The Joys Of Beta Software

To a certain extent all software is a work in progress. There’s always something in there which needs further work to make perfect. An operating system is so complex the software engineers can’t help making bugs when they’re fixing something else. This is why we are getting updates on a regular basis of our favourite softwares. Then there are the bigger changes when Apple updates a whole lot of stuff all in one go and gives it a new number. This time we are moving on to iOS 13, (Lucky for some!). We are also moving to iPad OS giving a proper split between the software for each of the platforms.

 Why use unfinished software?

The biggest reason for using beta software would be impatience. The software manufacturer has set out what will be coming and you want it now rather than later. There could be people who have noble desires to help find bugs to improve what’s coming for the general populace. We beta testers are prepared to put up with applications crashing or not working as expected. Just so long as we send in the reports to help get the software fixed and ready in time for the final release.

Going beta sooner or later

If you have a device which is a spare then you could reasonably install the first betas to become available. Sometimes these can be good enough to be usable, but are most likely to be unstable. Definitely not something you want to put onto a device you use to do proper work on a daily basis. Most people tending towards normal, will wait until beta five or maybe beta seven before sticking a toe into the water. It can also make a lot of sense to wait until the final release. Just be more patient. In the past when there were no public betas, there were still problems to overcome on release day. Waiting until the point one release was the sensible thing to do.  It isn’t much fun having to do a rollback on an upgrade. When you were so looking forward to having new toys to play with and you find your device has been bricked. So much time can be lost. So it is always a good idea to have multiple backups before you go ahead with any upgrade to the operating system. This is especially important if you try a beta version. It’s a good idea to follow a few people on Twitter who are likely to have tried the beta software. People who have tried it will often report back over social media on how well their project is going. The online reports will be general because we know beta software is not finished. There’s no point in getting upset and throwing all your toys out of the pram when an app doesn’t work as expected. Broken parts of software is inevitable in beta testing.

Being brave and going for it

With iOS 13/iPad OS I waited until beta five before installing it on my iPad. There were enough reports from trusted sources saying it was stable enough. I left it a bit longer before installing iOS 13 on my iPhone. This is because my iPhone gets more use than the iPad. There’s no way I would let myself be without the use of my iPhone for any length of time. Since the installation of the new operating system I have been happy with the way things have been going. In one of my applications, Drafts I have noticed some automations didn’t work. Two applications have crashed at the first time of opening since installation of the beta. Trying a second time immediately afterwards and the application opened without complaints. I got lucky nothing important was out of action.

Reporting back to Apple

If you’re going to try one of the beta versions of the operating system it’s expected you will report back any problems. That’s the point of having beta software. You are testing and letting them know if there are things not working. So far I’ve been running the betas for a couple of weeks and not made any reports. Mostly because nothing’s really been going wrong. Partly because I’ve been busy with my life and not had the time to fill out any forms. If there was something terrible I’m sure I would have sent in a radar or report. I’ve just been enjoying playing with the new toys.

What do I like about iOS 13 and iPad OS?

IOS 13 has given me an upgrade to the Apple Carplay. The best part about this is being able to change to a different application on the phone while connected to the car. The screen on the car stayed with the application I was using. It could be annoying in the previous version when the screen of the car only mirrored what was on the phone. This is only important when a passenger is using the phone alongside me as I’m driving. Or if I’m sitting in the car not driving and want to look at something else while the car screen is perhaps displaying my podcast application. This means I can press the controls on the podcast application on the car screen while doing something else with the phone. They have also added the calendar app to Apple Carplay. I can see a view of what’s coming up for the day. I can even tap on one of these to get directions to a place. The home view on Apple Carplay has changed. It shows more information. It kinda feels like I have to press more buttons to get to my podcast application. I suppose I’ll get used to it.


I like the upgrades made to the Reminders application. It is useful now to have subtasks by indenting tasks beneath others. It’s not as advanced as you’d find in Omnifocus, but is enough for my purposes. The application is prettier as well as being slightly more functional. There is a new quick toolbar making it easier to add dates, locations, flags and scanned documents to Reminders. You don’t get many smart lists to play with in this new version of Reminders. You only get Today, Scheduled, All and Flagged. For most of us this will be enough. If you need to group reminders into one place you can always add a new list.

Today View on Home Screen

On the iPad I enjoy having the today view permanently available on the home screen. I get to see extra information quickly such as the weather and what’s coming up next in the calendar. I get quick access to shortcuts and Siri suggestions. This also fits in well with having more icons on the screen. I can add more icons into the bar at the bottom of the screen.

A Lot of Fuss about Dark Mode

I still don’t know why there is such a lot of talk about dark mode. It might be useful to automatically have dark mode for seeing what’s on the screen better at night time. Apart from that it really doesn’t make a lot of difference in terms of usability. To to me seems more aesthetic than it being a new useful feature. The Apple geeks on the various podcasts love to talk about dark mode and how wonderful it is. Maybe I need to spend more time with it.

Editing in Photos App

There are changes to the Photos app. We are getting powerful video editing. It will be useful to rotate, crop and auto enhance video clips. The editing tools for the photos are mostly just redesigned rather than anything being specifically new.

Sign in with Apple ID

In privacy and security they have given us another way to sign into applications and websites. We’ll be able to sign in with our Apple ID in the same way as we’ve been able to sign into these things with either Facebook or Google ID. I haven’t come across any app store websites allow me to do that yet. That will take some time before it goes mainstream.

Siri sounding more Human

Siri is getting a better voice which sounds more human. This is something else I haven’t really taken much notice of. Siri shortcuts and the Shortcuts application will be included in everybody’s iOS 13. Previously you would have to download it specifically if you wanted to get into iOS automation. More people will be using it and it shows Apple is more confident by letting more people get at it. There are changes to the way you build the shortcuts in the application. At first it seemed a little confusing, but I’m getting used to it. Apple have made it easier for non-programmers to understand shortcuts. Despite the simplification there are more features and an increased depth of automation abilities. There are more triggers and I especially like the trigger to make things happen when I connect to Apple Carplay. Before, I activated a shortcut in the car by using an NFC tag. It didn’t always see the NFC tag. I might have to try twice before it activated. Then I would still have to press a button on the phone to get things happening. Now I just plug the phone into the car and it just works with no extra input from me. This is more like proper automation.

Swiping for Typing

In the past I’ve been a fan of the Swype keyboard on the iPhone and iPad. It is much faster to type by swiping the finger around the keyboard to get the words into your document. Apple has now built that into its own keyboard and it works really well. I now don’t have to have a third-party application for swiping.

Voice Control

Voice control – They built voice control into accessibility and that can be useful to anyone interested in voice computing. We are all getting used to talking to our computers now by having either an Amazon Echo, Google Home or the Apple Home Pod listening to us. I like things getting done around the house when I activate a process using the Amazon Echo. I’m also keen on dictation. I have dictated the whole of this article. I’ve dictated this using DragonDictate, but I’m interested in finding out how good voice control dictation will be. With my tests so far it doesn’t seem to be as good as DragonDictate. It does seem to be a little better than your usual Siri dictation which you activate by tapping on the microphone icon on the keyboard. More testing needed when we get the final release of iOS 13 and iPad OS. I am pretty sure I will be using DragonDictate for a long while yet.

A selection of the many commands for editing text with Voice Control
Make your own commands

Working with Files is Improved

I bought the Hyper Drive dongle to use with the new iPad. This will come into its own with iPad OS. There is a more advanced files application meaning I’ll be able to import files other than just photos. I’ll be able to connect external drives to get files into my iPad more efficiently. It’s now child’s play to drag a file from an SD drive and put it into iCloud Drive or wherever else I want it. This will be great with video files I want to use with Lumafusion or with audio files to use with Ferrite. This will make the iPad more like a ‘Real Computer’ and facilitate getting more work done.

The Hyper-Drive Dongle