Unfortunately, iOS8 broke a lot of things in PrayerMate when it was first released – and thankfully a new app update went live today that will hopefully resolve the last of these. However, it’s not all bad news – iOS8 also makes some really cool new things possible. I haven’t had a chance to capitalise on all of these yet, but I just wanted to highlight one new feature that went live with today’s release that should make your life easier – and that’s the ability to attach PDFs to a prayer subject using the new Document Picker.

When editing one of your subjects, press the “Attachment” button:

2014-10-30 13.07.53

iOS will then give you the option of choosing a source to pull a document from. You should see your iCloud document store here, and if you have the Dropbox app installed, you can make that appear as a source too:

2014-10-30 13.08.02

You can then navigate to the file you want to attach. Please note that PrayerMate only supports PDF attachments, whereas for now, iOS will show you all kinds of files (as soon as I figure out how to fix this, I will!)

2014-10-30 13.08.26

It will then download and attach this PDF to your subject:

2014-10-30 13.08.31

Next time you’re praying for this subject, you should then see an orange “PDF” link at the top right:

2014-10-30 13.08.40

This will then open up the PDF that you have attached:

2014-10-30 13.08.44

PrayerMate is an app designed to help you pray more faithfully and more widely. It is currently doing a crowdfunding campaign to build the next stage – please consider donating £30 at http://support.prayermate.net/

 

Several of you have reported that PDFs seem to open inconsistently on iPads under iOS8. I’ve now tracked down the root cause of this issue, but it’ll be getting on for a couple of weeks before Apple approves my fix.

In the mean time, there is a simple workaround for this issue: make sure your iPad is always in portrait orientation before opening the PDF file, and then switch back to landscape after it has opened if you so wish.

Apologies for the inconvenience, but hopefully this will be enough to get you praying in the mean time whilst a proper update is released.

 

Somebody tweeted something a bit like this the other day:

“How does @PrayerMateApp do it? Told me to pray for colleagues on the very day I’m meeting with them.”

Obviously that was just a bit of fun – but under the surface lies an important question. Just how does PrayerMate decide what you should pray for each day?
This is a blog post that I’ve resisted writing for ages, for two reasons: firstly, because of a misguided sense that this was somehow PrayerMate’s “secret sauce” that gave it some kind of competitive edge; secondly, because I keep thinking it’s going to change imminently and I don’t want an out-of-date blog post littering the Internet misleading people. However, in the last couple of weeks it’s become very clear that confusion around exactly how the scheduling works is a big blocking point in onboarding new users, and so I thought in the interests of helping people get going with PrayerMate it was worth at least a brief outline.

The basics: default scheduled items, no “global item limit”

The simplest starting point is subjects set to the “Default” scheduling mode – the kind that you just leave to PrayerMate to show you when it sees fit. I actually recommend leaving all your items in this mode unless you have a good reason otherwise – but I know that some people like a bit more control that this gives them, and that’s ok.

If you’ve not turned on the “global item limit” under Advanced Settings, then each time PrayerMate starts up it will go through each of your categories, look at the “Items per session” for that category, and pick that number of subjects from that category. So, by default, you’ll get one Biblical prayer, one prayer for your family, one personal godliness one, and so on. Within each category, it will show you the subject that you prayed for least recently. If you increase the “items per session” on a particular category, then you’ll just get more items from that category in addition to what you would already have had from your other categories. This is handy if you’ve got lots of subjects in one category, you can get through them quicker by increasing the items per session, or you can leave it at one and just get through those people less frequently.

In other words, in this mode, each category is essentially an entirely separate prayer list, and it will you show you one item from each list, making sure that over time you cover each item in each of your lists.

Global item limit

For some people, praying through every single one of your categories every time gets a bit much. That’s why PrayerMate has the Advanced Setting called the “Global item limit”. This sets a maximum number of items that you’ll pray for on any given day – personally, I pray for eight items each session.

Now, obviously if you’re not praying through every category each time, this means it has to make a judgement call on what you should pray for each time and what to leave out, whilst still ensuring that you get through everything over time. In this mode, PrayerMate treats all of your subjects as one giant list, puts them in order of when you last prayed for them, then trawls through them one by one. The individual “Items per session” limits on each of your categories still take precedence though – e.g. once it’s found a “Personal godliness” item it will skip over any further subjects from that category. So, by default, you’ll pray for no more than one item from any given category, and in total no more than your global limit.

The slight exception here is “pinned” categories – PrayerMate gives you the option to request that a certain category be given priority, so that you will tend to pray for it each and every day. This just sends them to the top of the list when it sorts the subjects into the order you last prayed for them. If you pin too many categories then it will stop having any meaning.

Other scheduling modes

When you add in items that are not set to the “Default” scheduling mode, things get a little more complicated. PrayerMate schedules them in a certain priority ordering:

  1. First it selects relevant items scheduled by date – e.g. if today is Wednesday 15th October 2014, it will first pick out any items scheduled for today
  2. If there’s any room left, according to both your individual category limits, and optionally the global limit, it will then fill that space up with items scheduled by day of the month – e.g. items for the 15th of any month
  3. Next it will look to fill up with items scheduled for the current day of the week – e.g. Wednesday items. Again, your per-category limits will always take precedence, so don’t expect to pray for all of your Wednesday items if your category only shows one item per session
  4. Finally, if there is any room left at all, it will pick Default scheduled items

The slight idiosyncrasy here is that any items except for “Default” scheduled items will only ever appear once on any given day at present (I hope to change this soon) – so once you’ve prayed for an item scheduled for Wednesdays, you’ll not see those again until the following Wednesday. The thought behind this originally was to stop them permanently blocking items of a lower priority, so that you could still pray for a range of items on any given day if you so wished. In reality it’s just confused people!

You’ll notice that this can be used as a hack to make certain items appear every day – schedule them by “Day of the Week” but select all seven days, and they’ll be scheduled first ahead of any “Default” subjects.

A note on ordering

If you have any category set to more than one item per session, then currently the subjects that PrayerMate selects for you from that category will always display in the same order each time. For example, if you had a category called “The Lord’s Prayer” with a subject for each line of the prayer, they would be guaranteed to appear in the same order each time. It has been pointed out to me that this does actually cause issues if you have an odd number of subjects in your category but pray for an even number of items each session – you’ll end up praying for certain subjects (the ones nearer the start of the list) more regularly than others (the ones nearer the end of the list). I hope to fix this in a future update by letting you decide how the category should be ordered, but in the mean time the workaround if you’re experiencing this is to make sure there’s an even number of subjects in your category.

The future

This is all subject to change, and hopefully fairly soon! It has become increasingly clear that this isn’t quite as intuitive or flexible as I’d like, and I have some fairly concrete ideas for improving it. But don’t worry, I’ll be sure to let you transition gradually to any new system as an when you’re ready.

The possibility of the existence of bugs

This blog posts describes how things are supposed to work – it’s always possible that there are bugs in this system! If you feel like you’re seeing something that isn’t behaving according to these rules, then feel free to hit the “Send feedback” button inside the app and ask about it. It would really help if you could let me know whether you’re on iOS or Android, whether you have the global item limit turned on or off, and exactly what you’re seeing vs what you’re expecting to see.

Conclusion

I hope that helps clarify things, and helps you make some more informed decisions about how to organise your prayer points!

If you’ve not already, please consider supporting our crowdfunding campaign to build the next stage of PrayerMate: http://support.prayermate.net/

 

People don’t always realise that I work on PrayerMate in my spare time along side a full time job. For the most part this just about works, but when it comes to implementing big headline features, this just isn’t possible in the little free time I have. Right now I have a window of opportunity to build two very exciting new features that people are constantly asking me for:

  1. Universal sync: whether you have an iOS device or an Android device, you want all of your devices to talk to each other. Even if you’ve only got one device, you want the reassurance of knowing that your data is safely backed up in the cloud without you having to remember to do this manually each time.
  2. A web-based client: typing on a small screen can be fiddly, so people have often expressed an interest in some kind of desktop client that lets them manage their prayer points on a full-size screen and keyboard.

A friend of mine who is an experienced software developer has an opening in his schedule over the next couple of months. There’s a chance that some of you might even have used software that he has helped build in the past (especially if you’re musical) Best of all, he’s worked on some of the existing features for PrayerMate for Android, so he’s already familiar with the codebase. However, he needs to be able to put food on his table. I’ve also got links with some Ukrainian software developers who have come very highly recommended to me, and are all geared up to work on the web client. They’re extremely cost-effective compared to UK developers – but they too need to be able to put food on their tables.

Finally, a much more boring need: the five-year-old plastic MacBook that I use for all of my development (both iOS and Android) is really starting to creak at the seams, both literally (the bottom is falling off!) and figuratively (it really starts to crawl when compiling code, especially for the new iOS8).

To meet these needs, I’m looking to find 300 people willing to give £30 by 13th November (by God’s grace I’ve found a dozen of them already – thank you!)

I go into a lot more detail answering all kinds of questions on the supporters website, which you can find here:

http://support.prayermate.net/

Please do prayerfully consider giving, and please please please spread the word – tell everybody you know who uses PrayerMate! I can’t do this on my own, but together we can make a real difference that will help people across the world to be praying.