.3.
I was under the assumption that HomeKit software authentication was already available since Apple announced it at WWDC ‘17 (in fact, I covered it in my iOS 11 review here). As Sargent notes on Twitter, however, accessory makers only received support for software authentication with iOS 11.3, which explains why we haven’t heard of major “HomeKit software updates” yet. Assuming that Apple’s certification process for HomeKit accessories is still going to take weeks, I’m curious to see if software authentication will at least make it easier for third-party manufacturers to consider HomeKit integration.
I wouldn’t call progressive web apps a “replacement” for native software from the App Store (just read the list of technical limitations from Firtman’s article), but they are indeed a remarkable improvement over how Safari used to save web apps to the Home screen. I recommend checking out these twolists to try some progressive web apps and see how they work on iOS. I spent way too much time playing around with Web Flap, a Flappy Bird clone that runs as a progressive web app and even supports offline mode on iOS 11.3.
Today Apple released the latest update to iOS, version 11.3, which adds the previously promised iPhone battery health settings, along with four new Animoji, ARKit 1.5, a new Music Videos section in Apple Music, and more.