12th November 2018
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Michael Steeber, for 9To5Mac:

We take photos to capture moments. A great photo can fill in the blanks of our memory, instantly recalling forgotten details and conversations otherwise lost to time. But has looking at a photo ever raised more questions than it provided answers? Let’s look at reimagining the Photos app to better tell the stories of your memories.

“Why was I wearing a winter coat in May?” “What were we listening to on that road trip?” “Why were you downtown so early on a Sunday morning?” Where our memory fails, technology can assist. Beyond being a great camera, modern iPhones store and can tap into rich libraries of data relevant to our lives. By interpreting this information through the intelligence of iOS, the Photos app could be expanded in two key ways to help weave our memories into vivid stories.

There’s a ton of great suggestions on the types of information that can be extrapolated from photos, and it’s certainly interesting to see how it would look in the UI.

I really like this concept, and it’s certainly something I think Apple could pull off. Even without collecting personal information en mass, as it can be done on the device. And anything that needs to be referenced from somewhere else can be requested completely anonymously, such as the weather or information about a location.

15th October 2018
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Juli Clover, writing for MacRumors:

At its annual Adobe Max conference, Adobe announced plans to bring a complete version of Photoshop to the iPad in 2019.

Photoshop CC for iPad will feature a revamped interface designed specifically for a touch experience, but it will bring the power and functionality people are accustomed to on the desktop.

I’m interested to see how Photoshop will actually work on the iPad. They do say it’s the full version, but will it include the automation that was available on the desktop, and how will it fit into the iOS environment? For example, will it have support for Siri Shortcuts, support for a Photo Editing Extension, and how are the toolbars going to be translated into iOS UI?

Then there’s the price. Affinity Designer and Affinity Photo are both priced at £19.99, Pixelmator is only £1.99, and there are apps like Polarr that are free. I’m guessing they’ll extend their Creative Cloud subscription to include the iOS version, but I think a cheaper solution is needed to be competitive on this platform. £9.98 per month is their cheapest individual plan in the UK, and that will deter a lot of people.

Another recent announcement of theirs, Project Gemini, is something that’s probably more suited to my uses. As that is a lot simpler, and focuses on drawing and illustrating.

24th September 2018

I’ve started watching more television series recently, and more importantly, a goal to rewatch/watch all the episodes of Pokémon (Best not to go in to that one too much, I’ve been obsessed since I was a child).

Naturally, I decided to find an app that can help me remember where I am with everything, as my memory has never been excellent. After a little search I came up with a few suitable apps, including iShows and SeenIt, but I settled on Hobi pretty quickly.

It integrates with Trakt, which most of them do, so I was grateful to see some of my previously watched tv shows appear in the app immediately. It can also notify you when new episodes air, release dates are announced, or to notify you of season premieres.

It’s topped off with a pretty great design. I like how the most prominent parts of the UI are the cover art, and the name of each tv show. It looks a bit like Things for iOS, and I’m a big fan of the clean aesthetic right now. Especially when it’s joined with slightly larger and heavier fonts.

You can download Hobi for free on the App Store. But they also offer a premium subscription which enables advanced sorting options, no show limits, and also no limits on the number of devices.

18th September 2018

Yesterday was iOS 12 release day, and it was a pretty good day overall, so I thought I’d share some of my personal highlights.

Of course, iOS 12 and the new Shortcuts app was released, so it was good to see everyone discover the new features that some of us developers and beta users have been playing around with for a while.

I released version 1.3 of Text Case which includes support for Siri Shortcuts. It was covered by John Voorhees at MacStories, which was great! And it was met with a good response from quite a lot of people. It’s by far my favourite app I’ve developed, and it’s been super fun seeing where I can integrate the functionality of Text Case throughout the system.

Then, of course, there’s the annual event for nearly everyone in the Apple community, Federico Viticci’s iOS review! He puts so much work into it, and you can always see that when you read it. This year it’s packed with some great Siri Shortcuts information and even more if you’re a Club MacStories member (which I am!).

There was also a bunch of other apps that released updates with support for Siri Shortcuts, this was great to see from a developer and user perspective. My favourites so far are PCalc, Bear, Ulysses, Citymapper, Overcast, CARROT Weather, and Things. And now that password managers can integrate properly into iOS, I’m also going to look at using 1Password, LastPass, or even one of the many others that have been updated

The best part of the day was probably Twitter, and while it hasn’t received a lot of praise recently, the Apple community is a major reason why I can’t see myself stopping using it. Everyone was happy about the updates, there was a bunch of conversations about Shortcuts, and generally everyone having a good time! I even made a little snark about Mastodon users. Phil Schiller even shared some unfortunate news about the Squirrel from the 4S Introduction event.

Now I just need to wait until my XS arrives on Friday, so I can try out the parts of iOS that I’ve been missing. Like Animoji, Memoji, Portrait Lighting, the new Depth Control, and even FaceID!

24th July 2018

Matt Birchler:

…if you want the best Google software, iOS is really the place to be.

That sounds crazy, and maybe for some people it is, but as someone who relies heavily on Google’s software in both my personal and professional life, iOS has been a great platform for getting everything done that I need to do. Not only that, but a shocking amount of Google apps are updated first on iOS or are totally exclusive to iOS for months before going to Android. And with new apps like Files and updates to Siri intents, Google’s apps can interact more closely with iOS than they could in earlier versions of iOS.

I can’t say I’m well versed in the Android ecosystem, but I am aware of it. I pay attention to Google I/O announcements, and of course, there’s an Android developer at work so I have at least some perspective.

The only, or at least the biggest issue I can determine, is the obvious levels of fragmentation. This used to be the argument of app design, and quality, where iPhones used to be just the one size, and Android already had loads of variety.

The fragmentation I think causes these problems is the multiple Android vendors and mobile networks, that introduce needless bottlenecks to the whole platform. Whether it’s a small update that will get ignored by certain manufacturers or a major release which will take extra time for a company like Samsung (just picking one at random) to add their software on top, before shipping it to consumers. I just don’t think the wide varieties of Android phones combine to make a stable ecosystem.

That’s a whole lot different with iOS though because there’s less device variety, a higher percentage of users are on the latest version of the OS, and the App Store is a widely known success. I think this is why Google do so well. Because they can leave the foundation work to Apple, and that leaves them with just the software. And I can admit they can make pretty good software.

20th July 2018

Theo Strauss, writing about Lyft’s new implementation of the search bar, and why its best placed at the bottom:

Although we don’t think about it too often, a search bar all the way at the top of the screen is hard to reach. Especially for users who have smaller hands or users who have less flexible hands, reaching up is annoying, mostly because the top of the screen is far away from where their fingers sit.

If you visualize most apps, the main content is in the middle or lower-mid area. Tab bars for navigation, posts on social media, and keyboards on messaging platforms are all examples of important pieces of experiences sitting in a more reachable position.

I feel exactly the same. The ability to search within an app, or just accessing the main navigational controls of an app, should be the most accessible parts.

In a world where we use tools such as a mouse, or laptop trackpad to direct a cursor around a screen, a classic vertical layout where all navigation is at the top, and the content filling the rest of the space, is probably fine.

However nowadays we interact with content on our displays directly, so it needs to be designed with a human hand in mind, not a cursor.

You can already see Apple pushing developers/designers towards this bottom-up approach, as they’ve added the “pull up” drawer-like component that contains a search bar and results, into the Maps app. This is the approach I feel needs to be standardised going forward, but this isn’t the only approach. As the Music app also follows this idea of having controls at the bottom, with the now playing indicator being there.

I do see this becoming a trend very soon, and I suspect that in a few months quite a lot of apps will be using a sheet similar to the one in Apple Maps. The only drawback is that Apple don’t provide a standard implementation of this bottom sheet, and instead developers either have to implement this manually, or adopt a library from other third-party developers.

I’ve been experimenting with it at work, and I’ve found one library to be very useful, and that is PullUpController by Mario Iannotta. It provides you with a simple one liner to add any view to act as the bottom sheet, and also manages the sticky points, management of inner scrolling views and content, and you can also extend it to your wishes.

Hopefully Apple can share their implementation and more developers can make use of this new interface style.

12th July 2018

With all the nostalgia of the early App Store and iOS SDK days, Frederik Riedel tweeted about his experience developing iRedstone:

After he tweeted that, other developers started quoting it, and sharing their experiences. Frederik has compiled a great collection of them over on his blog.

10th July 2018

It hasn’t been long since the release of Text Case, but I’ve already had some great suggestions, so I decided to add them in!

So here it goes.

Five extra formats: – URL Decoded – Capitalise All Words – Camel Case – Snake Case – Hashtags

One format has been “fixed”, and that is Capitalise. It now does the obvious and also capitalises the first letter after a period.

You can now choose which formats you want to enable, by navigating to the Settings page, and flipping the switches. This will obviously allow for a more customised interface, as I imagine some people won’t want all 12 formats to show if there aren’t needed.

I still have two things I want to work on. One is the ability for the action extension to be able to replace the original selected text with the new converted value. The other is a pretty great idea that I can’t share until I figure out how exactly I’m going to implement it. But it will be an advanced feature.

I’d also like to say thank you to everyone that has already downloaded Text Case, and I plan to keep adding useful updates!

If you haven’t already, you can download Text Case on the App Store.

06th June 2018

Very unsurprisingly, iOS 12 brings better notifications support. There’s not too many changes, but they are certainly most welcome.

The big one is grouped notifications. It’s probably the notification feature I’ve been wanting the most, and Android constantly used to make me jealous with it.

I’ve not quite worked out the requirements for them to group together, because I’ve seen iMessage conversations automatically group, but other apps group after 4 or so individual notifications.

There are three options for grouping your notifications, automatic, by app, and of course, none. The interesting one is automatic grouping, because apps can actually help the OS work out what notifications should be grouped together, by providing different identifiers. I’m not going too too much in the technical side, but you’ll notice that Messages.app will group messages from conversations together, but each of these are separate on your lock screen.

There’s going to be more to find out about grouping though, as I’m sure there are different quantifiers which will change the way the system handles them.

In regard to the actions you can take on notifications, you now get to control how any apps notifications are configured, right on the lock screen. All you need to do is swipe right-to-left, and tap Manage. Then you’ll find three different options (depending on the current settings):

  • Deliver Quietly/Prominently (The opposite of what is currently set)
  • Turn Off
  • Settings (This takes you straight to the app’s notification settings, so you can fine tune all of the settings.

These are all welcome options, and I particularly like the deliver quietly, for apps that I want information from, but don’t care that much about it. The options have always been available for these settings, but they’ve always been a hassle to get to. And the Quietly/Prominent options make it simple and clear so everybody can understand.

Do Not Disturb

Something else related to notifications, is the Do Not Disturb, which also received a few improvements.

It’s actually been split into two different levels of not disturbing you, and that’s differentiated by the Bedtime Mode option. So normally Do Not Disturb just means not to notify you, but if you turn on Bedtime Mode, it will keep your screen completely free of distractions until the time period is over, or you turn it off. Something that makes a lot of sense.

It also benefits from “Siri” (the intelligence in your device, rather than the voice), because it’s something else it can suggest for you. It can be triggered by a time, location, or event. I’ve already seen this a few times, once where it suggested I turned it on, but only until an event in my calendar was over. Pretty clever.

These are some fantastic improvements to how notifications work in iOS, but I still would like one more thing from Android. And that is to set specific notification categories. You can do this already as an app, in that it’s the way iOS can group notifications. But Android users can select to mute specific categories from apps, making it an even more personalised system. However, that’s very much want, and not a need.


Read more of my coverage of WWDC here.

06th June 2018

If you read my recent piece on refining how I use my devices to maximise their value, you’ll know that the one major thing I wanted to help this was more insight into how I used them. Screen Time is that thing.

In the most Apple way, the data is accompanied with pretty graphs, and there’s quite a bit of information available. You see the apps that have taken up your screen, how many notifications you receive from each app, how often you pick up the phone, and even what your longest session was.

I haven’t received one yet, of course, but Screen Time will also give you a weekly activity summary. Which would be a good time to reflect on how the week went, and then take measures to ensure you use your devices in the ideal way.

If you want to be more strict with yourself, there’s some settings you can play around with, to ensure you know when to stop looking at your phone.

Downtime is a period of time where you will not be able to open any applications that are not in your Allowed list, ideal for setting a strict bedtime. Then you have App Limits, where you set an amount of time that you’re allowed to use on a specific app, or category, and they can even be specific for each day of the week. Finally, there’s a bunch more restrictions you put on yourself, but these apply more to parents who want to stop their children from accessing certain content, or just ensure they don’t just sit on Minecraft all day (what I used to do).

I’m super happy with this feature, and I can’t wait to see my first weekly report. Although I imagine this weeks will be completely skewed, as I’m using my device more than usual to try and find any cool new things in the beta.


Read more of my coverage of WWDC here.