Evernote’s latest update to hit the App Store brings two great features to the iPad: drawing and multitasking. iPad Pro and Apple Pencil support were also added, but I couldn’t quite test that yet, for lack of all the necessary hardware. I’ll just have to take their word for it.
Evernote now plays nicely with other split-screen apps on iOS 9, so I can have it loaded alongside Safari or Mail for taking notes. This is a very big deal and is really changing the way I use the app across my iPad. I like keeping Evernote as my active Slide Over app, so that I can swipe left from any screen and quickly access or search my notes. This feels comparable to having a desktop-level widget on iOS, and I can only imagine how cool it would be to have Evernote open full-time on an iPad Pro.
There are a lot of platformers, racing games, and puzzles on iOS, but there isn’t much in the way of unique strategy titles. People have tried to do real-time strategy games before, but games like Red Conquest just haven’t done very well (even though I thoroughly enjoyed that title). Subterfuge is a different take on real-time strategy because it’s basically turn-based in nature. Battles unfold over hours and days, instead of minutes.
But don’t worry: thanks to some really clever in-game features, Subterfuge manages to balance in-depth strategy with truly mobile and accessible gaming.
Where did the time go? Paper grew up so quickly. It started off as a great drawing app, then it got a sweet custom stylus with innovative drawing and erasing features, and all of a sudden it’s a universal app for the iPhone and iPad…and it now supports text in Paper 3.0!
Text in Paper
Truth be told, I haven’t really embraced this latter feature, even a few weeks into this release. Text in Paper is interesting because it’s a text attachment to a particular sheet. Every file within Paper is essentially a sheet of paper, and the new text notes are like variable-length sticky notes that you can add to each sheet. The controls for the text are very interesting though: you can swipe on text to format it as a bullet point, checklist, or header. Basically every other note app I know of requires a specialized shortcut bar for those controls, but a horizontal swipe on a line of text within Paper will format it. Very slick.
Text doesn’t seem to be just an afterthought for Paper, either. In the few weeks following the release of Paper 3.0, FiftyThree added Spotlight support to the app. This means you can now search Paper straight from your homescreen for any text within the app.
It’s been a while since I’ve written about third-party keyboards for the iPad, and that’s because the experience on iOS 8 really sucked, despite there being some really great ideas out there. I love how Fleksy lets me almost touch-type on the iPad’s screen, or how SwiftKey and Swype let me drastically reduce the number of keystrokes needed for long-form writing. Even Nintype’s really aggressive reimagining of a keyboard was interesting.
Keyboards would crash while switching between multiple iMessage chats, and it made Spotlight searches a lot tougher when no keyboard came up at all.
Apple hasn’t actually talked about third-party keyboards since they were announced at WWDC in 2014, and I think it’s because they’re just not a priority. That’s a crying shame because even though the QuickType keyboard is good, there are a number of other solutions that are better and faster for long-form typing. SwiftKey generates eerily accurate next-word predictions for me because I gave it access to some of my social networking data. I have years and years of my own software keyboard data available to Apple’s QuickType keyboard, but it still creates bizarre, laughable sentences out of its next-word predictions.
Tweetbot 4 is out and it has brought some long awaited changes to Tweetbot on the iPad. The app now matches the visual style of iOS 7–9, which means a flatter overall look with no faux textures in sight. This has definitely removed some of the original charm of the app because the graphics were what gave Tweetbot such a unique “bot” appearance, but there are some remnants of that personality in the sound effects, animation, and of course, the icon.
I’m also happy to see that the profile view is as good as ever, highlighting follow status, follower counts, and recent media (a feature I haven’t seen in any other Twitter app I’ve used). Tweetbot 4 is also a good iOS 9 citizen and supports things like Split View, Slide Over, and quick replies within notifications.
The app is unapologetic about being an entirely new purchase ($5 now, $10 when the launch sale ends), so you’ll have to pay for this upgrade even if you own the previous versions for iPad or iPhone. I’m totally fine with this approach, as I’d like to keep my favourite developers around by paying them with money.
I take a lot of notes. Some of them are little scribbles with just a title, whereas others are more involved documents with attachments, links, and ordered lists. I like to keep these notes digital because of how easily I can sort them and find them, even years later. This isn’t just a hypothetical advantage either. When called upon to train a new teammate at work I brought up notes from 2013 that fully explained our invoicing process, step by step.
I take the vast majority of my notes within Evernote, but I took a little time in August to try out OneNote. That experiment concluded pretty quickly, but not before I, well, took a few notes on the process.
I tried OneNote out for a spin because of its perceived flexibility: freeform text layout, images, and drawing. It also ticked many of the same boxes as Evernote:
- multi platform support
- attachment support
- rich text formatting
- seamless syncing
It seemed really promising at the outset.
Pixelmator 2.1 includes a few housekeeping changes: iOS 9 support with bona fide Slide Over and Split View. On the surface, this is already enough to change the way you use Pixelmator on an iPad Air 2. Once the WordPress app is updated to support iOS 9 multitasking, I can see myself running WordPress right alongside Pixelmator as I finish up longer reviews.
However, the larger change to my workflow comes in the form of the “Save to Photos” feature. This is a big one, folks.
Previously, opening one of my photos within Pixelmator would create a copy within the app, and saving that photo to my camera roll would create another copy. I’d then have two such photos in my iCloud Photo Library — the original and the edited version. Pixelmator 2.1 changes things around by letting me save edits to the existing photo in my library. No more duplication. What’s more, these changes are non-destructive and completely reversible from within the Photos app. If I decide tomorrow that I don’t like my changes, I can edit that picture within the Photos app and tap the “Revert” button to go right back to the original.
iA Writer Pro is gone and iA Writer 3.0 has taken its place. Here, I’ll explain why I’m really, really happy about that.
I loved the original iA Writer from 2010 for its Focus Mode: one tap of a button blurred all other paragraphs, leaving just the current sentence centered on the screen. The app was very simple, but I felt it did real credit to the idea of a distraction-free writing environment. No extra menus, no fiddling with fonts or spacing — just sit down and write.
Writer Pro came out as a paid upgrade in 2013 and brought a wealth of new features with it. Hardware keyboard shortcuts were a welcome upgrade and Syntax Control — which could actively isolate nouns, verbs and adverbs, conjunctions, and adjectives — was intriguing because it provided a very different way of examining your own writing. At its coolest, Syntax Control felt like “bullet time” for writing, providing a sense of self-awareness that was hard to gain in more crowded writing applications. However, on the whole, I really just stuck to Focus Mode.
Apple has just released a big update to iTunes U, which in the process will probably cannibalize similar well established educational classroom management services from Showbie and Edmodo. Apps like these allow communication, feedback and setting and receiving of class assignments.
For the uninitiated, iTunes U is a repository of free educational courses from certified institutions around the world. Previously it had been a rather one way affair, with institutes able to put lectures and class materials for students to consume. The attraction for teachers is that it is a hugely simple process to create a cool looking, accessible course for all the world to see. The new update makes iTunes U more of a proper classroom in that you can now set an assignment as a teacher and you can get your students to do it on their iPad. The best bit is they can turn it in using iTunes U, and you can seamlessly send a grade and a comment back to them, all saved in your and their iTunes U. Continue reading
Capsule review: if you like sniper-style shooting games, Hitman Sniper for iPad is the best there is. The story is straight from the Hitman franchise playbook, and the gameplay, weapons selection, and shot control will make you believe you’re the Leon the Professional of your dreams.
While I was only mildly interested in the Hitman games on console, it took only one screenshot from the “new games” section of the app store to have me reaching for my wallet. For those unfamiliar with the Hitman games or the movie spinoff, in Hitman Sniper you play Agent 47, a detached, unfeeling assassin raised from a young child to be a cold-blooded contract killer. The barcode on the back of your avatar’s head completes the inhuman presentation of the character. You’re given missions to complete using only a sniper rifle, each mission including a main target that somehow seems like he deserves what he’s getting: you know, a drug kingpin, spy for the bad guys, international arms dealer, and the like. (Even if it’s only a game, the developers have let you assuage your guilt at being so cold blooded.) But ½-way into your second mission you will have forgotten about all that and be super-focused on completing all your mission objectives, collecting your fee, and avoiding the horrible, screaming, red-lettered “mission FAILED” verdict.
Apple has an iOS app called Notes–ever hear of it? No? I’m not surprised. For those of you not familiar with this app, it’s one of Apple’s stock apps that comes pre-installed on your iPad. For many, though it ends up getting relegated to a folder or buried in one of your lesser used home pages–forgotten and unloved. I’ve tried to use it a few times in the past, but could never manage to stay with it for an extended period of time because it just did’t provide features that many other productivity apps offered for free. That was until now.
Now, the Notes app will finally have all of its contents saved to iCloud so all of your information can be saved and accessible across all your iOS devices as well as on your Mac. The new and improved Notes app for your iPad now supports many different ways of saving your quick ideas, in addition to providing you new ways of saving them all in one place. In addition to simple text entries, now you can…