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App beta testing gets better with new TestFlight SDK

Developers looking to beta test their apps before getting them into the App Store have a number of options for finding and communicating with beta testers, but few are as slick and easy to use as TestFlight. Now the provisioning tool gets even better, thanks to a number of updates in version two, which made its official debut on Monday.

The new version of TestFlight comes with an SDK that allows developers to make their beta testing process a lot more involved, and it provides improved tools for gathering feedback. Feedback and communication are key to a successful beta test (which is why I’m not a great tester myself), and the new features available to developers through TestFlight’s API are all about improving information flow between devs and testers.

Highlights of what developers can look forward to include:

  • In-App Questions. Trigger questions at specific checkpoints to get feedback from users as they’re using the software exactly at points where you think there might be an issue.
  • In-App Updates. Make sure your test group is on the same page with in-app update prompts, which also allow you to update to the latest version instantly over the air.
  • Feedback. In-app forms and tester email responses all feed into the developer dashboard and allow for instant replies between tester and coder.

There’s more, too, so be sure to head over to the official TestFlight website and check it out if you’re interested. Developers and testers alike can still sign up for free, too, and all of these new features arrive as free updates for existing and new users alike. Inevitably, TestFlight will have to bring some tiered paid options or advertising to the table to keep things going, but judging by developer response and its adoption by big brands so far, it won’t have too much trouble getting people to pay for the product when it does.

As for general consumers, even if you never actually use or see TestFlight in action, you’ll probably feel its effects: A better beta process with more communication options built in should lead to better shipping products popping up in the App Store.

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App beta testing gets better with new TestFlight SDK

Developers looking to beta test their apps before getting them into the App Store have a number of options for finding and communicating with beta testers, but few are as slick and easy to use as TestFlight. Now the provisioning tool gets even better, thanks to a number of updates in version two, which made its official debut on Monday.

The new version of TestFlight comes with an SDK that allows developers to make their beta testing process a lot more involved, and it provides improved tools for gathering feedback. Feedback and communication are key to a successful beta test (which is why I’m not a great tester myself), and the new features available to developers through TestFlight’s API are all about improving information flow between devs and testers.

Highlights of what developers can look forward to include:

  • In-App Questions. Trigger questions at specific checkpoints to get feedback from users as they’re using the software exactly at points where you think there might be an issue.
  • In-App Updates. Make sure your test group is on the same page with in-app update prompts, which also allow you to update to the latest version instantly over the air.
  • Feedback. In-app forms and tester email responses all feed into the developer dashboard and allow for instant replies between tester and coder.

There’s more, too, so be sure to head over to the official TestFlight website and check it out if you’re interested. Developers and testers alike can still sign up for free, too, and all of these new features arrive as free updates for existing and new users alike. Inevitably, TestFlight will have to bring some tiered paid options or advertising to the table to keep things going, but judging by developer response and its adoption by big brands so far, it won’t have too much trouble getting people to pay for the product when it does.

As for general consumers, even if you never actually use or see TestFlight in action, you’ll probably feel its effects: A better beta process with more communication options built in should lead to better shipping products popping up in the App Store.

Related research and analysis from GigaOM Pro:
Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.

Your iPad’s a Telephone With Google Voice

Out of the box, Apple has you covered on your iPad 2 with FaceTime for video chat with your friends, family and colleagues, so long as they have a FaceTime capable device and a Wi-Fi connection. But let’s face it, not everybody is on FaceTime, and certainly not constantly near a Wi-Fi hot spot. If all you want to do is replicate a phone connection, Google Voice along with a couple of native iOS apps may be just what you’re looking for.

What You Need

Google Voice Account. If you’re not already part of Google Voice, simply log into your Google account and sign-up for Google Voice (google.com/voice, but it’s U.S. only as of this writing). It will walk you through the sign-up process, including setting up a new number.

GV Connect. Google’s strategy for the iPad, including Google Voice, appears to be limited to Safari apps only. Google offers an official iOS-native Google Voice client for the iPhone, but GV Connect is a better option, as it has full support iPad support.

Talkatone. Neither the Safari interface that Google offers, nor GV Connect will make VOIP calls from your iOS device. To enable that functionality, you need to download and install the free, ad-supported Talkatone app.  Yes, this is an iPhone app, but you can control it from the iPad-friendly GV Connect interface.

How to Make a Phone Call

Once you have a Google Voice account, download and install both the GV Connect and Talkatone clients on your iPad, and set up each with your Google Voice account information. Then, in GV Connect, do the following:

  1. Under Settings, set the Start Calls From setting to Google Talk.
  2. Enable the Call using Talkatone setting.
  3. Click on the telephone handset icon in the upper left corner to place a call.

While you are controlling your Google Voice account from within GV Connect, the VOIP call is actually being handled by Talkatone. Talkatone does claim to allow calls over 3G, but the quality of those calls are dependent on the network. I’ve only used it while connected via Wi-Fi.

How to Receive a Phone Call

To direct all your incoming calls to be received on your iPad. In GV Connect on your iPad, do the following:

  1. Under Settings, set the Call Forwarding setting to Google Talk.
  2. Make sure you are logged in to your Google Account in Talkatone.
  3. Wait for an incoming call.

It’s that easy; just make sure you’re not logged in to Google Talk anywhere else. I tend to use the stock earbuds to avoid looking like a fool with the iPad pressed against my face, but unfortunately, Bluetooth headsets aren’t fully supported by either Apple or Talkatone. I have yet to completely dedicate my Google Voice account to exclusive iPad-only calling, but I’d love to hear from you if you end up using the solution described above as a total home or cell phone replacement.

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iPad Usability Study Reveals What We Do and Don’t Like In Apps

iPad users aren’t stingy with their devices, according to a new usability report by the Nielsen Norman Group focusing on Apple’s tablet. In fact, iPad owners who lived with one or more individuals reported that they shared their iPads freely, unlike the iPhone. The report also illuminated many things we like and don’t like about the apps we use on our iPads.

For example, the study found that users aren’t crazy about using their iPad devices to deal with complicated forms that require lots of user input, especially if those forms are found in non-optimized websites, rather than housed in an app. Users would skip registrations processes rather than deal with inputting information in many cases. The solution to such a problem would be to make forms simpler, requiring less information, and reduce the need for repeat entry of information (so apps that offer to remember login details are better, for example).

iPad users also aren’t as able to decipher non-obvious control systems as some developers might think. In cases where it wasn’t made clear what tapping an item that wasn’t obviously a button (i.e., a logo) would do, users often missed the functionality. Examples cited in the report include the logo in the top left of The Daily app, which returns users to the app’s home screen. USA Today  originally used a similar mechanism, but changed their logo to include a “Sections” label to tell users that it was in fact designed to be tapped and tied to a function.

Likewise, gestures in apps can sometimes cause trouble when there are no visual cues to provide information about how they work. Don’t think that placing an instructional video or graphic at the beginning of the app will solve the problem, either. Many users don’t read instructions, though visual instructions that are incredibly obvious, like those used by Bing for iPad, tested well with those participating in the study, since users couldn’t avoid grasping their meaning even when they quickly dismissed them. Nielsen Norman Group advises developers that they’re much better off including visual markers throughout, indicating that swipes and other gestures can be used. For example, magazine apps like Wired include arrows that show the direction a user should swipe to unveil more content.

Another alternative is to provide explicit tips in the form of dialog boxes, like Adobe Photoshop Express does. The iPad Photoshop app uses gestures to control effects like “soft focus,” and pops up notifications to alert users of what to do. Tips can be hidden at any time, so they won’t become annoying.

What users find very annoying according to the report are splash or loading screens. No matter how clever, or how easy on the eye, splash screens and animations become annoying very quickly. Startup sounds, in particular, are singled out as especially bad, because of the potential they have for unpleasantly surprising people who open apps in surroundings where noise might not be appreciated.

Also, almost universally, apps will benefit from having back buttons on nearly every page, and should aim for a simple homepage-like table of contents over more complicated navigation schemes. Users prefer a home base from which to operate without having to hunt through carousels or wade through long columns of thumbnails, and they always want the option to go one step back from their current position, because of accidental taps or to refer back to something they just saw.

As mentioned above, iPads tend to be communal devices, at least within the household. But the report also highlighted some other interesting points regarding how we use the Apple tablet. Generally, we use it for gaming, checking email and communicating via social networking, watching videos/movies and reading news. We also tend to shop, but the participants in the study generally preferred shopping on their desktops, and some even perceived iPad shopping to be more risky from a security perspective. iPads also tend to be carried around by many users, or at least taken along for the ride when long waits or trips are expected.

Now that the iPad is more than a year old, it’s interesting to see how people are using it, and what is and isn’t working when it comes to app usability design. No doubt there’s still plenty of innovation left in iPad app interface design, but this report illustrates that some things never go out of style when it comes to user experience.

How does your experience with the iPad either agree or disagree with the findings described above?

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TechUniversity: DigitalColor Meter

If you’re a designer, especially for the web, a color picker or color sampling tool is almost certainly part of your arsenal. But did you know that OS X actually already includes one?

DigitalColor Meter is a tool that lets you sample colors on your screen to get their color values that you can then copy and paste for use elsewhere.

In this TechUniversity DigitalColor Meter screencast (subscription required), I’ll show you the in’s and out’s of the app and how you can use it in your design workflow.

View full DigitalColor Meter screencast on TechUniversity (subscription required)

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10 Must-Have Board Games for the iPad

With the increased screen real estate of the iPad, it’s the perfect device for playing board games. If you haven’t had a chance to browse some of the great titles available on the App Store, here’s some of our favorite board games to get you started.

Scrabble

Such a classic, Scrabble is awesome on the iPad platform. Enjoy playing against friends (or a computer) on a gorgeous large game board. If you have an iPhone, download the free Scrabble Tile Rack and arrange your letters on your own device. When it’s your turn, simply flick them towards the game board and they’ll appear, ready for you to place and score big. Similar to the iPhone version, you can play against your friends locally or over a local network. Scrabble is $9.99.

Words with Friends

If there’s one app at the moment that’s popular across social networks and mobile devices, it’s Words with Friends. Similar to Scrabble, this game allows you to play, turn based, against friends who are playing on their iPads, iPhones or Facebook accounts. The app supports push notifications to let you know when it’s your turn, and you can chat in-game with your friends. At $2.99, this is definitely a fun board game for those who enjoy playing against friends and don’t want to take the leap to Scrabble.

Game Table

One of the first game apps on the iPad, Game Table provides a virtual game board for a variety of games, like checkers, chess, poker and other card games. It’s not a traditional game in the sense that you’ll have scoring or rules and stuff. Instead, it’s simply all the pieces to play games without all the fuss so you can play them any way you want. For 99 cents this app is a great value and the developers have promised that additional game pieces for Backgammon, Go and Reversi will be added soon.

UNO HD

While UNO technically is more of a card game than a board game, I decided to include it because it’s a very fun experience on the iPad. It features all of the traditional UNO rules and actions, like Draw 2, Reverse and Wild cards. It also supports multiplayer (sharing one device or multiple on a Wi-Fi network) and features challenges allowing users to unlock additional themes to give the game a fresher look. UNO HD is $4.99.

Strategery

Strategery is an engaging game originally designed for the iPhone that has been optimized for the iPad as well. This game of world domination features you as leader of a “country” (think Civilization style) and you battle against your neighbors to gain/lose territory. It supports pass-and-play style multiplayer (with up to five players) or online battles with push notifications. The iPad version allows for much larger maps and a much more engaging experience if played like a traditional board game (a group of players gathering around the iPad). At $1.99, this app is a definite must-have.

Theme Checkers

Of all board games, Checkers (or Chess) was probably the most expected to debut on the iPad. There are a variety of both available now, but my favorite is Theme Checkers HD. Just like a real game, the movement is very fluid and natural. This game supports one and two player modes and regularly updated themes for unique checkers experience. Users can even create and install their own custom themes as well. Theme Checkers HD is 99 cents, so give it a spin and see what you think.

Board Box

If you’re looking for a little more than just checkers or chess, you should check out Board Box. Similar to some of the others I’ve mentioned, it includes checkers and chess, but this app goes further by including Reversi, Tic Tac Toe, Go, Draughts and more. Not only does it include the regular version of these games, but it also includes some variants. This app doesn’t support an automated second player, so you’ll either need to suffer from having a split personality or have a friend to play against. If there’s nobody local, you can play against friends through email. The developers of Board Box have promised that there will be no in-app purchases for this app so as they continue to update and add additional game boards and variants, the updates will be free. At $3.99, Board Box is a great investment.

Ludo

If you’re a fan of Parcheesi, you should definitely check out Ludo ($3.99). Supporting up to four players (both human or computer), the game plays like real Parcheesi, except with a fresh modern interface and smooth animations and sound effects. Though there are a few other Parcheesi variants on the App Store, this one is definitely the best for the iPad. Additionally, your game state is saved so you can start and stop the game as you please.

Moonlight Mahjong

If you’re one who loves playing mahjong, check out Moonlight Mahjong for 99 cents. Putting a literal spin on the traditional idea of mahjong, this version is 3D, allowing you to use touch gestures to tilt and turn and zoom in and out. There’s over 90 built-in board layouts. When you get bored with those, you can create your own and share them with others. Plus, it offers for support of multiple players (even across Wi-Fi or against an automated opponent). If you’ve never given mahjong a shot, this is an excellent game to reduce stress and relax.

Honey, That’s Mine!

This is a “sweet” board game where players compete against each other to collect the most honey. If playing on the iPhone or iPod touch, the game supports pass-and-play for multiplayer, but if you’re on the iPad, the larger screen makes it easy to just place your iPad on a table and play against your friends. The idea of the game is rather simple, but the options for computer opponents and difficulty variations give this game additional replay value. Honey, That’s Mine is available on the App Store for $1.99.

This is just a small sampling of some of the apps available for the iPad. If you’ve tried these or found others you like, share your thoughts in the comments below. Personally I’m thrilled to find replacements of my favorite board games on the iPad. Just imagine how many little pieces I don’t have to keep up with anymore!

My iPad Wish List: 10 App Requests

Watching the iPad’s first television spot on the Oscars Sunday night, I got giddy all over again in anticipation of getting my hands on this hot new product. Though it’s still a few weeks away, I’m even more excited for the applications that will be coming to the platform. Here’s my top 10 list of apps that I want to see developed for the iPad.

Coda

As a graphic designer and web developer, Coda is a staple in my workflow. It features a built-in FTP system, which could be problematic to port to a mobile device, considering there isn’t a traditional file structure to store data. However, perhaps the iPad’s new file storage system will provide an adequate solution. Regardless, as someone who codes, it would be awesome to sit next to a client and modify code and push changes to a site all from my iPad while they load and test the revisions on their own desktop.

Photoshop

Before you laugh, remember that Adobe has already released Photoshop Mobile for the iPhone, and all things considered, it’s not such a bad application. A larger iPad version could allow support for opening and manipulating native Photoshop files as well as working between multiple files. CS4 introduced a new tabbed approach to viewing multiple documents at once. A similar setup could easily be implemented on the iPad.

Katamari Damacy

What’s a fun touchscreen device without a fun game? Katamari already exists as an iPhone app so it’ll scale up decently on the iPad. But given the advanced graphics of the iPad and the larger screen, a native iPad version is a must. If you’ve never played Katamari, check out this clip below.

iMovie

Call me crazy (it doesn’t hurt to be wishful) but the feasibility of an iMovie-like app is certainly within the realm of possibility. I would have never expected Apple to introduce video editing on the iPhone. Nevertheless, along with a video camera, the iPhone 3GS allows for simple video edits. Why couldn’t we have a larger implementation of this on the iPad, provided it gains a video camera at some point? With the larger screen, there’s plenty of room to view a larger timeline, add transitions or effects and with one tap, upload your masterpiece to YouTube.

iChat

I’m actually quite surprised this app still hasn’t made it to the iPhone yet, but as a platform that’s designed to be “the best way to experience the web, email, photos and video,” the iPad seems like the perfect device for iChat, especially if a future model gains a video camera.

Screen Sharing or Remote Desktop

There have been a number of third-party developers that have created similar apps for the iPhone, but I’m honestly shocked to see that Apple hasn’t implemented its own solution yet. With a larger screen and almost full-size keyboard, remotely accessing and interacting with other Macs on my network would be a breeze on the iPad.

Preview

While the iBooks application will open books that are in EPUB format, I’d love to see a more robust implementation of Preview available on the iPad (and iPhone). Specifically, an app that is capable of annotating PDF files and provides support for links within PDFs. Since I’m also an academic, some of the journals I read (as PDFs) contain bookmarks to other articles or chapters and currently, none of the built-in applications on the iPhone support interacting with them.

Hulu

I don’t care how it has to happen or if it involves Flash or not. Who doesn’t want Hulu on the iPad? Even if it required a small subscription, I would love to be able to access my Hulu queue on the go. Better yet, since the iPad is a closed system, the app could download and cache content so it wouldn’t necessarily have to be streamed in real time. This could be a great solution to save AT&T’s crowded bandwidth for 3G models and allow WiFi-only models to still play even if a network isn’t around. I’d pay for that; would you?

Bento/Filemaker

Now that we have iWork, how about a real implementation of Bento (or FileMaker if that’s not too much to ask)? The current iPhone version is pretty pathetic and really hard to use to manipulate larger databases. While FileMaker may be a stretch, I’d put serious money on seeing an iPad version of Bento before the year is out.

An Improved iTunes App

It looks as though the new iTunes app represents a step ahead of the current iPhone version, but there are still some missing features that would make this app a rock star on the iPad. Adding support for Internet radio, browsing my other libraries by Home Sharing or support for iTunes Extras and LPs would be amazing. Honestly, why hasn’t Apple announced support of iTunes Extras and LPs? The specs call for a viewing area of 1280×720 (the 720p high definition standard). They also call for building your iTunes Extras with what’s called a bleed graphic, or a graphic that can “fill in the extra space” if you’re viewing it at a size greater than 1280×720. Now given that as a way to compensate for a difference in aspect ratios, if you were to scale down an iTunes Extra for the 1024×768 display, wouldn’t it just make sense? Come on, if the Apple TV can do it (and we all know how excited Apple gets about that product), shouldn’t the iPad as well?

What are your thoughts on apps you’d like to see? Share your thoughts in the comments below. The great thing about Apple’s developer community is that they keep up with what’s discussed in the blogosphere. You never know; a developer might see your suggestions. So, share what you’d like to see on the iPad!

MacHeist Returns: Offers 7 Mac Apps for Less Than $20

Software bundle web site MacHeist has unveiled its latest offer. The ‘nanoBundle2‘ was made public as midnight struck on Wednesday, revealing a range of seven Mac OS X applications.

For those unaware, a typical MacHeist promotion sees a number of Mac applications being made available at a discount rate (sometimes even for free), but only for a limited time. Following a build-up of teasing tweets this past week, the bundle is now available, with the latest collection of software including:

MacJournal (Retail: $39.95)

Writing software, MacJournal, from Mariner Software is an Apple Design Award-winning application that claims to be perfect for any amount of writing, whether that’s just a quick small list, a more detailed blog entry or a full-on book.

RipIt (Retail: $19.95)

RipIt is a simple DVD importing tool from ‘the little app factory.’ The application aims to make the process of importing your DVD collection onto your Mac as simple as it is for CDs. You can even compress your DVDs for portable use on an iPhone.

Clips (Retail: $27)

Ever went to copy something and suddenly stopped, remembering that you may already have something stored on your computers clipboard? Conceited Software is offering clipboard management application, Clips, as the solution to just that problem.

CoverScout (Retail: $39.95)

Equinux’s CoverScout is one of several currently available apps that will take an ever-growing iTunes library, then find and replace any missing cover art. Developers Equinux claim that due to the visual nature of humans, music with no cover art is more likely to be ignored when browsing your collection.

Flow (Retail: $25)

Flow is an FTP client from Extendmac that boasts not just a fresh, clean user interface but also claims to take advantage of the latest OS X technologies. Beyond its basic FTP capabilities, Flow also has live editing and other development tools. It also is an Apple Design Award winner.

Tales Of Monkey Island (Retail: $34.95)

Although currently locked, Telltale Games’ adventure title Tales Of Monkey Island will be unlocked for all MacHeist customers once 50,000 bundles have been sold. Once that goal has been reached, six episodes of pirate based fun will be yours.

RapidWeaver (Retail: $79)

RapidWeaver, the last application in the latest MacHeist bundle, is a web site creation tool from Realmac Software. The application has similarities to that of Apple’s iWeb.

The nanobundle2 is available now for just seven days, so if you were looking to buy any of the above applications now would clearly be a good time. If you were to purchase each of the included applications separately it would cost an excess of $266. So buying through MacHeist not only donates money to charities (over $1.5 million since the heist’s began), but it could also save you up to $246!

How-To: Sync NewsFire on Multiple Computers

It seems like you can’t swing a dead cat these days without hitting a tech pundit eager to tell you that RSS is dead. Personally, I’m not buying it. RSS feeds and readers are the No. 1 way I stay up to date with online content, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

Over the years I’ve tried out a number of different feed readers including NetNewsWire, Google Reader, Fever, and on and on. Each time I switch though, I always find my way back to NewsFire. For me it’s just the perfect balance of form and function. Well, it’s almost perfect. To paraphrase Churchill I’d say that NewsFire is actually the worst RSS reader, except for all the other RSS readers. The major gaps in my mind are its inability to sync across multiple machines and the lack of an app for the iPhone. As with all things in technology though, there are a lot of ways to skin that cat.

As someone who splits his time among multiple Macs, having the ability to sync my news reader across those machines is a must. If I’m on my work machine paging through new items, when I get home I obviously want those items to show up as having been read. Out of the box NewsFire has no option for syncing but a workable solution turns out to be shockingly simple: Download the free version of Dropbox, create some symbolic links to a few key points on each computer and it’s done. Changes made on one computer are synced through Dropbox and show up on the other.

Setting up the Sync

First, move the follow folder and files into your Dropbox:

~/library/Application Support/NewsFire
~/Library/Caches/org.xlife.NewsFire
~/Library/preferences/org.xlife.NewsFire.plist

You’ll then need to replace them with symbolic links. To create a symbolic link just fire up the Terminal and use the ln command. The format will be (ln -s) (filepath to target) (filepath to link), for example:

ln -s /Users/yournamehere/Dropbox/newsfiresymlinks/org.xlife.NewsFire.plist /Users/yournamehere/Library/Preferences

When you finish making the symlink for the preference file you’ll need to lock it to prevent the application from overwriting it when you quit. To lock it, just right click the file to “Get Info” and select the Locked option.

Now just use the same Dropbox account to link up NewsFire installs on your other machines and you’ll be able to stay in sync. There is one caveat: In order to add new feeds you’ll have to first unlock the .plist file on one end, make the change and then re-link it. For the most part, however, my feeds are already set and I’m really just interested in making sure that the status of an item can be passed back and forth between machines.

Obviously, this approach is not as good as baked-in support would be. But I’m hopeful that we’ll soon see an updated version of NewsFire that will not only support syncing but also close that other major gap, iPhone support. It’s been a long while since NewsFire’s developer David Watanabe dropped this tease about a possible iPhone app. I just hope he can tear himself away from Xtorrent updates long enough to show NewsFire some love.

How-To: Create an iPhone Web App

The iPhone OS is pitched as the entire Internet in your pocket…minus Flash. This works most of the time, but what if you just want to design a site or form that looks like a native iPhone App?

This is where iWebKit comes in. iWebKit is a free framework package for creating websites and applications that are optimized for the iPod Touch, iPhone & iPad. The bulk of the framework is CSS3 which can work its magic to makeover any dreadful site and make it look fresh.

I will be covering the web-form aspect of creating an optimized site, but iWebKit has many deeper features that can communicate directly with the OS. Its documentation is excellent, so dig around or check out the demo site on your iPhone to get inspiration.

When designing for the iPhone OS, you should use the iPhone simulator available in the SDK to get an idea of where your design is heading. You can also use Safari to get a pretty close representation, but nothing beats using a real physical device. It’s amazing how cool it feels and you really do get the impression it’s a native application.

Getting Started

Here is what the form looks like on the iPhone before we optimize it.

It’s pretty dull looking, to say the least. Below is the original HTML code being used. We’re going to get Apple-blood running through it and give it a makeover.

 <html><head><title>Test Form</title></head> <body>   <form method="post">     Name: <input type="text" size="12" maxlength="12" name="name">     Password:<input type="password" size="12" maxlength="36" name="passw"><br />     Gender:<br />     Male:<input type="radio" value="Male" name="gender"><br />     Female:<input type="radio" value="Female" name="gender"><br />     Favorite Food:<br />     Steak:<input type="checkbox" value="Steak" name="food[]"><br />     Pizza:<input type="checkbox" value="Pizza" name="food[]"><br />     Chicken:<input type="checkbox" value="Chicken" name="food[]"><br />     <textarea rows="5" cols="20" name="quote" wrap="physical">Enter your favorite quote!      Select a Level of Education:<br />     <select name="education">       <option value="Jr.High">Jr.High</option>       <option value="HighSchool">HighSchool</option>       <option value="College">College</option>     </select><br />     <input type="submit" name="" value="Submit" />   </form> </body> </html> 

This code needs to be in an HTML file in the same folder as the iWebKit framework. I called it index.html.

The first step is to add these lines between the <head> tags.

 <meta content="yes" name="apple-mobile-web-app-capable" /> <meta content="text/html; charset=iso-8859-1" http-equiv="Content-Type" /> <meta content="minimum-scale=1.0, width=device-width, maximum-scale=0.6667, user-scalable=no" name="viewport" /> <link href="css/style.css" type="text/css" /> <script src="javascript/functions.js" type="text/javascript"></script> <link rel="apple-touch-icon" href="homescreen.png"/> <link href="startup.png" rel="apple-touch-startup-image" /> 

These lines tell the iPhone browser that this page is designed for it. It also references the CSS, JavaScript and images for the iPhone Home Screen and a startup image.

To create the top title bar we need to enter the following code immediately after the <body> tag.

 <div id="topbar">   <div id="title">Test Form</div> </div> 

If you load up the page in your iPhone simulator browser you will see this bar at the top.

Now we need to start our main content with the following <div> tag.

 <div id="content"> 

All the form fields will be inside of this <div> and we won’t close it till the end of the form. The first form fields we want are the Name and Password fields.

Replace the original code:

 Name:<input type="text" size="12" maxlength="12" name="name"><br /> Password:<input type="password" size="12" maxlength="36" name="passw"><br /> 

With this:

 <ul class="pageitem">   <li class="bigfield"><input placeholder="Name" name="name" type="text" /></li>   <li class="bigfield"><input placeholder="Password" name="passw" type="password" /></li> </ul> 

Our Name and Password fields have now been transformed.

The <ul> container represents the white box while the <li> tag is to signify separate sections inside of the white box. You could also put each of these fields in their own <ul> containers and they would look like two separate boxes. To save screen space, I group similar items together. Now lets replace those old fashioned radio buttons from the Gender question.

Replace this:

 Gender:<br /> Male:<input type="radio" value="Male" name="gender"><br /> Female:<input type="radio" value="Female" name="gender"><br /> 

With this:

 <span class="graytitle">Gender</span> <ul class="pageitem">   <li class="radiobutton">     <span class="name">Male</span>     <input name="gender" type="radio" value="M" />   </li>   <li class="radiobutton">     <span class="name">Female</span>     <input name="gender" type="radio" value="F" />   </li> </ul> 

The radio buttons are changed for the better.

Next up are the checkboxes under the Favorite Food question.

Replace this:

 Favorite Food:<br /> Steak:<input type="checkbox" value="Steak" name="food[]"><br /> Pizza:<input type="checkbox" value="Pizza" name="food[]"><br /> Chicken:<input type="checkbox" value="Chicken" name="food[]"><br /> 

With this:

 <span class="graytitle">Favorite Foods</span> <ul class="pageitem">   <li class="checkbox">     <span class="name">Steak</span>     <input name="steak" type="checkbox" />   </li>   <li class="checkbox">     <span class="name">Pizza</span>     <input name="pizza" type="checkbox" />   </li>   <li class="checkbox">     <span class="name">Chicken</span>     <input name="chicken" type="checkbox" />   </li> </ul> 

Now instead of check boxes, we get those pretty on/off sliders we’re accustomed to inside the iPhone OS.

The textbox is pretty simple since it just creates a nice white box around the textbox.

Replace:

<textarea rows="5" cols="20" name="quote" wrap="physical">Enter your favorite quote!</textarea><br />

With this:

 <ul class="pageitem">   <li class="textbox">     <textarea name="quote" rows="5">Enter your favorite quote!</textarea>   </li> </ul> 

Lets move on to the dropdown menus. Dropdowns always use the iPhone’s built-in method and help create the feeling of a native app.

Replace this:

 Select a Level of Education:<br /> <select name="education">   <option value="Jr.High">Jr.High</option>   <option value="HighSchool">HighSchool</option>   <option value="College">College</option> </select><br /> 

With this:

 <span class="graytitle">Level of Education</span> <ul class="pageitem">   <li class="select">     <select name="education">       <option value="Jr.High">Jr.High</option>       <option value="HighSchool">HighSchool</option>       <option value="College">College</option>     </select>     <span class="arrow"></span>   </li> </ul> 

Notice the arrow span class adds the down arrow to the right of the selection box.

As far as the form goes, all that’s left is the Submit button and to close the <div> tag.

Replace this:

<input name="Submit" type="submit" value="Submit" />

With this:

 <ul class="pageitem">   <li class="button">     <input name="Submit" type="submit" value="Submit" />   </li> </ul> 

Now close the content <div> tag with the following:

</div>

Finally, we may want to put a footer at the bottom of our page. It’s nice to also support the iWebKit folks.

 <div id="footer">   <a href="http://iwebkit.net">Powered by iWebKit</a> </div> 

That’s it for the HTML portion. Two nice little touches you can do are for when someone adds the page to their home screen. When browsing the page, click the “+” button and select the Add to Home Screen option. You will see an icon that, by default, is a screenshot of the page. You can customize this by making your own 58×58 pixel image and referring to it in the <head> section. Mine is named homescreen.png and I’ve already included the code at the beginning of the article.

Now when this page is added to the Home Screen, it will look and feel like a native app. Why not have a startup screen displayed while the page loads? iWebKit also has this feature and you simply need a 320×460 pixel image that again, is referenced in the <head> section. I have called mine startup.png.

That’s it, we’re done! iWebKit has many other features that you should check out. You may get some inspiration for an app or at least look good to your boss when you pretty up that old form that’s been around for years. All the files used in this article are also attached for your viewing pleasure along with a short video walkthrough of this tutorial.

Project Files: iwebkit-tutorial-files.zip (94 KB, ZIP)

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