Aug
2009

ShrinkURL for iPhone

Paul Carmody, @macjasp on Twitter, has created an iPhone App called ShrinkURL, (Site, iTunes) which can shorten url’s using the tinyurl.com service.

When posting links on Twitter nearly everyone uses a link shortening service in order to cram as much as they can into the 140 character limit, for example my quick review of TomTom for iPhone is 56 characters long (http://www.g4shallow.co.uk/2009/08/17/tomtom-for-iphone/) but using tinyurl this is shortened to 25 characters http://tinyurl.com/n39zom

In the images shown below I have copied the URL http://www.macjasp.com/2009/08/shrinkurl-for-iphone.html from Safari

Then launched ShrinkURL

and voilà the shortened url is copied back to the iPhone clipboard. For me this is extremely useful in order to shorten links ready to paste into Tweetie.

You can also type a URL in the application itself and click on the go button which will then shorten the URL and copy that to your clipboard. If you have non-url text in your clipboard when you open ShrinkURL you will see the following error so links that don’t work are not created 😉

Of course some people will have personal preferences on which shortening service they use such as bit.ly, is.gd etc so a user selectable preference would be an added bonus, something that the developer has stated will be coming in a future update.

Nice one Paul, a useful application that I can see me using often (especially when it has bit.ly support ;))

Aug
2009

TomTom for iPhone

TomTom for the iPhone was finally released in the UK today. I have been looking forward to this since they announced it as it would make sense to just have one device. I bought the European version as we holiday in France so it will come in handy. After taking an absolute age to download and sync I launched the app.

Clicking on the iPhone application gives this splash screen.

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To navigate simply tap the screen anywhere to bring up the menu, this brings up the following screen

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You then have the option to select Home, Favourite, Address, Recent Destination, Point of Interest, Postcode, Point on Map, Contact. I tested the Postcode and Address options.

Postcode Option :
When you first select this you are prompted to select a country. The UK postcode selection supports the full 7 character postcode which I think is essential in a navigation app. Once you enter the Postcode if the street supports numbers you will be asked to enter the number otherwise it will automatically plan your route and present you with a summary.

Address Option :
Once you tap this option you are then presented to enter the city where you want to go to, once you enter that you are asked to enter the street or crossing. As you type the street it will show you the streets along with the first part of the Postcode. It works incredibly well.

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Clicking on options shows you the following screen

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Clicking on the Instructions shows you a text version of the route that you will be directed on.

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Example of the navigation screen in Landscape mode.

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Map of route

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Browse Map

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Whilst browsing the map you can click on a POI to get more information, navigate to it, call the number associated with the POI etc

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With regards to POI, the majority of them are turned off which is probably a good thing as there are loads of categories.

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I only tested the actual navigation on a short journey to Penshaw and then back again. What I did find is that the GPS positioning can be quite slow in keeping up or pops you onto a road which is nearby thus causing the application to re-route you which can be a bit of a pain and in a place that needs you to take several junctions one after another I can see people taking the wrong turning or missing it completely.

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For example in this screen grab I had actually turned right just before the arrow and it thought I had gone straight on. Now, of course this could be due to the position of where I had the phone, mounted in front of the radio (I plugged it into the LiquidAux Deluxe) and not on the dash which may help (will test this with a screen dock tomorrow).

Speaking of the LiquidAux the TomTom application will actually sound the spoken words through the device and therefore via my car speakers (just wish voice calls would do this!).

I suspect that when they release the car kit this will cure the GPS lag and keep it in the right position but only time will tell. Also, where is the Live features? With the iPhone having 3G, GPRS etc and with pretty decent data plan in the UK on O2 I think that this is major oversight, or maybe they will just use it to inject more interest in the app in future updates.

A quick note about playing your music at the same time. The music simply cuts out, reads out the direction then music comes back in. Personally I would of preferred that the music volume was turned down a touch and the direction overlayed but I can understand why it goes silent first.

I will give the TomTom for iPhone a better run out over the next couple of weeks and report back my findings.

Feb
2009

How to add a site to Safari’s Top Sites

I love the Top Sites feature of Safari 4 Beta but what I wanted to do was to arrange this to show my favourite and most visited sites. After arranging the ones in the window and pinning the ones I want at the top I started deleting the ones I did not want there in order to find the ones I do.

I thought there must be a better way so did a search on various sites which led me to this. post on macosxhints.com. You can add sites to Top sites by doing the following :

  1. Create a new window and click on the Top Sites icon if they are not already showing
  2. Click the Edit button
  3. Create a new window and open the site you want
  4. Click and hold on the Favicon / Globe and drag that on top of your Top Sites window

You can also do this by dragging a Bookmark too though it does not seem to work with RSS bookmarks.

Cool eh?

EDIT
It seems that once you quit Safari it loses this information 🙁

Feb
2009

Safari 4 Beta

As nearly every Mac user in the world will know Apple released Safari 4 Beta.

The first thing you notice when you launch Safari 4 Beta is the Top Sites page, this page shows you a grid of thumbnails based on the top sites you have recently visited allowing you to quickly and easily return to that site.

topsites

Clicking on the Edit button enables you to remove the site thumbnail, pin it into position and of to delete the site. On this page you can also click to search your history. Clicking on the search history area presents you with the following screen

history

Here you can clear your history, scan through the pages or enter a search string. When you enter a search string it will show pages from your history that it contains the text you entered. Oh dear, my first CRASH of Safari 4 Beta.

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This happened as I was scanning the found results of a search. One other cool feature of Safari 4 Beta is the Bookmark cover flow. Simply clicking on the bookmarks icon in the corner presents you with a cover flow of your bookmarked sites.

coverflow

Ok, so this just looks like eye candy but it really does improve the way you use the browser – well in my case anyway. Apple state that Safari 4 Beta has 150 features, here are the new ones :

As listed above Top Sites, Cover Flow, Full History Search and then we have

Tabs on Top
This moves the browser tabs to the upper most part of the Safari window. This is a great place to put it as it gives you much more real estate. I do seem to have one issue with this though, from time to time as I try to click between Tabs I seem to drag the window down instead of moving to the selected tab. Probably just me though 😉

Nitro Engine
Apple claim that the new engine executes Javascript 30 times faster than IE 7 and more than 3 times faster than Firefox. Along with 3 x faster loading of html pages than the same two browsers.

Windows Native Look and Feel
I really do not care about this :p

Developer Tools
These tools are designed to allow developers to examine the structure of a page, debug JavaScript, optimize performance and compatibility, inspect offline databases, or test experimental pieces of code on the fly. Got to say this sounds cool and something I will look into in more detail.

Full Page Zoom
Safari scales images and graphics as you zoom in and keeps text razor sharp while preserving the page layout perfectly.

Smart Address Field
As you type in the URL you will see the top hit and best matches based on your browsing history and bookmark collections each in their own easy to read section. I have to say this works incredibly well.

Smart Search Field
This utilises Google Suggest and your recent search history. Again this works incredibly well in my limited testing.

My comments
Although I have only been using this version of Safari for a couple of hours it seems to blaze along but from time to time it does have issues. Some scripts are not compatible for example using the add link feature in WordPress causes the top half of the window to grey out when the pop up dialog box appears, however you cannot enter anything nor do anything. Occasional rainbow wheel, and as already mentioned crashing.

Personally, I am loving this update and look forward to the finished article 🙂