Category Archives: apps

Dictation on iOS

Using dictation on iOS is somewhere way better than the speech to text you find using iMessage or other apps. There are three apps that I’ve been using the dictation engine in iOS lately: Just Press Record, Day One, and Drafts. Each on of these apps using the same backend in iOS (I think) and it works fantastic.

If I’m on the go and want to dictate something for later such as a draft for an email or blog post, some items I need to work on later, or an entry into Day One I use Just Press Record. The reason I currently use this as a way to draft something for Day One is because currently you have to choose whether to use dictation or record just the audio on the Day One watch app. I wish they would allow you to pick each time that you use it but for now I have it set on recording audio.

If I’m adding something to Day One I will use dictation quite a bit if I am sitting at my desk. Unlike the the watch up when I am using the app on iOS I can quickly choose the dictation function.

I use Drafts for all my notes so if I am sitting at a desk or the couch I will commonly dictate to Drafts. This app does have an Apple Watch app that I will also use to dictate something quickly. I use Just Press Record if I am doing a longer note.

Below is a transcript using Just Press Record on the Apple Watch (unedited) while I was driving. As you can see it does an amazing job. One thing I like about Day One and Just Press Record is that it also saves the audio file along with the transcript.

I want to write a little post on the use of dictation and iOS. Right now I am using the Just Press Record app from my Apple Watch while I’m driving to go get some groceries. I wanna people have said wow, Siri doesn’t work that well when I try to dictate a text. I agree I do not understand what is the difference between their dictation function and their speech to text iMessage or something. I found that their dictation which abs like just press record the day one app or drafts it works really well using the dictation engine that iOS has built it. So I want to do a quick example if you want to you can read the audio or listen to the audio of this and I will just post the exact transcription with no edits on the blog. Just press record is a great app and I can’t recommend it enough if you want to take some notes and then share it with other places because it records the audio file and transcribes it all from your Apple Watch or your iPad or your iPhone.

Here is the audio file of the above transcript: 15-52-53.m4a

Scheduled Shortcuts and Location Triggers

One feature that the Shortcuts app desperately needs is the ability to run shortcuts in the background based on a certain time or location. Launch Center Pro recently released version 3.0 and one of its selling features is the ability to run shortcuts based on a certain time or location (listen to the discussion from Viticci on Connected). Not only does this feature require a subscription or a one-time in-app purchase but it can not run the shortcut natively in the background because they are limited by Apple’s API.

Personally, I’m hopeful that Apple will add this type of integration into the Shortcut app sooner rather than later so investing in an app such as Launch Center Pro seems premature and more work later. Additionally, there is actually a way to do something similar without an additional third-party app.

Enter the “Siri, remind me of this later” feature. I think many people forget about the Siri feature which allows you to say, “Siri, remind me of this…” and you can quickly return to whatever you were doing by tapping the icon. I use this method to “schedule” a shortcut. I realize that you still have to tap something but at this point its the fastest and most efficient way to run a shortcut at a certain time or when you arrive/leave a particular location.

For example, I send an email on the first of every month. I have a shortcut that helps me populate the email with the correct date and information and then sends it to the correct people. Using this method, a reminder will pop up on my phone at 9 am at the start of every month, I tap on the Shortcut icon in the reminder, and then it will take me right to the shortcut to run.

Additionally, in the Reminders app you can also set a reminder based on when you arrive or leave a location instead of a time-based reminder. Theoretically, if you wanted to run a shortcut every time you arrived at work you could easily do so.

The video below is just a minute long and shows the process.

Note: In the video, the audio cuts out when I use Siri. This seems to be a limitation of the screen recording feature on iOS but you can still see what I say because Siri types out the words.

My Favorite Photo Editing App: Darkroom (now on iPad)

Darkroom has long been one of my favorite photo editors on the iPhone (also voted best photo editor at the Sweet Setup). I’m excited that it is now on the iPad so I can take advantage of the large 12.9” screen, Apple Pencil, and keyboard shortcuts.

Hero

I’m not a professional photo editor, but I have been trying to learn how to do better photography from my iPhone and also edit photos. This app has allowed me to learn about the editing process without using some more advanced apps such as Photoshop, Lightroom, or other “pro” apps. Instead of outlining everything that Darkroom can do I just want to highlight some of my favorite features. If you want a full review of Darkroom 4.0 go check out the excellent article from John Voorhees over at MacStories.

  1. Portrait Editing – This by far is my favorite feature of Darkroom. When you take a portrait photo Darkroom allows you to edit the background and foreground separately. This will enable you to get some outstanding photos from Portrait mode. Often I will increase or decrease the contrast and/or brighten or darken the background, which allows the subject of the photo to really stand out.
  2. Batch editing and exporting – Many times I will take several photos in the same location and would like a similar edit on each of them. I will first edit one photo then batch copy those edits to all the photos in that same location. From there I will go in and fine tune each one. Additionally, you can batch export your photos to either modify the existing photo or create a new one. If you edit the current photo, you can still go back and see all your changes.
  3. Filters – what’s a photo editing app without filters? Darkroom has some of my favorite filters out of the popular photo editing apps. Additionally, you can modify a filter and save it for use later.
  4. The User Interface (UI) – The UI is one of the most intuitive aspects of Darkroom. It reads your photos right from your photo library and has easy to identify markers to know which are portrait photos, what photos have been edited, and photos that have been exported.
  5. Adding borders to photos – When sharing to Instagram and other social media it is helpful to add a border, so you do not have to crop the photo. I particularly like adding a white inset/border to specific photos when sharing to Instagram.

Overall, Darkroom has always been very intuitive to use and has become my go-to photo editing app. I can get into the nitty-gritty with the color palettes or just add a simple filter. Whatever my needs have been Darkroom has met them.

Now that the iPad app is out, I’ll be able to edit photos on a nice large 12.9” screen with my Apple Pencil. With the addition of keyboard shortcuts for the iPad, app editing will be a breeze. This will be ideal when I’m going through hundreds of photos after a family gathering instead of editing on my iPhone.

You can download Darkroom here.

Some Photos Edited in Darkroom taken on the iPhone XS