iOS 8 will bring Extensions to your iPhone and iPad. Extensions are essentially miniature versions of apps that can be run inside other apps. For instance, if you have Evernote installed on your iPhone, you could pop up the Evernote Extension when you’re running the Mail app, and save a snippet of that email to your Evernote account.
Clearly this is huge. It’s something that Android and Windows Phone users have enjoyed for a while, but Apple has – typically – taken its time to get it right. In fact, you have probably used Apple’s own “test” Extensions already: Whenever you see the Mail sheet roll down inside another app, or you access the built-in Twitter sharing box, you’re using an Extension.
But what kind of things can Extensions do for us? I’ve been thinking about that, and here’s a wish list of Extensions I’d love to see.
The 1Password folks already have an Extension up and running, and it lets you access your 1Password password collection, unlock that collection using TouchID and fill in the password. And it does this inside any app. This will clearly be huge in Safari, but it also means you’ll never have to juggle apps to find your login password again.
This is an obvious one, for obvious reasons. There’s a whole market of Evernote clippers that kind of run in the background and save images and links to your Evernote account. But who will need these when you can just pop open an Evernote import box wherever you are in iOS? Clip text, photos and even PDFs to your Evernote, all without leaving the current app.
Drafts app should be in everyone’s dock. It’s an app that opens to a blank text file. You type in whatever’s on your mind and then send it off to any other service or app. It’s like a quick-input box for your iDevice. With Extensions, you might be able to send snippets of text straight to Drafts, clipping highlights, saving recipes or even just popping open a box to add something to your shopping list.
iOS lacks a clipboard buffer. On my Mac, I can copy any number of items using ⌘-C and pop up a list of them with a keystroke. I use Launchbar for this but there are plenty of options.
Having multiple clipboards in iOS would be incredibly useful. You could copy a username and a password from an email, then switch to a Web page and fill them in without having to flip back and forth between apps. Better still, if the clipboards were combined with one of the new system-wide keyboard replacements, you could have the clipboard buffer right there with a keystroke.
This one’s on Apple. I should be able to turn anything into a reminder. In fact, I should be able to add anything to my calendar. And if Apple doesn’t do it, somebody else will. I can imagine the fantastic Fantastical adding an Extension that can parse a sentence and turn it into a reminder or an event, or any number of other apps adding their own clippers to add things to your to-do list. This one will be exciting to watch.
An enhanced keyboard
I wasn’t excited about iOS 8’s new support for system-wide, third-party keyboards. I find the default one fine, and I never got on with things like Swype. However, I love the enhanced keyboards in apps like Write for iPad that add virtual “mouse” controllers and arrow keys for moving the cursor. Text selection on iOS is terrible without an external keyboard, so I’d pay good money to get a new keyboard with an extra row of controls. And if you can throw in some Markdown shortcut keys and a multiple clipboard, I will shower you with money.
TextTool is an iOS app that wrangles strings of letters into other strings of letters. It can capitalize every word in a sentence, for example, or it can do more complex things like turn your text into HTML-friendly code (and switch it back again). Having TextTool as an option for any text, anywhere in iOS, would be killer.
That’s all I can think of so far. Of course I’m looking forward to the new photos Extensions that let your iOS Photo library integrate with third-party editing apps, and the Extensions that put new widgets in the Notification Center, but these integrations are the ones I’m really excited about.
In fact, I think Extensions will ultimately turn the iPad (and the iPhone) into a real Mac replacement. No longer will you need to plan long strings of app integrations, shuttling your work from one to another to get it done. Now you’ll be able to work in whichever app makes you comfortable, and all those extra functions will come to you..