05th February 2018
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Matthew Cassinelli, previously a developer of the now Apple-owned Workflow app, has started blogging recently. And I thought I’d share one of his recent workflows, about quickly saving webpages to the Bear notes app.

I’ve been doing more research on iOS lately as my iPhone is the device I use the most, so capturing full web pages quickly saves me a lot of time. While I really like Apple Notes’ latest iterations, it’s not easy to clip websites there – so I adopted Bear for notes, which has support for Markdown, images, and a handy Get URL function.

Bear’s ability to download websites as a note is killer, but it’s usually easily available for most people via their Action Extension. Rather than limiting my access to the share sheet, I’ve been taking advantage of the Workflow action Get Bear Note From URL1 to save web pages from anywhere on iOS.

I never knew Bear had that feature, and that may push me into using it again in the future. But this workflow has a bit more complexity that most, in that it can be run from the today widget using the clipboard contents, from the share sheet, and from other apps like Launch Center Pro.

Seeing as he used to actually work on the Workflow app, his blog is certainly one to keep an eye on.

Read the full post.

Apps

Workflow

Bear (iOS / macOS)

07th December 2017
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Downloading files from the web on iOS has always been a prickly issue, but Michael Rockwell, writer at Initial Charge, has come up with a rather simple solution:

One aspect of the iOS-first lifestyle that has been a bit of an issue, for many users, is dealing with files. Apple has done a lot to try and fix that with the Files app in iOS 11, but it isn’t fool-proof. One common pain-point for me has been trying to download MP3 files that exist behind a paywall. Luckily, a few must-have iOS apps are available to smooth out the rough edges.

I subscribe to Wrestling Observer to gain access to their premium podcast content — because I’m a nerd who likes pro wrestling. I prefer to listen to these shows in Overcast so I can use the app’s Smart Speed feature and play it back at about 1.2x, but Overcast doesn’t have support for password protected RSS feeds. I’m holding out hope that this will be added in the future, but until then, I’ve been using iCab Mobile to download the audio files, which I can then upload to Overcast’s servers with my Premium subscription. And of course, Workflow is there to facility the process.

Michael seems to always have nifty solutions to things on iOS, so it’s worth reading the full article, and maybe even subscribing to the blog in your RSS reader of choice.

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14th April 2017

It’s been reported by MacRumors, that the Workflow team have confirmed there will no longer be any updated for Workflow, however bugs will still continue to be fixed. It was in a customer support email, where they wrote the following:

But just so you know, we have no further planned updates for Workflow. That being said we are continuing to support Workflow’s current functionality and have no plans to end support, so let me know if you run across any bugs or crashes.

This news comes under one month since Apple acquiring Workflow, and the team working on the app.

When news initially broke of the acquisition, there was various different theories, and ideas on what would happen to Workflow. Whether it would continue, be integrated deeper into the OS, or just slowly killed off.

With Workflow being such a fundamental part to many professional users, that get their work done on iOS, I’m still trying to see the good side of this. Especially as I can’t imagine Apple buying an app that is so vital to people, and then simply getting rid of it.

As David Sparks writes for MacSparky:

Whatever Apple is working on, I find it highly unlikely that it will ship with iOS 11 that gets announced in just a few months. So my guess is we’ll wait until iOS 12 to get the Workflow replacement, which is most likely 14 months from announcement and 17 months away from release. Will Workflow still function up until that time? I sure hope so.

I agree with the timing aspect, it’s not really a perfect fit for any big iOS update. It’s obviously too soon to see any integration in iOS 11, but there’s a huge amount of time until iOS 12.

I can only hope that Workflow in it’s current form, is slowly going away. And that there is either a deeper version of Workflow being worked on, or that the automation features are going to be implemented at the system level, while also building a much better automation system for iOS.

The best outcome in my opinion, would be that there’s a significant update to how automation, and communication between apps on iOS happens. Because if you boil Workflow down, it’s simply an interface, for super complex URL schemes, and maybe a bit of computation in between. You can kind of tell when you’re pushing these a bit too far, when you have to convert images into Base64 encoding to transfer the data to a new application.

What I want to see are better ways apps can communicate with each other, and open themselves up to a more generic automation system, similar to Automator, that everyone can make use of.

10th February 2017

Federico Viticci, the King of iOS Automation has just written a great piece, regarding the latest update to Workflow for iOS.

With today’s 1.7 update, the Workflow team isn’t introducing Instant Variables. Instead, they’ve rebuilt the engine behind variables on a new system called Magic Variables, which completely reimagines how you can create workflows and connect actions for even more powerful automations.

More than a mere tweak for power users, Magic Variables are the next step in Workflow’s goal to enable everyone to automate their iOS devices. By making workflows easier to create and read, Magic Variables are the app’s most important transformation to date, and the result far exceeds my expectations.

I’m not a full time iOS user for work purposes, but with the features and innovation that is happening on the iOS platform, it makes me ever so more curious to take a bigger step. Just today I we looking at my automation options on macOS, and although there’s things like Keyboard Maestro, or the built-in Automator, there just isn’t a Workflow alternative.

Time like these make me wonder what it would be like moving fully over to iOS, but as an app developer it seems like I’ll be to macOS for a while. I’m certainly not saying I dislike the Mac platform, I’m a huge fan of it, and I’m loving my new Touch Bar MacBook Pro, but there’s just more happening over there.

The grass seems greener.