Managing documents has always been a cumbersome task on the iOS devices: iPad, iPhone and iPod touch, but manipulating PDF formatted documents is even more difficult. Mainly because PDF is a format normally used for read only documents. There have been applications like Adobe Acrobat and the amazing PDFpen on Mac OS X to allow users to edit PDF documents on computers. Now with the prevalent of tablet devices it is natural to expect tools to be available on these devices too.

At the beginning; sounds like a long time ago but it has only been a year, the iPad was thought of by many as a content consuming device. Fortunately innovative developers begin to realize the power and potential of the iOS platform running in a form factor larger than the iPhone or iPod touch. Various developers started to release original iOS apps taking advantage both the form factor of the iPad and the innovative multi-touch UI of iOS. The first among these apps were Procreate, Sketcher and MagicPiano.

Now Readdle develops an iOS app calls "PDF Expert" to address the missing solution of manipulating PDF documents on the iOS devices. List of Documents One of the most difficult thing to do for iOS apps needing to manage documents is getting these documents into the iOS devices.

Apple's method is to use iTunes to load documents and then synchronize these documents with the iOS devices. Unfortunately, the latter is not really what is done, it does not synchronize documents but creates copies of documents from the computer onto the iOS devices. Anyone who edits documents will agree that the goal is not to create multiple copies of documents to be edit. PDF Expert sees the same flaws and creates multiple methods to bring documents into the app, these nine methods can been seen bellow. List of Available Methods to Retrieve Documents Aside from these nine methods of connecting to servers the app can itself acts as a WebDAV server, allowing access to the documents stored in the app (on the iOS device) from any WebDAV compatible applications like a web browser or the built-in WebDAV client within OS X (greater than v10.1.1). Network Sources You can select any of these connected storage locations (folders) to synchronize with the contents in PDF Expert. That's true synchronization not simply making copies of files like in Apple's method. Add New Sync Folder Now you know how to get documents into PDF Expert let's talk about what you can do with these PDF documents.

In the latest version of the app you can fill in PDF forms, insert either predefined stamps or custom ones from images stored in the iOS device's photo albums. You can also save the annotated PDF as a "flattened" copy to commit the annotations made.

Let's get into what you can do with annotations. Annotations

  • You can add text into the PDF, change its colour and size, and allows this text to be layer above the the content of the PDF.
  • You can add notes that will appear as yellow Note Bubbles on the page and you can place these bubbles anywhere that is appropriate.
  • You can select a group of text and apply a highlight, strikeout, underline, note or copy the selected content.
  • You can insert a saved signature anywhere in the PDF document. This signature can be resized to match the context of the PDF, so it will not look out of place.

Best of all these annotations are saved as soon as you make them, and if you are applying the annotation to a document in one of the synchronized folders all changes will be synchronized with the server/remote copy. Similarly any changes to the server/remote copy will be reflected in PDF Expert copy.

Any PDF documents in the app can be emailed in 3 different ways:

  • A Regular PDF version with editable annotations, signatures and form fields.
  • A Flattened PDF version where annotations, signatures and form fields have been committed and no longer editable.
  • A Summary of Annotations are added to the email body with the Regular PDF version attached.

Aside from annotations the app also allows the creations of bookmarks within the PDF that are transferrable to any PDF readers.

If you are in need of an app to help annotate any PDF documents on the iOS device, then the USD9.99 that the Readdle is asking for in the iTunes App Store is well worth the money.

Posted
AuthorVinko
CategoriesiPad

Apple released a press release confirming the dates of the phase 2 launch of the iPad 2 in 25 more countries.

In doing so, Apple finally offer a release date; kind of (at least the month), for Hong Kong, Korea and Singapore.

...iPad 2 with Wi-Fi will be available in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK on March 25 for a suggested retail price of $499 (US) for the 16GB model, $599 (US) for the 32GB model, $699 (US) the 64GB model. iPad 2 with Wi-Fi + 3G will be available for a suggested retail price of $629 (US) for the 16GB model, $729 (US) for the 32GB model and $829 (US) for the 64GB model. iPad 2 will be available in Hong Kong, Korea, Singapore and additional countries in April, and in many more countries around the world in the coming months. Further international availability and pricing will be announced at a later date.

Apple on Wednesday, Feb 23, 2011 (US time) sent out an invitation to a March 2nd event in San Francisco, CA, USA. The tagline reads

Come see what 2011 will be the year of.

With graphics on the invitation implying the event will have something to do with the iPad. Therefore it is very lightly Apple will be announcing/revealing the next generation iPad (aka. iPad 2G) on March 2, 2011.

If past history is taken into account, the iPad 2G will most likely be announced and shown off at the March 2nd event, but will not be available for sale weeks afterwards. Most likely months afterwards before it officially arrives in Hong Kong.

World Times for Apple's Event on March 2nd: 08:00 - Hawaii Time 10:00 - US Pacific Time 11:00 - US Mountain Time 12:00 - US Central Time 13:00 - USD Eastern Time 18:00 - London Time 19:00 - Paris Time 23:30 - Mumbai Time 02:00 - Hong Kong Time (March 3rd) 05:00 - Sydney Time (March 3rd)

Posted
AuthorVinko
CategoriesiPad

Ever since the release of the iPad in April 2010, newspaper publishers have been eyeing it as a platform to deliver their respective content on. Rupert Murdoch's project The Daily will most likely becomes the first newspaper custom designed and created only for the iPad platform on "rumored" January 19th. Most information about The Daily are from the grapevine without direct confirmation from News Corp..

What we do know are bits and pieces of information from the privilege:

  • Jesse Angelo, formerly New York Post will oversee the subscription-based publication's editorials.
  • Greg Clayman, formerly head of digital distribution at Viacom, will be the publisher.
  • Richard Johnson, the former Page Six gossip editor, will join from the New York Post.
  • Edo Segal, the founder of Relegence, is consulting the executive team.
  • So far there are about 150 staff, most of them writers based in Manhattan, NY. and Los Angeles, CA. from News Corp's other properties: New Yorker, AOL, The Atlantic, and the New York Times.
  • There will not be a web based counter part to The Daily, which will be delivered to subscribers on the iPad daily; hence the name, at a weekly subscription of USD0.99.

The ability to charge subscribers a recurring fees has been on publishers wish list for the iTunes Store a long time. The record companies wanted to do it with music, then the TV networks tried with TV shows, magazine and newspaper publishers came next. Last year Apple released in-app purchase to iOS app developers that opened up a brand new business model for them. Apple further extended this ability to the entire Macintosh application developers with the launch of the Mac App Store last week.

Will the availability of The Daily on the 19th be the thing that magazine and newspaper publishers been asking for? Will the movie studios, TV networks and record companies finally get their wishes next? There had been much speculation as to why Apple is building a huge USD1B North Carolina Data Center. One such speculation is that Apple will soon launch a cloud based streaming service.

Posted
AuthorVinko
CategoriesiPad

If you are a blogger you are most likely using a blogging platform to host your blog. These blogging platforms will come with web based interfaces for users to compose blog posts. When these web based interfaces are accessed from a browser on the computer this works well, but may not be the case from mobile devices like the iPod Touch, iPhone or iPad. Of course there are exceptions, which I will discuss later. It is hard to find an app that takes advantage of the capabilities of these mobile devices while supports the functionalities of the blogging platforms. There are two blogging platform specific apps for the iOS devices: WordPress and SquareSpace. The former is the first of its kind and its functionalities are fairly complete, but there are bugs that will sometimes cause the lost of blog posts. The latest version (2.6.3) is even worst, so this is not an app that I will recommend. On the other hand the offering from SquareSpace is very well designed. It has set the standards for all blogging apps in the iTunes App Store.

Then there are blogging apps that support multiple platforms, like BlogPress. It supports the following blogging platform/services:

  • Blogger
  • MSN Live Spaces
  • WordPress
  • Movable Type
  • TypePad
  • LiveJournal
  • Drupal
  • Joomla
  • Tumblr
  • Squarespace

Since my blog is hosted with a WordPress backend I will only be discuss the functionality of BlogPress with a WordPress blog.

Due to BlogPress' multi-platform support the author tells me that the app cannot support all the functionalities of a WordPress blog. Even though this may be a good reason, this app has some work to do to get the functionalities that it does support more elegant.

One example, is BlogPress' terminology and concept of "drafts". There needs to be a distinction between "local draft" and "server draft" (draft stored on the server, not yet published and marked as "Draft" on the WordPress platform). This has been improved in the latest version of the app.

When the user click on the Save button to save a post, a dialog is presented with a daunting 6 options:

  • Publish Now!
  • Save and Preview
  • Save Local Draft
  • Save Online Draft
  • Save & Create New
  • Discard

It is a bit strange to see "Discard" being one of the options for a "Save" action.

Unfortunately, the "Publish Now!" options are not exactly what they mean. If you click on "Publish Now!" it doesn't always means that the post in questions will be published on the web site managed by WordPress. This depends on the settings in the post's options. Fortunately the "Publish Now!" option has been changed in the latest version of the app to always mean "publish the post, making it live on the site".

Within this options window there is a "Publish or save draft online" section, where you can toggle the "Publish" flag to "On" or "Off". Again this is not too clear, but "On" means "Publish" the post to the web site, making the post "live". The setting in the "Off" position means to only "save as Draft online" within the WordPress system. The behaviour after choosing "Publish Now!" from the Save dialog will depends on this flag. In the latest version of the app this option no longer has an effect, which is a good thing. I think the developer just forgot to remove it.

For new users who are familiar with WordPress, they will most likely avoid the "Publish Now!" button at least not until they are really ready to publish their post live onto their web site. Fortunately BlogPress has coloured this button red to warn users from clicking on it accidentally. I would have place this as the last item in the option window.

When writing a post the author will want to save constantly, because they worry that the revisions will be lost during the creation process. It is natural to want these revisions to be saved back on the server, for WordPress users automatically saving revisions while composing a post is the default behaviour within the WordPress backend.

Having said that, I believe users like me will prefer to click the "Save Draft Only" from the Save dialog. Choosing this option will save the post, and the app will move the post to a section called "Drafts". It is not until the user goes back to their WordPress platform to realize none of the revisions are saved within WordPress. What happened is that BlogPress only saved the revisions locally within its app and never transferred to the user's WordPress platform. "Save Online Draft" which causes the revision to be saved on the server rather than locally on the iPad. This is because in most cases the iPad is not where a user will finish a post therefore they will want to have their post in progress available anywhere they may edit the post, including back on the WordPress backend.

While this Save function is a UX design issue and less of a bug. There are some quirkiness in the app that can drive a user crazy.

After saving a post the app will leave a blank space at the top of the post pane for no apparent reason.

Another bug is the app's inability to autoscroll when the text reach below the current visible line of text.

This caret scrolling issue becomes most annoying when the user clicks on a spot within the post to enter the Edit mode. User expects the app to scroll the text so the spot where he clicks and where the caret is placed should be visible.

Aside from these clunkiness the app does have some niceties. One such example is its Insert HTML feature, which allows quick template insertion of some of the more common HTML used within a post.

The app also allows the user to insert images from the device's Photo Album. This has been greatly improved in the latest version on the iPad. Although it is still not too intuitive as the image inserted only serves as a placeholder. Any adjustments to the size and alignments are not reflected on the post until it is published to the server.

Since BlogPress does not really have a WYSIWYG mode, only images inserted using BlogPress can be seen, any other images inserted using other means the user can only see their respective HTML codes like the rest of the post.

This behaviour is very confusing, since most WordPress users using BlogPress will assume they are looking at the HTML version of their post, except for the few elements that are added using BlogPress. To make it even more of an issue is that images inserted using BlogPress do not follow the standard WordPress CSS styling so any HTML attributes added to the image are not compatible to the CSS styling by the theme used for the blog.

border='0' width='250' height='166' align='left' style='margin:5px'

The CSS and IMG attributes applied by BlogPress when inserting an image to the post.

width='250' class='alignleft size-full wp-image-7310'

The CSS and IMG attributes would have applied by WordPress if using the WordPress backend.

Conclusion

Given the state of BlogPress I do not recommend WordPress users to use it to edit or create new post for their blogs. This is disappointing as the WordPress iOS app is not reliable to trust it either.

Having said that, I do see improvements made by the developer of BlogPress between versions; as explained above. Therefore if you like to support the developer, so we may eventually have a great native app for managing your WordPress blog, you may want to pay the USD4.99 (on Sale right now for USD2.99) that the developer is asking for in the iTunes App Store.

If you enjoy looking at photos on the Internet you will be familiar with the social photo sharing site Flickr, and may even have an account on it. Aside from Flickr many have also shared photos on the social network Facebook. The user experience for exploring photos on both of these sites are okay but they are rightfully focused on an individual rather than on the photos as they would if it was a photo browsing site, because both are social sharing web sites. Until now there are no tools to view these photos from your social graph on both of these networks together in one place, which the iPad app, Flickpad, is designed just for this purpose.

After you provide your Facebook and Flickr accounts credentials, the app will begin to load thumbnails of the new photos from your contacts on the respective sites. The nice things about this app compare to most photo viewing apps, is that it mimics the metaphor of a group of slides dumped onto a table top. As you can see from the app's Home screen that is exactly what you see. Each photos looks like the traditional slides, and you manipulate the photo slides by dragging them around on the screen. On the edge of the slides there are several useful information:

  • Title of the photo as entered by the photographer/owner of the photo.
  • Name of the person who shared the photo
  • Depending on the service the photo is from you can see either the number of people who viewed the photo (Flickr), or both the number of Likes and number of comments left by viewers (Facebook).

This real life metaphor begins to differ when you start to manipulate the photos. The app takes advantage of the iPad's multi-touch capabilities and created a set of gestures for managing the photos and manipulating them on the screen. Getting familiar with these gestures may take some time. I personally keeps going back to the Info button on the Home screen to review the gestures and I had been using this app for several months; although not daily.

Some of the natural gestures:

  • "Click on a Photo with one finger" = zooms into the photo view, displaying the full size of the photo with details of the photographer/owner and any captions they may have added. On this photo details page there is an option to view and contribute to comments for the photo. There is also an Options menu to enable the user to:
    • Email the photo
    • Open the photo in Safari
    • Even save the photo into the user's photo library

    The Favorite button allows use to add a photo as favorite or Like it depending on the site from which the photo is from; its icon changes accordingly to reflect the function. Initially it may not be obvious but the Slideshow button here will scroll through the individual photos of the set you were previously viewing.

  • "Flick the photo off the screen" = mark the photo as seen
  • "Pinch on a photo" = Pinch out will zoom in a single photo or a group of photos. Pinch in will zoom out or close a view.

Some hidden but useful gestures:

  • "With two fingers clicks on a photo and drag slightly" = will bring all the photos in the album together; remember sometimes there may be only one photo in an album. With the two fingers still on the group you can flick the group off the screen to mark them all as seen.
  • "Pinch" = in many cases you can use this gesture to close the screen you are viewing.

Conclusion

Overall there this is a well polished app for the iPad to address the purpose of browsing photos from Flickr and Facebook. Even if you only want to view photos from one of the two sites this is a great tool. The developer had recently updated the app to make many of the above functions behave even better. If you enjoying browsing photos this is definitely an app to get for your iPad.

Like all apps there are several features on my wish list I will be forwarding to the developer. One very useful addition will be to invoke a 3rd party helper apps to share a link to a photo or album. For example, invoking one of the iOS Twitter app to allow the user to tweet a link to one of the chosen photo. Similar to the behavior in the Mashable iPhone app, but definitely not the way the Mashable iPad app handles this same function.

Also, it will be nice to enable the actual display of the photo in the native service web site within mobile Safari.

Where to Get It

The developer, Shacked Software, is asking USD4.99 for Flickpad Pro available in the iTunes App Store and there is a free ad support version also.

Posted
AuthorVinko
CategoriesiPad, review

The North Point Community Church's "iBand" used apps on their iPad and iPhone to deliver an impressive performance of "Carol of the Bells", "Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree" and "Feliz Navidad". httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F9XNfWNooz4

Although they are not the first to use iOS devices in a performance, they are one of the first to use so many apps at the same time. They even use Apple's Logic to multitrack the arrangements before they perform the songs.

If you are interested in creating your own iBand, here are the apps they used (source: The Ballad of Mr. Fun).

Carol of the Bells

Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree

Feliz Navidad

1 NLog has an universal version native to the iPad called NLogSynth Pro. 2 Precussions has an universal version native to the iPad called Precussions+. 3 Pianist has an universal version native to the iPad called Pianist Pro.

Posted
AuthorVinko
CategoriesiPad, iphone

After I published the Open Letter to Smartone-Vodafone in April, I thought Smartone-Vodafone (SMV) finally understands the needs of its subscribers when they released the new tariff plans for the iPad in July. When the dust is finally settled I finds out SMV still doesn't understand what subscriber needs.

SMV restricts the availability of micro-SIM cards to only certain tariff plans; plans that SMV believes iPad or iPhone 4 users should be using. Even though SMV now have large quantities of micro-SIM cards. SMV sales representatives say their back-office system explicitly restricts activations of certain tariff plans for micro-SIM and others with min-SIM.

Aside from the SIM type restrictions the tariff plans are also restricted to particular devices that SMV believes the tariff plans should be used with.

Just to compete with other Hong Kong mobile carriers SMV follows with its own pre-paid no contract roaming tariff plans, but these plans are restricted to Internet browsing and Email access.

Why is SMV still trying to dictate how we use the tariff plans we subscribe to? I can understand having these restrictions on limited tariff plans or if micro-SIM supplies are very low. For unlimited local data there should not be either of the above restrictions.

Speaking of "unlimited data...", in many of the tariff plans designed for the iOS device, SMV explicitly restricts these so call "unlimited data" to Internet browsing and checking emails, and do not include traffic from apps on the iOS device. Do they know that majority of the people who uses the iPad spend majority of their times within Internet enabled apps rather than the browser (Mobile Safari) or email app (Mail)? So a warning to subscribers, you need to read the small print and choose the plans that is most suitable to your usage of the iPad or iPhone.

Of all the carriers in Hong Kong I thought SMV was the only one that is open minded enough to "think different" (think outside the box) but from these actions they appear not.

[Updated: August 18, 13:20] As suggested by the reader, Art, I will clarify a few of the points in my post.

When I say, "restricts the availability of micro-SIM cards to only certain tariff plans..." I am referring to SMV not allowing certain tariff plans to be issued with a micro-SIM. These plans are the Mobile Broadband: Power 3, Power 8 and Power 28, subscribers are not allow to request the issue of micro-SIM cards with these plans.

When I say, "tariff plans are also restricted to particular devices...", SMV is preventing the HKD198 iPad plan from being used on any other device other than the iPad.

An hour ago Apple released "speed bumps" versions of the iMac and Mac Pro, a new accessory Apple calls "Magic Trackpad", but the most important change is what Apple HK store online did. The highly sort after iPad are now available for purchase. Since Apple is currently listing 7 - 10 business days for delivery. So if anyone recently; the past 3 days, place their names on wait lists at Apple authorized resellers in Hong Kong, and if you had placed deposit. I suggest you get your deposit back and place your order through Apple HK store online.

Posted
AuthorVinko
CategoriesiPad

Has Smartone-Vodafone (SMV) finally listened to my reader's and my call in my Open Letter to Smartone-Vodafone? Along with the different tariff plans SMV releases for the iPad they have also released a "Tag-On Micro-SIM for iPad" plan for existing SMV subscribers. For an additional HKD128/month use of any voice and data plans with unlimited data can share the data usage with their iPad. It also includes unlimited free access to WiFi hotspots in HK. For anyone without unlimited data plans they can add an additional HKD88/month for the privilege.

This is definitely a step in the right direction. Please keep it up.

[Updated: July 23, 2010, 16:59] Well I may be a bit too hasty to compliment SMV. It has been confirmed via Smartone-Vodafone Facebook page that this new iPad plans do not include their X-Power service, which includes that ability to playback Flash and YouTube videos while the iPad is on the SMV 3G network. Not good!

[Updated: July 30, 2010, 11:59] I just confirmed with SMV that X-Power cannot be added to any of the iPad tariff plans for $48/month as previously thought.

Posted
AuthorVinko
CategoriesiPad