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Posts tagged with "iOS"

Apple Posts How-To Videos Featuring Third-Party Apps

Last month, Apple posted a series of short how-to videos to prepare customers for iOS 11. The videos each featured one new aspect of iOS 11 delivered in a light-hearted humorous style. Apple has added three new videos in the same style that feature third-party apps.

The first spot, ‘How to retouch a photo,’ features Pixelmator and demonstrates how to erase a stranger from a photo. The video concludes on a light note with ’You did great! The guy never knew what hit him.’

The second video, ‘How to copy and paste across devices with iOS 11’ features Curator, but highlights the Universal Clipboard, an iOS system feature. Curator is a mood-board and presentation app for creating collections of photos. The spot shows how to copy an image on an iPhone and paste into the Curator app on an iPad, explaining ‘the ice cream cone is now going to fly through the air’ and showing a time-lapse video of copying and pasting images over and over commenting ‘Really nice time-lapse everybody.’

The final video features GoodNotes and is called ‘How to magically convert notes to text and share them with iOS.’ The video shows how to use the lasso tool in GoodNotes to select handwritten notes and convert them into text that you can share via the system share sheet.

Like the videos posted by Apple in August, these spots strike a good balance between being informative and humorous. I’m glad to see Apple calling out third-party apps too because the ‘Pro’ in iPad Pro is as much about the third-party tools that are available as it is about the device’s hardware features.

You can watch each of the videos after the break.

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Metapho 3.0 Adds Video Support and More

Metapho is a powerful utility for accessing, editing, and removing metadata from photos and videos. When I reviewed Metapho 2.0, I was impressed with how easy it was to access and edit image metadata. With version 3, Metapho has been extended into new areas without sacrificing the ease of use of prior versions.

Perhaps the biggest change is that Metapho now supports video. Earlier versions of the app could only handle still photos, so it’s nice to see video added to the mix. The process works the same way as with photos. Access a video using Metapho’s action extension from the Photos app or from within the Metapho app itself. Metapho displays the video’s metadata, which can be edited or stripped.

One of Metapho’s strengths is its design. Whether you start in the app itself or its extension Metapho displays the metadata for images in a clear and concise manner. Today’s update changes the layout by adding cropped versions of the photos or videos you are working on at the top of the page, so you know which image you are working on without it taking up an unnecessary amount of vertical space on your iPhone.

Metapho’s extension also got a refresh with version 3. For the first time, you can select multiple photos to edit. It’s a small change, but one that should speed up the editing process for anyone working with several images or videos.

Metapho is not a utility that I use often, but I keep it tucked away in a folder because when I need it, there’s no better way to edit photo and video metadata. It’s a great example of a thoughtfully designed app, so I'm glad to see its functionality expanded without compromising its utility.

Metapho is available on the App Store.


Unobstruct Clears a Path to a Better Web Reading Experience

Too many websites wreck the reading experience by floating interface elements on top of articles. One of the worst offenders has been Medium, which John Gruber called out on Daring Fireball recently. Medium has made some improvements since then but didn’t eliminate floaters, and there are many other sites with social media buttons, branded navigation bars, and other material that hovers over webpages even as you scroll down the page. The practice makes it especially hard to read on the smaller screens of mobile devices.

Inspired by the Daring Fireball article and a JavaScript bookmarklet to which Gruber later linked, Troy Gaul, a developer at The Iconfactory, created Unobstruct, a Safari content blocker for iOS that eliminates floating bars, buttons, and other UI elements. The simple app, which Gaul fittingly announced in a post on Medium, removes any HTML that is set to sit on top of a site’s content and not scroll.

Unobstruct doesn’t hide persistent navigation bars by default because doing so would make it impossible to get around some sites. Instead, you can use the app’s action extension from the share sheet to hide the bar. Later, if you need the navigation bar, you can simply reload the page to get it back.

I love Unobstruct’s colorful and feisty robot icon. It adds a bit of fun and whimsy to an otherwise utilitarian app. For insight into the icon’s design, be sure to check out Ged Maheux’s blog post, in which he details how he started the design by making rough sketches in The Iconfactory’s drawing app Linea, then moved to Adobe Illustrator after Gaul had picked his favorite.

Unobstruct doesn’t block as broad a variety of webpage elements as some content blockers, but its singular focus on floaters pays off. In my testing, the app worked flawlessly to remove floating buttons automatically, as did the extension for eliminating navigation bars. Branding and sharing are important to websites, but they shouldn’t get in the way of the core experience – reading. The trend of obscuring content with floaters is a shame, but I’m glad I have Unobstruct to make browsing those sites a little nicer each day.

Unobstruct is available on the App Store.


Mindscope Review

The first thing that came to mind when I saw Mindscope for iOS was Literature and Latte’s Scapple for macOS. Both apps are designed to get text onto a screen in a way that is easily manipulated and organized with as little fussing with formatting as possible. John Goering, the developer of Mindscope, describes the app as a magnet board for your brain. That’s a good description as far as it goes, but it doesn’t entirely capture what is possible with his app. With wiki-like cross-links and the hierarchical depth of an outliner, Mindscope offers a dimensionality to organizing text that isn’t possible with tools like Scapple.

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NotePlan Calendar + Markdown + Notes Comes to iOS

When I first heard about NotePlan, I was intrigued. It was a Mac app that used a text format (Markdown) as a calendar-based system, a note for each day, allowing you to easily create tasks and take notes, then see it all in an organized calendar. NotePlan for iOS was released today, and it's enough to sell me on the idea.

I have a lot of side projects (I suppose my whole life is side projects these days), and organizing todo lists is vital. I love using the TaskPaper format, with TaskPaper on Mac and Taskmator on iOS, to track action items for individual projects. I also have a calendar, and a bucket of notes. Combining all of this in one place is appealing to me, and being able to use it on both Mac and iOS makes it truly useful.

In NotePlan, tasks are created as Markdown lists. You can have it recognize any list item as a task, or tell it that only lines with a checkbox (- [ ] Thing to do) are action items. There's an extra keyboard row available when editing that makes it easy to create items, complete or cancel them, or even schedule them for a future date.

Tasks can sync to Reminders lists as well, so it can incorporate into other workflows (and even shared lists). In the calendar view you can tap a day to see the note and associated task lists for that date.

Each day on the calendar gets a note, and you can add freeform notes in the All Notes area. A note can be bits of information, its own action list, or both. You can use #tags anywhere in the notes to organize, and wiki style links ([[title]] or [[YYYY-MM-DD]]) to reference other notes. Tasks added to freeform notes can be scheduled to the calendar with a tap, so you can use notes as a central project repository and schedule out the day's (or week's) tasks as you're ready to tackle them.

NotePlan on iPhone

NotePlan on iPhone

On the new iOS version, you can drag and drop tasks around by pressing a text block until it turns blue and sliding it into place. You can also press and hold until it turns blue, then release and press another one to expand the selection between them, at which point NotePlan will offer you a toolbar to allow batch completion, rescheduling, etc.

I'd label NotePlan as a day planner, not a task manager like OmniFocus or Things. It's ideal for planning out your day, Bullet Journal style. You won't find extensive project management features or perspective overviews, but the combination of scheduling, tagging, and (plain text, portable) notes in one place makes it a true productivity tool.

If words like productivity, GTD, Markdown, TaskPaper and Bullet Journal cause a stirring within you, you're probably the right audience for this one. Check out NotePlan for iOS, and then try out the Mac version for fully-synced productivity. Today and tomorrow, NotePlan for iOS is $11.99. After that, the price will be $14.99. NotePlan for Mac is $16.99.


Reach Navigation

Brad Ellis has some interesting ideas and examples on how Apple could shift the iOS interface from top-oriented navigation bars to thumb-friendly cards and sheets sitting towards the bottom of the screen:

The navbar has been essential part of iOS since Apple released the first developer kit, and it has served us well. But it’s time to let go.

Let’s agree to stop sticking important buttons to the top of the screen. Better navigation is within reach.

I think Ellis is onto something here. After Apple Music and Apple Maps in iOS 10, I'd be surprised if we don't get more of these "reach navigation" redesigns in iOS 11 (which would also make sense if Apple is releasing an iPhone with a taller screen later this year).

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Workflow Update Restores Google Chrome and Pocket Actions, Extends Apple Music Integration

In the first update following Apple's acquisition in late March – and despite rumors that claimed the app would no longer be supported – Workflow has today restored some of the features that were removed in version 1.7.3 of the app (which was released when Apple confirmed the acquisition) and has brought a variety of changes and improvements, including new Apple Music actions.

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Prizmo Go Review: Smarter OCR with the iPhone’s Camera

I've long been using Prizmo to quickly extract text contained in photos using the iPhone's camera. Developed by Creaceed, Prizmo has always stood out among iOS scanner apps thanks to its accurate and fast OCR. While most scanner apps focus on digitizing documents and exporting PDFs, Prizmo complemented that functionality with the ability to recognize and share text with just a couple of taps. Prizmo could be used as a scanner app for paperless workflows, but I preferred to keep it on my devices as a dedicated utility to effortlessly extract and share text.

With Prizmo Go, released today on the App Store, Creaceed is doubling down on Prizmo's best feature with a separate app that's been entirely designed with OCR and sharing text in mind. While OCR was a feature of Prizmo, it becomes the cornerstone of the experience in Prizmo Go, which takes advantage of impressive new OCR technologies to make character recognition smarter, faster, and better integrated with other iOS apps.

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iPad Diaries: DEVONthink’s New Advanced Automation

iPad Diaries is a regular series about using the iPad as a primary computer. You can find more installments here and subscribe to the dedicated RSS feed.

When I covered DEVONthink To Go in the first iPad Diaries column back in February, I briefly mentioned the app's limited support for URL schemes and automation. I concluded the article noting that DEVONthink's advanced file management features were ideal candidates for my writing workflow – particularly given the app's ability to store different types of documents, reference them with unique links, and search them with Boolean operators. I also expanded upon the idea of using DEVONthink as my only iOS file manager in the latest episode of Mac Power Users.

I've been moving more work documents and other research material (web archives and PDFs, mostly) to DEVONthink over the past two months. The turning point occurred a few weeks ago, when DEVONtechnologies began adding advanced x-callback-url automation to DEVONthink's beta channel and were kind enough to let me test and provide feedback for the functionality.

I was genuinely excited by the prospect of a scriptable DEVONthink: due to iOS' lack of a deeply integrated Finder, I've always wanted a file manager that could be extended and enhanced through automation and other apps. With an improved set of URL commands and various optimizations for usage in Workflow, DEVONthink To Go can now be that kind of file manager. I made my decision: this is the app I'm going to use to manage the research content for my iOS 11 review this summer.

The automation features introduced by DEVONtechnologies in the latest DEVONthink for iOS go deep into the app's structure, covering discrete functionalities such as file creation, search, and data retrieval. These changes will enable a greater number of users to integrate DEVONthink with their favorite iPad apps and workflows. And while the new commands are documented in the app, I thought it'd be useful to provide some concrete examples of how we can take DEVONthink to the next level through automation.

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