All posts by Thomas

My name is probably Thomas (yes, it is). I'll be able to help you figure out why Evernote isn't syncing, or recommend your favourite new RSS reader to you. That's partly because I am enamoured with the iOS ecosystem and hardware, but mostly because I'm Canadian.

Searching For Faces Within Photos for iPad

Faces Support in Photos app for iPad

There’s a lot that you can accomplish within the Photos app on your iPad on iOS 8:

  • Built-in tools help edit the exposure, contrast, saturation, and more with non-destructive edits
  • Videos in the library can be trimmed so that you’ll always fast forward straight to the best parts
  • Third-party photo extensions can spice up images, or even show you the EXIF information of your shot (e.g. ISO, shutter speed, etc.)
  • Photos are auto-sorted by Moments, Collections, and Years; but you can also create albums out of hand-picked collections of pictures and videos

However, Faces are still strangely only half-supported on iOS. I love this feature on the Mac because it helps me identify and tag the faces of friends and family in my shots. The first few times require some manual tagging, but the algorithm quickly picks up on who “Po”, “Nicole”, and “Leona” are, and their names start to appear automatically as suggestions for me.

Unfortunately, aside from albums, there isn’t any way to tag sets of pictures on iOS — but don’t worry, as long as you’ve got a Mac, specifying Faces in Photos for OS X will sync that same metadata over to iOS. The only catch is that you’ll have to search for the names in the search bar, because they won’t appear as albums on your iPad.

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Still Waiting For A Decent Instagram Solution for iPad


[I’ve been meaning to get to this for a little while now, and it’s not news about Hootsuite; it’s really more of a rant about Instagram because I’m having more fun with the service now.  I also thought it deserved some follow-up since we had a number of very helpful commenters chime in on my last post.]

I got really excited when  I first heard that Hootsuite could schedule  Instagram posts, but that feature isn’t quite what it’s touted to be. Hootsuite did gain the ability to add streams, posts, and searched hashtags as columns, but it doesn’t actually post anything to Instagram from within the app.

What Hootsuite can do is schedule posts and place them into a queue with the text already in place; later on, at the appointed time, you’ll then head to that queue and use the iOS share feature to copy that text and picture into the Instagram app (which you must have installed). This is decent for users with a single Instagram account, but it isn’t useful for managing  multiple brands across different Instagram accounts — which is what I had wanted it for. Hootsuite is also only optimized for iPhone users, as there is currently no iPad-optimized version of the official Instagram app. If you want to schedule posts from the iPad, you’ll have to use a blown-up version of the iPhone app.

This is disappointing, although it isn’t Hootsuite’s fault. Instagram has relaxed when it comes to content (no more square picture restrictions!), but they still insist that content has to be posted straight from their own app. So, until that changes, all that social media management apps like Hootsuite can do is essentially ease the pain of cutting and pasting content into Instagram.

It doesn’t make sense to me that the iPad is treated as a second-class  device in the Instagram world. Visual apps thrive on the iPad, and browsing experiences, especially pictures, are much improved on the larger display. It’s really surprising to me that, given the popularity of the service, that Instagram still has no official presence on the iPad.



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Dispatch Email App Hits The iPad

Dispatch 3.0 for iPad

I originally bought Dispatch so that I could triage emails on my iPhone a little faster for work. I make heavy use of flags for emails, but I find those often aren’t enough for me, as they don’t have any categories or due dates attached to them. The differentiating factor for Dispatch was that it could share (“dispatch”) entire emails and send them to other apps on my device, which was really handy for quickly turning emails into tasks in Things or 2Do. The catch was that Dispatch was iPhone-only when I bought it, so I couldn’t take advantage of the larger screen on my iPad at work.

That has changed with today’s 3.0 update, which turned Dispatch into a universal app that works on iPhone on iPad. As a result of having owned the previous iPhone-only version, I gained Dispatch on the iPad for free.

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2Do with Push Sync is Live!

2do push sync update

It took a little longer than the stated two weeks, but 2Do with Push Sync is now live on the App Store. I tested the sync speed earlier this morning at work while I ticked tasks off of my content calendar.

The sync isn’t instantaneous, but it’s reliable. I can complete tasks on my iPhone and have a completely updated 2Do list when I get back to my iPad a few minutes later. I’ve come to expect this kind of data sync from my iPhone and paired Apple Watch, and it’s really great to have it in one of my favourite universal apps.

2Do wasn’t the first to do push sync — OmniFocus and Things got there first — but adding the feature to 2Do really helped to tighten up one of the few remaining weak points of the app: sync speed and consistency. Things is still top notch in terms of syncing speed, but 2Do has closed the gap considerably with today’s update. It has made a great app even easier to rely on.

The only thing that will require some getting used to is the shift of the “new task” button’s location to the bottom of the screen. This makes a lot of sense on the iPhone because you previously had to reach up with your thumb every time you wanted to add a new task, but I’m not sure it fits as well on the iPad where you’d use the device in two hands. I wouldn’t even register this as a complaint — just an observation of how changes can be applied to universal apps in a way that caters more to one device type (the phone) than another (the tablet).

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Final Fantasy VII Now Available For iPad

final fantasy vii ios

Final Fantasy VII arrived earlier this week, and early reviews on the App Store are calling it a pretty good port. The game first debuted in 1997 and sucked up hundreds of hours of my childhood, and it’s mind boggling to think that it’s now playable on a 9.7″ tablet instead of a dedicated console.


Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like the game supports third-party Bluetooth controllers, so you’re stuck with touchscreen controls if you’d like to play. However, there are a few niceties that have been added to this iOS adaptation:

  • Manual iCloud saves (or should I say Cloud Saves?) are supported, so you can  start the game on the iPad and continue on the iPhone.
  • There’s also a Max Stats feature cheat code that’s built right into the game. Final Fantasy VII has a fantastic story but takes a ton of time to work through, so this is an interesting way to  experience it without sinking all of your time “grinding” (levelling up your characters).

FFVII features a ton of gameplay for $16 and is ideal if you’re using your iPad as your main gaming console, or if you just want to relive a classic. Just be aware that you’ll need at least 4 GB of free space in order to download and install the game, so 16 GB device owners beware!

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What Would You Want From An iPad Pro?

iPad pro

I’ve been seeing an increasing number of posts on the existence of a larger 12.9″ iPad Pro. I think the main audience for a larger iPad would be business users and power users looking for a really light laptop replacement, and I’m not convinced the increased size alone will sell the device. That got me thinking: what would some of the defining features of a large iPad be?

Weight is a huge factor for the iPad. If the primary measurement of a new Apple smartphone is how thin it is, the measure of a new iPad is how little it weighs. The Air 2 really hit the sweet spot for me. It’s just light enough to be comfortable for long reading periods and even extended thumb typing sessions (like this one). It’s also light enough to support in one hand while I read a recipe or article.

iOS 9 will bring a host of great keyboard shortcuts this Fall, but even with those improvements, I don’t think the iPad ready to compete as a laptop replacement without having a deep knowledge of specialized apps to overcome limitations in iOS (e.g. Document management, photo and video editing, and automation apps like Drafts or IF).

At 9.7“, the Air 2 doesn’t really have to act like a traditional computer because it’s so much more portable than even most Ultrabooks. It’s light enough to pick up and use almost all of the time, and a keyboard can be attached to it for longer writing sessions. But at 12.9” on an iPad Pro, you’re basically using the screen of a MacBook Pro, and I think that extra space will be begging to be maximized in a stationary position at a desk. A larger iPad is a lot more device from corner to corner, and I highly doubt it will feel as light in the hand, unless the device’s weight is somehow concentrated in the centre.

All of this is to say that, as a fan of the iPad, I can’t quote wrap my head around what would lead us to want a larger iPad. The only thing I can think of that might make an iPad Pro viable as an all-in-one device is if Apple nails the keyboard with Force Touch integration. If the software keyboard becomes so good that I won’t even care to bring a physical keyboard around with me…well, that would sell me on an iPad Pro.

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Trying Out OneNote for iPad


I’ve continued to use the Notes app in iOS 9 and it’s been a great, simple scratchpad for ideas and compiling research links. However, the kicker is that it’s just not accessible on my work PC. The Notes app is available as a beta within, but it’s not nearly as powerful as the version on my iPad.

However, a coworker recently turned me onto another cross-platform possibility: OneNote. I’d never really considered OneNote before because I thought it was best used by students. My sister did some incredible stuff with OneNote in her psychology courses, but I hadn’t realized that you could store files within OneNote in much the same way that you can with Evernote.

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The Best Under-the-Radar iOS 9 Feature: The Back Button

Evernote Camera Roll 20150811 145503

For users of Android devices, the idea of a back button isn’t new. It’s the button you press on an Android smartphone or tablet to bring you back to the previous page (within an app), or to the last app you used. iOS 9’s take on the back button is a little more straightforward, though.

Instead of being an always-present software button, the back button only appears after you’ve tapped on a notification or a widget within the Notification Center. For example, if I’m browsing in Safari and I tap on an iMessage banner, the back button will appear in the top-left corner of the screen so that I can go back to Safari when I’m done responding to a message.

The integration of the back button is great in a couple of ways:

  1. It’s a new feature that adds shortcuts for advanced iPad users, but it doesn’t take up any space when it isn’t needed. It also does not replace any existing shortcuts, so it won’t confuse users who aren’t computer-savvy.
  2. The back button disappears after a period of ~2 minutes, so if I decide to chat for a while, the UI will adapt to what I’ve chosen to do.
  3. The back button helps to preserve a sense of place in iOS. It can be easy to lose myself in all of the icons on my homescreen after I leave an app, but a back button is a literal reminder of what I might want to return to.

I think this change in iOS 9 is going to be one of the best and most underrated new features this Fall. It isn’t as sexy as split-screen multitasking or rumoured Force Touch shortcuts, but the back button has made iOS a lot faster and more pleasant to use.

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Overcast for iPad

I’ve started to listen to podcasts again, but the first-party Podcasts app from Apple is still a little buggy as of beta 4 of iOS 9. Beta 5 did come out yesterday  and it may have fixed the issue, but it actually doesn’t matter to me any more because, in the interim, I ended up buying Overcast.

What I really like about this app is the gigantic set of buttons, and the spacious, non-standard layout. There are more ornate podcast apps out there, but there’s a beauty to the simplicity of the icons and white space present in Overcast. Subscribing to podcasts is dead simple if you know the name of the show you’re looking for, and the interface makes it easy to find new shows by category or podcast network. This doesn’t sound remarkable but it’s a lot cleaner than the default Podcasts App, which prompts me for a URL whenever I want to add a new show.

The funny thing is that I didn’t actually need to buy Overcast. The basic features  in the freemium version are quite enough for me, as all I really need area list of shows and a way to download new episodes automatically.  Smart speed can cut silences out of recordings and Voice Boost enhances the listening experience, but I just haven’t felt the need to use these features so far. I’m simply content to use the incredibly clean and post-iOS 7 interface.

The main reason I decided to pony up for the $5 in-app purchase is because I want to see more indie apps like it. I’ve read enough articles at this point about the viability of being a developer on the App Store, and so I want to make sure I’m actively supporting the software I really enjoy using.

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Continuing to Explore the Notes App on iOS 9

It’s been difficult to write about Notes in iOS 9 because I really want to like the app, but it just hasn’t clicked yet.

It isn’t due to a lack of utility. The share extension is great, the way that pictures, drawings, and links are formatted is very tidy. In fact, the extension is even more flexible than I’d thought. I can share attachments right from Mail or Dropbox and pop them into Notes, which means that, if I had a Mac at work, I could probably Notes in a similar way to Evernote. I tend to make a single note for each project and drop related files into that note, just to keep everything in one place. The key difference is that I have yet to install the public beta of El Capitan on my Mac, so I don’t know how well the OS X version of Notes works.

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Searching for Instagram Apps for iPad…

I’m now responsible for a number of Instagram accounts at my day job, and so I’ve been the lookout for apps that can manage multiple accounts, simultaneously. Given the popularity of the service, I’m surprised how difficult this task has actually been.
Hootsuite would have been my first choice because it can handle Twitter and Facebook. I can customize each brand into a tab, and each tab can have several panes for tweets, direct messages, or searches for specific hashtags. Unfortunately, I quickly learned that Hootsuite has no access to Instagram.

The next app I decided to try was Grab for Instagram. It’s a free download with no in-app purchases, and although it won’t let me post images or video due to API restrictions, it does support multiple logins. I can use the sidebar to switch between accounts, check on engagement rates, and repost images that are deemed on-brand.

So far I’m liking Grab for Instagram, but not loving it. I’d really like for the app to save my logged accounts through iCloud so that my iPhone and iPad stayed nicely in sync. Having to log in to the corporate accounts twice — once on my iPhone and once again on the iPad — just feels pointless when I’m using the same app on both devices. However, until I find something better, Grab for Instagram will have to do.

[If anyone has any recommendations for great Instagram-compatible apps on the iPad, I’d be all ears.]

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