Google Maps updated for iOS

I am alone in this. I find Google Maps really confusing. Confusing to the point of frustration: if I could explain what goes wrong for me, I’d understand what goes wrong and it wouldn’t then go wrong. But just things like telling it I want to go from here to there and I want to walk, I have found myself stabbing at the screen on my iPhone in annoyance.

That would be fine if I liked Apple Maps better and actually for the most part, I do. I like the look, I understand how to use it, I now default to using it first.

But there often comes a time when I have to use something else too. I say that to you about Google Maps being annoying and the time that comes to mind is when I was late for somewhere and I simply could not get this bloody thing to grasp that I wanted directions. And the reason I wanted directions, the reason I was late, was that Apple Maps had only put me down in approximately the right place. I could not see where to go and neither Apple Maps would help me nor would Google Maps step in to save the day.

Common received wisdom is that Google Maps always saves the day. I’ve seen it described as the mapping system that Apple wishes it had. I expect that all the praise is right for things like the level of mapping detail and for the routes it works out, but hand on heart I turn to it as the final option.

I’m a man and still I’d sooner wind down the car window and ask someone for help.

So I was pleased by the news that Google Maps has been updated for iOS and specifically that what has changed is the design. Here’s an example of its new look on iPad:

It’s been iOS 7-and-8-ified, hasn’t it? That’s nice. I like this look.

But I am still confused. I tried it out on a route I used to drive regularly, from my home to BBC Television Centre in White City, London. Had some problems understanding how to do this but the first thing it did was show me the White City area on a map and actually that sent me off down a rabbit hole. I wondered whether TVC was still standing so I tapped on the button to change from the default map view to the satellite image.


Perfect satellite imagery of my home.

Not White City.

Okay, I typed in White City again this time it took me to somewhere in the USA.

I feel like it’s me, that I am just failing to read the instructions but Google Maps is going back into a Miscellaneous folder on my iPad and iPhone.

But it’s free and everybody else loves it, go take a look for yourself.

Briefly free: Path Input swipe keyboard for iPad

The only new iOS 8 keyboard I’m using is the TextExpander one and that’s not wonderful. The time it saves giving you access to TextExpander shortcuts is a wee bit undermined by how much harder it is to type regular text on it.

But other people like these new keyboards a lot and one in particular is now free. Download the Path Input keyboard before it returns to £2.49 and see for yourself whether it’s any good.

Microsoft updates OneNote for iOS

I’m an Evernote user so I have little experience of Microsoft’s equivalent but I did work with a guy last week who has the most impressive use of it I’ve seen. And he uses it on a Surface, so it took some impressing. If I weren’t so comfortably settled into Evernote with several gigabytes of data in it, I’d look at OneNote, especially as Microsoft seems to be updating for iOS pretty promptly these days.

Since I don’t use it, here’s someone who knows it better enough to tell you what’s new:

Microsoft has pushed out updates for its OneNote client on both iPhone and iPad, adding support for new features added in iOS 8 and a design that’s optimized for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.

Users can now password protect sections of documents directly from mobile devices (a feature that used to require a Windows PC). Those with an iPhone 5s or newer will also find that they can now unlock password-protected sections of documents using Touch ID. That feature isn’t mentioned in the iPad change log, so users on the iPad Air 2 or iPad mini 3 might need to wait for a future update to enable it.

Microsoft OneNote for iPhone and iPad updated with iOS 8 support, iPhone 6 design, and more –Mike Beasley, 9to5Mac (28 October 2014)

Read the full piece.

Handiest. Thing. Ever. Make and take phone calls on your Mac

If you’re the kind of person who leaves your iPhone in a pocket or purse placed inconveniently across the room, you’ll appreciate the ability to answer an incoming call with your Mac. You can also initiate calls from your Mac—to the other person, the call will look like it’s coming from your iPhone, but you’ll be chattering away with your Mac’s built-in microphone and speakers. For this to work you have to configure both your Mac and iPhone.

How to make and receive iPhone calls with your Mac – Christopher Breen, Macworld (17 October 2014)

This is the thing I think I am most looking forward to using now that I’ve moved from the OS X Yosemite beta to the final release. In theory it worked before but I had problems and put them down to the beta nature of it all. Plus I just put it down, decided to do it again some day.

That day is now. Or it would be if I were back at my office. I’m away with my iPad and I have already used that to make and receive calls. The audio quality is subtly different but receiving calls sounds great and making calls sounds fine. I love how it just happened, too. I’d left my iPhone in my office and was reading something on my iPad somewhere else in the house when the phone rang – and then so did my iPad. One tap and I was taking that call. Gorgeous.

So I know I’ll use that again and I know that I’ll use it when my Mac is doing it too. Maybe even more so: I do a lot of phone interviews so I’m assuming I will be able to use Audio Hijack Pro to record these. This could even transform my biggest problem of prevaricating before phoning people. When they are one tap away, I’m going to tap.

If you’re using iOS 8 on an iPhone and an iPad, those two already work together, you’re set. If you want to do it with your Mac too, you need to do a couple of things. Read this full piece on Macworld for exactly how to do it.

Check your calendars and contacts: iOS 8 not syncing reliably

If you check this out online with a swifty Google search you’ll find many reports and some solutions to a problem about syncing. For instance, this: Apple Support page.

But it’s not working for me. And given how reliant I am on this stuff, it’s becoming a big issue: calendar entries on my iPhone don’t make it to my iPad and vice versa.

I’ve no solution myself but wanted to warn you: check your calendar to see that it’s all copying across the way nature intended.

TextExpander Touch updated, improved

It is still harder to type on iOS devices with the TextExpander keyboard but a new 3.1 release plus iOS 8.0.2 has improved things. You want this because the very best use of the new iOS keyboarded feature is TextExpander and it is tantalisingly close to great.

The iOS 8.0.2 update has fixed the bug that meant you had to keep switching the keyboard on and off in Settings to get it to work. That’s a big thing, it would be the biggest thing except there is also now auto-correction.

A bit.

I don’t understand how it can have a bit of autocorrection. It’s as if developers don’t have access to the iOS autocorrection feature and so have to implement one themselves. That seems an enormous waste of effort and doubly so since it isn’t working. Whereas the TextExpander keyboard previously gave me no corrections at all, this one does some. Not many and not the same ones that the regular Apple keyboard does.

This wouldn’t matter a huge amount except that it is harder to type on the TextExpander keyboard than it is on the regular one. So the keyboard that is meant to speed you up with TextExpander snippets does speed you up – and slows you down too.

These new keyboards for iOS are solely for when you are typing on the glass of your device: they can’t use Bluetooth external keyboards. So I’m trying to write this on the glass of my iPad Air and I’m doing fine – except that I had to give up doing it on the TextExpander keyboard.

But at least I had a go where previously I couldn’t last a sentence.

One other improvement. TextExpander touch had one very good sound – the kind of bleep it gives when it expands some text – and one very irritating sound with the clicking keyboard. Before this update, you got both sounds or you got none. I couldn’t bear the clicking keys so I had nothing.

I so want this to work.

TextExpander touch 3.1 is available now in the App Store

New iOS keyboards: TextExpander in use

Android users have long, long had the option to replace whatever the standard onscreen keyboard is with anything else they like. Keyboards that are in some way better, if not for everyone then at least for some. That’s cool. The same idea has now come to iOS for iPhones and iPads and that’s cool too.

I just didn’t care. I type fine on the Apple one. Yet if the first thing I bought for iOS 8 was OmniFocus 2 for iPad, the second was the TextExpander keyboard. Switch that on and whatever you’re doing on your iOS device, you can instantly call up every snippet of text you use a lot or just want a lot or just always misspell.

No question: I was going to buy that TextExpander keyboard and I was never going to look at the Apple one again.


All this about using TextExpander snippets where you couldn’t before – such as Mail or any Apple app – is true.


I just don’t like it.

The TextExpander keyboard itself saves you all this time with expanding out snippets of text that I use a lot but then it loses me far more time because it is substantially harder to type on. The overall QWERTY keyboard is smaller than the regular Apple one but also each key is remarkably smaller and harder to hit.

I make far, far and three times far more mistakes typing on that TextExpander keyboard. And what you gain in its snippets you lose with the autocorrection and suggested words. There are no suggested words and ‘d like to say that there is no autocorrection but every now and again suddenly I will get a correction automatically applied.

Plus, getting this keyboard means both downloading it and setting it up. The final stage of setting it up is to tell your iPhone that yes, you want the TextExpander keyboard to have full access to your device. Fine, but that option doesn’t appear at all until you’ve been in once, set up everything else on the keyboard, come out and gone back in again.

And then regularly, even routinely, you will swap to the TextExpander keyboard and it will warn you that you haven’t set this full access up. Oh, yes, I have. Oh no, you haven’t.

I suspect that’s a a bug at Apple’s end but the fact that I get it is often is probably tied to how I don’t, afterall, stick with TextExpander’s keyboard. I swap back to it to do a particular complex snippet, then I return to Apple’s own where I can actually type.

That can only happen when you’re using the onscreen keyboard: I’m writing now on my iPad using a keyboard case and it is impossible to use the TextExpander keyboard or switch it on so that I can use my snippets.

So it’s a great idea but it has this first version bug which is probably Apple’s, it won’t or can’t use the regular autocorrection service and the keys are tiny. I think it’s also an ugly keyboard.

Which means I’m a bit disappointed. I wasn’t interested in iOS keyboards before but I am very interested now and it is a disappointment.

TextExpander’s keyboard extension comes with the latest version of the app, which costs £2.99 UK or $4.99 US.



The limits of iOS 8 Extensions so far

You knew this would be the case: Extensions sounded great and they turn out to be mostly pretty very good indeed. But not up there in the greatness that you’d expected.

Previously… Extensions are a new feature for iPhones and iPads that let your apps play nice. You hardly have to know the feature is there but if you have an app that has Extensions, you can use them very easily. So for instance, when I browse to a site in Safari I can now call up my username and password for it from 1Password while still staying in Safari.


These things will change and develop over time as people come to use this service and start talking about what they’re not doing yet. Please count this as my talking about what Extensions are not doing yet yet I’d like them to. Even more than I liked the fact that I just got to say “yet yet” for the first time in my adult life.

I’m a writer. Just nod at me.

So. All this is true and all this works great, but the first disappointment was that 1Password can’t enter credit card details for you. The full Mac app can, the iOS app can, but it can’t do it via an Extension into Safari. This is a big shame for me because I buy a lot online and it would save time.

But the second disappointment is more insiduous. I’m sure that the credit card bit will change – 1Password’s maker Agile Bits said so, for one thing – but I don’t know that this other problem will. So let’s please hear it for The Other Problem with 1Password in Safari Via Extentions.

If you’re on a website, you can tap to have 1Password fill in all your details for you. But you have to be on exactly the right site. I’m struggling to reproduce this problem but I’ve stumbled on it many times. You go to a site, tap to have 1Password log in for you and because there is some difference between the site address you’re on and the site address you saved your login for, 1Password doesn’t work.

I think that’s probably a good idea. Make us wait a second to consider what we’re doing and that will probably mean we make fewer rash logins to pages that aren’t what we think they are.

Only, it doesn’t make us wait a second. It makes us wait forever. The 1Password screen comes up and includes nothing. Nothing whatever.

I would like the option to search my 1Password account for what I need.

I also wish there were a way to use 1Password to log in to apps.

Or stepping away from 1Password, why can’t there be – or when will there be, please – a way to use Extensions to save Facebook invitation details? Facebook would rather you lived in its calendar but I don’t so a tap and a tap and a completed appointment entry would be useful.

Especially this week where – though my fault rather than technology’s – I managed to get a date wrong and arrived 24 hours late.

If only I could blame that on Bendgate or something.