I spent a month last Fall trialling Lightroom Mobile as a suitable alternative to Apple’s iCloud Photo Library. Lightroom drew me in because of its advanced editing controls, options to quickly reject pictures I didn’t want to keep, and the synchronization of edits across all of my devices (which is a surprisingly rare feature even in 2016). However, there were two aspects that put a full stop to the whole Lightroom trial: the export resolution and the resolution of synced images.
It was disappointing to find out that, although I could edit my photos to a far great extent than with Apple’s Photos app, Lightroom would export those photos at a far lower resolution.
I thought that the resolution limit was probably caused by the size of the photos that Adobe allowed to sync to Lightroom Mobile. Even if I uploaded photos straight from my camera to the iPad, Lightroom would compress everything into their proprietary Smart Preview format, which has a maximum resolution of 2048 pixels on the long end. When I compared that to iCloud Photo Library, which can sync full resolution photos to all of my iOS devices (provided there’s enough storage), it quickly became clear which solution I should stick with. I killed my Lightroom install and moved everything back to iCloud Photo Library.
I can’t help but feel this is a bit of a “me too” move, but I’ve transferred my tasks from OmniFocus 2 back to 2Do. Federico Viticci of MacStories and Ben Brooks of The Brooks Review recently wrote about their reasons for switching over as newcomers to 2Do, but, to me, it feels like coming home. I’ve long enjoyed using 2Do for task management, but went back to OF2 for a while because of a months-long obsession with night mode.
However, with the advent of Night Shift in 9.3 (which warms the colour temperature of iOS screens in the evening), night mode is no longer paramount in the apps that I use. I’m finding that the warmer tones are making night reading more comfortable, and so I don’t really feel the harshness of the light as much.
My ideal is still to have both Night Shift and a night mode function in an app, but in the absence of the latter in 2Do, I take comfort in knowing that Night Shift will be baked into iOS from 9.3 onwards. Because it’s an OS level feature, I won’t have to worry about 2Do requiring a future update to support it.
As awesome as OmniFocus 2 is, I returned to 2Do for 2Major—er, two major reasons:
- The treatment of “Today”
- Feature parity across all apps
I’m picky about how I define “Today”. I want a Today view to show tasks that are due (or overdue), but also tasks that are starred or flagged as important. I like the flexibility of this workflow because I can plan specific tasks ahead of time by assigning due dates, but I can also add tasks to my Today view just by flagging them.
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 picks for Best iPad App of the Week are published here every week. 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 PDF to Word by Cometdocs.com Inc. PDF to Word is an application that makes it possible to turn all your PDF texts, forms and tables into editable Microsoft Word documents. Once you import and open your PDF from within the app it is sent to servers that quickly convert the document. Off-site conversion is necessary for two reasons–to keep your device from being slowed down by the process, and to allow for quick conversion on dedicated servers. When the process is complete, the new file is downloaded to you iPad.
[I’ve been meaning to get to this for a little while now, and it’s not news about Hootsuite; it’s really more of a rant about Instagram because I’m having more fun with the service now. I also thought it deserved some follow-up since we had a number of very helpful commenters chime in on my last post.]
I got really excited when I first heard that Hootsuite could schedule Instagram posts, but that feature isn’t quite what it’s touted to be. Hootsuite did gain the ability to add streams, posts, and searched hashtags as columns, but it doesn’t actually post anything to Instagram from within the app.
What Hootsuite can do is schedule posts and place them into a queue with the text already in place; later on, at the appointed time, you’ll then head to that queue and use the iOS share feature to copy that text and picture into the Instagram app (which you must have installed). This is decent for users with a single Instagram account, but it isn’t useful for managing multiple brands across different Instagram accounts — which is what I had wanted it for. Hootsuite is also only optimized for iPhone users, as there is currently no iPad-optimized version of the official Instagram app. If you want to schedule posts from the iPad, you’ll have to use a blown-up version of the iPhone app.
This is disappointing, although it isn’t Hootsuite’s fault. Instagram has relaxed when it comes to content (no more square picture restrictions!), but they still insist that content has to be posted straight from their own app. So, until that changes, all that social media management apps like Hootsuite can do is essentially ease the pain of cutting and pasting content into Instagram.
It doesn’t make sense to me that the iPad is treated as a second-class device in the Instagram world. Visual apps thrive on the iPad, and browsing experiences, especially pictures, are much improved on the larger display. It’s really surprising to me that, given the popularity of the service, that Instagram still has no official presence on the iPad.
I originally bought Dispatch so that I could triage emails on my iPhone a little faster for work. I make heavy use of flags for emails, but I find those often aren’t enough for me, as they don’t have any categories or due dates attached to them. The differentiating factor for Dispatch was that it could share (“dispatch”) entire emails and send them to other apps on my device, which was really handy for quickly turning emails into tasks in Things or 2Do. The catch was that Dispatch was iPhone-only when I bought it, so I couldn’t take advantage of the larger screen on my iPad at work.
That has changed with today’s 3.0 update, which turned Dispatch into a universal app that works on iPhone on iPad. As a result of having owned the previous iPhone-only version, I gained Dispatch on the iPad for free.
It took a little longer than the stated two weeks, but 2Do with Push Sync is now live on the App Store. I tested the sync speed earlier this morning at work while I ticked tasks off of my content calendar.
The sync isn’t instantaneous, but it’s reliable. I can complete tasks on my iPhone and have a completely updated 2Do list when I get back to my iPad a few minutes later. I’ve come to expect this kind of data sync from my iPhone and paired Apple Watch, and it’s really great to have it in one of my favourite universal apps.
2Do wasn’t the first to do push sync — OmniFocus and Things got there first — but adding the feature to 2Do really helped to tighten up one of the few remaining weak points of the app: sync speed and consistency. Things is still top notch in terms of syncing speed, but 2Do has closed the gap considerably with today’s update. It has made a great app even easier to rely on.
The only thing that will require some getting used to is the shift of the “new task” button’s location to the bottom of the screen. This makes a lot of sense on the iPhone because you previously had to reach up with your thumb every time you wanted to add a new task, but I’m not sure it fits as well on the iPad where you’d use the device in two hands. I wouldn’t even register this as a complaint — just an observation of how changes can be applied to universal apps in a way that caters more to one device type (the phone) than another (the tablet).
Final Fantasy VII arrived earlier this week, and early reviews on the App Store are calling it a pretty good port. The game first debuted in 1997 and sucked up hundreds of hours of my childhood, and it’s mind boggling to think that it’s now playable on a 9.7″ tablet instead of a dedicated console.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like the game supports third-party Bluetooth controllers, so you’re stuck with touchscreen controls if you’d like to play. However, there are a few niceties that have been added to this iOS adaptation:
- Manual iCloud saves (or should I say Cloud Saves?) are supported, so you can start the game on the iPad and continue on the iPhone.
- There’s also a Max Stats feature cheat code that’s built right into the game. Final Fantasy VII has a fantastic story but takes a ton of time to work through, so this is an interesting way to experience it without sinking all of your time “grinding” (levelling up your characters).
FFVII features a ton of gameplay for $16 and is ideal if you’re using your iPad as your main gaming console, or if you just want to relive a classic. Just be aware that you’ll need at least 4 GB of free space in order to download and install the game, so 16 GB device owners beware!
I’ve continued to use the Notes app in iOS 9 and it’s been a great, simple scratchpad for ideas and compiling research links. However, the kicker is that it’s just not accessible on my work PC. The Notes app is available as a beta within iCloud.com, but it’s not nearly as powerful as the version on my iPad.
However, a coworker recently turned me onto another cross-platform possibility: OneNote. I’d never really considered OneNote before because I thought it was best used by students. My sister did some incredible stuff with OneNote in her psychology courses, but I hadn’t realized that you could store files within OneNote in much the same way that you can with Evernote.
I’ve started to listen to podcasts again, but the first-party Podcasts app from Apple is still a little buggy as of beta 4 of iOS 9. Beta 5 did come out yesterday and it may have fixed the issue, but it actually doesn’t matter to me any more because, in the interim, I ended up buying Overcast.
What I really like about this app is the gigantic set of buttons, and the spacious, non-standard layout. There are more ornate podcast apps out there, but there’s a beauty to the simplicity of the icons and white space present in Overcast. Subscribing to podcasts is dead simple if you know the name of the show you’re looking for, and the interface makes it easy to find new shows by category or podcast network. This doesn’t sound remarkable but it’s a lot cleaner than the default Podcasts App, which prompts me for a URL whenever I want to add a new show.
The funny thing is that I didn’t actually need to buy Overcast. The basic features in the freemium version are quite enough for me, as all I really need area list of shows and a way to download new episodes automatically. Smart speed can cut silences out of recordings and Voice Boost enhances the listening experience, but I just haven’t felt the need to use these features so far. I’m simply content to use the incredibly clean and post-iOS 7 interface.
The main reason I decided to pony up for the $5 in-app purchase is because I want to see more indie apps like it. I’ve read enough articles at this point about the viability of being a developer on the App Store, and so I want to make sure I’m actively supporting the software I really enjoy using.
I’m now responsible for a number of Instagram accounts at my day job, and so I’ve been the lookout for apps that can manage multiple accounts, simultaneously. Given the popularity of the service, I’m surprised how difficult this task has actually been.
Hootsuite would have been my first choice because it can handle Twitter and Facebook. I can customize each brand into a tab, and each tab can have several panes for tweets, direct messages, or searches for specific hashtags. Unfortunately, I quickly learned that Hootsuite has no access to Instagram.
The next app I decided to try was Grab for Instagram. It’s a free download with no in-app purchases, and although it won’t let me post images or video due to API restrictions, it does support multiple logins. I can use the sidebar to switch between accounts, check on engagement rates, and repost images that are deemed on-brand.
So far I’m liking Grab for Instagram, but not loving it. I’d really like for the app to save my logged accounts through iCloud so that my iPhone and iPad stayed nicely in sync. Having to log in to the corporate accounts twice — once on my iPhone and once again on the iPad — just feels pointless when I’m using the same app on both devices. However, until I find something better, Grab for Instagram will have to do.
[If anyone has any recommendations for great Instagram-compatible apps on the iPad, I’d be all ears.]
Background App Refresh was introduced with iOS 7 two years ago, but I’ve found that it only seems to work about 50% of the time for me. I still see many of my apps — e.g. Reeder, 2Do, Evernote — syncing upon startup, when they should have already loaded most of the data in the background. The issue here is the way iOS asks users to simply trust how it will balance the load of background tasks, when it should really allow us to prioritize specific apps that we always want to keep up-to-date.
That’s why the latest blog post from 2Do has me excited. Push Sync is promising faster syncing that pushes changes from my iPad straight to the iPhone, moments after I’ve made a change, and regardless of what syncing service I use for my tasks. You can bet I’ll be testing this new feature out when it hits the App Store in two weeks.