iOS


Michael Rockwell, over at Initial Charge write a piece about a really interesting way to give web apps a more native feel on iOS.

Firstly, he mentions Fluid, which is an application for macOS which lets you “convert” web apps into containers that run as normal apps:

On macOS, there’s an application available called Fluid, which lets you create site-specific web browsers. Many of us use web apps everyday and Fluid allows you to run them side-by-side with your native applications without being sequestered inside of a web browser. Fluid is a handy little tool that every Mac user should have in their arsenal.

I hadn’t heard of Fluid before, so I’m going to try this myself, but it’s not as good as his next suggestion for iOS:

To build these site-specific browsers, it just takes two simple actions — a URL action with the web app’s address and the Show Web Page action. When run, Workflow will open up the URL in a Safari View Controller, which gives you access to your action extensions alongside forward, back, and refresh buttons. From there you can give the workflow a name, set an icon color, and a glyph to fit the website or web application’s functionality.

So, he uses Workflow! It’s something I haven’t thought at all about before, but it makes sense. You can use the standard Safari View Controller inside Workflow, or you make partner it with apps like Sidefari, or maybe even add another layer to it with Opener.

I’ve actually just set one up myself to handle my the interface for this blog, which runs on Ghost.

Whether you use macOS or iOS, there’s a solution for you in this post!

ON: BY: Christopher Hannah

My friend Cesare Forelli has just released his fourth app, and it’s a pedometer to help keep track of how far you’ve walked.

It’s a simple application, in that it’s primarily a way to view your walking data, but that’s not all it does.

It tracks your steps, the distance you actually walked, and if you’re on an iPhone 6 or newer it also shows you how many stairs have climbed.

This data is combined with a set goal, which is an amount of steps you want to hit every day. This is all presented in main ring, but if you swipe to the left you will also get to see the Stats view. Here you can find your past steps and distance walked, but also other data points such as the most steps walked, longest distance, and most floors in a single day.

There’s also a today widget, that let’s you keep on top of your walking at a glance.

I’m a big fan of the interface, and how it shows everything I need to see, and in a beautiful way.

Walk More is free to download on the App Store, but there’s also a few tip options in the settings, just in case you want to help keep the app going!

ON: BY: Christopher Hannah

Starting in iOS 11, users will no longer be able to associate social media accounts, such as Twitter or Facebook into the Settings app.

Previously, users could add an account to Settings, which would then allow other apps to request these details as authentication. Which was quite useful, as there are a lot of apps/services that authenticate via Twitter, and this meant you didn't have to keep entering your password.

There is an alternative that developers can use, and that is the built in Keychain that can be used to store authentication details, such as username or password. And they can combine this together with the new additions to in app autofill, so that stored details can be loaded into the login form automatically.

This also means that the Social app framework, that developers used to initiate content sharing to built-in social networks has changed. Instead of providing a simple way to post to LinkedIn, Weibo, Facebook, is Twitter, it is now a generalised framework that can be manipulated to be used with any social account.

From the documentation:

On iOS and macOS, this framework provides a template for creating HTTP requests. On iOS only, the Social framework provides a generalized interface for posting requests on behalf of the user.

A common way to use this framework is:

  • Create a network session.
  • Get the activity feed for a user.
  • Make a new post.
  • Set properties on a post, add attachments, etc.
  • Publish a post to an activity feed.

So it's still helpful, in that it can be used in more ways than before, and a general interface is also provided. But from the point of view of something like Twitter that was previously integrated, it will be a bit more work to integrate.

David Sparks on the missed opportunity of text and screen effects in iOS, and specifically iMessage:

When iOS 10 was first released, I made the argument that to keep these relevant, Apple needed to constantly iterate and update them. If you've ever spent any time with Snapchat, you know what I'm talking about. Snapchat regularly releases new filters and effects that you can apply to your images. They often change seasonally and even for particular holidays. Watching my children and their friends, they all get a kick out of whatever the latest and greatest Snapchat filter is.

I think Apple had a similar opportunity with text and screen effects in iOS messaging. Why not render text with snowflakes during the winter? Why not have a screen effect with flowers blooming in the spring?

I agree with all of the points David makes, and with the recent TV ads and a bigger focus on iMessage stickers, I think they should also work on these effects a bit more. I'm not saying they should go mad, but maybe a seasonal advert, and a few extra effects every now and then would be a massive improvement. Some people don't even know that they exist, so surely just meeting that mark would be beneficial.

ON: BY: Christopher Hannah

With iOS 11 days from being announced, you wouldn't expect a great deal of big updates to apps. But Readdle have implemented a feature, that most iOS users have been waiting for - Drag and Drop.

So on their iPad apps - Documents, PDF Expert, Scanner Pro and Spark, you will be able to drag items from one app to another when using Split View.

I don't want to write thousands of words explaining this new feature, because it just wouldn't do it justice. Instead, you can watch Readdles's demo video.

It's truly impressive, and it's what I expect a native drag and drop feature on iOS would look like. Their own implementation would of took a huge amount of work, and they've really made it look seamless. One point I have to make though, is that if Drag and Drop is announced for iOS 11, would this custom implementation be the best way to do it?

But leaving the pessimistic thoughts alone, this is an incredible feature, and makes me want to try out even more of Readdle's apps.

You can read Readdle's announcement on their blog, but if you want to know more details on these updates, and see some more examples, then Federico Viticci has written a great piece at MacStories.

Joe Cieplinski, on the way iOS handles review prompts, and the way developers have to implement them:

While working on my latest update of Fin, I spent a bit of time playing with Apple’s new SKStoreReviewController API.

For those unfamiliar, this new API was announced with the early betas of iOS 10.3, and it went live with the 10.3 release last month. Though it isn’t the only approved way to prompt a customer to rate your app on the App Store yet, that is Apple’s ultimate intention. Like it or not, you’ll have to learn to work with this thing eventually, in other words. Unless you never prompt for reviews.

If you're interested in the way apps now ask for reviews on iOS, or maybe just want to find out a developers perspective, Joe explains the pros and cons very nicely.

ON: BY: Christopher Hannah

It’s been reported by MacRumors, that the Workflow team have confirmed there will no longer be any updated for Workflow, however bugs will still continue to be fixed. It was in a customer support email, where they wrote the following:

But just so you know, we have no further planned updates for Workflow. That being said we are continuing to support Workflow's current functionality and have no plans to end support, so let me know if you run across any bugs or crashes.

This news comes under one month since Apple acquiring Workflow, and the team working on the app.

When news initially broke of the acquisition, there was various different theories, and ideas on what would happen to Workflow. Whether it would continue, be integrated deeper into the OS, or just slowly killed off.

With Workflow being such a fundamental part to many professional users, that get their work done on iOS, I’m still trying to see the good side of this. Especially as I can’t imagine Apple buying an app that is so vital to people, and then simply getting rid of it.

As David Sparks writes for MacSparky:

Whatever Apple is working on, I find it highly unlikely that it will ship with iOS 11 that gets announced in just a few months. So my guess is we'll wait until iOS 12 to get the Workflow replacement, which is most likely 14 months from announcement and 17 months away from release. Will Workflow still function up until that time? I sure hope so.

I agree with the timing aspect, it’s not really a perfect fit for any big iOS update. It’s obviously too soon to see any integration in iOS 11, but there’s a huge amount of time until iOS 12.

I can only hope that Workflow in it’s current form, is slowly going away. And that there is either a deeper version of Workflow being worked on, or that the automation features are going to be implemented at the system level, while also building a much better automation system for iOS.

The best outcome in my opinion, would be that there’s a significant update to how automation, and communication between apps on iOS happens. Because if you boil Workflow down, it’s simply an interface, for super complex URL schemes, and maybe a bit of computation in between. You can kind of tell when you’re pushing these a bit too far, when you have to convert images into Base64 encoding to transfer the data to a new application.

What I want to see are better ways apps can communicate with each other, and open themselves up to a more generic automation system, similar to Automator, that everyone can make use of.