All posts by iPhone Insight

Tydlig: An Incredible Alternative Calculator for iPad

Tydlig for iPad

Tydlig is the calibre of calculator goodness that the iPad canvas deserves. Most of its graphical and scientific functions are more powerful than I ever have need for — but even a layman like me can appreciate how beautifully it blends calculations with the free-form flexibility of a whiteboard.

I think it’s downright silly that there isn’t a default calculator app on the iPad, but if Apple does eventually get around to designing one, they should be aware that the bar has been raised. The combo of text labels, linkable numbers, and an infinite canvas provide great ways to visualize and check sets of numbers.

Using Tydlig to do a quick calculation of “55 * 75 = 4125” works like it would on any other regular calculator. The magic happens when you start labeling and linking individual factors. I’ll add the label Price to “55” and add # to “75”, which provides context for the equation. I can then label “4125” as Unicorns and tap-and-drag it to create a link to it, and then add it to my growing tally of mythical creature costs. If I’ve made a mistake anywhere in my calculations, I can go back and adjust a number and have all of the totals re-adjusted automatically.

So far Tydlig has helped me break down budgets and restaurant bills, but I can also see it helping me examine reports at work in a quicker and more tactile way than a spreadsheet. This app has displaced Calcbot as my calculator of choice across both my iPad and iPhone, and there’s no question it’s worth more than the $2 asking price.

[Note: I know a lot of people like Soulver, but I’ve only recently started looking into alternative calculators, so I’ll be using Tydlig for a little while, and will check Soulver out later.]

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My Biggest iOS 8 Wish: Way Better Auto-correction


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Federico Viticci of MacStories recently unveiled version 4.0 of his website, and it’s gorgeous. One of the articles he chose to publish alongside the new design was a set of iOS 8 Wishes. I agree with most or all of the items on his list, but I think there was something missing. One of my major teeth-gnashing issue with iOS is the keyboard, which is in dire need of some loving.

The split keyboard that was added in iOS 5 was a crucial step in making data entry on the iPad more pleasant, but the whole way that auto-correct works on iOS is still far too obnoxious. I’m getting better at touch typing on my Air in landscape mode, and yet I frequently feel like I’m being punished for flying too quickly along the keys when auto-correct swoops in at the very last second. Carefully spelled names (e.g. Connelly) are suddenly changed to completely ridiculous little phrases (e.g. “comely it”), and I end up having to break the flow of my writing to head back and correct stupid typos caused by auto-correct.

I take issue with how auto-corrections are displayed. It’s workable in apps like iMessage — where the text I’m typing is situated directly above the keyboard — but it can be a real pain in the app (heyo!) when the text is any higher up on the screen. Does Apple really think it’s ergonomic or efficient for me to lift my fingers off the keyboard, dismiss a hilariously small auto-correct pop-up with a tap, and return to typing? The Blackberry, Android, and Windows Phone 8.1 OSes all feature keyboards that intelligently show auto-correction possibilities in close proximity to the keyboard, which just makes sense to me. It’s so much easier to dismiss erroneous corrections that way. The keyboard is usually where your eyes are focused, and your fingers are obviously directly above the keys as you type.

One of my biggest wishes for iOS 8 — right alongside better hardware keyboard support on the iPad — is for the system keyboard to get more than a fresh coat of paint. I think auto-correct needs a major overhaul on iOS, because it doesn’t just work. More often than not, it just works me over.

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Automating Task and Meeting Creation with Drafts and Fantastical for iPad

Fantastical and Drafts

After reviewing Fantastical for iPad, I’ve decided to have a go of making it my control center for all tasks and meetings. I don’t like creating tasks by tapping on various fields and categories, so Fantastical’s natural language parsing really is the ultimate solution for me. There’s nothing wrong with Fantastical’s UI for this purpose, but I prefer to use Drafts for creating all of my tasks, simply because it loads so quickly. It took me a little while to understand URL schemes, but this iOS automation guide from @The_Axx and the Fantastical FAQ really helped me out.

Setting this sequence up requires setting up two “URL Actions” in Drafts. You can find this menu by entering Drafts -> Settings -> URL Actions and creating the following actions:

Meeting – fantastical2://parse?sentence=[[title]]&notes=[[body]]

Task – fantastical2://parse?sentence=[[title]]&notes=[[body]]&reminder=1

The process starts like this: I load up Drafts, type in one line of text that describes the meeting/task and due date, and an optional second line of text for a note. If you look at the URL schemes above, the [[title]] tags correspond to a ?sentence value in Fantastical, and the [[body]] tag corresponds to the %notes field in Fantastical.

The only difference in each of these URL schemes is that the %reminder=1 line added to the Task action. This forces Fantastical to create a task, without my having to specify with keywords like “Remind” or “task”.

These URL schemes are set up in Drafts as actions, so that I can type in names, dates, and details, and tap on one button to send the meeting or task to Fantastical. I could go even further by adding add=1 to the end of each URL scheme, which would instruct Fantastical to auto-create the meeting or task (eliminating even the need to press the ”Add” button within Fantastical).

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Fantastical 2 for iPad Review

fantastical for ipad

A lot of iPad apps falsely tout that they’ve been re-imagined for the tablet form factor, when they’re really just reconfigured versions of their iPhone counterparts. Fantastical 2 for iPad is refreshing because it’s the real deal. This app takes the best concepts from Fantastical on the iPhone and Mac — the DayTicker, list, and week view — and adapts them as a dashboard that’s completely unique and tailored for a tablet display.

Each of the three distinct sections of the dashboard are scrollable and connected. This means that swiping through the DayTicker can adjust the events shown in the list view (bottom-left), as well as change the highlighted dates in the month view (bottom-right). Similar behaviour applies if you scroll through the list view, or tap on a different date in the month view; manipulate one section of Fantastical, and the rest of the display will adjust dynamically.

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LTE + iPad Air: My New Favourite Everywhere Device

iPad cellular

I’ve had about two months with the an LTE iPad Air now, and I’m really glad I opted for the cellular option this time around. I’ve always wondered about the kind of difference a cellular option would make, but it wasn’t until this year that I decided to make the investment. As it turns out, I’m really glad that I did. The freedom that a cellular connection provides makes the iPad feel immediately accessible, in a way that tethering to my iPhone never really did.

I have a 6GB data plan for my iPhone with Koodo, but I don’t tether much any more because Koodo’s network speeds are sub-par (2.5 Mbps down around Queen & Shaw) and iOS tethering is still too finnicky for reliable usage. The Wi-Fi hotspot on my iPhone 5S often takes half a minute to show up on the iPad, and Bluetooth tethering is just too miserably slow to use, even for surfing.

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Fire and Brimstone Are Good Things In This Tilt to Live 2 DLC Trailer


Brimstone Pinball

Tilt to Live 2 is a manic game. You gain high scores by tilting the iPad to dodge between swarms of enemies to reach power-ups, which then demolish the swarms that were chasing you. It’s kind of like Pac-Man, but with more satellite laser cannons.

One of the game’s very best power-ups is Brimstone, which acts like your own personal, nudge-able comet of death. Brimstone has a high skill ceiling because you’ve got to aim it properly, bounce it off the walls to increase combo multipliers, and it only lasts for a few seconds. It’s one of my favourite power-ups in the game, and it appears that I wasn’t the only one who thought so, because TTL2’s first DLC pack is based on the idea of Brimstone Pinball.

This new mode will provide you with a single brimstone ball and a set of completely new enemies to weave around. The brimstone no longer burns out on its own, so there are much bigger opportunities to gun for some incredible high scores.

There’s no word on an exact release date, but developer One Man Left says that it’s landing some time this April for $0.99.

 

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Review: Adonit Jot Script Evernote Edition for iPad

Jot Script 4

The Jot Script is the joint effort between Adonit and Evernote to create the ultimate pen for Penultimate. The Script offers two major advantages over most other styli: the PixelPoint tip and Bluetooth connectivity.

The PixelPoint tip makes it much easier to see where your strokes will end up on the iPad’s screen. Other styli make this a bit of a guessing game with large foam or rubber tips that require varying amounts of pressure, but the Script is a stylus that anyone can use right off the bat, without any major learning curve.

The Bluetooth connection allows Script-compatible apps (e.g. Penultimate or Noteshelf) to more accurately track where the stylus tip is, as well as help to ignore any other contact points on the screen (a.k.a. palm rejection). The Script is powered by a single AAA battery, and the stylus won’t even be registered by the iPad unless you turn it on.

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Introducing Fantastical for iPad — A Killer New Calendar App

Fantastical is my favourite iPhone calendar app by a long shot, so it’s with great pleasure that I share the release of the Fantastical for iPad.

All of the things I love about the Fantastical suite of apps are present here:

– the horizontal scrolling DayTicker
– the tidy list of upcoming events
– full Reminders support
– natural language parsing for events and tasks

The whole experience has been reimagined for the iPad as a dynamic dashboard. Fantastical for iPad looks similar enough to the iPhone and Mac versions to be familiar, but its design seems to have taken account that we use tablets differently than other devices.

The real standout feature for me here is the way you can pull the DayTicker down and turn it into a week view. I live and die by week views at my current position, and having one appear so dynamically is simply genius.

I still have to get my hands on the app, but I plan to write it up in a week or two. In the mean time, you can get your hands on Fantastical for iPad for $10 on the App Store.

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iPad Tips: Using Smart Mailboxes on iOS 7

iOS smart mailboxes

One of the killer additions to the Mail app in iOS 7 are Smart Mailboxes, which help organize all sent messages, messages with attachments, and more. The VIP mailbox is displayed by default, but you’ll want to tap on the Edit button on the top-right corner of the Mail app to reveal the other Smart Mailboxes.

What Do They Do?

If you’re familiar with the unified inbox (the inbox that shows mail from all of your inboxes), then you’re already familiar with what a Smart Mailbox can do. Standard mail folders tend to act like physical folders do: mail that you put into a standard folder isn’t available in any other folder. So if I put Patrick’s email with the lyrics of “O, Canada” into my “Patrick” folder, I won’t find it anywhere else.

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Review: Marvel Unlimited 2.0 for iPad

Marvel Unlimited promises a Netflix-like all-you-can-eat subscription to a library of Marvel back issues. I find this idea far more appealing than spending $2–3 for a digital comic within ComiXology, so I decided to give Unlimited a shot last month.
While I really did want to write a glowing review of a service that provides me with far more comics than I can handle, it has to be said that Marvel Unlimited has its issues.   

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$20 Per Month for 1GB is My iPad Data Plan Sweet Spot

My 32GB Air is my first taste of what a cellular iPad is like, and I’m really enjoying the freedom that comes with being able to use the iPad anywhere. I actually have a 6GB smartphone plan that allows me to tether, but the Personal Hotspot on iOS just isn’t that convenient to use, so I decided to sign up for a month-to-month iPad data plan with Rogers (which offers the fastest LTE speeds in Toronto). Unfortunately, the way that Rogers’ tablet plans are tiered just doesn’t work for me.

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