Disabling the “Detect Links” feature by default

The “Detect Links” feature in Simplenote uses the built-in capability of iPhone OS 3.0 to automatically detect web addresses and other info in your notes, and convert these into tappable links. This feature will be disabled as of the next update. For those of you who rely on link detection, you’ll be able to re-enable it, but it will behave differently. We’d like to take a moment to explain all the details.

The short story is that Apple’s built-in text controls do not fully support our desired behavior. In particular, they don’t support the ability to tap-to-edit your text and detect links in your text simultaneously. The reason, presumably, is that tapping to edit, and tapping a link, are two potentially conflicting actions. (For the record, we don’t agree with this reason considering Apple’s own Notes app handles the potential conflict just fine).

Other apps get around this limitation by giving you extra, separate buttons for editing your note or toggling link detection. We don’t like extra buttons.

We had implemented a satisfactory workaround, but it didn’t strictly adhere to Apple’s API guidelines, so they requested we remove it. As a result, we had to implement a far less satisfactory workaround.

After the next update, if you choose to re-enable Detect Links, then the process of editing your note will change slightly. After you tap your note, it will start editing either at the top or bottom of the note depending on whether or not you had scrolled down. Thereafter, you can tap again to put the cursor exactly where you want it.

This is far from ideal, but it’s the only quick solution we could find that avoids adding another button to the interface. If you have another idea, please let us know. In the meantime we’ll do our best to find a better workaround for the long-term, and we’ll continue to seek a proper solution from Apple.

4 thoughts on “Disabling the “Detect Links” feature by default

  1. While I respect Apple’s demands and decisions, I think some of us are growing tired from this. We adapt to an app, learn it, use it, love it and then they request a ridiculous change. I know few other devs who faced this as well.Lets just hope you guys will develop Simplenote for Android for those who are jumping aboard that platform 😉

  2. Please leave the behavior as it was before the update.Question: Detect Links refers only to URLs, or does it include phone numbers, and e-mail addresses as well?

  3. @Andrés: We can’t leave the behavior as it was. We had to change it, although we didn’t want to. "Detect Links" refers to web, phone numbers, and email addresses.

  4. I have a suggestion (although maybe this is what Apple rejected): Remove Detect Links from the app preferences entirely. Have the Detect Links feature generally off but able to be turned on temporarily while you are looking at a note by tapping a button in the bottom toolbar (currently populated by just the Trash and Mail buttons). That way, you get the usefulness of links, but only when you want them.By the way, I’ve turned Detect Links off because tap-to-edit doesn’t work right for me when it’s on: if the note is longer than one screen, the edit point almost never coincides with where I’ve tapped. This is true whether the note has any links or not. I was going to submit this as a formal bug report, but it seems moot now.