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A deep dive into iOS 8 extensions: It's all about new workflows

Ryan Faas | Sept. 18, 2014
Extensions are one of the biggest new features in iOS 8. They allow apps to communicate and share data with each other in ways that haven't been possible in previous iOS versions while at the same time maintaining the app sandboxing functionality that is a core component of iOS security.

Extensions are one of the biggest new features in iOS 8. They allow apps to communicate and share data with each other in ways that haven't been possible in previous iOS versions while at the same time maintaining the app sandboxing functionality that is a core component of iOS security.

Some kinds of extensions have gotten a lot of attention since iOS 8 was first announced in June at Apple's WorldWide Developers Conference. For instance, there's been a lot of talk about third-party keyboards that can replace the standard iOS keyboard and new widgets for the Notification Center's Today pane. Another type of extension, highlighted by Apple during the WWDC keynote, allows photo processing and filter functionality to be accessible in the standard the Camera and Photos apps.

But there are other extensions that will impact document and file sharing, storage, access, and editing. These extensions pose both challenges and opportunities in business and enterprise contexts because they offer major changes in terms of how data and content flow between multiple apps, social media and other sharing services, and optional data storage locations. A final type of extension also allows developers to include custom actions that can include accessing external resources. One example of these would be using a language translation service to translate context within an app.

A full guide to all seven iOS 8 extension types is Apple's developer site. Four of these extensions impact data and content, and here's how Apple introduces them:

Share — By providing more sharing options, iOS 8 and OS X enable your app to share photos, videos, websites, and other content with users on social networks and other sharing services.

Storage Provider — You can now provide a document storage location that can be accessed by other apps. Apps that use a document picker view controller can open files managed by the storage provider or move files into the storage provider.

Document Picker — The document picker view controller in iOS 8 grants your users access to files outside your app's sandbox. Documents are easily shared between apps, enabling users to edit a single document in multiple places.

Custom Actions — Create your own custom action buttons in the Action sheet to let users watermark documents, add something to a wish list, translate text to a different language, and more.

Each of these allows users to share data between multiple apps on their iOS devices, share data with third-party social and cloud services, use multiple apps to access the same document or file, and perform actions on data or content that potentially uses external services or other apps.

Opportunities

From a user perspective, these are all great new capabilities, particularly the storage provider and document picker extensions, as they allow direct and/or centralized access to documents and other files from multiple apps.

 

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