About Extensions: The Basics

Discussion in 'iOS 8' started by twerppoet, Sep 19, 2014.

  1. twerppoet

    twerppoet
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    A basic primer on Extensions, the five types of extensions, and what they do.

    The Basics

    Extensions are a new iOS 8 feature that lets apps extend features to other apps, and in some cases to the system itself. They come in five types: sharing options, action options, widgets, file provider, and custom keyboards. {according to the iPad User Guide for iOS 8}

    Sharing Options

    Apple already had a few of these built into iOS 7; FaceBook, Twitter, and Flicker. Now third party developers can add their own sharing options, and they show up in the same place.

    When you tap the share, print, and more icon (a box with an up arrow), you’ll see your AirDrop options, with two rows of icons below. The share options are the first row, the colored icons. To add or remove options tap the More icon (three dots) at the end of the row. Your available share options will be listed with an on/off switch. They can also be re-ordered by dragging them up or down.

    My favorite new share option is Evernote.

    Action Options

    Some action options are found in the second, monochrome, row of icons; below the sharing options. You add and rearrange them the same way.

    Action options give you access to features from other apps without having to leave your current app. My favorite here is 1Password, which lets you enter your website passwords without leaving Safari.

    Action options may show up in other areas of apps. For instance, you can use some of the Camera+ editing features in the Photos app; but they are only accessible when you’ve selected and started to edit a photo. Again, the More icon seems to be the place to find and/or add options.

    I’m not sure what the distinction is between the two types.

    Widgets

    Apps can offer widgets for the Notification Center. To add them pull down the Notification Center , choose the Today view, then tap Edit at the bottom of the screen. Widgets you can add will show up with a green (+) icon, and can be dragged to change their order once added.

    {widgets can not be edited from the lock screen.}

    The two widgets I’ve added, so far, are Evernote and PCalc. The Evernote widget is a shortcut to add different types of notes. The PCalc widget is a simple calculator you can use in the Notification Center.

    I’m not sure I’’ll keep either. The Today view is fairly cluttered, so I’ll only want widgets installed that I actually use.

    File Provider

    Honestly, I’m not sure how these work yet. They are part of the storage and file handling improvements that, like iCloud Drive, should make moving files between apps and third party cloud storage sites much easier.

    I suspect they will deserve an article of their own. Box, DropBox, and other cloud storage apps will probably be creating these extensions; if they have not done so already.

    Custom Keyboards

    The much anticipated custom keyboards are here. These extensions let you add new system wide keyboards to your device. After you have downloaded the app, the new keyboards are added in Settings > General > Keyboard > Keyboards > Add New Keyboard.

    When adding a keyboard that needs internet access to be fully functional, you will see a switch and some warnings. It’s opt in, not automatic.

    To access the keyboard use the world key to switch between all your enabled keyboards. If you’ve never seen the world key (has a globe-like image on it), then you’ve probably never had more than one keyboard enabled.

    One thing the custom keyboards will not do is work with protected text files, like passwords. You will always be switched back to Apple’s system keyboard when entering data. This is a security precaution, to make sure you never use an keyboard that might be sending your keystrokes to a server.

    The only keyboard I’ve downloaded so far is MyScript Stack. Similar to Graffiti on the Palm PDA, it lets you use hand writing to enter text. It’s fast, and the few gestures are easy to learn. If you can’t get used to pecking at the touch keyboard you may like it.

    Caveats

    Most of the above is based on blogs, the iPad User Guide for iOS 8, and observation; not authoritative sources or deep technical knowledge. I’m sure to have made some, bad assumptions, gotten the details wrong, and committed other odious mistakes. Feel free to correct me, but please be nice.
     
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  2. Ser Aphim

    Ser Aphim
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    The only feature I am currently enjoying right now is interactive notifications, Metal, and an enhanced Safari. Extensions needs some work, keyboards a buggy, keyboards lack spilt screen, and we need more apps to actually make proper and full use of iOS 8's extension feature.
     

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