Posts tagged with "URL Scheme"

Spotify Actions for Launch Center Pro

I recently tweeted about a change in the Spotify app for iOS – which I've been using to listen to music every day1 – that broke my shortcut to search for songs and artists from my Launch Center Pro action grid. I've been trying to identify the culprit and I've read documentation about Spotify's URL scheme and integration with the web app, but I haven't been able to figure out how to make searches typed in Launch Center Pro work with Spotify again. Therefore, I've tweaked my Spotify action setup and settled on a compromise that's (kind of) working for now.

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Launch Center Pro 2.3.1 for Power Users

My Launch Center Pro home screen and Utilities folder.

My Launch Center Pro home screen and Utilities folder.

Earlier this month, I wrote that Launch Center Pro 2.3 extended iOS automation by integrating with IFTTT and bridging the gap between iOS apps and web services. Launch Center Pro 2.3.1, released today and seemingly a minor update, is packed with major changes for advanced users who want to build complex URL actions in the app.

If you’ve struggled to build actions that connect multiple apps in Launch Center Pro before, you’ll want to check out the new version and read through the full documentation on Contrast’s website. We’re still working on a big update to our Launch Center Pro guide, but, in the meantime, I’m going to give you an overview of what’s possible to achieve with Launch Center Pro 2.3.1.

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Launch Center Pro 2.3 Extends iOS Automation

Released today on the App Store, Launch Center Pro 2.3 is a major update to Contrast's app launcher and automation tool for iOS that further enhances integration with online services, improves how actions are built and triggered, and that refines several aspects of an app that's become a key piece of my workflow.

I've been covering Launch Center Pro since its humble Pro-less beginnings, and the app has changed dramatically over the years. What started as a simple launcher for apps graduated into a full-blown automation utility for URL schemes and native iOS features, which allowed us to create a complete guide to get started with the app on your iPhone and iPad.1

Launch Center Pro 2.3 brings important improvements that make the app an even better companion for common tasks and advanced workflows. The update is packed with features -- David Barnard wasn't joking when he said that it feels like a 3.0 release -- and I believe that Contrast did a great job in integrating them with the rest of the app.

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Command-C Browser Actions

Command-C

Command-C

When I'm writing on my iPad at home, there's a chance I have my MacBook on my desk with either iTunes open (to check for app updates or playing music from iTunes Match/Radio) or MailMate running (because I've been having issues with Mail on the beta of iOS 7.1). It's not uncommon for me to use a dual-monitor setup when writing, relying on my MacBook for Google searches and other reference material – effectively, I use it as a secondary display to my iPad when I'm working on articles that require a fair amount of research.

Since the release of Command-C, I've been using Danilo Torrisi's utility to quickly beam text and URLs across all my devices, using Launch Center Pro actions to speed up the process. Command-C has excellent support for URL schemes – a boon to iPad users who fiddle with automation tricks to save time when working on iOS. I recently realized, however, that most of the content I share with Command-C is made of URLs from Safari, therefore I asked myself whether I could put together a solution to send URLs with one click from Safari without using an external app or keyboard shortcut. It was pretty clear from the beginning that I would end up with a bookmarklet, but I have to thank Danilo for providing the necessary guidance I needed to achieve the kind of workflow I wanted.

The bookmarklet is part made for myself, part proof of concept (as always) for others to iterate upon. It doesn't only send URLs from Safari on another device with Command-C – it sends the webpage you're currently viewing in Safari to another app on another device with Command-C.

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xsuc.es for Mobile Safari

Joseph Schmitt, writing in response to Greg Pierce's hack to simulate x-callback-url support in Chrome:

Wouldn't it be great if Safari supported Chrome's back button behavior? It sure would. However, Apple's laissez faire attitude towards inter-app communication keeps me from holding my breath on this front. Therefore, I was truly excited when I saw this post by the father of x-callback-url himself, Greg Pierce, wherein he launches a simple HTML page in Safari and uses JavaScript to add x-success links to the page on his own. Woah, awesome!

However, Greg's technique depends on loading a full-screen iframe on the page and overlaying a back button on top to trigger the x-success url. That gets the job done, but I really prefer how Chrome handles this: make the last page jump to the previous app. I brainstormed for a bit and figured I could probably replicate Chrome's behavior's using Greg's idea, and I was right: xsuc.es was born.

To build actions with xsuc.es, see the URL parameters in Joseph's blog post. The format is easy to understand if you're already familiar with URL schemes; here's a demo action to launch a Google search in Safari based on xsuc.es from Launch Center Pro.

xsuc.es is a nicer hack that takes over Safari's Back button to go back to a previous app like Chrome does, albeit without the app's name visible alongside the button. You can, however, tap & hold the back button to see the app you're going back to. It would be nice to mix a success URL scheme with the address of the webpage you're currently viewing, although I believe that's beyond the limit of how much it's possible to work around Safari's JavaScript.

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Mimic Google Chrome’s x-callback-url Support In Mobile Safari

Speaking of Greg Pierce, I'm intrigued by the workaround he found to mimic support for x-callback-url in Safari for iOS:

For those not familiar, it is possible to use x-callback-url support in Google Chrome on iOS to open a URL from another app, and have Chrome present a “Back” button to return to the app you opened the URL from. Safari does not offer this level of integration.

To mimic this feature in Safari, I have created an intermediate HTML page with a little javascript that can take a “url” and “x-success” parameter. If it gets these, it will load the “url” in an iframe that displays full screen, and present a “< Back” button in the top left of the screen, which when tapped will open the URL in the “x-success” parameter.

Here's what I did: I downloaded Greg's HTML file on my Mac, put it in my Public folder in Dropbox, and got the direct link that can be accessed by any web browser. With that, I edited the Drafts action Greg made and now I have a custom “callback page” that I can integrate with Safari and actions from Drafts, Launch Center Pro, Editorial, or Mr. Reader. I'm thinking of how I could take advantage of this solution in my workflows – the nice part: you can navigate across pages inside the frame – but I believe I will mostly use it to quickly check a webpage in Safari and go back to the previous app quickly.

It's an interesting workaround, but still a hack. For instance, it's not possible to dynamically generate a callback address from the address that's currently loaded in the frame. Still, if you want to put together a basic alternative to Chrome's excellent x-callback-URL support, check it out.

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Creating and Sharing Text Files In Launch Center Pro

When Launch Center Pro 2.2 was released last month, I mentioned the addition of Dropbox actions for creating and modyfing text files, but I didn't share any action example because I couldn't find a possible use of the feature in my workflow. This morning, I realized that my old workflow to generate and share text files with Dropbox could be simplified with Launch Center Pro, so I rewrote it using the app's new Dropbox functionalities.

I often need to create text files and share them quickly with Dropbox. These are usually notes that don't fit in a Twitter DM or long crash reports for developers of apps I'm testing. In my old workflow, I used to type file name and file contents in Launch Center Pro, then, with two steps of inter-app communication, upload the file with Drafts, get the shareable link back with Launch Center Pro, and start a new tweet with the link in Tweetbot.

The workflow still gets the job done but the new version is simpler, faster, and more flexible. It's just three steps:

  • Type file name;
  • Type file contents;
  • Get public link to text file in Dropbox.

With a single action that doesn't involve switching between apps, I can type a file name in a Launch Center Pro prompt, insert contents manually or by pasting, and hit Done to create a text file in Dropbox. Launch Center Pro gets the link of the just-created file and presents an iOS share sheet with a series of options for the file's public link so that I'm not limited to Tweetbot anymore; I discovered that I often needed to DM or email a link, and with the old workflow I was forced to start a new tweet then select and copy the link manually from it. With the new action, everything happens inside Launch Center Pro in seconds and I can pick the best option for me (it's usually “Copy”).

I was skeptical as to whether I would need Dropbox actions in Launch Center Pro, but this workflow shows some clear benefits of Contrast's app – keyboard prompts and a native share sheet combined with Dropbox text features make for a quick and elegant note-taking and sharing experience.

You can download the action here.