iPad is a limited device. But the limits are artificial. The ones set by Apple engineers and Steve Jobs. The ones broken by iOS developers.
Yes, there are a lot of things you can’t do on the iPad. You can’t access the file system or make one app talk to another directly. No sharing between apps. No side by side multitasking either. But for every single thing that the iPad can’t do, there are multiple things it can, rather magnificently.
Today, I’ll tell you about one such app called iCab ($1.99, Universal). It is a browser that lets you do everything that Safari says is a no-no. Multi-touch gestures, keyboard shortcuts, multi-user login and most importantly – integration of services from different apps.
iPad has a big, beautiful retina screen. One that responds amazingly to touch and is advanced enough to make out the differences between 4-finger tap and a 4-finger swipe. Not putting it to good use is a shame.
From Settings -> User Interface -> Multitouch Gestures you can assign multiple 1 to 4-finger tap and swipe gestures, totaling to about 17 combinations.
What all can you do with it? Lots. Not only are generic functions like next tab, previous tab, fullscreen, etc included, but you can also pull directly from 50 or so included modules. What are modules? We’ll talk about them in detail below but right now just think of them as bookmarklets or extensions. So, with one multi-finger gesture, you can send the page you are currently reading directly to Pocket. Neat, eh?
Yes, drawing gestures on screens are nothing new. In fact, I remember using them on my Java based phone that had a resistive touchscreen. I had to use (gasp) a stylus!
But thankfully, drawing experience on the iPad using my fingers is nothing like that. Yeah, the alphabets are sometimes still a miss but the generic gestures like arrows, lines and shapes are registered every time.
Again, what can you do with it? You can assign an alphabet to open your favorite websites like Guiding Tech. So next time you draw the letter G, you’ll be greeted by us!
But of course, you can do a lot more than that. The Action list goes on for a couple dozen more options and I suggest you explore them on your own. Drawing gestures include all the generic and specific actions I talked about in the multi-touch sections above. There’s also support for sharing a page, saving a screenshot, adding a page to bookmarks and basically every action you can do by tapping a button or fiddling with menus can be done by drawing on the screen.
Assigning Drawing Gestures
You can assign gestures from the Settings menu but there is a more convenient option located in the Toolbar. Tap the hand icon, draw a gesture and assign an action.
Modules are snippets of code that let you interact with a different service or an app directly from iCab. So, by assigning a multi-touch gesture, you can potentially send a page to Pocket, your Safari Reading List or Evernote, share the page on Facebook or twitter or even convert the page into a PDF or ePub book. All of this is done by using web services integrated inside the app.
Check out all the modules by going into Settings -> Services -> Modules.
3. Keyboard Shortcuts
If you are even a little bit serious about working on the iPad, you have a keyboard dock. iPad, with its distraction free setup is a great tool for writers. But writing and browsing goes hand-in-hand. If you use iCab to do your online research, you can save the trips from the keyboard to the screen by using built-in keyboard macros or assigning new ones yourself.
4. Background Downloads
This is one of the biggest features introduced in iCab 8.0, thanks to iOS 7’s background refresh. iCab can now always stay in background, so if you are downloading a big file (yes, unlike Safari, iCab lets you download files), you can go ahead and put the iPad to sleep or switch to any other app without worrying about killing the download.
5. Multiple User Logins
iPads are now home computers, we share them with our family members. But there are always things like email that you might want to keep private.
Now, thanks to iCab your entire family can use one browser to get online without invading each other’s privacy.
6. LastPass and Firefox Sync Integration
Is Firefox your desktop browser? Would you like to have all your bookmarks and history available directly in iCab? Do you use LastPass to save passwords for websites?
iCab integrates with both Firefox Sync and LastPass to bring you desktop like browsing experience on your iPad.
And A Lot More
There’s a lot more to iCab than the features listed here. As always, the best way to learn about a new app is to do some exploring yourself.
Top image credit: Michael Coghlan
Last updated on 03 February, 2022
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