Downloading Files With iCab Mobile

One aspect of the iOS-first lifestyle that has been a bit of an issue, for many users, is dealing with files. Apple has done a lot to try and fix that with the Files app in iOS 11, but it isn’t fool-proof. One common pain-point for me has been trying to download MP3 files that exist behind a paywall. Luckily, a few must-have iOS apps are available to smooth out the rough edges.

Download in iCab Workflow

I subscribe to Wrestling Observer to gain access to their premium podcast content — because I’m a nerd who likes pro wrestling. I prefer to listen to these shows in Overcast so I can use the app’s Smart Speed feature and play it back at about 1.2x, but Overcast doesn’t have support for password protected RSS feeds. I’m holding out hope that this will be added in the future, but until then, I’ve been using iCab Mobile to download the audio files, which I can then upload to Overcast’s servers with my Premium subscription. And of course, Workflow is there to facility the process.

When a new episode of Wrestling Observer Radio appears in my RSS reader, I follow the link to the episode’s webpage. From there I long press on the download link, tap the “Share…” button, choose “Run Workflow”, and tap on Download In iCab.

The workflow takes the URL passed into it and makes use of iCab’s x-callback-url support to initiate a download of the linked file. In a few short seconds, the MP3 file is available for me to upload to Overcast’s servers for listening in the app — thankfully, iCab works well with the Files app as a document provider.

Downloaded in iCab and Uploaded to Overcast in Sidefari

This workflow is great on the iPhone, but it really shines on the iPad where I have Sidefari setup in split view alongside iCab Mobile. iCab downloads the file while Sidefari is configured to automatically load the Overcast Uploads webpage. Once the download is completed, I can start uploading to Overcast immediately. And when I’m done, I can use the system back button in the upper left to get back into my RSS feeds.

This workflow has been immensely useful for me over the past several months. The podcast I use it for is updated several times each week and I follow the steps outlined above for nearly every episode. It might not seem like all the tapping through various menus is worth the trouble, but I can assure you that the alternative methods for performing the same task are much more time consuming and frustrating to use.

I originally built this workflow in order to download audio files from the web, but I’m sure there are all kinds of oddball tasks that it could be useful for. I’d love to see iCab introduce an action extension that initiates a download, but until that happens, this workflow is the next best thing.

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Essential Apple Watch Apps

I absolutely love my Apple Watch. I’ve worn it every day since I purchased my Series 0 in December 2015, with the only exception being a handful of times when I’ve gone on vacation and didn’t want to hassle with another device to charge every night.

The Apple Watch has become an essential part of my everyday-carry. When I’m not wearing it, I still find myself looking toward my wrist for the time or to glance at the weather. I just feel lost without it.

But the Watch isn’t just an important part of my life because of complications, notifications, or having the time on my wrist. Those are certainly the best parts of the experience, but despite what the naysayers would have you believe, there’s some great third-party software available for the platform and I’d like to share some of my favorites.

Vekt on Apple Watch
Vekt: A gorgeous weight tracking application for Apple Watch. The Watch component is about as simple and minimalist as it gets. When launched, it displays your most recent weigh-in, spinning the crown will adjust the number and display a button for saving the new reading. Once saved, the application will display an appropriate emoji depending on whether you lost or gained weight.

The iPhone app adds the ability to input a target weight goal and view your most recent readings on a simple graph at the bottom of the screen. There are plenty of other weight tracking applications available for iPhone and Apple Watch, but Vekt is my favorite. It features one of the most beautiful icons on my Watch and offers just the right amount of functionality for my needs.

WaterMinder on Apple Watch
WaterMinder: Just a few months ago, I started keeping track of my water intake. I’ve spent most of my life without proper hydration and it was time for me to get it under control. WaterMinder makes it easy to keep track of my intake and live a healthier life as a result.

On iPhone you can configure WaterMinder with shortcuts for your most common drink sizes, set a daily goal, and view detailed history and achievements. On the Watch, WaterMinder let’s you quickly input drinks throughout the day and monitor your progress toward your goal.

In the app’s settings, you can also choose from two different Watch layouts and complication designs. I prefer the ring-style design because it let’s me see the icons I’ve chosen for my shortcuts, but the default allows for quickly adding a drink without the need to scroll.

Cardiogram on Apple Watch
Cardiogram: This heart health app can show your most recent heart rate reading in the app’s complication, display your readings for the day on a graph, and allow you to record a continuous heart rate reading whenever you want. My wife has been having some heart issues recently, occasional rapid heart rates when she’s inactive. Cardiogram gives her an easy way to look back at her readings and monitor any abnormalities that she can discuss with her doctor.

On the iPhone, Cardiogram lets you pull further back on your heart rate data to see larger trends and compare your statistics against the rest of Cardiogram’s users. This application is the perfect companion for anyone concerned about their heart’s health.

Carrot Weather on Apple Watch
Carrot: This is the best weather app for Apple Watch, by far. It features incredible information density while continuing to be readable. And the app’s complication is no slouch — displaying both the temperature and current conditions. If you want the weather forecast on your wrist, Carrot Weather is the best app for the job.

Deliveries on Apple Watch
Deliveries: An application that helps you keep track of all your deliveries. Add tracking numbers to the iPhone app and you can quickly glance at their status on Apple Watch. I’ve used Deliveries on my iPhone for years and have had it installed on my Apple Watch since day one — it’s the best delivery tracking app available.

Things on Apple Watch
Things: With Things on Apple Watch, you can check off items on your to do list, add new items using dictation, or move tasks to a later date. It’s a surprisingly full-featured application on the Apple Watch — there isn’t much you can’t do on the Watch that you can do on iPhone.

Typically, I would consider it a bad thing for an Apple Watch app to offer so much, but Things pulls it off quite well. The interface is kept so simple with access to the most important things right on the main view — checking off items and adding new ones — that I often forget that I have the ability to add notes and deadlines to a task or move them to a later date. Those options stay out of your way until you need them, which is key on a device with such a small screen.

PCalc on Apple Watch
PCalc: I’ve tried a handful of calculator apps for Apple Watch and it’s not even close, PCalc is the best option available. I use the application almost every week, when my wife and I go grocery shopping, to help us stay within our budget. But it doesn’t just offer the usual addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division operations, it also features robust unit conversion and tip calculation.

The Case for RSS

—November 13, 2017

Living on Cellular

—September 29, 2017

This Is My Next iPhone

—September 21, 2017

The Best Utility Apps for iOS

—September 11, 2017

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