About 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.

iOS 8: Start Website-Specific Searches From The Safari Address Bar

 

iOS 8 website search

Here’s a little iOS 8 tip for quickly searching sites you’ve already visited in Safari: while in the address bar, start typing the first four or five letters of a website, add a space, and then type in a search term. You’ll find that the first result in the suggestion list (below the URL bar) will become an option to search that website, and tapping on that line will initiate the search.

The only catch is that you have to manually run a search on the website at least once (which is how Safari learns how the site formats search queries). In our example case, this means visiting www.iPadInsight.com, typing a search into our search bar, and then pressing enter to execute the search. Once you’ve done that once on our site, you’ll see results similar to the one in my screenshot above. This is a really useful feature for power users, since it saves you from having to load a website before actually getting to initiate your search.

This is also a great tip for people who want to keep the number of apps down on their iPads. You could download apps for Yelp and IMDB, but using this trick puts the powerful search results of those websites at your fingertips, without any extra apps to clutter up your home screen.

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iOS 8.0.2: Restores Lost Cellular Functionality, Improves Third-Party Keyboard Stability

iOS 8.0.2

I’m hoping you weren’t one of the people who was affected by the brief rollout of 8.0.1 this past week, but if so, 8.0.2 should fix any cellular issues you may have experienced. I updated my iPad Air from the iOS 8 GM to 8.0.2 last night and did a few practical tests. The main thing I noticed is that third-party keyboards now seem a little more stable. Fleksy and SwiftKey used to crash in iMessage or during quick replies, but that no longer seems to happen. I still have to scroll down every single time I load up iMessage though (unless I’m using Apple’s keyboard), so there are definitely still some extension bugs abound.

I also found out one disappointing thing about the iOS 8 APIs in general: third party keyboards are not allowed on the lockscreen. I’m not really sure why. I’m guessing it’s a security feature, but it does make the experience across iOS 8 feel inconsistent, since I prefer to use Fleksy most of the time, but any quick replies from the lockscreen force me to use Apple’s QuickType keyboard. I’m fine with password fields in iOS 8 requiring the stock keyboard, but I think my third-party keyboard should show up everywhere else.

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Quick Thought On The Fleksy iPad Keyboard and Comfort

Fleksy comfort

I wrote the other day about Fleksy and how great it feels to use, but now that I’ve given another keyboard, SwiftKey, more of a shot I think I know exactly what I like most about Fleksy on the iPad.

Fleksy was my clear favourite out of all the keyboards that launched with iOS 8, but I decided to I give Swiftkey another shot on Tuesday. I thought it would be ergonomically sound to save as many keystrokes as possible, which would reduce the chance of repetitive stress injury. I actually hurt myself a few years ago while trying to force the issue of touch typing on my iPad 2 and I don’t want to repeat the mistake.

I can definitely see the appeal of word prediction. Apple’s QuickType and third-party keyboards like Swype and SwiftKey will predict what you’re likely to say and save hundreds of keystrokes over the course of an article. All you have to do is begin to type a word and the predictive system will go to work for you, offering to complete the word, or even the phrase that you had in mind based on the context of the sentence.

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Quick Look: Fleksy Keyboard for iPad

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Here’s the dream I’ve had for the iPad for a few years now: I head to a café and pull the tablet with its Smart Cover out of my bag and start to write. I don’t just mean write emails, but write little stories and blog posts over a period of an hour or two. I want to be able to forget I’m using a tablet touchscreen to write. I want to be productive and comfortable while I type.

Out of the keyboards available at the launch of iOS 8, I think Fleksy is the closest to realizing this dream, and $0.99 is a laughable cost to pay for the efficiency this keyboard brings to the iPad.

Incredible Typing Experience

Fleksy doesn’t have any sort of swipe integration, but it does have gestures embedded into the keyboard. You swipe left to erase the word you just wrote, swipe right to add a space, and swipe down to select from auto correction suggestions. Fleksy definitely has a learning curve because you can still correct the previous word while you’re typing a new one out, but it really flies as a touch typing keyboard after a bit of practice. For once, I feel like auto correction is working for me, instead of against me.

I also think this is the best fit for typing because it’s the closest keyboard for mimicking the speed of typing on a physical keyboard. Swiping with Swype is great on my iPhone but it’s just a bit too much screen space to cover on my iPad’s 10″ screen. Touch typing with six fingers just feels more comfortable than any other software keyboard I have ever tried, and it’s proving to be more comfortable as well, since my hands never have to wander very far from the keys to make corrections.

Issues

The only major improvement I want at this point is easier access to numbers. I want to be able to tap and hold keys to enter numbers and symbols. At the moment these are all hidden in a different view of the keyboard, whereas other third party keyboards make these keys available via gestures. There’s also no gesture or button to hide the keyboard, which is a strange oversight.

Conclusion

Keyboard are definitely still a little unstable on iOS. Sometimes they’ll crash between apps or stop working altogether, but I think that will be fixed by an iOS update sooner rather than later. Even if Fleksy was the only one available at launch, I’d already be very happy. It’s leaps and bounds better than QuickType, and I love the simplicity of being able to pull the iPad out and write without any additional accessories.

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An iOS 8 Review for iPad Users

iOS 8

I’ve been running the beta on and off for a few months now, and I’ve spent the last few weeks on Beta 5 and the GM, so I feel like I’ve got a good enough handle on the OS to write a quick review for launch day. Let’s get one question out of the way right up front: should you upgrade to iOS 8 today?

Hrm, let me think about th — yes, absolutely, yes. The only warning I have is to refrain from upgrading to iCloud Drive when prompted (the dialogue shows up after you upgrade and restart). iCloud Drive will take over iCloud sync for all apps that previously used it, and OS X Mavericks won’t support iCloud Drive, so any iOS app that moves to iCloud Drive will no longer be able to sync with its Mac counterpart. OS X Yosemite will work properly with Drive, but it’s not coming out until later this year.

But let’s get back to the good stuff. I think iOS 8 is the single biggest jump forward for iOS since the introduction of multitasking in iOS 4. The operating system has opened up in so many ways this year, and it’s a godsend for power users who have been eyeing Android’s awesome share menus and custom keyboards with increasing envy.

If iOS 7’s mission statement was “Shut up, use this: it’s colourful and different and you’ll like it”, then iOS 8 says “Actually here’s that app integration and third-party keyboard support you’ve always wanted, Thomas. Would you like a massage?”.

There are going to be a lot of iOS 8 reviews out today, so I’ll cut down on as many of the repeats as possible. This is an iOS 8 review with a focus on the iPad experience. I’ll focus on the stuff I loved, the changes that feel mediocre, and then mention stuff I don’t feel like I can properly discuss yet.

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The iPhone 6 Plus As An iPad Alternative

Right now my iPhone is charging on my dock, and my iPad Air is beside it, charging on the desk. That’s two devices, two chargers, two Lightning cables, and two AC slots taken up. I also tend to upgrade my iPhone and iPad every two years, so I’ll likely be making two large purchases in […]

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Hiding Purchased Music On Your iPad

John Gruber linked to this awesome MacWorld article that details how to use iTunes to hide the free U2 album on your iOS music app. I actually want to listen to this latest U2 album, but I do want to hide the crappy singles I’ve gotten from Starbucks, so this really came in handy for […]

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IKEA vs iPad!

Some fancy new tech company claims to have created a device with infinitely better battery life, and a more intuitive interface than the iPad. They call it the 2015 IKEA Catalogue, and they’re giving it away for free with pre-loaded hi-resolution content. I don’t know if this is some sort of cheap market share play by […]

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Trying Out Byword For My iPad Blogging

I recently bought the In-app purchase within Byword to try and blog straight from the app. Up until now, my workflow has been to write in Byword or Writer Pro, copy the html into the WordPress app, and then add screenshots processed by the Screenshot app before publishing. Byword’s most recent update claims it can […]

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