People as Apps

My daughter’s speaking vocabulary is still limited to toddler-ese, but one thing she can definitely say is Call Gramma.

She usually does this while pointing at my iPad or my phone. She doesn’t actually mean to make a phone call — she wants to FaceTime, but while she understands the word FaceTime, she can’t say it. Hence, call Gramma.

She says the same to my wife for her other grandmother. She’s enjoyed FaceTiming them both since very early in her life, and now she has the ability to demand it. Once presented with the iGadget in question, she can even navigate to FaceTime and tap on the right contact in the list.

But I realized something the other day that made this adorable tendency a little…odd.

I think my kid thinks her grandmothers are apps.

No, really!

She says “call Gramma” and we do, and then after a few seconds, she wanders off, occasionally stopping by to peer at the screen and giggle. And then, after I’ve signed off, she’ll stroll back over, look at me, and say, “Call Gramma.”

Unlike a couple of months ago, she doesn’t summon forth her grandmothers so that she can interact with them. She just conjures them to the screen, giggles at them, and then goes about her business. And that conjuring part can happen over and over!

She doesn’t understand wi-fi, video calling, networking, or even distance. All she knows is this: When she wants to see Elmo, she taps on an icon and he’s there. When she wants to drop shapes into holes in her favorite game, she taps on an icon and it’s there.

And when she wants to see a grandmother…

She taps on an icon…

There’s no need to engage, then. No need to “stay on the line”1 because there’s always another tap. “Call Gramma,” run around and play, “call Gramma” again, run around some more, “call Gramma…” Lather, rinse, repeat.

Don’t worry — this isn’t a post in which I rail against the demons of technology. My daughter will realize soon enough that her grandmothers don’t live inside the iPad, always waiting, always ready to heed the call of her persistent, tiny finger taps. In the meantime, it’s sort of hilarious to watch, as she invokes the holy tap-tap-tap and delights herself with her grandmothers, over and over and over again.

  1. Oh, man, how old does that make me sound?

For the Tech of It: Clips

clips_iconLast year, I wrote about my various writing tech choices. Since then, I’ve made some adjustments/changes/upgrades, so For the Tech of It returns to fill you in!

Today, I want to talk about Clips, a really terrific app that goes a long way towards bridging an important gap in the iOS universe.

(Note: Clips works beautifully on both iPad and iPhone. My screenshots are from the iPad.)

One of the puzzling flaws of both the Mac and iOS is the clipboard’s inability to store more than a single copied/cut item. I’m sure you’ve all experienced the horror of cutting something important, then accidentally cutting something else before you pasted, thereby eliminating the original cut material from this particular quantum incarnation of the universe.

(In fact, I have a quite famous author friend who once cut an entire chapter, preparatory to moving it elsewhere in the document…and then goofed and copied a sentence from elsewhere. Oops. Chapter gone.)

If the clipboard could maintain more than a single item, this wouldn’t be a problem, but Apple has yet to see fit to incorporate this functionality.

On the Mac, I use a little app called CopyLess Lite, which stores my ten most recent copied/cut items. (You can upgrade to CopyLess for $4.99 and have 100 items, if you like.). CopyLess just runs in the background, jacked into the system clipboard, and intercepts whatever heads its way.

But on iOS, there’s no way to do such a thing.

Until now.

The clever folks at Clean Shaven Apps have come up with a workaround. It’s not quite as dead simple as CopyLess, but that’s not their fault.

Introducing… Clips.

Basically, Clips works like so: You copy or cut from any app as usual. Then, you quickly swipe down the Notification Center. In the Today view, you’ll see a section for Clips, showing whatever you just copied or cut in a dotted-line box.

To keep that material forever (or until you decide to discard it), simply tap it. The dotted line becomes solid. You can now return to your app.

The Clips widget.

The Clips widget. (Click to enlarge.)

It’s really that easy. For every bit of copied or cut material you want to keep, you just swipe down the Notification Center and tap on it. Now it’s stored in Clips for your use.1

If you find yourself wanting to paste in some text that you copied, say, ten copies back, just find that text in the widget and tap on it. Boom shakalaka! It is now placed on the clipboard and you can paste into any app.


Just about anyone could occasionally benefit from using Clips, but for writers, it’s particularly useful. Grabbing a bunch of research blurbs from a web page and don’t want to have to constantly switch between your browser and your research document? No problem. Moving around lots of text to different places in your current manuscript? You’re covered.

When you’re done with an item, you can leave it in Clips or delete it right from the widget. Rarely do you even need to open the Clips app.

Clips even has its own keyboard! Why do you need a clipboard keyboard, you ask? Well, check it out:

Clips keyboard

The Clips keyboard.

That’s right: The “keyboard” (invoked by pressing the little globe on the standard iOS keyboard) is really a scrolling list of everything you’ve stored in Clips. Need to paste in ten things quickly? Just switch over to the Clips keyboard and tap-tap-tap!2

Here’s some info from the developers:

Clips is free to download and use on your iPhone and iPad.

There are no limits for the first week of your use. After which, you can only save 5 clips.

If you find Clips useful, you can purchase an upgrade in-app to unlock unlimited clips and syncing between all your iOS devices.

You really can’t lose. Try Clips for free and see how easy it is. It will transform the way you work on your iOS device. I’ll wager you will, like me, find yourself paying the mere $1.99 (only a buck ninety-nine!) to upgrade to the full, unlimited version.

  1. Clips is more than just storage, BTW. It also has some cool shortcuts for formatting your text, especially text grabbed from web pages.
  2. Followed, of course, by seven more taps.

For the Tech of It: Hardware (Mobile)

So we have discussed the desktop side of writing tech, both hard and soft, with a brief detour into backing up. Now, we turn to mobile.

Let’s face it — when most people think of authors these days, they think of laptops. And probably coffee shops.

I’m no stranger to the coffee shop grind1, but I haven’t used a laptop since 2010, when Sir Steven of Jobs bequeathed unto us the iPad.

As I watched the unveiling of the iPad (on a pirate video stream, natch), I was waiting for two bits of information. The first one came relatively quickly, when Jobs revealed that the iPad would run a version of Apple’s iWork suite, including the Pages word processor.

Okay, so that was one down — I would be able to compose on the iPad.

[Read more…]

  1. I’ll be here all week, folks! Don’t forget to tip your waitress!

What I Want in iOS 7

So, yesterday I blathered a bit about iOS 6. In writing that piece, I found myself thinking — a lot — “Gee, I hope in the next version, Apple will X, Y, and maybe Z.” So, I decided to spin those thoughts off into their own little post… [Read more…]

What I Think of iOS 6

In the unlikely event you care what I think… [Read more…]