Utilities

Find the best utility apps for your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch to help you daily life.

GIF Keyboard

3 Must Have 3rd Party Keyboard Apps for iOS 8

textexpander_iPhone6Plus-wide

Now that iOS 8 allows for 3rd party keyboard apps to be installed, there have been some new entries into this space. Here are my picks for the 3 Must Have 3rd Party Keyboard Apps for iOS 8.

 

GIF Keyboard

GIF_iPhone6Plus

When I smiley face Emoji just isn’t enough you can now send an animated GIF. However, instead of having to find one on the internet or fire up another app, you can just switch to the GIF Keyboard, find the one you like and insert it right into your SMS text message. This keyboard is nicely implemented with categories making it easy to find the GIF you want.

You can get GIF Keyboard here from the iTunes.

 

Swype

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This is a popular 3rd party keyboard on other platforms and now it has made its way to iOS 8. When you bring up the Swype keyboard instead of tapping each letter to spell a word, you simply use your finger to drag through (swype through) the letters that make up that word. It has intellegence built-in to anticipate the word you’re trying to spell even if you don’t hit all the letters. For example when I wanted “cool” I just swiped through “c” “o” and “l” and it knew what I was trying to spell. I can see this keyboard being useful for people that always hitting the wrong keys with the onscreen keyboards of yesterday.

You can get Swype here from the iTunes.

 

Text Expander

textexpander_iPhone6Plus-tall

As I mentioned in a previous post, my favorite NEW keyboard is Text Expander. While iOS has had a “shortcut” feature for a while now, Text Expander goes way beyond the built-in iOS shortcut feature. You can configure snippets that are more than just one line. In fact you can do entire paragraphs. Also your snippets can have styling in them.

You can get TextExpander her from the iTunes.

TextExpander 3 + custom keyboard

TextExpander is my Favorite 3rd Party Keyboard of iOS 8

textexpander_iPad

I’ve been using TextExpander for Mac for years. TextExpander is a shortcut utility that allows you to create “snippets” of text and assign a few keystrokes to insert the text into any application. For example, let’s say you always type directions to enter your building ie. “Enter the parking lot from the 1407 driveway. You can park in front of my suite with the glass door. The Driveway for building 1407 leads around to the LEFT and parking lot between buildings 1407 and 1307. If you go in the 2nd driveway (1307) you’ll end up at the back (garage) door of 1307.” Instead of typing that out each time or pulling up a note to copy it from, you could enter it into TextExpander and assign it a shortcut like “bpkglot”. Just type “bpkglot” in any application and TextExpander will replace it with the full text from the snippet. While this is very handy on my Mac it’s now even more useful on my iOS devices where typing on a smaller, on screen keyboard is harder. Smile Software made a touch version of TextExpander before, it required 3rd party app support and never worked in the native iOS Apps such as Mail or Messages. Now that iOS 8 allows for 3rd party keyboards, Smile has made a new version of TextExpander that allows you to install it as an additional keyboard in iOS. Once installed you can choose to sync your snippets from your Mac via Dropbox and then choose the TextExpander keyboard. Now you can use your TextExpander snippets in ANY application!

I can’t tell you how much this will improve my productivity each day. I have dozens of snippets in TextExpander Mac and now I have access to them on my iPhone and iPad. I would use this keyboard 100% of the time if it also allowed for the iOS 8 feature of Predictive Text, but sadly it doesn’t. Apple probably doesn’t allow 3rd party keyboards to access this feature. Otherwise, TextExpander is a must have and definitely one of my favorite things now that I’ve upgraded to iOS 8.

You can get TextExpander for iOS here .

You can get TextExapnder for Mac here.

Ruler Pro +

Ruler Pro + for iPhone and iPad “rules!”

rulerpro_iPad

I moved into my new place and needed to measure a window. Sure I have a very nice tape measure that was packed away in a box somewhere, but I needed to measure this window right now. I thought that there must be an app for that. Sure enough there are a few of them. However, the 1st ones I tried were only geared to measuring things that were no bigger than the screen on your iDevice. I needed an app that would allow me to measure several inches. Ruler Pro + fit the bill nicely. The app has a simple UI (user interface). Once you launch it, it displays a ruler on screen that is as long as your screen. However, once you line up your screen with the top of whatever it is you need to measure, just put one finger on your display and slide the iPhone, iPad or iPod touch. The ruler will scroll. Lift your finger once you get the iDevice as far down as you can go for the next measurement and put your finger down again. Just keep doing this until you get to the end of whatever it is you’re trying to measure and you’ll have the measurement. The app worked perfectly! However, I do have one complaint. You’re limited to 50″. I can’t for the life of me figure out why it would be limited at all, let alone at 50″? I needed to measure about 80″, so I had to mark it at 50″ and start again to get the rest. Other than this one limit the app does exactly what it’s supposed to. If I could suggest a feature, it would be nice to tap and be able to have the app jot down the measurements as you take them. This would save me from having to switch to a different app to actually write down the measurements or use pen and paper.

You can get Ruler Pro + here from the iTunes



Normal: Battery Analytics

Find out which Apps are Killing your iPhone Battery with Normal

Normal_iPhone5s

Sometimes your iPhone battery will drain at what you would consider a normal rate, throughout the day and other times it seems to be draining much faster than usual. After you’ve done the normal things such as lowering the screen brightness, if the excessive drain continues, then more than likely there is an App to blame that’s running in the background and sucking up all your juice. But which one? iOS 8 is supposed to let us know, but iOS 8 isn’t out yet. In the meantime, there’s an App called Normal: Battery Analytics. This app aggregates anonymous (with user permission of course) data from hundreds of thousands of users so that it can accurately pinpoint data hogs running on your device. Once the battery hogging app(s) have been identified it gives you recommended actions to take. In most cases you can simply quit (not just close) the app to resolve the problem. You can also turn off background App refresh in the offending apps.

Normal_iPhone5s_stats

I’ve been running this app for about a week now and it has made a difference. If you need to see which Apps are killing your iPhone battery, Normal will help.

iTunes.

Dropcam

Dropcam Adds Scheduling and Location Based Activation

dropcam-scheduling-iphone5

Dropcam HD has quickly become my new security camera of choice. It streams HD to the cloud and allows me to check in on things when I’m away. They even offer DVR like functionality for motion detected events. However, until their latest update Dropcam always ran continuously, I don’t really need two of my three Dropcams to run when I’m on site. I really just need them to run when I’m away. Since I come and go and different times on different days, the new scheduling feature doesn’t quite work for me either. However, they also added a “location” based feature and this will be great for me. Basically I set all of my Dropcams to turn on and broadcast whenever I leave the building. Since it’s based on the location of my iPhone 5 I can set this up once and never have to think about it again. This will also potentially cut down on bandwidth use and privacy concerns for people that don’t want to be “recorded” while they’re at home. Dropcam was already an excellent solution for offsite or onsite monitoring and now it just got a lot better. You can see my original Dropcam HD review here and you can get a Dropcam here.

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