The first thing you will notice when you set up 1Blocker X on an iOS device is its 7 toggles in Safari’s Content Blocker section of the Settings app. It’s a bit of a head-scratcher at first until you realize that this is what allows 1Blocker X to expand beyond the confines of its predecessor.
You see, iOS limits the number of blocking rules that can be implemented by an app to 50,000. That’s a lot of rules, but sadly not enough given the amount of junk on the Internet these days. As a result, it’s a limit that 1Blocker began to run into not long after it launched in 2015.
Finding a way around that hard limit required a rewrite of 1Blocker from the ground up. The result is 1Blocker X, an app with around three times as many blocking rules, room to grow, and enhanced flexibility for applying those rules.
Last month I covered the return of Sunlit, the iOS photo blogging app from Manton Reece that works with Micro.blog and blogging platforms like WordPress. Reece is back with another iOS app that’s aimed at bringing microcasting, which is short-form podcasting, to Micro.blog. Wavelength is an end-to-end solution for recording, editing, and publishing audio using nothing but an iPhone. It’s an interesting approach to podcasting designed to lower the barriers to entry by simplifying the workflow, while also creating new uses for Micro.blog.
Peter Wells has an interesting story in The Sydney Morning Herald about the much-rumored merger of Macs and iOS devices. Wells interviewed Apple CEO Tim Cook at the education event that was held late last month in Chicago. During the conversation, Wells asked Cook about Microsoft’s convertible Windows 10 strategy and how it compared to Apple’s approach to OSes. Cook responded:
“We don't believe in sort of watering down one for the other. Both [The Mac and iPad] are incredible. One of the reasons that both of them are incredible is because we pushed them to do what they do well. And if you begin to merge the two ... you begin to make trade offs and compromises.
”So maybe the company would be more efficient at the end of the day. But that's not what it's about. You know it's about giving people things that they can then use to help them change the world or express their passion or express their creativity. So this merger thing that some folks are fixated on, I don't think that's what users want."
Especially since Mark Gurman of Bloomberg reported on rumors of an Apple initiative codenamed Project Marzipan designed to bring aspects of iOS to the Mac, there has been speculation about whether it might be the first step in an eventual merger of the two operating systems. Although Cook’s comments are interesting in the context of the rumors that have circulated, he was asked about Microsoft’s Windows 10 strategy, not Apple’s plans for its platforms. I think it’s safe to say that Cook believes iOS devices and Macs are good for different tasks, which suggests that the Mac’s form factor isn’t at imminent risk, but I don’t think you can draw any conclusions from his comments about the chipsets or operating system that may drive Macs in the future.
Dieter Bohn at The Verge has some fantastic observations about notifications on Android and iOS, concluding that the iPhone’s notification system needs to be reworked. Bohn believes both OSes offer too many ways to tweak notifications, but he sees a broader issue with iOS in particular:
On both of those platforms, the question isn’t (or isn’t just) whether or not there are too many options. It’s whether or not the end state of those options are any good. The difference, I’ve found, is that Android has a way of doing things that make notifications more “humane” than what’s possible on the iPhone.
In his video and accompanying article, Bohn points to a handful of critical areas where Android does a better job with notifications than iOS:
- Notifications can be set to appear silently in Android’s notification tray and on the lock screen.
- Text messages and other notifications from actual people are prioritized.
- Similar notifications are grouped so they’re only a couple of lines long and can be dismissed together.
- Users can jump to an app’s notification settings from the notification itself.
Of those features, I agree with Bohn that adding the ability to jump directly to an app’s notification settings from the notification itself would go a long way on iOS. As Federico and I discussed recently on AppStories, periodically evaluating and adjusting notifications is essential to avoiding notification overload on iOS, but it’s also something that becomes a project because it requires a lot of hunting and tapping. With a system like Android’s, I can imagine making fine-tuned adjustments to notifications more frequently because doing so would be less likely to disrupt what I was doing when I’m interrupted.
There are few apps I've ever used which made a lasting impact on my daily workflow. But for years now, the singular app that's been the foundation of my iOS use has been Drafts. The app has lived in my dock since I first picked it up, it's the single most important app I use on the platform, and it's the only paid app I mandate to anyone looking for must-have apps on iOS.
Drafts is the bedrock app from which I build all my productivity. It’s the single point of text entry that shares to any app, whether through the share sheet, a simple action, or a custom and complex action. Any time I have an idea, I put it in Drafts. Tasks to add to my task manager? I do that from Drafts. Something I want to write about on my blog? That idea starts in Drafts too. It's the focal point for everything I do.
But times change. Apps age. New features are added in the OS that need to be integrated, which cause some developers to pull the plug. So today, I'm saying goodbye to Drafts 4. And it's getting replaced by the only app that could possibly replace it: Drafts 5.
It's been a busy 2018 so far for Cultured Code, makers of Things for Mac and iOS. Earlier this year, the company shipped Things 3.4, which, thanks to app integrations and a toolkit for third-party developers, propelled the task manager into the elite of automation-capable apps on iOS. It doesn't happen very often that a task manager becomes so flexible it lets you build your own natural language interpreter; Things 3.4 made it possible without having to be a programmer by trade.
Today, Cultured Code is launching Things 3.5, a mid-cycle update that refines several aspects of the app and prepares its foundation for other major upgrades down the road. There isn't a single all-encompassing change in Things 3.5 – nor is this version going to convince users to switch to Things like, say, version 3.4 or 3.0 might have. However, Things 3.5 is a collection of smaller yet welcome improvements that are worth outlining because they all contribute to making Things more powerful, intuitive, and consistent with its macOS counterpart.
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.
Let's dig in.
David Sparks has a knack for breaking down big topics and making them approachable with his series of MacSparky Field Guides. His latest book, the iPhone Field Guide, covers everything iPhone-related. The guide is Sparks’ most ambitious work yet, coming in at 450 pages with over 50 screencasts.
The raw numbers are only part of the story though. New iPhone owners will appreciate Sparks’ coverage of the basics and Apple’s stock apps, but there’s a lot here for more experienced iPhone users too. The book is full of short tutorials and app recommendations to help all users get more out of their iPhones. I especially like that many of the screencasts focus on third-party apps, which is a great way for readers to get a feel for them before deciding to download.
The iPhone Field Guide is a fantastic reference that I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend to anyone who wants to take their iPhone and iOS use to the next level. Skimming through the book, I found many MacStories favorites among the apps covered, and having them all available in a beautifully-designed, interactive iBook makes picking out new apps a pleasure.
The MacSparky iPhone Field Guide is available on the iBooks Store for an introductory price of $19.99, which will increase at a later date.
One of Workflow's least known functionalities is its ability to get details about the hardware it's running on and control some system features. Among these, Workflow can both retrieve an iOS device's current volume level and set the volume. A few days ago, I realized I could make a workflow to quickly adjust my iPhone's volume when streaming music to one of our HomePods. Unlike other automations I've crafted over the years, this workflow was quite a success in our household and I felt like it was worth sharing with the wider MacStories audience.