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Posts tagged with "iOS"

Publishing Articles to WordPress with Workflow on iOS

Posting to MacStories with Workflow.

Posting to MacStories with Workflow.

For the past two years, I've been publishing articles and linked posts on MacStories via Python. This inelegant solution was my only option to automate the process of publishing directly from Editorial (most recently, 1Writer): when it comes to writing on iOS, I'm too fussy to accept primitive copy & paste into WordPress' official client. Despite its minimal GUI, crude Python code, and lack of advanced features, my 'Publish to WordPress' script served me well for two years.1 99% of my MacStories articles since late 2013 have been published with it.

Still, I knew that something better would come along eventually. When the Workflow team pinged me about a new action they were developing to enable WordPress publishing from the app, I couldn't believe they were considering it. Workflow, an app that I employ on a daily basis to speed up core parts of my job, combined with the single task that powers my entire business – posting new content. It was almost too good to be true.

Fortunately, great things do happen in the third-party iOS ecosystem. Today's update to Workflow (version 1.4.2) adds, among more actions, a brand new WordPress action to publish posts and pages to configured WordPress blogs (both and self-hosted ones) and which can be combined with any other existing action or workflow for deeper automaton. After using a beta of this action for the past few weeks, I can say that it's, by far, the best automated publishing workflow I've ever had, and I don't want to go back to anything else.

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Markdown and Automation Experiments with 1Writer

In preparing my reviews of iOS 9 and the iPad Pro, I noticed that my writing process was being slowed down by the lack of multitasking support in my text editor of choice, Editorial. For the past couple of weeks, I've been trying to move some of my Editorial scripts and workflows to 1Writer, with interesting results and potential for the future.

I have written about Editorial at length on MacStories, and I still find Ole Zorn's text editor to provide the most powerful combination of Markdown and plain text automation that's ever been created on iOS. Over the years, I've put together hundreds of workflows thanks to Editorial's visual actions and Python scripting; while some of them were made for fun and intellectual curiosity, the majority of them helped me save time when doing actual work for this website, Relay FM, and Club MacStories. There is no other app with the same feature set and rich Markdown support of Editorial.

Since iOS 9, however, I've been wondering whether part of Editorial's automation could be taken somewhere else, possibly in another app that offered full integration with iOS 9 multitasking. I may have several workflows in Editorial, but I only use a tiny fraction of them on a daily basis for regular work on this website. I'd rather use a text editor that excels at a subset of Markdown workflows and integrates with iOS 9 than a single text editor with every imaginable workflow without proper iOS 9 integration.

It was this realization that pushed me to give 1Writer another look. I first bought the app years ago, but because I had no excuse to explore the world outside of Editorial, I didn't try to recreate any workflows in it. This time around, I was motivated to rebuild the core of my setup in 1Writer, so I took a deep dive into the app's automation engine.

Things will likely change again once Editorial supports iOS 9, but in the meantime I've developed an appreciation for 1Writer's design and features that helped me understand the app better.

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Shooting and Directing Live Music Exclusively with iOS

Fascinating work by Brian King, who shot, directed, and live streamed a Jukebox the Ghost show using iOS devices:

Leading up to the show, I made a lot of disclaimers to the band and their label. This was my first time really using Switcher Studio Pro, and the odds of everything falling apart seemed high. To my surprise, all of the iPads, phones, battery and wifi connection managed to get through the whole night without melting, crashing, or otherwise falling apart. The only adjustment I had to make during the set was re-seating the Olloclip on Jesse’s drum-cam. At the end of the night, getting access to full quality video recordings from each of the stage-cameras was no problem. Overall, the stability of the software and iOS was better than I could have expected.

And his takeaway:

As a professional in broadcasting, this development really excites me. Big gigs are not going to throw away Steadicams & Zoom lenses for iOS devices and iPhone broadcasts are not going to cannibalize the market for large-scale professional shows. Instead, smaller live acts broadcasting more shows with Switcher Studio is going to create a demand for more live content, foster more widespread exposure to the acts and build audiences that see the value in seeing high quality live streams more often. Just look at what happened to prerecorded video shooting and editing in the past decade—accessible software and hardware is a huge deal.

As a live music fan and iOS user, what Brian has accomplished with iPhones and iPads seems amazing. Make sure to check out his post for photos and details on the setup.


Browsecurely Brings Safari View Controller Anywhere with an Action Extension

Typically, you wouldn't be able to do this in the Twitter app for iOS.

Typically, you wouldn't be able to do this in the Twitter app for iOS.

One of the best details of Peace, Marco Arment's original Ghostery-based Content Blocker for iOS 9, was the ability to summon Safari View Controller anywhere with an extension. As I wrote in my review:

Open Unrestricted and Open in Peace are interesting, as they leverage Safari View Controller to temporarily disable (Unrestricted) or use Peace for a link passed to the extension. This means that, besides Safari and apps that support Safari View Controller, you can enjoy the benefits of Peace from the system share sheet. Even if an app doesn't integrate with Safari View Controller – such as Twitter, but there will be many others – as long as they can share a URL with native extensions, you'll be able to use Peace's Content Blocker and Safari View Controller. This is a genius way to circumvent apps that don't support the superior Safari View Controller experience in iOS 9, and I bet that other developers will be "inspired" by it once they see it.

Developed by Martin Gordon, Browsecurely is a new app for iPhone and iPad that lets you open Safari-based web views in every app that supports the iOS share sheet.

The idea is extremely simple: in spite of the many advantages of Safari View Controller (which include privacy features, performance gains, Content Blockers, and an experience consistent with the system browser), there are still some apps –like Twitter's official client – that prefer not to implement it, using their own web views independent from Safari. Browsecurely offers a way out from those web views: as long as you can share a webpage's URL with native extensions, you'll be able to open the selected webpage with Safari View Controller using the Browsecurely action extension. By doing this, you'll simply be opening a URL in Safari View Controller without leaving the app you're using; current Content Blocker, Reader, and other Safari settings will carry over from the browser automatically.

I was waiting for someone to replicate Peace's Safari View Controller extension in a dedicated app, and it doesn't surprise me that this basic functionality is available for free with an optional In-App Purchase to support the developer. Browsecurely has no additional features – it's just a way to open links in Safari View Controller with an extension.

I have to wonder if, eventually, Apple will make a Safari extension themselves, allowing users to always open links with Safari View Controller as a system-level option available in every app. In the meantime, Browsecurely comes in handy to quickly view webpages in Safari View Controller from the share sheet, and it's available for free on the App Store.

On Multiple App Views for iPad Multitasking

Clayton Miller thinks that iOS should offer a way to view multiple documents from the same app side by side in iPad multitasking:

It’s not too hard to imagine a solution that can leverage the app-centric paradigm of iOS into something supporting multiple documents from the same app. Apps and documents both share the metaphor of the window on the desktop, so why not let them share the iOS pane model?

In an application that supports it, the slide-over menu gains a new option at the bottom for the current app. Tapping that instantiates another view of the app, defaulting to the document management or “open” view. The underlying iOS process model would likely need an overhaul for this to become a reality, but it’s a necessity.

I like the concept he came up with, using the lower section of the Slide Over app picker to open a second pane for another document. But I'd go a step further and argue that users should have the ability to pin any view from the same app next to the current view, not just documents.

As I argued in my review:

One of the key aspects of Slide Over and Split View is that they cannot show two sections of the same app at once. Only individual apps can be displayed concurrently on screen: you can't split Safari in multiple views and display both views on screen at the same time. If you were hoping to manage multiple Safari tabs or Pages documents in Split View, you're out of luck.

Splitting apps into multiple atomic units for standalone views and documents seems like an obvious next step going forward.

If Apple brings the ability to split the current app in multiple instances for Slide Over and Split View, I hope they'll do it for any view available in the app. Documents are ideal candidates for this, but all apps would benefit from such addition.


Workflow 1.3 Brings Powerful Widget, Sync, Health Actions, and More

Since its debut on the App Store last year, Workflow has established a new paradigm for automation on iOS.

By deeply integrating with iOS apps, device hardware and sensors, an array of web services, and advanced actions for scripting and control flows, Workflow has shown how automation – for many an area of computing that evokes thoughts of old desktop apps and arcane scripting languages – can be reimagined for the iPhone and iPad while being fun and powerful. Workflow is one of the reasons behind my decision to go all-in with the iPad as my primary computer, and the Apple Design Award it won in June is testament to the amazing work by the app's young and prolific team.

Workflow 1.3, launching today on the App Store, is another major step forward for the app, bringing a powerful Today widget, sync between devices, new Health actions, and more.

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1Password 5.5 Brings UI Tweaks and Improvements to Touch ID, Apple Watch App, and Security

Released today on the App Store, the latest update to our favorite password manager brings some nice minor adjustments. Most of the changes improve the flow and ease of use of the app, and while there aren't any game changers here, numerous tiny annoyances that have been frustrating me for a while have been wiped out.

The first feature mentioned in the release notes is the ability to switch between multiple vaults with only two taps using their new vault switcher. I personally only use one vault with 1Password so I don't have much to say here, but I'm always a fan of doing things in fewer taps so this feature gets a thumbs up from me.

My favorite changes have to do with Touch ID and security tweaks. There have been quite a few times when I've accidentally canceled the Touch ID dialogue, and until now that meant that I was then required to type my password back in before the app would unlock. With version 5.5, there is now a very nice looking fingerprint button that will show up beneath the password input box. If you accidentally cancel Touch ID before unlocking the app, you can now tap the fingerprint button to bring the Touch ID prompt back up and unlock without typing. The feature of course still respects your Touch ID timeout settings, so if you're trying to unlock when Touch ID has been disabled until the next time your password is typed, tapping the fingerprint button won't do anything.

Next on security, in regard to the 1Password extension, the extension and the main 1Password app now share unlock settings. This means that if you unlock the app, the extension is unlocked, and vice versa. If you, like me, have experienced typing your password into the extension (which should then enable Touch ID) and then going to the main app and discovering that you now need to type the password again, then you'll be happy about this feature as well. Timeout settings are still respected on the extension as well, also of course.

Another small but appreciated security improvement: if you fill your login credentials on an unsecured website (think http://) when the saved URL for the login is secure (think https://), 1Password will warn you that this is about to happen. This is one of those features that you hope you would never need anyway but if you do it could save you a lot of trouble.

Finally, among some other various and very minor changes, the Apple Watch app has been updated to allow you to see the PIN numbers on your credit card entries. Convenient if you're into that sort of thing.

Overall, 1Password 5.5 is a solid update. Mostly polish, but polishing shiny things just makes them shinier, and who doesn't like that? If you don't have 1Password yet then I'm not sure why you read all of this, but you can find it in the App Store, and you should go buy it right now.

Billings Pro Adds Mobile Estimates and Apple Watch Features

I've used Billings for invoicing and time tracking since shortly after I first started freelancing years ago. I recently (finally) upgraded to Billings Pro, and I've been testing out the most recent update to the apps for Mac and iOS. The latest version brings Apple Watch support, mobile estimates, and seamless integration of all of the Billings Pro features across all my devices.

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