With the advent of the new iPad, I’m also introducing a major update to PDF Highlighter. Of course it takes full advantage of the new Retina display, but there are also a lot of other new features in this release.
The most visible new feature is the addition of a new annotation type: voice memos. They behave very similar to the text notes that have been there from day one – an icon represents them on the page and you can tap it to listen to the recording or move the icon by touching and holding.
The interface for actually recording a voice memo is very simple and if you’ve ever used a dictaphone, you should feel right at home.
For the technically inclined: The audio is recorded in the AAC format and embedded directly into the PDF, so that they are automatically included when you send a document via email or upload it to Dropbox. Unfortunately, not many other PDF apps support embedded audio, so you need the free Adobe Reader to listen to them on your Mac or PC.
The other big feature is text recognition (OCR) for scanned documents. Many scanned documents are actually just images (very similar to photos), and to enable regular text selection, the app first has to find out where the text is on the page. This can take a couple of seconds per page, but it makes working with the document a lot smoother afterwards as you don’t have to rely on imprecise sketching to highlight important things in the text.
To make the process as fast as possible, the text recognition that is done before you can select text is actually just a layout analysis that doesn’t process any linguistic information. When you copy text from such a document, the actual text recognition is done automatically and you can correct any recognition errors easily.
There are quite a few other improvements in this release that I want to mention briefly:
- Sketches can now also be drawn with a translucent highlighter pen.
- The system dictionary that you might know from iBooks can now also be used in Highlighter, instead of Wikipedia (this feature is only available if you use iOS 5).
- Sticky notes can have different colors and icons (checkmark, star, question mark etc.).
- The annotation overview also shows notes that are attached to a highlight (via the “+ Note” menu item) and sketches.
- You can send an email with a text summary of all your annotations (this has been requested a lot).
Highlighter 1.5 is currently in Apple’s review and should appear on the App Store within 1-2 weeks. I really hope it gets approved before the new iPad ships on Friday, but I’m not sure if that will work out.
I really hope these improvements make your work and study easier and more enjoyable.
Update: The new version has now been approved and is available as a free update from the App Store.
NewsRack 1.1 contains a couple of new ways to extend and customize its functionality.
One such way are custom commands that you can install in the sharing menu and/or show as buttons in the toolbar. You can write those commands in AppleScript or just download pre-built extensions.
Here are a couple of extensions that you may find useful. To install, simply download and unzip the file (if your browser doesn’t do this automatically) and double-click it in the Finder:
- Send to Twitter.app – Opens a new tweet in the official Twitter app (has to be installed separately)
- Show QR Code – Opens an accessory panel that shows a QR code with the URL of the selected article. While that in itself doesn’t seem very useful, combined with an iPhone app that reads the code with the camera (e.g. Scan), it can be a quick way to view an article on the iPhone without typing the whole URL.
- Mail Selection –
Creates a new email in Mail.app that contains the article’s title as the subject and the text that is selected in the article (plus a link) as the message.
I hope you enjoy these new features.
I’ve been notified of a serious bug in the new AppleScript command editor of NewsRack (Mac) 1.1. In short: it doesn’t save the script commands properly after using the “Save” button.
I’m working on an update to fix this, but unfortunately, this will take some time to get through Apple’s review again. In the meantime however, I’ve built a little workaround that enables you to still use the new AppleScript command feature.
Simply download this little helper app:
NewsRack Script Exporter.zip"
It’s just one window in which you can paste your script and set a title for the command. There’s also a button to test it, though I’d recommend to use the system’s AppleScript Editor instead.
You can then export your script as a NewsRack “extension” that you can simply add to your sharing menu by double-clicking the file in the Finder (the file icon should look like a lego brick).
I just received word from Apple that the first update to the Mac version of NewsRack was just approved.
Here is a list of changes and new features in version 1.1, in a little more detail than what’s available in the App Store’s release notes:
- The sharing menu is now fully customizable: You can not only select which items you want to see, but also change their order (via drag’n‘drop) and insert line separators. If you want, you can even set your own keyboard shortcuts.
- Using AppleScript or Bookmarklets, it’s now possible to add your own items to the sharing menu. The help book contains many practical examples of how this can be used – I’m sure many of you will come up with your own.
- Sharing commands can be optionally be shown in the toolbar for quick access.
- For those who like distraction-free reading or have a small screen, there is a new fullscreen mode (Cmd+Shift+F).
- Feeds and folders without unread items can optionally be hidden (View –> Hide Read Feeds – Cmd+Shift+U).
- You can choose from three article templates (“themes”) – for advanced users, it’s also possible to create custom templates (see “Extending NewsRack” in the included help).
- There’s a new “Notifications” tab in the preferences that has new options for sound and Growl notifications.
- Finally, this version should fully support the developer preview of Mac OS X Lion.
Thanks to everyone who provided helpful feedback. I hope you enjoy the new features and improvements.
I have just submitted the first App Store update for Telling Folders to Apple. Thanks to everyone who provided feedback – it’s been very exciting to be in the Mac App Store from day one.
So what does the new version (1.3) bring? Three things:
- A new style of icon overlays (“Embossed”) that resembles the system style for standard folders like Music, Documents, etc. The effect looks best with vector artwork, like clipart or icons, but it should also work with any other image. See the screenshot for an example.
- Removed the “Document Borders” checkbox. A lot of users found this confusing, especially because in some cases, it had no effect at all. Although most people will probably use Telling Folders with images, but it’s not limited to that. It handles every file that the Finder can generate a preview for. Those previews (QuickLook) come in two flavors: One that you see in the Finder’s icon view and one that is presented when the QuickLook window is activated (by pressing the space bar). For example, PDF documents are shown with a ring binder in icon mode, but without in the preview window. But for a lot of file types, both modes will look the same. The new version deals with this automatically: For images, it uses the unmodified image (so that no white background is shown for translucent images), for other documents, icon mode is used.
- Larger landscape icons. Previously, all images were scaled down to fit into the square-shaped area in the middle of the folder icon. This works great for images in portrait format, but landscape images would get very small. These can now fill a larger area. For one of the future updates, I plan to add manual resizing controls.
There are a couple of minor changes and bugfixes too, especially small (16×16) icons should look better now, because a scaling mode with higher interpolation quality is used.
I hope you’ll enjoy the new version when it becomes available – it is currently still in Apple’s review.
The first update to PDF Highlighter was just approved.
The biggest new feature is support for organizing documents in folders. You can even create subfolders and move multiple documents at once. The multiple selection also works for deleting documents. It is also now possible to rename documents from within the app.
The other thing that immediately sticks out is support for fast app switching on iOS 4.2. When you hit the home button to go to another app and return to Highlighter, it should be there a lot faster in most cases.
The settings are now integrated into the app, so you don’t have to switch to the Settings app anymore to change the Wikipedia language. There are also new settings to change the font of text notes.
Speaking of text notes: When you spread two fingers on the text note popover, it becomes bigger, so that more text fits in.
By an oversight, annotations created in version 1.0 were not printable in Adobe Reader or Preview. This is now fixed, but this will only work for annotations that are created or modified in version 1.1 (because the ‘non-printable’ flag is saved within the file).
I hope you enjoy this update, feel free to give us feedback.
Today, I can finally announce a new app for iPad that I’ve been working on for quite a while. It’s called Highlighter and it’s essentially a PDF reader with advanced annotation tools, including (as the name implies) highlights, but also text notes and freehand sketches. Annotations are saved in the standard PDF format, so that you can review them on your computer, using Acrobat Reader or Mac OS X Preview.
Even if you just want to read, Highlighter has a lot to offer: Great support for links and outlines, integrated Wikipedia lookup, smart text zoom, customizable paper colors (including a night mode) and more.
The app is not available in the App Store yet, but will be soon. Until then, you can check out the more in-depth preview with screenshots here.
I have just submitted a bugfix update for NewsRack 2.5 that should help with the most common problems that users reported for the new version; specifically:
- Fixes compatibility issue with iPhone 3G and iPod touch 2nd generation, running iOS 4
- Improved performance for opening articles and the sharing menu
- Fixes an issue with hosted Google accounts
I apologize if you experienced any of these problems in 2.5 and I hope that Apple makes the new version available as soon as possible.
I’ve just been notified of a bug in NewsRack 2.5 that leads to crashes on the iPhone 3G, running iOS 4. An update to fix this will follow as soon as possible. Please don’t update NewsRack yet if you’re running iOS 4 on an iPhone 3G. If you’re still on iPhone OS 3.x or have a newer iPhone, the problem should not occur. Thanks!
After a long wait, a new version of NewsRack is now available in the App Store. There are a lot of improvements, as you’ll see in the iTunes release notes and I’d like to highlight just a few of them here:
Support for iOS 4: While the previous versions did also work on iOS 4, they did not take full advantage of its new features, specifically fast app switching and background task completion. Version 2.5 can now complete synchronization in the background, so you don’t have to wait for articles to be marked as read in Google Reader before switching to another app. You can also start a synchronization, hit the home button and watch the unread articles counter on the home screen go up (if you have the icon badge option enabled). Another benefit of fast app switching is that when you come back to NewsRack, you’ll find it exactly as you left it – whether you have scrolled down in an article or navigated to a specific dialog in the settings.
On a related note, the iPhone 4’s Retina display is now also supported, so that icons and other interface elements look crisp.
Faster sync: If you synchronize NewsRack with Google Reader, you’ll notice that refreshing your feeds is a lot faster now. 2.5 contains an entirely new sync engine that is designed to improve both speed and accuracy. There is one compromise though: NewsRack no longer automatically downloads articles you’ve already read. If you want to read a blog’s archive however, you can download as many older articles as you like manually, which wasn’t possible before. Just open a feed, scroll down and select “Load More…”, just like in the Mail app.
Mark as unread: This is probably one of the most-requested features. You can now mark articles as unread by either tapping the light gray dot in the list of articles or the circle icon when viewing an individual article. Please note that if you sync with Google Reader, it’s possible that this option is unavailable for older articles.
Slideshow: On the iPad, you can now start a gorgeos anagram-style slideshow from a list of articles. Tap the “images” button to get started.
Improved sharing interface: The interface for sharing articles on the iPad gets a lot less in the way than before. Most sharing dialogs now open in non-modal popovers, obscuring a lot less of the article you’re about to share. Also, the progress indicator for sending to Twitter, Instapaper etc. no longer blocks touches, so that you can continue to browse while an article is being sent.
Another new feature of the sharing interface is the ability to easily share just part of an article. Simply select some text and it will automatically be used as the email body or as notes for delicious and Instapaper.
These are just a few of the new features and improvements and I hope you’ll like them. As always, you can use the contact form to leave feedback.
As of the latest update (2.4), NewsRack is now a universal app. This means that it will run on both iPhone/iPod touch and iPad in full resolution with no pixels doubled. If you already have NewsRack and get an iPad in addition to your iPhone, you can use the same app on your new device without paying again.
NewsRack on iPad should feel familiar if you used Apple’s included Mail app before. In landscape view, you’ll see your lists of feeds and articles on the left and a big reading view with iPad-optimized layout on the right. When you rotate the device to portrait, you’ll have a full-screen reading view with the list always available in a popover. I hope you enjoy reading your feeds on this new category of computer.