Category Archives: iPad Apps

Apple introduces a new News app in iOS 9; will it replace your favorite RSS reader?

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At the World Wide Developer Conference last week, Apple introduced their all new RSS reader app called News.  In all honesty, I see it as a good move on their part–it makes sense.  By offering a free news aggregator that automatically is included in iOS 9, iPad owners are much less likely to go outside the Apple ecosystem in search of a an alternative.  This move to provide a more comprehensive, all encompassing experience on iOS will be a good hook for new iPad and iPhone users.  However, after talking with some current users, many of them were not as impressed.

Will the News app be a viable alternative to much more established and successful RSS readers like Feedly and Flipboard?  Yes, and no.  Traditional RSS reader advocates will likely stay with their current choices.  However, new iPad users looking for a way to consume content more easily, and all in one place will likely find News to be the first and perhaps their last choice since it will be pre-installed on their device.  Never underestimate the power of convenience.

Sites like Facebook and Twitter seem to be absent from the list of available feeds that can be included in the News app–which might be a little discouraging to some users.  I for one, won’t miss them, as that is not the way I consume social media content.  I’d rather just read those kinds of posts from within their respective apps; and I would bet that the majority of Facebook and Twitter users would feel the same way.

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Next-Gen Business Apps for iPad: Featured App Store Collection this Week

The Featured section of the iPad App Store is jam packed with good stuff this week. One of the featured collections that caught my eye is titled ‘Next-Gen Business Apps’.

It’s a compelling title, and the collection of apps does it justice. This is a strong set of featured apps. The collection is divided into these sections:

Extend Your Apps: Excellen productivity apps in here including Evernote, Workflow, Slack, OmniFocus 2, IF by IFTTT, and more.

Works with Handoff: GoToMeeting, Trello, and Things are among the picks here. Also, Apple’s own Pages app.

Present with AirPlay: From Keynote to Haiku Deck and quite a few more great presentation apps

Secure with Touch ID: 1Password, Box, Dropbox, and PDF Expert are just some of the star apps here that work with the iPad’s fingerprint technology.

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Google Photos for iPad

  
Google introduced their competitor to iCloud Photo Library yesterday and it’s simply called Google Photos. It’s available right now across iOS, Android, and the web. The huge draw of Google Photos is that it offers unlimited storage of 16 MP compressed photos and 1080p video, which means that you don’t have to worry about how big your own photo library is growing and how much that’s going to cost you over time. The system is also smart enough to identify people and contexts within the Photos, which means there’s much less manual sorting to do, but also means that Google is analyzing the content you are uploading.

I’m trying Google Photos out just to see what it’s like and see if it’s faster than iCloud Photo Library for remote access, though I’m not sure if I like the idea of Google being able to reuse my personal content in advertising. I accept that that can happen with Facebook, but that’s also why I only upload a very specific subset of my photos to that service. In order to use Google Photos, you really have to go all in.

Competition in this space is good, though, and I think it will quickly force Apple to up their game with iCloud Photo Library sooner rather than later.

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Office for iPad Needs To Improve File Caching

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Microsoft is updating their Office apps on iOS at a pretty blistering rate, with a major update every one or two months, but it’s still lacking one basic feature for me: easier local storage.

Having Microsoft Excel on my iPad has been immensely useful, but it’s highly dependent on having a good internet connection when I want to access my files. I keep my work files on my office-supplied OneDrive for Business account, and accessing a large PowerPoint file can take upwards of a minute at times. Other times the download can simply stall on me, leaving me without all of the numbers I’m supposed to talk about at my meeting.

What I’d want here would be a quick way to star or earmark files for quick local caching so that, as long as I haven’t made any changes to the file, I can open the iPad up at any time and just re-open said file. What the iOS Office apps seem to do, however, is simply re-download the files every single time I want to access them, regardless of whether or not there were changes since I last loaded them. I do have the option of duplicating the file and saving a local copy to my iPad, but that copy won’t automatically sync any changes to my work PC, so it’s not really a workable solution.

I’d love to see a solution in the next few months that adds a switch to quickly cache a file as local (like Google’s Docs/Sheets/Slides apps) so that I can work on spotty Wi-Fi, but still enjoy the benefits of file syncing on OneDrive.

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MLB At Bat iPad App Updated for Opening Day

MLB At Bat iPad app

MLB At Bat, the official Major League Baseball app for iPad and iOS, has been updated right on time for Opening Day of the 2015 season.

The app was updated to Version 8.1.1 yesterday and is looking great and all set with previews of tonight’s opening matchup of the Cardinals vs the Cubs and all the rest of the slate for tomorrow’s games too.

Here’s the change list for the 8.1.1 update:

• General Performance Improvements
Version 8.0.0
AT BAT OPENING DAY UPDATE
• Apple Watch: Introducing support for At Bat on Apple Watch, beginning April 24, 2015, to get live scores, statistics, pitch tracking, player cards, notifications and news
• Pre-Game Lineup (iPhone)
• Up-to-the-moment game analysis feed with play tracking data, game tweets and inline video highlights (iPhone, requires Premium subscription)
• General Performance Improvements

And here’s an App Store link for MLB At Bat; it’s a free app with subscription options starting at $2.99 per month, and a universal app designed for both iPad and iPhone.

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Soulver for iPad: The Notepad I Wish I’d Had In Math Class

I can’t believe I haven’t actually written about Soulver for iPad yet, seeing as I’ve been using it on a daily basis for the past four or five months. Soulver is a great little calculations notebook for the iPad. At first glance it can look like a plain text editor, but do not be fooled — it’s got delicious math geekiness embedded between its lines.

Soulver makes it easy to handle calculations like:

  • 5 + 5
  • 10 x 2
  • 30 * (550/132)

You enter the numbers on the left side, answers appear on the right.

You can also use more natural language to calculate solutions. So instead of calculating a tip by typing “85 x 1.15”, you can also type “15% of 85” to reach the same conclusion. Or you can use Soulver to convert things like “8 oz in lbs”.

My favourite use case harnesses Soulver’s ability to refer to previous calculations and use them as variables. For example, if the first row in Soulver is “47 x 13”, I could refer to its product (611) on any other line in any other equation I create. I can also name particular lines, so I can refer to Line 1 simply as “Warehouses”. From that point onwards, any time I type out “warehouses”, Soulver substitutes that word for the number 611.

If that sounds confusing, here’s what it looks like within the app:

I use Soulver as an everday calculator, but also as a daily budget calculator. I use Next to track everyday expenses, so that app provides me a total of how much I’ve spent this month. I then plug my regular bills and income as different lines into Soulver, which ultimately provides me with a snapshot of my current budget for the month.

Of course, there are many other ways you could take advantage of the app. That’s the really fantastic thing about Soulver, and why it feels like such an easy recommendation for anyone who regularly deals with numbers on a daily basis.

Here’s an App Store link for Soulver; it’s priced at $4.99 for the Universal app, and there’s also a Mac version available.

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Pixelbite Reckless Racing bundle for iPad

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If you like casual/arcade racing games for the iPad like I do, the Reckless Racing titles might be familiar to you. Pixelmate, the makers of the Reckless Racing series is offering all five of their racing games as a $4.99 bundle in the App Store right now, a $7.99 value. Best of all, if you already own one of the titles, you get a credit for it. For example, I already have Reckless Getaway on my iPad so the bundle is $3.99 for me.

Here’s a link to the Reckless Racing Bundle. Look for a comprehensive review of Reckless Racing 1-3 on iPad Insight in the near future.

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Calcbot 2.0 for iPad

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Calcbot used to be my favourite calculator app before I discovered other innovative calculator alternatives like Soulver and Tydlig. However, when I saw on Twitter that Calcbot 2.0 had been released, I did have to give the app another look.

One of the easiest changes to spot in Calcbot 2.0 is its iOS 8 compatible design. Textures are much more abstract now, but the colour scheme is still delightful and brighter than ever before. The buttons are still as gigantic as before, which makes them very easy to tap if you like to use your iPad in lieu of one of those enormous physical calculators for quick calculations. I also really like the live history that’s displayed along the top of the screen, which makes it very easy to recall previous calculations, or summon the product of an earlier calculation and use it in your current one.

The visual update makes a lot of sense, and in truth, it’s been quite a while coming. However, the other change to Calcbot is that it now encapsulates one of Tapbots’ other apps, Convertbot, as an in-app purchase. Swiping left within Calcbot reveals the Convertbot interface, which makes it easy to quickly conduct various imperial, metric, and currency conversions in real time.

The $2 in-app purchase also adds an extra theme and an unlimited calculation history, but the integrated conversion feature is really the main draw.

Here’s an App Store link for Calcbot ; it’s a free download with an In-App purchase option to add another theme, unlimited calculation history, and the extra Convertbot features for another $1.99.

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Dropbox for iPad Gets A Share Extension

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Dropbox for iOS was updated today with one killer new feature: a native share extension. This means that any app that brings up the iOS 8 share dialogue can save files directly to Dropbox, without any extra sign-ins or app permissions.

I tried a quick test from the Photos app earlier and I’m quite impressed by how powerful the extension is. Not only can you choose where to save a file, but you can also rename the file before you upload it to Dropbox. The only caveat is the extension doesn’t seem to work for batch uploading, so you’ll still have to enter the Dropbox app to upload more than one photo at a time. That’s not a big deal to me, though, and this update already makes it a lot easier to share files from Mail or Evernote and send them straight into Dropbox for long term storage. It’s taking a little while, but the iOS 8 share APIs are slowly bearing fruit!

My big wish at this point is easier access to the files I choose to store in iCloud. The document handler is an OK start, but I want to select multiple files and download them to my iPad all at once — and that just isn’t possible yet.

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Notes Plus for iPad Giveaway: 5 Free Codes to Be Won

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You may remember last year I wrote a post about the excellent note taking app Notes Plus. My opinion was that it was a really well thought out app with plenty of options and excellent handwriting recognition, which at the time was an in-app purchase. You can read the full review here, and you can read my 3 way handwriting recognition app shootout here, in which Notes Plus came out as clear winner.

The developers have released a new version of the app with the headline feature being that handwriting recognition is no longer an in-app purchase, which is great news if you want to find a pretty accurate handwriting recognition app. The developers have also kindly given our readers 5 promo codes for Notes Plus which you can get by being one of the first 5 people to reply to this post in answer to this question:

What is the productivity app that you simply could not do without on your iPad? (mine would have to be Google Drive I think).

Your reply needs to have a valid email address, or I won’t be able to send the code to you and the contest will close on Sunday February 15 at 3:00 US Central.

In the meantime, here’s an App Store link for Notes Plus; it’s priced at $9.99.

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Using Drafts for iPad As An Action Inbox

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Using Drafts for iPad As An Action Inbox

Drafts 4 is great for keeping notes and sending them elsewhere, but without the proper settings in place, it can be very easy to compile a very large list of notes that haven’t been processed. I’m currently trying a different way of organizing my tasks in a paper notebook with the Bullet Journal system, but I still want to be use my iPad as an information capturing device as well.

So my current approach is to use the Drafts badge as an inbox for items that still need to be actioned in some way. Any time I see a badge in Drafts, I’ll take a moment to action the items within the app and get that badge down to zero. After activating the badge option this morning I realized I had 39 notes just sitting in the inbox. Some of these were small notes to myself about items I was interested in, some were mini journal entries that I had forgotten to send to Day One, and some were work notes I was supposed to save to my Evernote work notebook.

I used the new multi-selection capability, added in the most recent update, to delete all of the outdated information in that list. I then used custom actions to send the other notes into Evernote and Day One, and since I set Drafts to auto-archive any notes I’ve taken an action on, my inbox was a little cleaner with every note I processed. Going forward, I plan to use my notebook as the hub for my tasks, but Drafts will remain my tool for capturing thoughts as they pop up.

I’m liking this setup right now. Drafts feels like a great bridge between digital and analog note taking, and its inbox badge feels like the perfect solution for reminding me to act on my quick digital scribbles.

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