Greg Pierce:

Terminology has always had great direct integration with our own apps, Drafts and Phraseology that allows you to easily lookup and select replacement words and have them directly replaced inline with your editing. You can see that integration in action.

In the latest version (3.0.6) of Terminology, I added a tweak to its URL schemes to allow it to integrate more easily with certain other apps, particularly Editorial, Ole Moritz’s excellent iPad text editor.

Terminology is my favorite dictionary app and I wish Editorial had a popover to replace Apple's default dictionary, like Instapaper did. The workflows are the best alternative to that for now, and they work well.

It would be nice to have selectable synonyms and antonyms built into the system dictionary in iOS 8.

Launch Center Pro 2.1

In October, Contrast released Launch Center Pro 2.0, a free update to their shortcut launcher and automation tool for iOS that brought a new interface for iOS 7 and, among other minor additions, Dropbox integration. Launch Center Pro is one of the three apps I keep in my dock[1], and I use it several times a day to create new tasks in Fantastical, launch Google searches, open my favorite websites, and more.

Today, Contrast is launching Launch Center Pro 2.1, a seemingly not-so-major update that, however, brings important changes to the app, including a new way to build visual actions and support for the new third-party Fleksy keyboard. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that version 2.1 is just as important as 2.0 for heavy users of Launch Center Pro. (more…)

Nov
21
2013

TextTool

It used to be that, to do nerd stuff, you had to get a Mac or PC. As iOS progressed over the years, however, developers saw that users were spending a lot of time trying to do work on their iPhones and iPads, and started building utilities that packed powerful functionalities in what looked like “just an app”. We got Drafts and Launch Center Pro, calendar apps and password managers just as powerful as their desktop counterparts, and, of course, apps to script iOS and a text editor with its own workflow system. To sum up: iOS is still maturing, but there's no shortage of nerdy apps and utilities at this point.

iOS is great for quick text entry thanks to the portability of an iPhone or iPad mini, but doing advanced text manipulation is a bit tricky unless you want to get dirty with Editorial and Python scripts. On the Mac, it's easy to fire up Automator and create a workflow that takes a line of text and turns it Into Title Case or UPPERCASE; even going the extra mile and building services to take selected text and indent it or swap spaces with tabs takes a few minutes, but it's doable with a basic knowledge of built-in OS X tools. On iOS? There's no Automator (yet?), so, until today, if you wanted to do automated text transformations you'd have to get Editorial and Pythonista or use some of Launch Center Pro's (limited) text filters.

Craig Pearlman noticed this problem and built TextTool, a $4.99 Universal app that comes with 28 built-in text transformations that you can use inside the app's text editor or chain to other iOS apps with URL schemes and workflows.

(more…)

Nov
18
2013

Fantastical 2

Fantastical 2 is the best calendar app for iPhone, and in my review I focused on the aspects that made it a more powerful and elegant solution than Apple’s Calendar and Reminders combined. Today’s 2.0.1 update brings, among bug fixes and improvements, two nice changes that I’d like to point out as they’ve made Fantastical even better for me.

(more…)

Clean Links

In July, I wrote about my Pythonista script to resolve and clean URLs copied from apps that used shortening services. Clean Links, developed by Griffin Caprio, is a free iOS app that does more than my script as it resolves URLs, removes useless parameters, and supports x-callback-url for inter-app communication.

Clean Links' sole purpose is to receive a URL that was shortened, put behind a proxy, or cluttered with parameters/tokens and turn it into the clean, basic version that's the one you want to share with your friends and followers.1 Clean Links can resolve YouTube URLs, links to blog posts generated by FeedBurner, classic Bitly URLs, and more. In my tests, Clean Links never failed to clean up a URL that I gave to it – the recent addition of YouTube URL support is extremely welcome as YouTube mobile redirects are particularly annoying. By default, Clean Links cleans a URL you’ve copied and puts the cleaned version back in the iOS clipboard.

With callbacks, Clean Links can be used with other apps as a “URL cleaning service” in the middle of a workflow. Here's an example: I've found a link in Tweetbot and I want to tweet it, but the URL is ugly. With Clean Links, I can copy the URL and launch this Launch Center Pro action to have it cleaned up and return to Tweetbot's Compose screen automatically. Or, with this action, you can resolve a URL and automatically add it to the “URL” field of a new event in Fantastical 2.

A tip for x-callback-url power users: when chained to other apps, Clean Links can automatically insert text not by using clipboard hacks, but through a “return parameter” called retParam. If you take a look at the URL schemes that power the actions above, you'll see that, for Tweetbot, the text parameter is omitted from the Tweetbot URL scheme and given to retParam (same concept for Fantastical). If you want to pass along cleaned URLs with x-callback-url keep this in mind and take a look at the app's documentation.

Clean Links has a very utilitarian approach to the problem it solves: it's powerful, but it doesn't come with a pretty UI for iOS 7. You're not supposed to be looking at Clean Links all the time though, and the app's functionality makes it the best solution to clean URLs and send them to other apps I've found. Clean Links is Universal and available for free on the App Store.


  1. Tweeting URLs with “mobile.” domains and UTM tokens is comparable to this

Tweetbot workflow

In Tweetbot 3, Tapbots removed the ability to post tweets longer than 140 characters using built-in services for text upload. While I understand that it wasn’t one of Tweetbot’s most used features, its removal got me thinking: would it be possible to replicate the feature using Dropbox and plain text files in an automated iOS workflow? I came up with a solution that requires Launch Center Pro and Drafts, and I’m quite happy with it.

(more…)

This is an updated list of apps with x-callback-url support. This list will be updated constantly and as soon as I hear an app being released with the feature.

A useful collection of links by Phillip Gruneich that has more links than the official documentation.

Oct
10
2013

Launch Center Pro, developed by Contrast (née App Cubby), can be considered the app that spearheaded a small revolution among iOS power users. Initially envisioned as a Notification Center tool, following an Apple rejection in late 2011 the app was released as Launch Center; in the summer of 2012, App Cubby completely reworked the inner workings and design of Launch Center and turned it into Launch Center Pro, allowing users to create custom actions with personalized URL schemes and therefore kicking off a series of months that saw the apperance of several other apps focused on actions, URL schemes, and automated workflows. In looking back at the past year of iOS automation, I think that Launch Center Pro 1.0 was a major turning point in that it proved that many iOS users wanted to create actions and workflows to save time and be more productive.

In March 2013, App Cubby released Launch Center Pro 1.1, which focused on TextExpander integration in URL schemes, Action Composer tweaks, and deeper system integration with clipboard actions for text and more. The app’s library of supported third-party apps kept growing as more developers took the opportunity to address the interest sparked by Launch Center Pro to add URL schemes to their apps. I remember, however, that back then App Cubby’s David Barnard – the same developer behind the recently released and successful weather app Perfect Weather – started telling me about his plans for the future of Launch Center Pro and expanding to other supported services, apps, and devices.

With today’s Launch Center Pro 2.0 for iPhone, a free update for existing customers, Contrast wants to ask: in the era of Drafts actions and Control Center, can Launch Center Pro still have a spot on a user’s Home screen, and possibly in the dock? (more…)

Oct
8
2013

In September, I reviewed Amount, an elegant and easy to use unit converter for iPhone:

Amount is easy to use and ready for iOS 7 with a full-screen design and neat animations. It isn’t packed with advanced functionalities, but I’d definitely recommend it as a unit converter app for everyone.

Today, the app has been updated with a URL scheme that can be used to launch specific unit conversions from other apps. As documented by the developer, this is the URL scheme to use:

amount://convert?number=NUMBER&category=CATEGORY&unit=UNIT

The commands are rather self-explanatory: given a numeric input, a category (currency, length, data, etc), and a unit, you can launch Amount’s conversion screen with information already filled in for you. While you can set up this kind of shortcut with any app that lets you create URL scheme actions, the obvious implementation takes advantage of Launch Center Pro’s numeric keypad to simplify the process of typing numbers.

amount://convert?number=[prompt-num]&category=currency

With the action above, I can quickly type a numeric input in Launch Center Pro, tap launch, and then select the primary unit for a currency conversion in Amount, which will then display multiple results inline without switching screens. It’s a handy shortcut, and it doesn’t change Amount’s cool visualization of converted results.

Amount is available at $0.99 on the App Store.