Important info for users of Mock Test app

A heads up for those of you using my Mock Test app...

iOS 9 is coming soon. Apple will announce the release date today, and that date will probably be in the next couple of weeks. As usual, the new version of iOS has caused a bit of havoc in some of my apps, Mock Test being one of them.

I've already released updates to address the serious issues in other apps, but Mock Test is being especially awkward. When I modify the app to run on iOS 9, it refuses to work with iOS 8. This isn't a big problem as I can release an update which requires iOS 9 or higher, so those with iOS 8 will continue to use their working version and those with iOS 9 can update to the repaired version.

The difficulty with this solution is that due to the way things work with app submissions and approvals, I may not be able to have the iOS 9 version of Mock Test available on day one of iOS 9 availability. In other words, if you update straight away to iOS 9 and try to use Mock Test before the updated version goes live, you might be disappointed.

My advice is usually not to jump on the latest iOS updates as they often caused unexpected issues. In this case, we have something that will almost certainly be an issue if you want to keep using that particular app.

As for the other apps, to ensure iOS 9 compatibility make sure you have the latest updates for Indy Drive, Emergency Stop, and KISS Fleet.

Road Board seems to have some minor aesthetic quirks under iOS 9, and these will be addressed in due course.

Who Wants a Stylus?

"Who wants a stylus?" That's what Steve Jobs said back in 2007 when he revealed the first iPhone to the world. He went on to say that the best pointing devices are the ones you're born with - your fingers, and I totally agree. You shouldn't need a stylus to operate a hand held device.

But I do want a stylus. When I use Road Pad to draw on an image of a junction, I use a stylus to help increase the accuracy of my lines. Fingers are fine for pushing buttons, scrolling, panning and zooming, but drawing is very hard to do accurately without a good stylus to help you.

I also use a stylus when using Mock Test. The boxes on the mock test form are just a little small for fingers and I find it much easier to hit the right ones with a stylus. Of course, I could have made the test sheet display larger on the screen but I wanted it to be the same width as the screen in landscape mode in order to minimise the amount of scrolling you need to do.

I'm writing this post because a good stylus is hard to find, and I want to point you towards a couple of my favourites.

The Acase Capacitive Stylus is a simple but good stylus which works well and doesn’t cost too much. Last time I checked, it was only £7.99 on Amazon. A bargain!

If you want something with a little more functionality, and are prepared to pay a little more, I’d recommend the BoxWave Capacitive iPad Styra. This has a stylus at one end and an ordinary pen at the other end. Again, it’s a good stylus and I find having the two items in one to be very useful.

Both these styluses work well with the iPad and iPhone. They also help to reduce the amount of fingerprints left behind on your screen.

TIP: When using a stylus with an iOS device, avoid using it to push the home button as this will shorten the life of the stylus.

Mock Test update - the details

It’s been a long wait, but I've finally got the Mock Test app updated so it can send test results by email. It felt like a big step forward when I got it updated to allow saving of test results. This is another big step in maximising the usefulness of the app along the lines of what I originally envisaged when I created it.

I'm still not 100% happy with the results. There are some trade-offs I've had to make in the latest version. The main one is image format. The driving test report form used in the app has been in PNG format from the beginning. This is generally the best and easiest image format to use in iOS, mainly because PNG file sizes are small and images load quickly. However, I would prefer to be sending the test result in PDF format as this is normally the easiest and best format to use on the desktop for viewing, printing etc.

Currently, Mock Test stores and sends the test results in PNG format. I had to settle for this because PDF format is not so suitable for the main interface of the app (in which the test is carried out), and to convert later from PNG to PDF is a little too complicated. I've done some experiments with PDF conversions and I'm not happy with the results so far. I also ran into complications with iOS 4.3 and iOS 5 giving different results during my experiments. Bearing in mind that I want the app to continue to be stable and reliable, the simplest thing to do for now is to stick with the PNG format from start to finish.

Another trade-off is printing functionality. I received a request to include this in the app and looked into ways it could be done. Although I would be unlikely to use a printing function myself, I wanted to include it in the app if possible. This is something that will have to wait, however, as it would require PDF functionality. Part of the joy of iPads and email is that we don't need to print things nearly as much as we used to, and we should be glad about the amount of paper and ink we can save as a result! Nevertheless, I will continue to consider options for including printing support in a future version of the app. In the meantime, if you really want to print out test results, you can email them to yourself and print out the PNG attachment to the email.

I chose to type out the entire text of "The Driving Test Explained" from the sheet that accompanies official driving test results. Initially I looked at including the original sheets in image format, but this would have increased the size of the email by too much. It's already a pretty large email with just the single sheet attached, so putting the explanation in text form made more sense. It occurred to me that some may prefer not to have this text included in the email but I decided it makes more sense to have it, and if you really don't want it you can delete it from the email before sending. Be careful though: if you "Select All" then delete, you'll delete the attachment as well!

Other points to note:

If you don’t send an email but instead choose to save it as a draft, the process will take a while. There is currently no progress notification in the app while this is happening.

If you try to email a test result and you don't have a network connection at the time, the app will tell you the email has been sent but in fact it will not send until your iPad is back online. You should not need to do anything else as the iPad’s Mail app will hang on to the message until it can be sent.

That’s it. I hope you enjoy the new functionality in the app, and that your pupils benefit from having the extra information about their mock tests!

Mock Test and Road Pad updates go live

Updates to Mock Test and Road Pad have both been approved by Apple an are now live on the App Store.

Mock Test version 1.1 implements the ability to save test sheets and retrieve them later for review. The next version of the app will include the ability to send test results via email.

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Road Pad version 1.1 addresses an issue which meant the default satellite view was always centred and zoomed on the British Isles. The update allows you to select your preferred view and then save it as the default. This means you can set a view of your local area as the default, so it will be quicker and easier for to find the exact view you want. You can, of course, use the ‘Show Location’ button at any time to identify and zoom in on your current position.

Mock Test update coming soon

A few people have been in touch lately to ask whether the Mock Test app will ever be able to save, email, or print test results. The answer is yes, it will... but it’s going to be a little longer before the update is ready to go. As things stand, it looks like there will be an initial update which will enable the option to save and retrieve test sheets within the app. A later update will bring in the option to email test sheets in PDF format. These can then be printed out if required.

The update will be done in two stages to minimise the likelihood of any bugs creeping in. It will also mean users can start taking advantage of the save and retrieve function while the email/PDF function is still being worked on.


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