Category Archives: Mobile

Where Am I?

A fairly regular occurrence when you do a lot of driving; you find something during your drive that should be reported (roadkill, accidents, debris, etc.). If you are on a rural road, the GPS coordinates would be ideal. But, since you are a sensible person you don’t want to take your hands off the steering wheel to fiddle with your phone.

I have a solution for iOS  phones (mostly – it still will require one touch of the screen).

The solution is to use Siri and ask the question “Where am I?”

Response to question by Siri
Siri shows a map of my location

Now unfortunately, Siri doesn’t store this information, and once your screen turns off it will disappear. However, if you touch the map, the information will be transferred to the maps app. The maps app will hold the information until you are ready to deal with it.

The result of question "where am I"
The saved map

Now when you can pull over you can use either the option to Share My Location or Mark My Location.

Selecting Share My Location brings up your share sheet.

The share sheet
You can share your location in a number of ways.
Additional options are displayed as you pull the panel higher.
Additional options are displayed as you pull the panel higher.

You can also  pull the panel a little higher up over the map, for more information.  Like the GPS coordinates or contact options.

You can use the Mark My Location to do exactly that on the map. A red pin will display on the map, and the option to Edit the location appears.

Marked location options
Once you’ve marked the location, you can edit it.

If you choose to edit the location, a satellite view of the location opens, and you can drag and drop the pin.

Editing the location
Editing a location

Marked locations remain in the map app for later reference.

 

Google Maps: Pit Stops

Google Maps has added a feature called Pit Stops to its Android and iOS apps.

Pit Stops allow you to add, well, pit stops to a planned route. Once the stop is added; the navigation route updates itself and the length of time the trip will take. Of course, how long you spend at a stop will also impact your trip length, but Google wisely declines to make estimates of that.

To use the Pit Stop feature, you have to enter navigation mode:

Google Maps trip estimate
Press the Arrow Button to enter Navigation mode

Once in Navigation mode the Pit Stop icon appears as a magnifying glass:

Google Maps Screen in Navigation Mode. The Pit Stops icon is visible.
The button to launch the Pit Stops has a magnifying glass icon.

Pressing the Pit Stops button gives you a list of preconfigured searches; Gas stations, Restaurants, Grocery stores and Coffee  shops. But there is also a search button for your own custom searching.

Google Maps Pit Stops showing the list of available searches.
The Pit Stop search list view.

If I search for say; Tim Hortons coffee shops along my route, the search will return the coffee shops closest to my planned route, giving an estimate of the amount of time that will be added to my travels.

Google Maps Pit Stop search results
Pit Stop search results, showing the amount of time each stop will add to the journey.

Select the location of the Pit Stop you want to go to and a confirmation window will open at the bottom of your screen. At this point you can choose to Add Stop or Cancel, which is useful if you were only checking out possible stops along the way.

Google Maps, showing the Add Stop/Cancel options.
Use the Add Stop or Cancel options to update (or not) your map.

Exiting Navigation at this point allows you to see the updated time for your journey.  Android users are apparently able to add up to 10 Pit Stops to their routes, currently iOS users can only have one.

Google Maps, showing list of destinations and updated time.
Google Maps shows the starting point, end point and all the Pit Stops in between.

If you attempt to add a new Pit Stop, you will only see the option to replace the current stop, not add a new one.

Google Maps showing the replace stop option
The Replace Stop option, tho’ its’ kinda cut off here…

 

The other challenge for iOS users, is that Pit Stops can only be scheduled during navigation, which means your current location is always factored in. Which can lead to some wacky route planning.

Google Maps showing how the user's currently location affects route planning.
Google Maps shows how to get there, indirectly.

Nevertheless, a really useful feature and, once the iOS version catches up with the Android implementation it will be excellent on both platforms.

Google Slides vs PowerPoint for Social Media

Over the last few weeks I’ve been sharing tips for using PowerPoint for social media. Which leads naturally to asking about using Google Slides the same way.

And Google Slides offers comparable features; in particular it does support saving slides as JPG’s and custom dimensions.

What doesn’t Slides have? The photo editing tools and artistic filters that come with PowerPoint are not available, so you’ll have to pre-edit in another application.  And you’ll find that your capabilities are limited on the mobile versions of Slides, so you’ll be forced back to the desktop version.

Email Aliases

I don’t know about you, but I have a number of email addresses.  For example:

  • I have my main work email address.
  • The email address I use for volunteering, because the variant spelling of my first name confuses people.
  • The email address I use for shopping on line when I think the company is going to spam me

These are all forwarding accounts which means mail sent to them is all forwarded into one email account. Personally, since IMAP supports folders, I use folders to organize that email account. This lets me move between my desktop and mobile world with minimal confusion.

But using these email addresses from my iOS devices has previously required that I create multiple email accounts on my iOS device. Which I find confusing; my unread mail counts are wrong because items are counted multiple times, moving mail into folders may or may not work depending on what account I’m using to view the mail, etc.  It just hasn’t been a very satisfactory solution.

Its’ been made more frustrating, since for years in Outlook I’ve been able to send mail using different email addresses.

But yesterday, I tripped across I feature I think is new in iOS 9.1. The ability to add email aliases to my main account.

Some caveats: I have only tested this with an IMAP account, I’m using iOS 9.1 and iOS 9.2 has just been released. And using an email alias does not change the internet headers attached to the email. In other words, anyone who goes under the hood to examine my email can still see that it was handled by my main email account.  Which is fine, I’m not interested in spoofing mail accounts, rather I just don’t want to confuse people by continually responding from a different email address than the one I gave them.

So to set this up go to Settings>Mail, Contacts, Calendars and pick your email account. Open your Account Information:

iOS EMail Account Settings
iOS EMail Account Settings

You’ll notice the > beside the email address, which indicates another dialogue box.

adding a new addressWhen you move to this Email dialogue, you will find the Add Another Email … option which allows you to type in another email address. This can be any email address, as it is not verified. So make sure you spell your email address correctly.

And when you are done (and its embarrassing how long it took me to figure this out) press the RETURN button on the keyboard to confirm the email address you’ve added. Or it will be lost.

The edit button allows you to choose which email address from your list will be the default.

The From line
The From line appears

When you create a new message you’ll find the From: line appears, using your default address. When you want to change the email address the message is from, touch that line in the message ,

Picking your email address
Picking your email address

and a spin button will appear showing the list of alternate email addresses you’ve created.

Easy to use!

 

A suggestion for improvement

One of my great interests is in the interactions between Seniors and technology. As a rule; seniors are not well served by technology, they are a forgotten group. And yet, I believe that tech has a great potential to help in so many ways. In particular, adaptive technologies can do so much to help people with their daily lives, and those technologies can move out to the wider population.

It’s revealing when you find an app or function that would be perfect, if only the designers had kept seniors in mind. Because it shows how much we all don’t want to face growing old and the inevitable changes that time brings.

The app I’m thinking about today, is Day One. Day One has been a well reviewed diary/journal app on iOS for a few years. Yet it misses a really basic feature because its’ designers can’t envision anyone other than their intended audience using their product.

I found Day One for one of my senior clients. One of the things you might have heard about getting older is that sometimes you are a little forgetful. Oh, and you also might have some medical issues. Which might result in more than a few doctors office visits. Which would mean that a nice journaling app could prove useful. Especially one that could support multiple tags on a single entry. Which would mean that you could filter your entries by the name of your specialists, or medications, or illness or test results. It would be excellent if you could export information from the app (Day One allows for PDF exports of entries) and add photographs. So far, so fantastic; Day One does all these things and has beautiful clean interface.

What it doesn’t do, is take advantage of iOS’s accessibility features.

Day One Screen: Magnifiying Glasses Required
Day One Screen: Magnifying Glasses Required

While you can change the size of the typeface in your entries. Day One ignores any preference you have set for Larger Text, Bold Text or Increased Contrast. Which means that people with vision issues are going to struggle with using Day One, if they don’t give up on it altogether.

What I would love to see in this app is a high contrast setting; that would allow the tag icons to resize, adjust the labels and menu items to a typeface that is bolder/larger and that would allow the user to select a high contrast colour scheme.

I also want to see Apple lay down the law with developers and require them to respect user accessibility settings. Designers should look at designing for accessibility as a challenge that will improve the functionality of their apps for everyone. We don’t always interact with our devices under the best visibility circumstances. We may not be facing (yet) the vision problems caused by illness, but we are all going to get older.

Do you have an app that is useful for seniors? Tell me about it.

Never be the first

Never be the first to  upgrade  software or buy new hardware. It’s a good rule of thumb that’s helped me avoid problems like this. Personally, I usually wait a week, watch the tech websites and then decide if it’s the right time. I’m sure I will upgrade to iOS 9. It will just be a matter of timing.

Also, back up your device before upgrading, so if the worst happens you don’t lose everything.  If you can, perform your upgrade via iTunes – not wifi.  In my experience, choppy or poor wifi connections can lead to upgrade grief.

Has there been an update that I regret? Well yes, upgrading my mini2 to iOS 8 was really a backwards step in terms of performance.  And subsequent updates to 8.4 etc. didn’t solve the performance problems. But I knew it was risky when I did it. But I wanted to see the accessibility features (which were an improvement) in action.

In fact, my mini might be the first device that I do upgrade to iOS 9. Since I don’t have much to lose at this point, it might be a good way to check out the backwards compatibility of iOS 9. In theory with iOS 9 Apple is doing more to ensure that older devices will continue to perform well. I’ll let you know.

What I’m hoping for from Apple

Well it looks like September 9th is the date when we find out what’s coming out this fall from Apple. As usual, there’s all sorts of speculation, although things are kind of quiet on the iPhone end. I think because of last year’s physical changes to the phone people can’t quite imagine what they’ll do to the phone next.

The iPad however is a different question. Some of the changes coming with iOS 9 that were previewed in June have pundits predicting a “business sized” iPad to be called the iPad Pro. In particular, the ability to tile multiple apps on screen.

One of the wonderful things about the iPad is its’ portability. However, it really wouldn’t take much of a size increase to bump up the display to the rumoured 12.9″ dimension.  Increasing the physical form to roughly the size of a standard 8 1/2 by 11 piece of paper would do it. The other aspect of the Pro size is that it would have more space available for accessibility options, much like the iPhone 6 Plus offers larger icons and viewing options. For a certain demographic this will have real appeal.

Of course, this kind of leaves the iPad mini in the dust. And people have been predicting the death of the mini since the new larger phones came out. I regretfully put my mini aside for a newer Air 2 a few months ago, and while I love the power of the Air 2, I miss the portability of the mini. It was great for travel and reading. But my version the mini 2, simply couldn’t cope with iOS 8.

I’d love to see a better processor in the mini. An improved camera would be great too. While taking pictures with an iPad remains kind of dorky looking; people do it all the time. Why not give them a better camera?

Design-wise, I hope that the move to ever smaller touch points comes to an end.  I’m not sure if the entire iOS design team has run their fingers through pencil sharpeners in order to use their devices. But regular humans aren’t about to do that.  I assume that the improved text selection in iOS 9 is an attempt to make life easier for people with normally sized fingers.  I’d also really, really like to see the Podcast app get some love. Since iOS 8, the podcast app has become a real battery hog, and running it noticeably heats up my phone.

What are you hoping for from Apple on Wednesday?

 

Smart Playlists

I have an intense dislike of iTunes. I used to think that  it was deliberately lousy on Windows machines. Then we got a Mac and I found it was just as terrible on it as well.

But there is one thing that I like about iTunes,  and that is the ability to create a Smart Playlist.   A smart playlist is one that adapts; automatically adding songs based on the criteria that you set. Right now, smart playlists can only be created through iTunes but I have hope that soon I’ll be able to create them through the music app on my iPhone.

iTunes Smart Playlist
iTunes Smart Playlist

To make a smart playlist  select the  File, New,  Smart Playlist menu choice

from within iTunes.

My favorite smart playlist is one that finds songs that I haven’t listened to in the last  month  and plays them for me.   It’s a great way to keep from listening to the same music over and over again.  As songs are played, they are removed from the playlist and new unplayed songs are added to the playlist.

Smart playlist settings
Smart playlist settings

Here are the settings that I use to make my  Not Recently Played  playlist. The  most important setting is to ensure that song has not been played in the last month. The rest of the filters remove holiday theme music, videos, audiobooks, podcasts  and any music I’ve given a 1 star rating to.  Right now I’m limiting the  length of this playlist to  30  songs.  The random selection option, is acting more like an alphabetical selection right now. Previously it was truly random *shrug* (the oddball behaviors of iTunes are nothing new).   I’m hoping that this will repair itself with the next version of iTunes.

When you sync your iPhone with iTunes be sure to  select  your Not Recently Played playlist,  so the playlist is pulled over to the phone.

List of smart playlists
Smart playlists have a different icon than regular playlists

In the new music app, this is what your playlist will look like.  These playlists have a different icon, and of course you can’t add songs to them manually. You can see from my list  that I also have a smart playlist looking for the word  “happy” in the song title  and playlists looking for recently added music on the basis of  musical genre .

Those playlists are a little less successful because genre tags are not always applied consistently. Or at least music is not always classified the way I would classify it.  Again,  it would be great to be able to add metadata to songs from within the  music app on the phone. But that type of editing has to be done from within  iTunes on the computer. So I usually don’t bother.  Nevertheless, I really like my Not Recently Played  playlist since it does  find gems that I would otherwise forget are in my music library.

 

iOS 8.4 Music App Impressions

iOS Add to a Playlist
iOS 8.4 Music App menu

A lot of virtual ink has been spilled discussing the Music app in iOS 8.4.  Since I don’t live in the U.S. or have unlimited streaming data, most of this has left me cold. However, one little feature does make me very happy, and that is the ability to add songs to a Playlist on the fly.

Now when you are listening to music and pull up a menu you’ll find the “Add to a Playlist” option. Select this and you get a list of all your playlists. You can add the current song to one or many playlists.

At last! I’ve been waiting for this feature for a long time. Now I can hope that the native podcast app will get some improvements in iOS 9.

On the downside, I hate the tiny tiny buttons in this app. They seem to get smaller in each version.

One-Time Schedules

In my last post I discussed Subscription Calendars. These are a useful way to keep up to date without requiring you to re-enter important dates in your calendar. Today, I’m talking about One-Time Schedules. These are useful when you have a schedule of events, usually of relatively short duration, that you don’t anticipate a lot of changes to. For example;  perhaps you are organizing a soccer league and want to give the schedule to coaches and players in a convenient format. Creating a One-Time Schedule lets you create a file you can quickly email to users, that they can import into their preferred calendar. This is also a technique you can use to bring a work calendar into your personal calendar.

One-Time Schedule

Exporting a One-Time Calendar from iOS Importing a One-Time Calendar into iOS
The iOS app Week Calendar, can easily export a calendar in a number of formats. This is a paid app, but it has a number of useful features.I recommend creating a new calendar to contain the one-time calendar, to avoid accidentally exporting personal appointments. Start by filtering your view to only the calendar you wish to export. Depending on the version of the app (iPad or iPhone) use the Share or Settings button. Look for the Share or Export option. Enter the Start and End dates for the appointments you wish to export.From the Type option select the ICS calendar format (most modern calendars use the ICS format, if you are exporting for someone using an older calendar format, then select CSV).Press the Export option.

Choose Send by e-mail and the ICS file will be automatically attached to an email.

From the email, touch the ICS attachment. Press the Add All button. Select the calendar you wish to import the events into. Press the Done button.

 

Exporting a One-Time Calendar from Google Importing a One-Time Calendar into Google
The Android app iCal Import/Export CalDav (Free and Pro), can export a calendar in ICS format. This is a paid app, but it has a number of useful features. I recommend creating a new calendar to contain the one-time calendar, to avoid accidentally exporting personal appointments. Open the iCal Import/Export app. Start by selecting the calendar you wish to export. Use the Active Calendar link to open the Choose/edit Calendar window.Touch the Choose other calendar button to open a list of your Google calendars. Touch the calendar you wish to export.Use the back button to return to the main screen.

Touch the Export button.

The Export calendar window will open.

If it is not already selected, choose Email as the delivery method.

Enter the filename you want for the calendar in the Filename text box.

Enter the email of the person you will send the calendar to.

Add a subject line to the email.

Press the Start Export button.

The file will be created and the Export finished window will appear.

Click on the OK option.

The Gmail app will open and the email with the attached file will appear.

Send the email.

From the email, touch the ICS attachment. The iCal Import/Export app will launch and open to the Import Calendar screen. Use the Active Calendar link to open the Choose/edit Calendar window. Touch the Choose other calendar button to open a list of your Google calendars. Touch the calendar you wish to import into.Press the Continue button.Press the Import button.

 

I hope this series of posts on Sharing Calendar information has been useful.

One-Time Calendar Postcard Front and Back
One-Time Calendar Postcard Front and Back

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