The tale of www.cut 3.3

This should have been a short, dull story unworthy of a blog post. It may still be dull (you be the judge if that) but I thought it was worth documenting.

So, www.cut. It’s our smallest, simplest app, designed to shorten URLs with barely any user interface. It’s simple almost to the point of being barren. If you launch it with a URL on the clipboard, you don’t even need to tap a button for it to do its magic. Its USP is its lack of interface.

Back when iOS 8 was new, I wanted to add one of the new “Action extensions” (so you wouldn’t even need to open the app). While I was at it I made a few small internal changes and hit submit. The plan was for it to be available a couple of weeks after iOS 8.

But it wasn’t to be. Apple rejected it saying that the UI wasn’t of sufficiently high quality, pointing out the large amount of white space on the iPad version.

Unfortunately, that lack of UI is kind of the point. Also, it hasn’t really changed since 2010. I didn’t have an immediate response and, because it was just a small update otherwise, I decided to concentrate on Yummy and CameraGPS instead.

Five months later, with Yummy 3 submitted and CameraGPS already available, I decide to revisit www.cut.

With iOS 8 now being on the vast majority of devices, I decide to drop iOS 7 support. I also update some of the APIs and, only to address the review rejection, add a web preview of the shortened link on iPad and landscape iPhone 6+. I am not convinced that this actually improves the product, but there’s no point of all the other changes if I can’t get the app in the store at all.

I submitted this update the same day as Yummy 3, which was a compete, ground up rewrite of a much more complex app. One update was approved and one was rejected. Can you guess which?

They rejected it again for exactly the same reason. This is, to say the least, frustrating. They show the same screenshot, showing a blank screen. The web preview being blank because no URL a had been entered.  In hindsight I probably should have anticipated this however that’s not why this rejection was frustrating.

My crash reporter tells me that www.cut crashed while it was in review. However, the reviewer didn’t mention this.

There are lots of high profile app rejections but “little” ones like this are at the heart of the problems with app review to my mind. To summarise: users who are apparently happy with the UI have missed out on neat new Apple promoted features and bug fixes for five months but the a crash in the new version isn’t considered important enough to mention.

But back to www.cut. I figured if the web preview neither improved the product nor managed to get the app past the reviewers it wasn’t worth keeping. I removed it. But that still left the user interface.

The reviewers kept talking about “not using the full screen” but it’s quite tricky to make two text fields and three buttons fill an iPad screen. What could be done? I was skeptical that it would work, but I re-worked the www.cut logo, placing the text under the buttons as usual and the red border all the way around the screen. This “uses” the screen without adding extra, superfluous interface elements.

That feels like a lot of work just to get the action extension — the whole point of which is that you won’t ever see the apps interface! — but in the end we got there. I hope you think it’s worth it.

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www.cut 3.3

Third time lucky as they say. I had this update ready to go last September, shortly after iOS 8 launched but Apple rejected it. With a few visual tweaks to make the reviewers happy and a few other functional changes. www.cut 3.3 should now be available on the App Store.

The one line summary: this is the iOS 8 update for www.cut. I’ve made a few small tweaks to the UI but the most visible change is the addition of an extension so you don’t need to mess with the URL scheme.

www.cut Shorten actionHere’s how you would use the extension in Safari:

  • Tap the “Action” menu, the one when you can share to Facebook or save to your reading list
  • On the bottom row, scroll to the right
  • Tap “More”
  • In the list find “Shorten” and switch it on
  • Tap “Done”
  • Tap the now-visible “Shorten” button
  • Tap “Done”

Steps two to five only need to be done once.

(And yeah, that should be a numbered list. My WordPress template seems to have gone crazy and replaced the numbers with letters…)

Internally I’ve updated to a newer version of the Bit.ly API. Existing users will have to log in again, this time using their username and password rather than going through the palaver of finding their API key. I’ve also taken the opportunity to modernise some of the code, though no Swift just yet!

It’s available on the App Store now.

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Wandle Social Bundle

You may have noticed that most — three out of five — of Wandle Software’s apps have a “social” focus. Yummy manages your links from social bookmarking websites Delicious and Pinboard. ShareEverywhere means you can share your links to many networks, including LinkedIn, Twitter and Flickr. www.cut allows you to shorten your links before sharing.

They all work well together and will soon be available in the Wandle Social Bundle for a reduced price — effectively, buy Yummy and ShareEverywhere, get www.cut free.

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Yummy 3.0.1

Yummy 3 was a massive update. It was effectively a completely new app with very little shared with the version that it replaced. Inevitably, sadly, some bugs made it through into the finished version, despite lots of testing by myself and the largest number of beta testers I’ve ever had for a new app. (Please let me know if you’d like to be added to the beta list.)

iOS Simulator Screen Shot 13 Mar 2015 12.16.41

Yummy 3: Tag list view

Version 3.0.1 is all about resolving as many of those issues are possible:

  • Fixed a bunch of crashing bugs. Most were pretty obscure, happening rarely to a small number of users, but that’s no excuse. A better excuse is that I wasn’t able to reproduce most of them so the fixes are somewhat speculative.
  • Performance improvements. The slowest thing in Yummy (all versions) is dealing with tags. I’ve made it quite a lot quicker, though you’ll likely only really notice during the initial sync or when migrating from Yummy 2.
  • Fix the add bookmark functionality. This was the most embarrassing bug to make it into the final version.
  • Fixes and performance improvements to the migration from Yummy 2. This should fix the syncing and share extension troubles that some users have been experiencing. There is a workaround.
  • Workaround for a bug in Pocket that meant that you couldn’t save bookmarks using Yummy’s share extension.
  • Improvements to “get webpage title” functionality.
  • Dismiss keyboard when saving a bookmark.
  • A new alternative to the “tag cloud” screen, which looks pretty much the same as the tag screen in Yummy 2, including the count of bookmarks.
  • Updates to the versions of a number of open source components used.

I don’t normally include this much detail when talking about bug fix updates but I think it’s important to detail what’s going on this time.

I’m sorry if you’ve been affected by any of the bugs and I hope this release makes Yummy more usable again. Thank you to the users who submitted crash reports or emailed me with their thoughts or observations. As the App Store description notes: I can’t fix problems I don’t know about.

Yummy 3.0.1 is currently with Apple for review. It should be out soon.

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Yummy 3.0

I’m pleased to announce the immediate availability of Yummy 3.o on the App Store.

As discussed previously, it’s a complete, ground-up rewrite of Yummy 2.x, taking full advantage of all the hardware and software advances since the very first iPhone, which is what the old version was designed for.

Highlights of the new version are… well.. too many to mention all them, but the short version is:

  • Multi-account support (requires IAP)
  • Full text search (requires IAP)
  • Improved syncing engine
  • Fetch new bookmarks in the background — no waiting to sync on launch
  • Better support for Pinboard.in
  • New icon
  • Share extension
  • Handover
  • iPhone 6 and 6+ support

A few minor features have not made the cut for 3.0. If there’s anything you would like to see added back, please contact us.

This is a huge update. We hope you like it an appreciate all the hard work that went into it. If you have nice things to say about it, please write a review in the App Store. If not, please contact us using the feedback link in the About Box. We’ve love to hear your thoughts, both good and bad.

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Preview: Yummy 3.0

Where to start with introducing Yummy 3.0? It’s pretty much a ground-up rewrite of our full-features Delicious and Pinboard.in client, designed with modern Apple hardware and the latest version of iOS in mind. That’s to say, it has all the features that you rely on but it works even better than before.

I’m generally of the opinion that you shouldn’t rewrite working software. However, Yummy 2 (“still the only Delicious.com client for iPhone and iPod touch that allows you to edit bookmarks”), released in January 2009, was designed for the original iPhone. The original iPhone had 128Mb memory and single, slow CPU core. Modern iPads have three fast, 64-bit cores, 2Gb of memory, Retina displays… there’s so little in common that it’s amazing that Yummy still works at all!

It became pretty much impossible to to migrate the architecture from this old world to the new one without rewriting the database, the sync engine and much of the UI. But those three things are the app. If those things change beyond recognition, there wouldn’t be much of the original left anyway.

Of course, there’s no point in just moving forward technically. There has to be something in it for people other than me. I think you’ll like what’s there.

The two big new features are multi-account support and full text support.

Previously Yummy worked with both Delicious and Pinboard, but not at the same time. Now you can be logged into many accounts at the same time, browsing and searching across all of them. (My concerns about adding this in the past — performance — are still present but with modern hardware the bar is so high that most people will never find it.)

In Yummy 2.x you could search your tags, bookmark titles or description, but you could search for the occurrence of a word in any of those three fields. Yummy 3.0 breaks that limit. It has “full text search,” meaning that it looks anywhere to find a match.

Of course, there’s lot more but I’ll leave some of those details for later.

Yummy 3 is nearly ready for release. It is feature complete with some finesse and bug fixing left before release. If you’d like to help, please let me know and I will add you to the beta testing list.

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KSBDA International Spring Exhibition

I’m very late writing this, but I thought it was worth commemorating even very much belatedly.

Rootn Tootn‘s icon and logo were shown in an exhibit last year. In the words of the designer:

Rootn Tootn graphic artwork was shown at the 2014 KSBDA International Spring Exhibition, May 31st through June 5th, 2014, at University of Seoul in Korea. It hung among works of designers and professors from more than 5 countries beside Korean designers and professors. Totally 300 plus works were exhibited.

(Bonus points if you can find the icon in any of the pictures in the link!)

Rootn Tootn Logo

Rootn Tootn Logo

I’m really happy with the design work for that app and I’m glad it was put on display for a much wider audience. Next time I’ll try to find out about it beforehand!

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Mac Calendar Widget

Today Widget

Today Widget

I just uploaded a simple calendar widget that appears in Notification Centre of your Yosemite-powered Mac. It doesn’t connect to the system-wide Calendar, instead it just displays a simple month view.

It’s currently source-only — so you need to be a developers or at least comfortable with Xcode — but is pretty much feature complete.

As is often the way when you write software for a living, I found a problem and I felt the need to fix it. As with most of these problems, it took longer than I anticipated but I’m quite happy with the result.

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Smart App Banner 1.1.0

The first new release of 2015 is my Wordpress plugin, Smart App Banner.

Version 1.1.0, rather than insisting that you remember (or copy and paste) the app IDs, remembers them for you and gives you a dropdown list when you add a new post:

Dropdown list of apps

Dropdown list of apps

Once selected, the details are filled in. You can then customise them before saving.

You can define the list of apps in the Settings menu. Editing entries here does not affect any of your existing posts, so don’t worry about experimenting and “breaking” something.

One question you may have: why doesn’t it keep a central list of apps, allowing you to update them all in one place if you want? Unfortunately there are too many edge cases, making it difficult to code and awkward to define sensible defaults or Undo mechanisms. For example, what happens if you delete an app? How would you deal with the affiliate data and app argument? (Those last two fields probably vary from page to page anyway.)

It’s a small thing (that due to the “wonders” of PHP took longer than I’d have hoped to implement) but very useful I think. I hope you like it.

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2014

2014 was a busy year for us. Of course, we never completed everything we hoped to but we’ve achieved a lot.

  • Two new apps, CameraGPS and ShareEverywhere
  • Two further big updates to CameraGPS, and a couple of minor ones
  • Two further updates to ShareEverywhere
  • Four updates to Yummy
  • Five updates to Rootn Tootn, including the big, new 2.0 release

All that, plus some changes to www.cut that we’ve not been able to release.

For various reasons, it’s unlikely that we’ll get quite as much done in 2015 but we already have some exciting updates in progress. 2015 should be good.

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