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.

PhotInfo for iPad Provides Metadata Within Photos App

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I’ve honestly forgotten where I heard about this app. I found a note in my Drafts app with just one word, “PhotInfo”, and decided to look it up on Google.

Boy, am I glad I did!

PhotInfo and its iOS 8 extension help bring metadata to the Photos app, which is really quite handy for figuring out the resolution of pictures I’ve stored or received on my iPad. Doing this on a Mac or PC is pretty simple, since most desktop photo viewing applications will list the resolution and file size in some sort of dialog window. Apple’s own Photos app, however, can be pretty sparse on those kinds of details. Before PhotInfo, my best way of quickly finding out the file size of a given picture was to insert that photo into an e-mail to myself, and tapping on “Actual Size” in the sizing options. It worked, but it was silly that I even had to do that.

Once enabled, PhotInfo’s extension makes things so much simpler. All I have to do is select a photo in the Photos app, tap on the Share button, and tap on PhotInfo. The resulting dialog box is detailed in the screenshot above, and this added capability was totally worth the $0.99 purchase.

There’s actually an entire interface within PhotInfo that shows EXIF and TIFF metadata, but the extension is really all I need. If you frequently need to check the file sizes and resolutions of images on your iOS device, you’ll definitely want to pick up a copy of PhotInfo.

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The Sad State of Third Party Keyboards On iOS 8

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One of the absolute most exciting things about iOS 8 was its announced support for third-party keyboards in almost all areas of the OS. There are some limitations. Every time you reach a password field, the default Apple keyboard pops up just to make sure users enjoy maximum privacy. Voice dictation through Siri, which got a lot better and more responsive with iOS 8, is only allowed on the default keyboard as well. Then there’s the lack of any ability to split the keyboard up for quick thumb typing, as is possible with Apple’s keyboard.

However, with all that said, I think there’s a lot of room for growth, innovation, and amazing utility in the third-party keyboard space on iOS. Fleksy was one of my favourites in the first few weeks after iOS 8’s launch in September, but for the past few weeks, I’ve stopped bothering with any third party keyboards at all. Unfortunately, every single keyboard I’ve tried is just too buggy. It’s hard to say how much of that is on keyboard app developers and how much is due to bugs in iOS 8 (though I’d bet more on the latter), the fact of the matter is that keyboards tend to crash a lot on a daily basis. I can launch Safari, type in a URL, return to Messages, and have no keyboard. I can swipe down on a notification to respond to something, start to type a word, and have the keyboard literally disappear from underneath my fingertips.

Then there’s the level of inconsistency on an app-to-app basis. I might have Fleksy active in a chat with my girlfriend in Messages, but then have Apple’s keyboard show up when I respond to my sister (without even leaving the app).

All in all, it’s been a very frustrating experience trying to use third-party keyboards. I’ve spent most of my time with Fleksy, Swiftkey, and Swype, and as of a few weeks ago, I gave up trying to use them full time. Even on the latest iOS 8.1.1 beta, keyboards are still buggy and crashy on a daily basis. I’ll inevitably try Fleksy out with each of its updates and with every new iOS update, but I have to say, the reality of third-party keyboards nearly two months after the release of iOS 8 is disappointing.

Oh, and thank God for Bluetooth keyboards!

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iPad App of the Week: VSCO Cam for iPad

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Who doesn’t like great iPad apps? At iPad Insight we definitely do. With that in mind, we offer up a quick review of an excellent iPad app, or a few great iPad apps, here each week.

Our weekly picks for Best iPad App of the Week are published here every Saturday. Check out all out picks below and you’ll soon have a collection of stellar apps for your favorite tablet.

This week’s pick is VSCO Cam, a universal photo shooting and editing app for iPhone and iPad.

VSCO Cam was actually one of the app extensions teased this year at the iOS 8 announcement, but strangely enough, still does not feature any kind of photo extension. You’ve still got to do all the edits in the app, but that’s now a little easier with native apps across both types of iOS devices, and iCloud sync.

This means I can shoot photos on the iPhone and take advantage of the app’s manual focus and ISO settings, and then load the app up on my iPad to edit those same shots on the glorious 10-inch Retina Display. It honestly took a while for me to get into VSCO’s style of menu buttons and edits, but now that I am, I think it’s my favourite iOS photo editor.

There are options to view photos in nearly fullscreen, as large thumbnails, or as a smaller grid of pictures. This is why VSCO is great not just as an editing app, but as a place to sit back and actually review a day’s worth of shots.

There are simple on-screen sliders for adjusting contrast/brightness/saturation (and more), and the large numbers of filters can be adjusted so that they just add flavour to a photograph, instead of overtaking it with a shock of colour or graphical effects.

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Things 2.5 for iPad Gets Flattened

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Things for iPad is the final app in the Things suite of GTD apps to be flattened and re-designed for the more modern look of iOS 8, and it was definitely worth the wait. The app is even more gorgeous than it was before, and the subtle animations really pop. Things 2.5 does more than just freshen up the visuals though:

  • modern swiping gestures have been brought to Things for iPad, so you can now swipe along the left edge of the screen to bring up the sidebar in Portrait mode
  • background syncing is now active (although I have yet to confirm how well it works)
  • Handoff is now supported, so you can start viewing Things tasks on your iPhone, and then load up the same view on the iPad
  • Things' share extension now also works on the iPad, allowing quick task creation in an incredibly attractive share window

Things has long been a top-tier task manager, and it's also worth noting that it has the very best syncing engine of any task app I've ever used. It took a while to develop, but Things Cloud Sync is absolutely lightning fast and wonderfully reliable.

The only thing I'd really want from Things — and which keeps me from trying it again full-time — is the lack of any sort of notification system. Things is the kind of task manager that you have to keep checking, because there isn't any built-in mechanism to remind you of due tasks (which is an area where Things' most direct competitor, OmniFocus, really has them beat).

If you're interested in Things 2.5 for iPad, it's $20 on the App Store.

 

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An Update On The Viability Of iCloud Photo Library

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All the trouble I took to set up iCloud Photo Library is paying off. I transferred 12,000 photos over to my iPad in order to have my complete photo library available on all of my devices, but one of my main concerns was how much space this would ultimately take up on my 64 GB iPhone 5S and Air 2.

When I completed the transfer of photos last week, the Photos app was reporting that it used 24 GB of space. One week later, and with a few hundred more photos and videos added from my trip to the Ripley’s Aquarium, and my Air 2 is now showing that the Photos app is using about 21 GB of space. It’s now obvious that the “Optimize iPad Storage” option in the iCloud Photo Library settings is actually working, and I anticipate that even that number will go down over the next few weeks. It seems like most of the photos on the device are being stored in full resolution, while some of them are simply optimized thumbnails that trigger downloads when I tap on them.

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The Pencil iPad Stylus Now Supported in Sketchbook Mobile

Fifty Three announced yesterday that their Pencil stylus now works with the superb Sketchbook Mobile app for iPad. This allows a lot more flexibility for users of the Pencil stylus: the Paper app provides a great place for doodles and sketches, but Sketchbook Mobile takes it a step further by providing layer support for more complex images. I’ve written […]

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The Best iPad Calendar Widget Comes From Fantastical

I’ve only got two widgets active on my iPad right now. The first is the Yahoo! Weather widget, which I use because of its glorious photography and 1.5-day forecast, and the other comes from Fantastical for iPad. Fantastical was a relatively late addition to the widget section, but that’s because the developers really took the […]

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One Week With The iPad Air 2

I’ve had one week with the iPad Air 2 at this point, and because I use my tablet day in and day out, I can say it definitely feels like an upgrade over last year’s Air. I honestly never felt that the initial Air needed to get thinner, but the Air 2 does set a […]

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LINE Is Finally Here On iPad!

It wasn’t that long ago that I was lamenting the absence of LINE Messenger on the iPad. It’s the one app that my family uses for group chatting, and it was one of the few things that tethered me to my iPhone at home or at coffee shops, when I would rather have just replied […]

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