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.

What I’m Looking Forward To In The iPad Air 2

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I’ve got a 64GB LTE iPad Air 2 on the way to me this Thursday or Friday, according to my Apple Order Status page. I still don’t know for sure if the iPad Air 2 will have 2GB of RAM, but I decided to throw caution to the wind and go through with the upgrade anyway. After re-reviewing all of the spec sheets and early look articles from people at Apple’s event, there are a couple of things I’m really curious about:

  • Does the thinness really matter? I’m quite happy with the profile of the iPad Air as-is, but Apple has this strange obsession with making everything as thin as possible. I’d like to see if the 18% thinner body actually makes a difference for one-handed usage, as I doubt it will affect two-handed usage much. It’s also curious that this new Air 2 is about 7–8% lighter than the previous Air, but Apple didn’t feel like that was worth pointing out.
  • [click to continue reading…]

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Writer Pro 1.4 for iPad

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Writer Pro was updated once again this past week, and it now makes a lot more sense to use. Folder support was added in the last patch, but it was confusing because I couldn’t actually create any folders from the iPad (only take advantage of folders I’d created on the Mac). However, as of Writer Pro 1.4, I can now swipe on individual files to move them into folders, or even create new folders. The Recents tab — which should probably just be called “Documents” now — shows all of my files and folders in one place.

There are also two other cool tweaks I’ve noticed. The arrow keys on the extended keyboard can now be used to expand a text selection, which makes it much easier to quickly cut text out of a paragraph.

The final change was mentioned very subtly in the update notes, but it’s probably my favourite new feature in Writer Pro thus far. The “Sentence” syntax view will now subtly blur all other on-screen text, leaving the current sentence looking razor sharp. It’s a really delightful little change and a good reminder of why I like iA’s software in the first place.

Writer Pro did get off to a rocky start. It was missing Dropbox search and iCloud folders when it launched, and I think it still needs to differentiate the Note mode from the other modes, but as of v1.4, I’m having a lot of fun using this app again.

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Drafts 4 for iPad

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Drafts 4 is a paid upgrade to the excellent Drafts app (which was on version 3.x before iOS 8). Drafts has long been famous for its lightning fast load times and excellent set of built-in actions for sharing text with other apps and services. For text nerds frustrated with the siloed nature of iOS apps, Drafts has always been a breath of fresh air.

Version 4 was rebuilt from the ground up, and even though the interface is still quite familiar, there are all sorts of little signs of polish that make the upgrade feel worth it:

  • The clean, sleek icon with a flash of blue is a definite improvement. The precious icon for iOS 7 just felt flat and dry, whereas the current icon has a bit more personality and looks more unique.
  • Animations within the app are now consistent across the iPhone and iPad versions, but they can feel a little too slippery. Deleting drafts and actions is actually a little difficult because you need to wait for the animation to finish before you can act.
  • Markdown now shows with live previews as you type
  • Drafts 4 uses iCloud for syncing files across the iPad and iPhone. I find this a welcome change because, as fast as Simperium (the previous sync engine) was, there were significant glitches with the system. It’s too early to tell how iCloud will fare in its place, but I’m optimistic.

I don’t regret my impulsive $5 purchase of Drafts 4 one bit. Drafts is a wonderfully powerful app for iPad power users; it can get quick notes into Evernote so much faster than the official app, and that alone is worth the price of purchase in my book.

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iOS 8: Voice Messages

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Voice Messaging has been one of the surprise hit features of iOS 8 for me. My family — especially my dad — have really taken to sending quick little voice bytes in lieu of text messages. The iMessage app in iOS 8 makes it easy to send a quick voice message to a contact. All it takes is a quick tap-and-hold on the microphone button to start recording a voice message while chatting with someone, and letting go of the button lets me preview the message before I send it off (which is something the selfie feature in iMessages should do!).

I like the way that these voice messages can replace quick calls, especially when you go into iMessage settings and set voice messages to stick around for only two minutes after you’ve listened to them. This keeps the messages ephemeral and fun — like Snapchat users know — and prevents me from having to manage an archive of audio files. However, it’s nice to know that I can save a particularly useful or sentimental voice message by simply tapping on the small “keep” text in the main window of iMessage.

One of the things my family and I still need to get used to is that voice messages are not dictation. Voice messages free us up to use inflection while speaking, which Siri has gotten me used to ignoring while dictating. As a quick comparison, here’s what it’s like to send a voice message vs. a dictated Siri message:

“Hey dad, wanna see a movie this Monday?”

“message my dad hey dad COMMA wanna see a movie this Monday QUESTION MARK”

Could you tell which one was which? :)

That’s not a knock against the awesomeness that is Siri’s dictation capabilities (which also got better in iOS 8), but it’s been fun and natural using my Mac and iOS devices like a long range walkie-talkie. Voice messages have shaken up my messaging dynamic, and I’m really happy for this addition. I often write about features I’d dearly wish for in a future version of iOS, but this is one of those cases where a totally unexpected feature was plopped onto my lap, and I’m only realizing now how much I’m enjoying the surprise.

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iPad App Of The Week: Next 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 Next for iPad – Track your expenses and finances, a minimal expense app made by noidentity.

Here’s a little slice of the description on the App Store:

Next for iPad reimagines expense tracking on iPad.

With the iPhone version we changed how you track your expenses on the go. Now, thanks to iCloud Sync, you’ll get your expenses on your iPad too.

*The innovative zooming interface is perfect to gain a bigger picture of your data.

Start with your yearly data, zoom in to see all of its months and zoom even further to get a daily view of your expenses.

[click to continue reading…]

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Giving Up On Evernote For Task Management

I just finished my major trial run of Evernote as a task manager. The service is really great, but I learned that there are downsides to having all of your notes and tasks in the same place. Evernote doesn’t make it easy to filter tasks by date, and I found it cumbersome to re-schedule tasks […]

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Writer Pro For iPad Gets An iOS 8 Update

Writer Pro was updated for iOS 8 this week, adding support for Dropbox, Handoff, Document Picker, basic folder support, and a significant change to the way the app handles its four different views. The Dropbox integration is straightforward and very useful. You can link your Dropbox to the app and open any files from any […]

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iOS 8: A Very Specific Kind of Family Sharing

My family upgraded to iOS 8 pretty quickly. My sister updated her iPhone 5, my dad updated his 4S and iPad mini, and my 5S and iPad Air were already ready. During her setup phase, my sister decided to try out a new iOS 8 feature called Family Sharing. I’d read a little about the […]

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