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!
One of the best new features in iOS 8 is Extensions – which allow 3rd party apps to interact and hook into each other to a degree never seen before in iOS. This has been available in Android for years, and it’s a huge time-saver and productivity boost to now have it on iOS.
Plenty of apps have been updated to use iOS 8 extensions, but one of those that I find most useful is Pocket – the excellent ‘read it later’ app – because there are numerous things I want to save to Pocket on a daily basis. Before iOS 8 extensions you could only save things to Pocket in apps that connected to your Pocket account for authorization, and there was a very limited number of such apps.
Now sharing to Pocket is widely available in iOS 8. You can share to it directly from Safari, one of the ideal places for read it later type content.
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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.
PhotoToaster, one of the very best photo editing apps for the iPad, was updated for iOS 8 over this past weekend. The new version of PhotoToaster is 6.6.2 and here’s what it brings:
Complete iOS 8 and iPhone 6 and 6+ support!
We made a Preview video but in 30 seconds it’s hard to show the depth of the product (Non-destructive Editing, Multi-level undo, Saved sessions, Custom presets, Lighting brushes ,Fx brushes, full size export, etc).
PhotoToaster has been among our choices for Best iPad Apps for several years, and was even the pick for the best iPad app of the year for us in 2012. It’s easy to use and full of excellent features to get the most out of your photos. Just in case you haven’t seen the app, here are some of its notable features:
- 60+ one click effects that can instantly improve or completely alter a photo
– 80+ one click settings in Lighting, Fx, Vignette, Texture and Border categories that allow more creative control
– 26 live slider controls that allow for exacting control of all image adjustments
– 45+ tasteful borders
– 20+ creative texture overlays
– Lighting Brushes for a new level of control with brush-on exposure adjustments
– FX Brush to brush in areas of color or focus
– Non-destructive editing (you’ll see why this is important when you experience it)
– Multiple undo (many apps don’t even bother with undo but we can’t help it)
– Professional level lighting adjustments to lighten shadows and recover highlights
– Separate channel processing lets you to bend colors in new and interesting ways.
– Black & white conversion controls to create the exact look you want.
– Sophisticated Noise reduction to remove unwanted grain in low light photos
– Blazing performance
– Recent edits list that maintains recently edited photos so that you may continue an edit session later
– Save your own presets (if you create a look you like, save it for future use)
– Crop, rotate, flip and straighten
– Complete EXIF support
– Export to the usual social media suspects or at full resolution to your Photo Album
– Non-square Instagram posts are automatically matted on a white background
– Send a real Postcard with Sincerely
In a nutshell, it’s guaranteed to make your incredibly handsome Labrador even handsomer.
And here’s the App Store link for PhotoToaster; it’s priced at $2.99 and is a universal app designed to run on both iPad and iPhone.
PDF Expert 5 is another of the notable iPad apps that has got an impressive update for iOS 8. In the app’s latest update to Version 5.2, it has added a Zoom Writing feature especially for the iPad that’s described like so:
This is a great tool to write with precision. Essentially, it adds the area that zooms in a part of the page and allows you to handwrite more on a single page or document margins. As you write, the zoomed box moves along the page, automatically adjusting to the pace you need to work at.
Then there are the new features that have been added for iOS 8:
- iCloud Drive Support
Safely store all your presentations, spreadsheets, PDFs, images and any other kind of documents in your PDF Expert iCloud folder. Directly access them from iCloud Drive on your iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Mac or PC.
– Open files from iCloud Drive with Document Picker (iPad)
You can get documents stored on your iCloud Drive that are not in your PDF Expert application using Document Picker. It works almost like ‘Open in…’ dialog on your Mac or PC. On the PDF Expert side bar menu tap ‘Open…’ and navigate to the needed document.
– Open files from iCloud Drive with Document Picker (iPhone)
You can get documents stored on your iCloud Drive that are not in your PDF Expert application using Document Picker. It works almost like ‘Open in…’ dialog on your Mac or PC. On the PDF Expert bottom menu tap ‘Open…’ and navigate to the needed document.
– Use other iOS apps to work with the files from PDF Expert 5
In any Document Picker enabled application you can get access to all PDF Expert files that are outside the iCloud folder. Just tap ‘Locations’ in the Document Picker window and select PDF Expert from the list.
PDF Expert has been one of the very best PDF apps for the iPad for years, and it’s good to see the developers are making sure that’s going to continue to be true in iOS 8.