Tag Archives: ipad

Annotate Photos & Screenshots Using the iOS Photos App

ios markup tools

There are a number of decent annotation apps for the iPhone & iPad. I know, because I have used a lot of them. However, I almost never use a dedicated app any more. The tools that I need are actually built-in to iOS, and they cover almost all of my image annotation needs. I’m talking specifically about the Photos app. It has some great options for marking up images and screenshots, but not everyone knows where those tools are. So, here’s what you need to know.

Markup Tools in Photos for iOS

To access the annotation tools in the Photos app, open an image and tap the image adjustment sliders in the top-right hand corner.

File Mar 03, 9 42 28 PM.jpegNext, tap the circle with the three dots on it to reveal the Markup toolbox. Tap Markup to access the annotation tools in the Photos app.

File Mar 03, 9 46 56 PM.jpeg

A menu of annotation tools will then appear, (as in the screenshot below). They include a pen tool, a loupe, a text tool, a color picker, a line thickness selector, a text formatting tool and the all important undo arrow. In essence, these are really the only tools you might want, with the possible exception of a blurring tool.

iOS Screenshot 20170303-213747 01.png

Annotation Tips & Tricks

The pen tool has built in shape recognition! If you draw a rough square, circle or even an arrow, you have the option to convert it to something a little more refined by tapping the shape recognition box that appears at the bottom of your screen after you draw your shape.

The loupe is used to magnify part of an image. You can adjust the size of the loupe by dragging the blue dot in or out. You can also adjust the magnification level by rotating the green dot clockwise or anticlockwise along the circumference of the loupe.

Text can be formatted to appear as one of three fonts, (Helvetica, Georgia, Noteworthy). You can adjust the size and the way the text is justified. All these options appear when you tap the Aa icon in the toolbar at the bottom of the screen. If you want, you can add a line border around text by selecting the text and tapping the line tool to select the thickness you need.

The undo arrow is your friend. Sometimes it can be hard to select or move an annotation around the screen without adding accidental ink to the image. When that happens, a few quick taps of the undo arrow will quickly return things to the way they were.

Classroom Uses

While you might not be annotating images in every lesson you teach, there are definitely some times where you might want to mark up a photo or screenshot. These include:

  • Creating software tutorials or walkthroughs
  • Annotating maps in Social Studies
  • Drawing attention to text on a blog post or news article
  • Annotating draft designs for suggested improvements
  • Reporting app or website errors

Dedicated Annotation Apps

If the Photos app doesn’t meet your needs, consider some of these great options from the App Store. Each has a slightly different take on iPad annotation, but all are interesting in their own right. Take a look below:

  • Skitch is one I have used in the past. It is still available in the App Store, but was abandoned by its parent company Evernote a long time ago. Needs an update.
  • Annotate Text, Emoji, Stickers and Shapes is another decent option. It doesn’t have  a lot of tools, but the simplicity makes it reliable and easy to use.
  • PointOut lets you position a pointer for a zoomed in view of any image. Different layouts, borders and filters are included.
  • Pinpoint has gone through a few iterations in its lifespan, but it remains a good option for some basic free annotation tools.
  • Annotable offers some unique and powerful annotation tools too, but in-app purchases hide some of the better features.
  • Annot8 – Lets you spotlight and blur areas of your image and includes the ability to crop, rotate and straighten your images.

Bonus Tip

The same annotation tools are available in the Mail app and in the iTunesU app. Read Mark up PDFs with Apple’s Mail App for more information on how to do just that!

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Tips for Using an iPad with an External Keyboard: Shortcuts & More


Up until this week, I rarely used an external keyboard with my iPad. The on-screen keyboard was fine for what I needed to do and unlike a lot of people, I really have no problem typing on the screen. I can’t type as fast as I can on a standard keyboard, but I can type fast enough to churn out emails and blog posts with no real concerns. This week, however, I decided to try something a little different. I resolved to use the iPad as my only device for a week.

On a “normal” week I would spend my time switching between a MacBook, a Surface Pro 4, and my iPad for the tasks that I need to get done. However, I happened to read an article entitled, Stop Using A Laptop in 2017; It’s Time To Use A Tablet. In it, the author made a case that desktop operating systems are less relevant than they used to be, so that got me thinking. Could I use an iPad, and only an iPad, for a week? No reason why not, right?! The challenge was on, and I took a Bluetooth keyboard along for the ride.

External Keyboards for iPads

There are lots of Bluetooth keyboards available for the iPad, and by lots I mean LOTS. Some are better than others, but in theory just about any Bluetooth keyboard will work with an iPad. I have been using one at work for about four years now when I dock my MacBook Pro or Surface Pro 4 and connect it to a monitor. The one I like best is the Logitech K811. It has 3 easy-switch Bluetooth buttons that you can use to quickly move between multiple devices. With one tap you can use it to type on your iPad, press a button and you are typing on your phone, press another button and you can start typing on your laptop. It has backlit keys, good key travel and chiclet key spacing that suits the way I type.

I use my iPad with a simple tablet desktop stand because I like the convenience of being able to quickly switch between using the iPad with an external keyboard and using it without one. There are some great iPad keyboard cases available, but I know for a fact I won’t use a keyboard all the time so I if I don’t have to wrestle with sliding the iPad in and out of a keyboard case, I won’t. The stand lets me pick it up and go whenever I want. It also lets me choose whatever case I want to use, and to switch out my case when I feel like I need a new one.

If the K811 is too rich for your blood and you don’t really need the backlit keys, try the Logitech K380. It is less than half the price and also supports multiple devices. My wife loves a number keypad, (she won’t buy a laptop without one). If you are the same way, you might prefer the Logitech K780. It has an integrated phone and tablet stand and includes a battery that will last up to two years on a single charge! Other keyboards are available, but of late I am somewhat partial to Logitech, purely based on previous experiences.

iPad Keyboard Shortcuts for External Keyboards

One of the nice things that Apple introduced in iOS 9 was a range of keyboard shortcuts that are designed to speed up your productivity on an iPad. Like all keybaord shortcuts, these are only good if you remember what they are. However, if you only remember one iPad shortcut for external keyboards, remember this one. Hold down the Command (Cmd) key. When you hold down the Cmd key on an external keyboard connected to an iPad you get a cheat sheet of the keyboard shortcuts that are available to you at any given time. This list will vary depending on what app you are using, but it is an insanely useful idea and perfect for when you are still learning which ones you will actually use.

img_0566

Some of the ones worth committing to memory are the ones you reveal if you hold down the Cmd key on the home screen. These are universal keyboard shortcuts that work in basically all iPad apps and they are perfect for navigating your way around the iPad. They include:

  • Cmd + H = Return to your Home screen
  • Cmd + Space = Activate a Spotlight search
  • Cmd + Shift + 3 = Take a Screenshot
  • Cmd + Tab = Use the App switcher

Other useful shortcuts are ones that you may be familiar with from using an Mac. For instance, copy, cut and paste is the same on both devices, (Cmd + C, Cmd + X, Cmd + V), and the same goes for things like Bold, Italic and Underline. In text editors you can tap where you want the cursor to go, hold down shift and use the arrow keys to select text. You can also move around your text with things like Cmd + right arrow or Cmd + up arrow, and use the spacebar to scroll in Safari.

Conclusion

I have actually enjoyed using an iPad keyboard more than I thought. In the past I pretty much dismissed them as unncessary, (and in some ways they still are), but the recent improvements that Apple have made to iOS make them a much more compelling choice for if you have a lot of typing to do. So, if you haven’t tried one recently, give it a go. You might just surprise yourself with how useful an iPad keyboard can be.


Note: In case you were wondering, this blog post was created entirely on an iPad! Also, some of the links in this post are affiliate links to online stores. If you purchase anything at one of these stores after clicking a link, I will receive a small credit, at no cost to you, in order to help fund the development of this blog.

Coding in the Classroom with Swift Playgrounds

swift playgrounds(1).png

The recent release of iOS 10 unlocked a creative coding opportunity for iPad classrooms called Swift Playgrounds. It’s an iPad app that lets you solve interactive puzzles that are designed to help you learn the basics of how to code in a programming language called Swift. It is aimed at students aged 12 and over and is part of Apple’s Everyone Can Code initiative. So, if you are looking for new ways to start coding with students, this could be a great new platform for you to explore. Here’s what you need to know.

What is Swift?

Swift is an open source programming language that was developed by Apple engineers and released in 2014. It was created to help developers build apps for iOS, macOS, watchOS and tvOS. Swift has its origins firmly rooted in another programming language called Objective-C, but Swift is generally considered to be more concise. The app, Swift Playgrounds, was developed to help introduce a younger audience to the finer points of programming with Swift, and to help foster a new generation of programmers for Apple devices.

Getting Started With Swift Playgrounds

Swift Playgrounds is only available for iPads running iOS 10 or later. You also need at least an iPad Air, or an iPad Mini 2, because these are the oldest devices that are capable of running the app. The iPad 2, the iPad 3, the iPad 4 and the original iPad Mini are not compatible Swift Playgrounds because they either can’t be upgraded past iOS 9 or lack the hardware necessary to run the Playgrounds app.

Once you launch the app you will see lessons at the top of the screen and coding challenges underneath. If your students have never programmed with Swift before, the lessons are the best place to start because they introduce you to the basics that students will need in order to attempt the challenges. Continue reading

Creating Photo & Video Slideshows is Easy With Quik for iPad

Quik for iPaD

I love iPad video editor apps like iMovie and Splice, but sometimes all you really want to do is quickly throw some photos together in a slideshow, save it as a movie, and share it with others. In this past, this has undoubtedly taken more time than it should, but Quik for iOS changes everything. With this free app you can create a professional looking video with music and titles in almost no time at all. Here’s what you need to know.

How to Create Video Slideshows With Quik for iPad

1. Start by tapping the Create button and selecting the images and/or videos that you would like to include. Tap OK when you are ready to move on.

Select photos videos Quik

2. A video will immediately start playing with the media you selected automatically matched to an upbeat music track. If you like it, then you’re done! Click Save to share your video. To explore more options, keep reading!

3. Tap the paint bucket icon in the top right-hand corner of your screen to choose a new theme. Scroll horizontally to see all the themes that are available. Each one has a selection of filters, fonts and animations that will give your movie a unique and stylish look. Tapping twice on a theme will let you fine tune the effects.

Quik themes

Continue reading

The One App I Can’t Live Without

app you cant live without

Recently, at the #iPadU conference, I was challenged to think about the one app I couldn’t live without. This was harder than I thought it might be. I mean, there are a lot of apps I really like, but are there any that I couldn’t live without, or at least be able to find some kind of passable replacement for? After some consideration, I decided that there was such an app, and that it really was quite unique in what it offers students, teachers and just about everyone else. That app, is the Camera app.

In many ways it is more than just an app, because it is now an essential hardware feature, but many people forget that when the iPad was first introduced in April 2010, there was no camera. Even today, there are those that still laud the introduction of the original iPad as a new era for computing, but for me, the iPad 2 was far more important than the one that came before it. When the iPad 2 was announced a year later, it had a two cameras – one on the front and one on the back.  The addition of these cameras opened up a whole new world for what was actually possible with an iPad, and quickly turned this mobile tablet from a consumption device to a creation device. It transformed the iPad into something infinitely more appealing and opened the doors for developers to create some amazing apps. Continue reading

5 Creative Graphic Design Apps for iPads

iPad Graphic Design Apps

Are you ready to harness your inner designer? Today it is easier than ever thanks to a variety of easy to use graphic design apps for the iPad. These “text on photos” apps are increasingly popular and many of them do a great job of simplifying the design process for non-designers. They could be a great platform for exploring visual literacy and visual design in the classroom, or simply to spice up your social media presence. I myself have quite a few of these kinds of apps on my iPad so I thought I would take some time to share five of my favorites together with some of the reasons I like them.

1. Canva (Free with in-app purchases)

If you’ve heard of any of these apps before, you probably heard of Canva. It is available on the web, and for the iPad, and is a great way to get started creating fun, fresh looking images. Canva has a number of templates you can use (some free, some paid) and bucket loads of inspiration. I particularly like the icon gallery and the free image search, although I will often use sites like Unsplash too and bring those into Canva. This app is perfect for social media graphics, posters, presentations, blog post images and even infographics. There are also some great lesson plans for teaching design in your classroom that were written by educators like Vicki Davis, Monica Burns, Steven Anderson and more. The only real downside to Canva is that you need an account to use the app and that it is designed to be a service for those 13 and older.

canva for ipad

2. Adobe Spark Post (Free)

Adobe Spark Post is a relatively new app for the iPad, but it has been available for iPhone users for a while now. In many ways it is quite comparable to Canva, but it has a few neat features that are well worth exploring. For instance, if you have a graphic you want to share on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest, Adobe Spark Post can automatically adjust your design so that the image is optimally sized for each social network. It also lets you change themes and color palettes at the touch of a button or add life to your design by saving it as a stylish animated GIF. There is a library of public domain images that you can search through and use in your designs, but you can just as easily use photos from your Camera Roll too. It is a lot of fun to play with and can also be accessed on the web at spark.adobe.com. A free Adobe account is required to use any of the Adobe Spark apps.

Adobe Spark Post

3. Word Swag ($3.99 with in-app purchases)

I have been using Word Swag for a little while now, but I was hesitant to purchase it because it was $3.99 AND has in-app purchases. As it happens, there is a LOT you can do with just the initial purchase. You really don’t need to buy anything extra, and some of the in-app purchases are actually free right now and have been for a some time. Word Swag integrates with Pixabay so that you can search for Creative Commons Zero images that you want to use in your design, but you can also choose from a number of solid, textured and gradient images without any searching at all. There are a huge variety of font styles to choose from and a variety of filters and font color effects. However, there is no real way to crop or resize your image. There is a Twitter Preview Area, but that is about the only guidance you get before you share online. That said, it is still a great app that produces some stunning images, and if you like inspirational quotes, you will love the built-in quote generator. Word Swag is also available for Android.

Word Swag for iPad

4. Over (Free with in-app purchases)

If you are hesitant about paying the $3.99 for Word Swag, try Over. I know it has a lot of in-app purchases, but again you get a decent amount for free, and you can collect free artwork every day just by accessing the free artwork gallery in the app. Over has some pretty robust photo editing tools that can be used to tweak photos from Unsplash, Pixabay, or from your Camera Roll. It has filters, blurring tools, shapes, fonts, artwork and more. However, I think it was a paid app when I first downloaded it so I am not sure how many of the features I enjoy are now listed as in-app purchases. For instance, features like the crop tool that lets you size an image for Twitter, Facebook, Instagram & much more, is currently a 99c add-on, but I know I never paid for that. Still, there is a lot to like in the Over app and I do find myself going back to it more than I thought I would. It is a versatile app with some interesting creative options. Over is also available for Android.

Over for iPad

5. Studio Design (Free)

Studio Design is an app that I came across while researching what I was going to include in this blog post. I haven’t used it a whole lot, but based on the time that I have spent using it, I think it is worthy of inclusion here. It does many of the same kind of things that other apps in this category do, but perhaps most interesting to me was the ability to remix designs from other people. When you do this, the camera on your device opens with the fonts and other layers overlaid on your screen so that you can compose and take your own picture. For me, that had a lot of interesting creative opportunities and it models good digital citizenship because  published designs include a credit for the original designer. The app is 100% free, does not require you to set up an account, and has plenty free artwork that you can download. Studio is also available for Android.

Bonus Pick: Notegraphy (Free)

Looking to display some longer forms of text? If so, Notegraphy is worth a look. Simply type or copy and paste the text you want to beautify, then choose from a number of stylish themes that can be used to showcase your words. It is a little more restrictive than some of the apps above in terms of features, but there is something to be said for simplicity. It can also be used on Android and on the web at notegraphy.com.

Further Research

Some other apps that I have not yet had the chance to try, (but would like to), include Typic, Uptown & Co, Retype, Typorama, Rhonna Designs and Path On. Have you tried any of these graphic design apps for the iPad? If so, which ones are your favorites?

How (and Why) to Compress Video on iPads & iPhones

compress video ipad

Do your videos take a long time to upload to YouTube? Does the iOS Mail app refuse to send your large videos? If so, you should consider a video compression app for your iPad or iPhone. The job of a video compressor is to make your file sizes smaller so that they are easier to work with or share with other people.  Today I am going to show you one that I use and give you some tips on how to get the most out of it.

Why Use a Video Compression App?

Today there are lots of reasons why you might want to compress a video that you have on your iPhone or iPad. Smaller videos are easier to share with others whether that is via YouTube or simply to upload as a student assignment via Showbie or an LMS. Storage space is another good example of why you might want to compress videos. If you have a 16GB iPad (or iPhone) then free space is increasingly a problem. Compressing a video lets you keep a more friendly file-sized version on your device so that you can backup or remove the original. In schools, this can be a common problem.

If students are working on a shared video project, or filming with multiple devices, smaller video files are easier to transfer from one device to another via AirDrop or cloud services. They are also more email friendly because you can usually reduce them below the maximum file size limits found in most email services.

Video Compression Apps for the iPad & iPhone

The app I have been using for compressing video on an iPad or iPhone is called Video Compressor – Just Set the Target Size! It’s a free app and a useful one to keep on your iOS device for those times when you really need it. Best of all, the app is really easy to use. Simply select the video you want to compress, and move the slider to select the file size you would like to achieve, (also shown as a percentage reduction). Compressed videos are saved to the Camera Roll alongside the original video. This means you effectively have two copies of the same video, but the file size of one will be significantly smaller than the other.

Compress Video - Just Set the Target Size

The Downsides of Using a Video Compression App

Of course, everything has a downside. When you compress a video you are making a compromise between quality and file size. The more you compress a video, the more artifacts you will see on the final product. This means a video that has been compressed a lot could appear fuzzy or grainy when viewed full screen or on high resolution screens. So, it is a bit like limbo dancing. You have to think about how low can you go before things start to get out of control! 🙂

Often this comes down to trial and error as you work between what file size you need versus how much resolution you need. However, it could also come down to what your end goal is. For instance, is your goal to share an HD video at the highest quality, or are you just looking to share a first cut with an instructor or peer in order to get their feedback on your early edit? This is an important distinction to make, but the results you get from compressing a video may be better than you think if you are judicious with your use of the Target Size slider.

Should You Compress Videos?

At the end of the day, it comes down to what your needs are and how important it is to have the full resolution in your final videos. If you use services like Google Photos to back up your media, you are already compressing your photos and videos to a smaller file size if you opted for unlimited online storage, (like most people do). Google says that if your video is 1080p or less, it will look “close to the original” when uploaded to Google Photos. Ultimately that is what I aim for if I ever have to compress an iPad or iPhone video, but 720p is very usable too, especially if YouTube is the final destination.

Of course,  a good way to avoid compressing videos is editing. When you edit video on the iPad you have the chance to cut down the length of your videos, which will in turn cut down the file size of your videos. Shoot short, and edit tight. Nobody really wants to watch a ten minute video so if you can, try to aim for two to three minutes at the most on your finished, edited project. Otherwise, compression is a valid option. I don’t compress videos often, but when I do, this is the app I use.