Archive for 'iPad'

WWDC Student Submissions

Here’s a little something to take a look at as a break from all the entail-reading, wishful thinking, and outright nuttery that’s going around while we all wait for this year’s shoes to drop next week: check out TosinAF/WWDC-2014-Submissions for a list of all the WWDC Student Scholarship submissions people felt like sharing — 63 so far! And browser demo people app.io are powering a showcase of all the videos in one place. Here’s three we found particularly interesting at first glance:

Gold star for niftiness to neerajbaid/WWDC2014 who did his résumé map-based. That’s such a neat idea, think we’ll steal it.

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And top “interesting idea…” marks to BalestraPatrick/WWDC-2014-Scholarship who made the background a blur of the front camera feed.

And some particularly cool node dynamics in conradev/WWDC2014.

Lots of nice work in the other five dozen too; check them all out and prepare to be impressed.

Now, back to applying ourselves even harder to our own proficiencies — clearly we’re going to have our work quite cut out for us in the coming years to keep ahead of these little whippersnappers. And we wouldn’t have it any other way!

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HelpStack: In-App Support

We don’t seem to generally get around much to putting any more end user support in our apps than an email link, but next time somebody asks for more, this HelpStack thing sure looks like a front of the line choice:

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Source is on github, and out of the box it’s ready to hook up with an account on

Presumably if you were motivated you could check out those implementations and figure out how to adapt them to the various other support solutions we’ve mentioned a long time ago and before that a really seriously long time ago, or whatever other solution it might be that the cool kids use these days. Us, we tend to work more on the poor kids end of the spectrum, so even the cup of coffee a month price most of these services have a starter service for is pretty much right out. But look, HelpStack is even good for that too:

4. Email gear

If you do not use any of the help desk solutions, you can still use HelpStack to provide efficient customer support by configuring with just your email. You can configure email support in Helpstack by including the below lines of code in your App delegate…

HAGearEmail* emailGear = [[HAGearEmail alloc] initWithSupportEmailAddress : @"support@example.com" articlePath : @"<pList file name>”];
HSHelpStack *helpStack = [HSHelpStack instance];
helpStack.gear = emailGear;

You can provide your FAQs as a local pList file and provide the pList file name in place of pList file name…

Well, that’s a pretty darn low barrier to entry for including at least a minimal FAQ in your app. We’ll definitely give that at least a rustle at the next opportunity!

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All About Animation

Just on the off chance you haven’t subscribed to objc.io yet, issue #12 “Animations” is out with the accustomed assortment of must-reads:

Animations Explained goes over the basics of motion, paths, etc.

Animating Custom Layer Properties has particularly clever applications of interpolation functionality: “…by overriding the -display method, we can use those properties to control anything we like, even something like sound volume….”

Custom Container View Controller Transitions goes over how to reusably package up your cool transition code.

View-Layer Synergy gets right down into the guts of how the magic actually works.

Animating Collection Views is great for sussing out how to do layout transitions.

Interactive Animations goes over how to make your animations interactive (most importantly, interruptible) via UIKit Dynamics.

While we’re on the subject of animations, you checked out Facebook’s POP framework yet? Worth a look if you haven’t. Also don’t forget that Canvas library, and the little pieces from the last little while we collected here.

UPDATES:

Adding Bounce to Your UIViews: The Joy of Damped Harmonics in iOS 7 Development

hfossli/AGGeometryKit: “Quadrilaterals on CALayer, CGGeometry-functions, UIView/CALayer properties and other invaluable tools.”

Open Source iOS Library Allowing You To Easily Apply Animated Mesh Transforms To A View Hierarchy — check out math in Mesh Transforms!

Open Source iOS Library Providing Some Nice UIDynamic Based View Controller Transitions

An Open Source Pop Add-On Library Adding A Quadrilateral Property For Amazing Effects

DynamicXray “is a UIKit Dynamics runtime visualisation and introspection library.”

Top 5 iOS 7 Animations as picked by raywenderlich.com

An Open Source Library Providing Many Pre-Built Animations For User Interfaces Built On Pop

Open Source Animation Library Based On Pop Featuring Animation Creation In Storyboards

Multiple Animations

itsmeichigo/ICGTransitionAnimation “is a library to customize transition animation in iOS 7.”

Open Source iOS Component Providing A UIView Subclass That Automatically Bends On Position Changes

VBFJellyView Tutorial

Open Source iOS Component Allowing You To Create Morphing Effects Between Text Label Values

Open Source iOS Component For Morphing UILabel Text Created In Swift

UIKit Dynamics Tutorial: Tossing Views

Add Implicit Animations to Your iOS Views, Part 1

Open Source Animation Library For Interactive Animations, Carousels, Animated Gifs

Open Source iOS Library Making It Easier To Create Custom Shaped And Animated Components

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External Actions: Choosy

One of the mildly frustrating things about iOS programming is that none of the various URL scheme handling schemes have managed to get enough traction to be all that widely useful. But here’s a new one that’s certainly the best put together we’ve seen yet, and we’d strongly encourage everyone to get on board with:

Choosy

People will love your app even more if it helps them use their other favorite apps. We’re essentially solving the iOS’ lack of default app selection mechanism.

Once Choosy is widely implemented, end users will be able to traverse the iOS ecosystem using just the apps they love, be they built-in ones or not…

Screen Shot 2014-05-04 at 7.01.55 AM.png

Thanks to UIApplication’s canOpenURL method and iOS forcing unique url schemes. Basically, we store a list of URL schemes for each app on the server, and categorize apps. Choosy downloads that info as needed.

Choosy caches network data, so the traffic footprint is small. It also instantly knows when a new app from same category is installed, or the default app is deleted, and lets user re-select the default app. Choosy is non-intrusive – if there’s no connection and the default app hasn’t been selected yet, it just opens the default iOS app…

Looks like a big whack of user-pleasing functionality for no particularly large effort. Check it out on github today!

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Barcodes for iOS 7

Here’s a book you might think about picking up, written by Oliver Drobnik:

Barcodes with iOS 7: Bringing together the digital and physical worlds

Barcodes are a universally-accepted way to track and share information about products, applications, and businesses. Until recently, however, it’s been difficult for iOS developers to take advantage of them without licensing complicated or expensive third-party libraries. With iOS7, Apple has added all the necessary components for you to make apps that scan, display, and print barcodes.

Barcodes with iOS 7 is the first and only book that comprehensively addresses barcode technology for the iOS developer. It offers a introduction to commonly used formats, such as ISBN and UPC codes and provides real world examples that teach you how to integrate code scanning and generation into your apps. This book consolidates information about applicable Apple frameworks in one place so you can quickly add native barcode support to your existing enterprise apps or start building new apps that help bring together the physical and digital worlds…

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  1. Barcodes, iOS 7, and You – FREE
  2. Media Capture with AV Foundation – AVAILABLE
  3. Scanning Barcodes – AVAILABLE
  4. Passbook, Apple’s Digital Wallet
  5. Generating Barcodes
  6. Getting Metadata for Barcodes
  7. Putting Barcodes in Context

And you get a 1D support library for free, too:

iOS 7 does not support generation of 1D barcodes. Still I wanted to have a modern and powerful way to have this functionality present in this book which is all about all types barcodes. So you are getting the most current version of BarCodeKit completely for free. As long as you own a copy of the book in any form you can use BarCodeKit to create 1D barcodes in all your apps…

Still teetering? Buy right now for a half off deal:

Now through March 9th18th you even get 50% discount with promo code “mldrobnik”“bwiaunch50!”

So there you go, if you’ve got any interest in hooking up your apps with real world stuff, looks like a pretty darn solid investment there!

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iOS Design Central

Here’s a new place to bookmark for your designer friends, or yourself should you fancy yourself a designer: Apple’s pulled together all their various design resources onto a new page

Desiging Great Apps

Exceptional user experience is a hallmark of Apple products, and a distinguishing feature of the most successful apps built for iOS and OS X. Use the resources below to learn how to build the polished, engaging, and intuitive apps that Apple customers expect…

Indeed. Don’t think there’s actually anything new there at the moment, seems to be WWDC videos and previously released documents pulled together in one place, but no doubt a good place to keep an eye on in future.

It’s also been quite a while since our last design roundup post back when iOS 7 was a polarizing novelty, so let’s see what else is new we haven’t tacked on to its updates since:

Pixel Perfect Precision Handbook 3 is out now (h/t iOS Dev Weekly), that should be on every designer’s must-read list.

This is a pretty nifty iOS 7 UI Kit Photoshop Action Set:

You’ve probably seen many iOS 7 UI Kits. But this one is slightly different, as there is no psd file involved. All you need (apart from love) is this little 1.4 MB .atn file that creates entire default look iPhone mockups for your wireframes, design mockups (use it with care) or just quick ideas…

iOS Dev Tools is an ever more comprehensively curated set of links in all categories of development interest we don’t think we’ve got around to linking to before, for design-related stuff check out these sections:

Check out all the non-design categories while you’re at it, and follow @iOSDevTools for updates!

UPDATES:

30 Amazing iOS 7 UI Kits – Part

My app design workflow

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Background Fetch Caveats

Couple interesting posts lately about background fetch resource usage. If you’re not familiar with background fetch, that’s an iOS 7 thing that’s explained quite nicely in objc.io’s Multitasking in iOS 7 article:

Background Fetch is a kind of smart polling mechanism which works best for apps that have frequent content updates, like social networking, news, or weather apps. The system wakes up the app based on a user’s behavior, and aims to trigger background fetches in advance of the user launching the app. For example, if the user always uses an app at 1 p.m., the system learns and adapts, performing fetches ahead of usage periods. Background fetches are coalesced across apps by the device’s radio in order to reduce battery usage, and if you report that new data was not available during a fetch, iOS can adapt, using this information to avoid fetches at quiet times…

But the naîve user may find a surprise in wait:

An Unexpected Botnet

… There is, however, an intrinsic danger in applying this ability without fully thinking through the implications. When enabled within your applications you are essentially building a massively distributed botnet. Each copy of your application will be periodically awoken and sent on a mission to seek and assimilate internet content with only the OS safeguards holding it back. As your app grows in popularity this can lead to some rather significant increases in activity…

Here are the feed request frequencies for various Background Fetch enabled podcast clients … For an RSS feed that changes only once per week just these apps produce 126k web requests each week (out of 160k across all aggregators ). The feed itself is 450KB (49KB gzipped). Where it not for HTTP caching/compression (discussed later) this would be generating 56GB of almost entirely unnecessary downloads each week…

That is, indeed, a lot of almost entirely unnecessary downloads. The developers of Castro chimed in here:

The Value of Background Fetch [Point]

… Our strategy with Castro has been to employ Background Fetch to help us avoid the ongoing cost of a server. Castro polls each subscribed feed from the app regularly and posts local notifications when new episodes are found. There are pros and cons to this approach.

Pros

  • We spend no time on web app development or money on server hosting. Xcode is always open.
  • We have no scaling concerns.
  • The continued functionality of the app is not dependent on future sales.
  • There are fewer points of failure.

Cons

  • Worse update performance since the app hits every individual feed, rather than one centralised server.
  • A central server gives developers flexibility to fix individual feed issues, like poorly formatted dates or duplicate episodes for example…

Well, being big believers ourselves in not doing work we don’t have to, that makes a pretty compelling argument, indeed. But hark! Here’s a counterpoint from coming soon Castro competitor Overcast author Marco Arment:

The Value of Background Fetch [Counterpoint]

… Service-backed apps still have a lot of advantages and exclusive capabilities over iOS 7’s Background Fetch. I think server-side crawling is still the best choice for podcast apps and feed readers, for which users want fast updates to collections of infrequently updated feeds.

Overcast has been crawling tens of thousands of podcast feeds every few minutes for the last 6 months using standard HTTP caching headers. In the last week, 62% of all requests have returned 304 (“Not Modified”). Many of the rest returned the entire “new” feed, but none of the episodes had actually changed, making the server download and process hundreds of kilobytes unnecessarily.

An app using Background Fetch needs to make all of those fruitless requests just to get the handful of occasional changes. All of those requests cost processor time, memory, battery power, and data transfer. And each copy of the app needs to download those hundreds of wasted kilobytes when a server erroneously reports an unchanged feed as new…

A server can simply send a silent push notification to all subscribed apps when there’s new data in a feed, and each app can download just the changes. With infrequently updated feeds, like podcasts, this leads to huge savings in battery life and transferred data over time…

Well, there’s that too. So yeah, if you can’t count on decent 304 support, background fetch is not your resource-optimal choice no.

Lots of good numbers to crunch through, so read the whole posts. Personally, if the choice for your particular application is less than immediately obvious, we’d recommend implementing both methods; that way, if your service goes down, or you stop paying for it, or whatever, the app can remain functional. Safety first and second, that’s us!

UPDATES:

Apropos of things to do to avoid users calling out your app as battery-hogging, take a gander at The Ultimate Guide to Solving iOS Battery Drain

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All About Strings

Are you reading objc.io? If not, you should be. Check out issue #9 for more than you ever realized you didn’t know about strings. Yes, strings.

Quick now: How do you correctly find the length of a string containing odd characters like emoji? And how can you be certain you’re comparing strings with combining characters for visible equivalence correctly? If the answers don’t spring to mind, check out NSString and Unicode.

How do you correctly, i.e. locale-aware, join a list of items for text display? That’s one of the many tidbits in Working with Strings.

No doubt you know how to use localized .strings … but did you know in iOS 7+ you can do locale-aware plurals with .stringdict files? And do you know how to correctly display a localized file name? See String Localization.

Need to validate your input? Or have a full expression grammar? Check out String Parsing.

Finally, know how to calculate bounding rects for attributed strings in the new non-deprecated iOS 7 way? And how to lay out hanging indents for lists and decimal-aligned number tables with Text Kit? If not, here’s String Rendering to get you up to speed.

Haven’t seen a developer periodical this consistently high quality through issue #9 since … well, ever, actually … so we strongly encourage you all to subscribe with their app to keep the goodies coming!

UPDATES:

Extending “strings” to include “text” — Open Source Library And Editor Tool For Easily Formatting Text Within Your Apps

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Custom Keyboards

For our Underutilized iOS Feature Of The Week award, how about UITextField/UITextView’s inputView field? Probably pretty much totally overlooked it, haven’t you? Here’s a sample implementation for next time something like that strikes your fancy (h/t: iOS Dev Weekly):

venmo / VENCalculatorInputView: Calculator keyboard used in the Venmo iOS app:

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If you don’t have custom input needs but just want to improve the regular keyboard experience, there’s news for you too: Fleksy has released an iOS SDK that lets users long press to switch keyboards, if they’ve installed the free Fleksy app:

Screen Shot 2014-02-23 at 2.34.47 PM.png

And here’s another project to improve the default keyboard:

tonqa / JustType – The Better Keyboard for iOS

JustType is a keyboard extension using swipe gestures, highlighting and suggestions. It is built to be used in any iOS text editor and all text-intensive iOS apps. And it is really easy to use. If you want to have a video demonstration you can find it on this blogpost.

And just as a side caution, if you do get all excited to implement a custom keyboard with transparency and it displays funny in iOS 7, check out this Stack Overflow question!

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TestFlight, R.I.P.

So no doubt pretty much everyone reading this uses TestFlight for distributing their betas, yes? Well, looks like you might have to rethink that plan.

First up, their FlightPath (née TestFlight Live) analytics disappeared with just a note to participants “so we can focus on other areas of the business”. Well, bad ideas disappear all the time; apparently that turned out to be a bad idea, competing with Flurry. Surprise level: 0.

Second up, they decided to ditch Android completely:

We are refocusing TestFlight on iOS. While we will continue to support app development on iOS, support for Android beta testing on TestFlight will stop by March 21, 2014.

What does this mean?

After 3/21/2014 no user will be able to upload any Android builds to TestFlight.

Whilst of course we thoroughly approve of that strategy, it seems … out of step with market conditions, does it not? Surprise level: high.

Next up, they stopped taking new customers on iOS too:

On 2/19/2014 we announced that only Teams who have previously uploaded a build with the TestFlight SDK will be able to continue to upload builds with the SDK.

What does this mean?

If you are an existing Team that has previously uploaded a build with an SDK attached you will need to upgrade to the latest SDK version by 2/26/2014, afterwards your build will be rejected until it has the correct SDK version.

If your team has never uploaded a build with an SDK or you are a new TestFlight user then you will not be able to incorporate any version of the TestFlight SDK. You will be asked to remove the SDK from your build and re-upload.

OK, now things are getting downright weird. Surprise level: WTF?

Well, the sleuths over at TechCrunch figure they know what’s going on:

TestFlight Owner Burstly Acquired By Apple

Burstly, the makers of an in-app ad management platform called SkyRocket and the parent company of popular mobile app testing platform TestFlight, has been acquired, we’re hearing. Though we’re working to get more information on this now, including deal terms, our understanding is that Apple is the acquirer here.

We’ve been pointed in Apple’s direction by a couple of sources…

Well, on the one hand that’s just about out of character as Apple acquisitions get, on the other hand, we sure don’t see any other plausible explanation for the increasing oddity of recent events, do you? Hopefully Apple just had a “why didn’t we do exactly this all along?” epiphany and are just bringing the TestFlight we all know and love under their umbrella, but on the off chance that’s not what’s going on here, maybe you all want to sign up for HockeyApp while the signing is good!

UPDATE:

All right, this is the first time we’ve updated a post inside the hour: It’s official!

Apple Confirms Burstly Buy

“Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans,” company spokeswoman Kristin Huguet told Re/code.

So yeah, anything you’re relying on TestFlight for right now: figure out a Plan B. Just in case.

MORE UPDATES:

From Crashlytics Labs: Announcing Our Beta Distribution Tool

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