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.

The Benefits Of Reading List On My iPad

  

I used to be a really loyal Instapaper user because I loved the reading experience inside of the app. I still do, 

and it’s still great, but I find myself slowly preferring Safari’s Reading List more. If you’re not familiar with Instapaper, it’s a read-later service for storing articles (like this one) for reading later on, at your leisure. Throwing something into Instapaper is different than just bookmarking, because each article has a read status, and you can archive articles you’ve already read. In addition, Instapaper crawls the page for just the content, and strips it away from the website’s UI, providing a clean and consistent reading experience. Instapaper can also intelligently save your content intermittently in the background, so it’s available for reading even without an Internet connection.

In comparison, Reading List is a feature that lives within the Safari browser. A quick tap on the bookmark icon and another tap on the glasses icon will get you to your Reading List. Adding links is as easy as tapping and holding them within any app that detects hyperlinks.

I find myself using fewer and fewer apps these days, and one of the reasons that Reading List is appealing is because it lives right inside of Safari. It also mimics (Sherlocked?) many of Instapaper’s features, right down to the offline reading, “Reader view”, and read vs. unread status. The big difference is that Reading List can cache an entire webpage for offline reading, which means that I can see a 1:1 version of the article in the way that the author wanted me to see it — pictures, themes, and all. I like this because it’s a great way to see sites I don’t normally follow, and I know the article layout is as it should be. Instapaper has refined its text crawling over the years, but it still has occasional hiccups with captions. Some image captions can read like they’re paragraphs, and some sites (like the New York Times) actively work against serviceslike Instapaper.

I haven’t had to change my habits much in adjusting to Reading List. It’s available most anywhere that I can tap and hold on a link, and it’s available on all of my iOS and OS X devices, just like Instapaper. One of the noticeable tradeoffs has been that Instapaper remembers where you left off in a longer article, whereas Reading List does not. However, seeing as I don’t read long form New Yorker articles every week, this hasn’t affected me too much.

Instapaper is still awesome, but I’m really surprised how useful Reading List has turned out to be. I’d recommend it as a great, lightweight alternative to the dedicated Read-Later apps on the App Store.

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Review: Belkin QODE Ultimate Pro for iPad Air 2

 

I wouldn’t fault you for making fun of Belkin’s naming convention with the QODE Ultimate Pro keyboard case. After all, why does an “Ultimate” accessory need to also be described as “Pro”? In Belkin’s case, it’s actually because they already have a QODE Ultimate case, and so they added the Pro moniker to let us know that they’ve upped the ante.

The good news is that, although the name may be silly, the product really delivers. Belkin’s QODE Ultimate Pro is one of the best keyboard cases I’ve ever used.

One of the tradeoffs of keyboard cases is that the added utility tends to double the weight of the iPad. The resulting combo is not heavy enough to weigh down a bag like a laptop would, but the added heft of a keyboard does make the iPad Air 2 harder to hold in one hand.

One approach to keeping the iPad lighter is to make sure the keyboard is easily detachable. This is the approach that Logitech took with their Ultrathin Keyboard’s magnetic hinged design. However, the Ultrathin fails to address the way that iOS Bluetooth pairing affects the software keyboard.

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iPad Tips: Searching For Photos And Dealing With Albums

iPad tip searching photos app in iOS 8

iOS prides itself on obscuring its file system. That design choice can make it easier for tech-wary people to approach computing, but it can also make file management a much bigger pain than it needs to be. Case in point: the Photos app.

Remember the iOS 6 days of scrolling through a seemingly-endless grid of tightly grouped photos, just to find the one photo you took last April during that one winter storm? iOS 7 helped change that for the better with the concept of Moments, Collections, and Years in a dedicated Photos tab (within the Photos app). The Photos app in iOS 7 read the metadata (date/time/place) in your pictures and videos, and then spaced all of that media out in a chronological order that was much easier for the eye to follow. However, finding a set of pictures you’d taken months (or years) ago, could still took some hunting and pecking.

One of the major improvements in iOS 8 is the addition of a search bar in the top-right corner of the Photos app. I love this feature for making library management easier, especially when I’m trying to cull shots to keep my library size down. I have about 9000 shots in iCloud Photo Library now, and I’m finding this is enough to actually slow down the photo dialogue in apps like iMessage and Instagram (on my iPhone). iCloud Photo Library makes it possible for me to have all my photos on all of my devices, but the experience on my iPad is definitely suffering for it.

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Goodbye iTunes Match, Hello Spotify!

Screen Shot 2015-03-16 at 7.46.35 PM

I think I’ll soon cancel my iTunes Match subscription and stick with Spotify on a more permanent basis. iTunes Match costs about $28 CAD per year, while Spotify costs $10 CAD per month, so this isn’t a decision based on pricing.

I’ve become so addicted to the freedom to find new music by searching an app for it, and that immediacy is so much more costly if I’m to buy every new song I’d like to check out through the iTunes Store. I know there are cheaper ways to check for new songs, like Grooveshark or YouTube, but I don’t like those experiences quite as much.YouTube stops playing the moment you leave the app, and Grooveshark isn’t a native app.

Spotify is awesome though. I don’t own any of the stuff I add to my collection in Spotify — it only stay with me as long as I have a subscription — but the convenience of the access simply outweighs the lack of ownership for me. That surprises me because I’ve always been a bit of a control freak with my music. I care about getting higher quality sound files and about double-checking metadata on songs I rip from CDs, and I rate my library often so that I can purge it of any 1-star songs. My iPad and iPhone are both 64 GB devices as well, so I do have the space for my 15 GB music library (which is tiny by most counts, I know).

However, it does feel weird splitting my time between the music and Spotify apps. I’m so nerdy that I usually like to have a system for everything, and it bugs me a little that there’s overlap between Spotify and the Music app right now. I’d also like an excuse to leave iTunes in the dust altogether for music playback.

What I’ll likely do is head back to syncing my music manually periodically from iTunes and give up my iTunes Match subscription. I’ll use Spotify as a sampling ground for new tunes and then migrate any songs in my Spotify collection by buying them if I still like them after a month. I’d like it if I could spend most of my time in Spotify, but the interface is currently better suited to finding new music, not for managing a growing music collection.

The best solution would be to have a built-in Beats music subscription in a totally new (and much better) Music app. That would give me all the ease of use of a system-level music player, but the buffet streaming capabilities of Spotify as well. Perhaps in iOS 9?

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iOS 8.2 Improves Third Party Keyboard Stability 

One of the major unmentioned benefits of iOS 8.2 is vastly improved stability for third party keyboards. All previous versions iOS 8 would find a way to crash keyboards within 20–30 minutes of my using them, which would start a frustrating chain of restarting apps in order to get the bloody input method back.

I’m really, really happy to report that this no longer seems to be the case. Third party keyboards are working much more consistently, and I’v only experienced one or two crashes in the last four days.

The only confusing portion for some people might be the way that keyboards switch up as you move between chats in iMessage. However, that seems to be a feature, not a bug.

If you’ve been intrigued by third party keyboards but couldn’t stand all the instability, now is the time to try them again. I would highly suggest Fleksy and Nintype as particularly good iPad-friendly options.

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Quick Look: Vesper for iPad

Patrick already picked Vesper as last week’s iPad App of the Week, but call me greedy: I wanted to write about it as well. If you look at Vesper bullet point by pullet point, it’s hard to see why you’d use it as an alternative to apps like Drafts or Evernote. Evernote has apps on […]

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My iPad QuickType Strategy for iOS 8.1.2

Because third party keyboards are still so inexplicably unstable on iOS 8.1.2, I’m trying to see if I can just use Apple’s own QuickType keyboard. I liked using Fleksy and Nintype because they saved me keystrokes by predicting my words, or by correcting me in such a way that I don’t need to focus on […]

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Gmail for iPad Gets Extensions

Gmail for iPad just became a better iOS 8 citizen, gaining a few new features to help you utilize the app as your primary mail app (if you’re so inclined). Notifications for new messages now feature an archive and a reply button; you won’t be able to apply in-line like you can with iMessages (Apple […]

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Another Look at InvisibleShield GLASS for iPad

I removed my previous ZAGG Glass Screen Protector from my iPad Air 2 for two reasons: increased screen glare and lowered TouchID efficiency. In response, ZAGG sent over another set of their screen protectors: another Glass with a different “Omega” Home button cut-out, and their HDX protector, which claims to add great impact protection. I […]

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WordPress 4.8 for iPad: The WYSIWYG Editor Saves The Day!

After suffering through years and years of an incredibly shoddy interface, I’m really happy to announce that the iOS WordPress app is now fun to use. Not only does the app now have a great what-you-see-is-what-you-get (WYSIWYG) post editor, but image uploads and previews are now usable as well! Previous versions of the app required you […]

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