iPadOS


Some More Thoughts on the State of Safari

27th July 2021

I wrote a tweet a few hours ago, explaining what I think Apple should do with Safari:

With the amount of tampering that Apple have done with the new Safari design in the betas, I think it would be wise for the whole redesign to be postponed for a later point release.
That way they can spend more time getting feedback instead of rushing small tweaks.

Tweet

However, since Twitter isn’t exactly the best place for anything except quick opinions and hot takes, I thought I’d go into a bit more detail here on my blog.


My thinking is that because the changes to Safari on all platforms have received such widespread criticism (with varying degrees) and that Apple has been constantly tweaking (mildly) Safari during the beta process, then it should be clear that it is not going to be widely appreciated when released to the public.

Sure, enthusiasts will always care that bit more than the average user, but the complaints that I have and that I have seen, aren’t about insignificant details, but about the fundamental usability. And you’d expect with the number of users that will eventually be using the next version of iPadOS, and iOS, and macOS, then that has the potential to cause a lot of negativity and frustration simply because Apple wanted to redesign the built-in browser.

I’m somewhat of the opinion that Apple should take a tad more risk in their designs and try some new things now and then. But then again, making the built-in web browser less usable for potentially hundreds of millions of users isn’t a good move. No matter how much “courage” you have.

I think it’s only fair to include here that at the start of the beta, I was open to a new Safari design. I think the tab groups are a good idea, the tab bar looked a bit fresher on iPadOS and macOS, and the address bar was moved to the bottom of the screen on the iPhone, making it easier to reach.

But as I used it more on all platforms, I started to spot the weaknesses. The (initial) tab design on macOS and iPadOS didn’t work well with more than 5/6 tabs (although this has been slightly improved), the address bar on the iPhone regularly got in the way of content, and there’s been the apparent massacre of buttons within Safari on all platforms. In the latest round of betas, a few buttons have returned, but overall I believe that this version of Safari is not fit for purpose.

So in my opinion, I believe the wisest thing for Apple to do would be to either revert the major design changes or at least have it as an opt-in setting for people to choose. That way, they can receive more constructive feedback, spend some real time rethinking the design, and delivering a better version of Safari in a point release.

My ideal solution would be for Safari to keep some of the new features, like the tab groups, Quick Notes, the tab overview, and possibly even the new address bar on macOS. But the new floating address bar in iOS, the tab bar in iPadOS and macOS, and the sparseness of buttons should be at most an alternative and not the default option for all users.

I’m not saying that Safari should never be changed, but it shouldn’t be changed for the sake of it. This design has been proved to already be a bad move, and I don’t believe that mailing small tweaks here and there are going to fix the major flaws.

Rediscover Old Photos With Memories

23rd December 2020

Memories is a new app that lets you view photos from years gone by on your iOS devices, either inside of the app, or with its widgets.

Memories supports all three widget sizes, and they will each show a single photo from previous years. It won't just show the one photo for the whole day though, as it cycles through multiple photos throughout the day.

A lot of these types of apps exist, where you can go back in time and experience old memories. But personally, I know I'd never actually ever use them. That's why I like these widgets, since I can put a widget on one of my home screens, and my phone can remind me of various memories as I use it.

Download Memories for free on the App Store.

My Opinions on Widgets in iOS and iPadOS 14

3rd August 2020

I’m a big fan of the new widgets in iOS/iPadOS 14, but there are a few ways in which I think it can be improved. They’re obviously still in beta in beta, and things can be tweaked before the official release. But I thought I’d at least get my early impressions out.

First of all, one of the best things I like about widgets now is that they can be placed alongside apps on the Home Screen on iOS. Which therefore makes the fact that this isn’t the same on iPadOS one of my biggest disappointments. Sure, you can place widgets on the Today View on iPad OS, and you can have this pinned to the left of the Home Screen. But in my opinion, having them alongside the apps in the iPad OS Home Screen would be much more suitable. I think the fact that it’s like that on the iPhone is simply down to the screen size. But I think you could also apply the same idea to the iPad. I think because the iPad has a larger screen, that it should have widgets integrated into the Home Screen. And instead of having the Today View to the left of the Home Screen, the grid size should be increased. Which might even allow for more sizes of widgets.

Adding widgets on iPadOS

Another thing I like, which is specific to iPadOS, is how you can add widgets to the Today View. Admittedly it’s a bit of a consolation in my eyes, as the reason it works well is that the widgets are limited to the Today View, and it can make use of the rest of the space on the screen.

If there’s one aspect of the new widgets I don’t like, it’s the level of customisation. Although I’m not sure how much of this is the system itself, or just the built-in widgets that are currently available. It’s mainly the Reminders and the Shortcuts widget that have me feeling like this, so I hope it’s something that can be improved over time. And possibly even during the beta stage.

For the Reminders widget, the first thing that bugged me is that you can’t have it show all tasks. Because to be honest, while I do use various lists in Reminders to keep things organised, when I’m actually viewing tasks, it’s normally via the “All” section. But after a while, I realised that I only need the tasks assigned to today, and possibly a few more lists.

Reminders Widget Stack

Therefore, I decided to combine three Reminders widgets into one using a Stack. Which means, if I want to switch between the three different lists I have set up, all I need to do is a vertical swipe on the widget. I would still prefer to have a more configurable widget, but I suppose a Stack will work fine for now.

Shortcuts widgets

As for the Shortcuts widget, I haven’t yet worked out how I’m going to make use of it. It’s partly due to me working out what Shortcuts I think would be most beneficial on the Home Screen, but also due to the widget itself. In my opinion, the buttons in the widget are far too big. The huge size makes it look a bit childish too me. I would prefer them to be half the size they are now. Maybe the best solution is more widgets or better configuration?

Shortcuts widget customisation

Coincidentally, the level of configuration is also the other part about this widget that annoys me. Since the only configuration that is possible right now is to either select a specific folder or all shortcuts to appear. It means that, at least for me, there’s no nice way to have specific shortcuts appear ƒin the widget. Because now you can have folders in the Shortcuts app, I’ve been using them to organise shortcuts in groups like “Writing”, or “Utilities”. But I think I’m going to have to create a separate folder to control what will appear in the widget. One option I’m thinking about is to have my shortcuts organised how they are currently, but have “wrapper” shortcuts in a separate widget folder. That way it doesn’t mess with my structure.

All in all, a lot of these opinions are based on my experience so far with iOS/iPadOS 14, and therefore will most likely change as I use it more. There could also be changes to these widgets before the end of the beta, which I’m hopeful for, but I can’t say I’m expecting biog changes before the official release. However, I do hope that any improvements are released during iOS 14 in minor releases. Because I think it’s going to take everyone a while to adjust to the new system, and to work out the best solution for their needs.

Outlanders - My Favourite Game from Apple Arcade

4th November 2019

If there’s one game that I’ve been enjoying as part of Apple Arcade, it’s Outlanders. I have been mildly obsessed with it ever since I gave it a try, very soon after it was available.

Outlanders Map

In essence, Outlanders is a game where you control a town of people, have them build out the town, whether it’s a farm to create a sustainable food source, or a tavern which they can go to at night that increases their happiness.

It’s very fun, and it’s based around scenarios that have a primary and secondary goal that you aim towards. For example, the level I’m on right now (6, which is currently the last) has an overall target to build 7 Windmills (which are used to convert wheat to flour, in order for a Bakery to make food), and 5 Taverns. All within 120 days. The optional secondary goal is to have a population of at least 70 by the type you finish.

Outlanders Level 6

At the start it’s relatively simple. You have some people forage for foot, while others focus on getting wood, and building houses for a growing population. But eventually you have a big population, that requires a lot of focus on what needs to be prioritised next. The maps are also finite, so the amount of resources (wood and food) will eventually dwindle down, leading you to build farms, windmills, and bakery’s to sustain the food for the population.

The first five levels I managed all within a few attempts, however this last one is proving to be quite difficult. Which is actually one reason why I’m enjoying it. It’s a fun game, which requires attention, and a general plan on how you are going to build out the town and population.

I really hope that the developer adds in more levels soon, as it’s only a matter of time before I’m finished with this one.

You can download Outlanders as part of Apple Arcade, and I would recommend it as not only one of the best games from the subscription, but of the many games that I’ve played on iOS over the years.