Microsoft has a treat for you power users this Halloween. Their automated actions service, Microsoft Flow, is finally out of beta. Flow is part of Microsoft's new "power trio," combined with the company's PowerApps and Power BI tools. While those are mostly only useful to companies, Flow has definite use for normal people. In fact, after just an hour of playing with it, I'm convinced it's better than the popular IFTTT service.
With Microsoft Flow, you can make Buttons (a user-triggered set of tasks) or Flows (automated set of tasks, much like IFTTT recipes). As far as I can tell, you can only create new Flows and Buttons from scratch on the desktop site - on mobile you have to start from a template.
Microsoft wants to get in on some of that sweet action that services like If This, Then That and its competitors have been working on for years. To that end they've created Flow, a new web tool that automates actions across some of the major web services available at the moment, most of which (shocker!) aren't even owned by Microsoft. Flow allows users to set up automated "recipes" to complete tasks in Twitter, Dropbox, Google Drive, Slack, OneDrive, Github, Facebook, YouTube, and more.
Remember Flow, Amazon's augmented reality shopping aid that kinda sorta worked? Well now you don't have to, because the functionality has been rolled into the main Amazon shopping app. Now you can scan barcodes and even full products (at least some of the time) to compare their prices to everyone's favorite online megamart. And incidentally, you don't need a second app to do it.
The Flow features work best with a barcode, but the camera scanner will try to identify anything. Products with clear logos or easily-recognizable labels, like DVDs or cereal boxes, work best. For example, Flow can't recognize a white Nexus 5 sans packaging, but it managed to spot the NVIDIA SHIELD from the printed photo on the retail box.
When it comes to aftermarket keyboards, we're big fans of SwiftKey. The prediction engine is second to none, Flow's gesture typing is full-on awesome, and you can customize it to look however you want. Honestly, what more could you want from a keyboard? It's things like this that have made SK a hit with users around the world.
Given that sort of global success, the folks at Swiftkey compiled a blog post with some fun facts about how users in different regions use the keyboard. Want to know who types the sloppiest? How about who relies on predictions the most? Which country loves Flow?
Finally! Since the first SwiftKey Flow beta hit the scene, the inability to "flow" in all texts fields has been driving me crazy. Thank God that's been fixed in the newest beta. Phew.
We're likely getting closer to a final release of Flow, so this beta appears to be more about polish and less about features – and that's a good thing. Aside from the ability to Flow anywhere, it also brings easier corrections, new languages, a new theme, and more. Here's a look at the full changelog:
Changes in this version: * Predictions (and Flow) now on in most places (exceptions: email fields, passwords, anywhere where the app doesn’t behave itself with SK, fields offering their own corrections on Android versions <= 2.2) * Easier corrections – just tap on the word and SwiftKey will offer you 3 possibilities * New languages: Thai, Vietnamese, Bosnian, Albanian, Javan, Sundanese (plus those added in 3.1) * Features from SwiftKey 3.1: Berry theme, split layout in landscape on phones, Armenian, Azerbaijani, Georgian, Hindi, Hinglish, Irish, Macedonian, Spanish (Latin America) and Tagalog * New layouts for Hindi and Russian * Ukrainian landscape layout fixed * Backspacing on to the final word of a multi word prediction (Flow through space) will now give better alternatives * Typing style now inferred rather than a setting * Long press delete accelerates after the first word
Bugs fixed: * Flowing off shift no longer triggers a change in shift state * Flow no longer gets stuck when you flow off the bottom of a page * Quick period working after single letter words * Arrow key repeats * Learning when sending messages or tabbing between fields with the enter key fixed * Azeri capital i behavior corrected * Estonian will now predict words containing ö * Fixed force close on Beta predictions * Flow trace no longer left behind after flowing * Mounting an SD card will turn predictions off only if SwiftKey language packs are stored on that SD card * Keyclick sounds no longer doubled * Haptic duration made consistent with flow on and off
Now that we've said goodbye to December, it's once again time to take a look at the month's best new apps. Of course having reached January, we've also started a new year, and our full look at 2012's best new apps and games will be ready shortly. That being said, December 2012 had plenty to offer. In the interest of saving our readers some time, and possibly expense, we've rounded up five of the very best apps to hit the Play Store in the last month.
There are a lot of post-Ice Cream Sandwich launchers out there, but there aren't a lot of launchers that do something different.
Everyone's favorite mind-reading keyboard, SwiftKey, just received an update that brings a handful of new languages (Armenian, Azerbaijani, Georgian, Hindi, Hinglish, Irish, Macedonian, Latin American Spanish, and Tagalog), as well as improved language pack downloads, improved key layouts for some keyboards, general bug fixes, and a split keyboard layout for "normal-sized" devices. Horray for making things better!
As if that's not enough, though – the keyboard is also on sale for the holidays. For a limited time, you can grab SwiftKey for $1.99 for either the tablet and phone versions. It even includes a festive new "berry" theme! If you don't already own SK, this is definitely a good time to jump on it – it's my personal favorite keyboard hands-down.
Back in late October, SwiftKey announced a new feature called Flow for its hyper-intelligent keyboard. SwiftKey Flow takes everything you (and I) love about SK, and combines it with gesture typing, like that of Swype, or the Android 4.2 stock keyboard. Then, just a few days ago, they debuted the newest feature that would be available in Flow - called Flow Through Space - which allows users to swipe through full sentences without having to lift their finger from the keyboard by sliding down to the spacebar after each word. Not only is that intuitive and brilliant, but I've been using Flow for the last few days, and it works pretty flawlessly.
I'm going to do my best to make it through this article without making a Portal 2 reference, but this new SwiftKey feature is not making it easy on me. After recently announcing Flow, the Swype-like gesture input method, someone inside SwiftKey HQ thought to themselves "Well, you know, this is great and all, but man, what's with all this raising-my-finger nonsense? So inefficient!" So now the company is demoing Flow Through Space. It's nearly identical to the familiar method, only it predicts your entire sentence without the need to start fresh with each word.
Of course, it would be silly to criticize the utility of shaving a few milliseconds off of text input on a phone or tablet.
Facebook's official app for Android got a nice update today, bringing with it just a few changes, though the enhancements it does bring do make the app just a tad more intuitive and functional.
The update includes a new event creation interface that allows users schedule events of all types in a snap, choosing locations, times, and privacy settings all from one screen. Also included is a "new upload flow" for sharing photos. This may sound vague but the idea is that, with the new update, Facebook's "photo" action (when you check in or simply choose to upload a photo from the main screen) will dump you into a list of all the photos on your device, allowing you to tap as many as you like for upload at once.