Workflow the app to make things happen on iOS

Automation on the iPad and iPhone

The application Workflow has only been released for about a week or two and it came right at the end of 2014 and it has taken the Apple world by storm. Despite its late entry it has been chosen by many as one of the apps of the year. It is a very geeky application and it appeals to us nerds because we like to get our computers to do our work for us automagically. We love it when we can spend between five minutes and five hours on something that will save us huge amounts of time over the long term. This is why we really like applications such as TextExpander which is great on both the Mac and IOS. On my Mac I run with Hazel which is excellent for folder-based automations. I have Keyboard Maestro which is used for a variety of tricks which I can trigger from keyboard shortcuts either for specific applications or globally. I also combine the BetterTouchTool as a way to trigger the automations I have created with a mere special tap on my Magic trackpad. Now we are getting some of this automation goodness on iOS. How cool is that?

Workflow automation

Getting started with WorkFlow on my iPad

Once you have the application on your device the first thing to do is to follow the tutorial to create your first Workflow. The tutorial shows you how to make an animated gif from three photos or more. What this does is to have you taken three photos and to turn that into an animation that you can send off to wherever, such as social networks. It is extremely easy to make this workflow using the drag-and-drop of actions into your workflow panel.

One of the things that you have to work out when you get an application like this is to decide what it is that you want it to do. You have two think of something that you do often, you would like to make easier, quicker or both. Sometimes finding something is not terribly easy and you might just have keep an eye out for what you do over a couple of days to get something worthy. One of the processes that I often do is to take screenshots on my iPad or iPhone and I want to send them to my Mac as quick as possible. I could do this using Air Drop or I could open up my photos application, Aperture to get them from the PhotoStream. I would rather have something quicker than that though. Lately I have been using an application called DeskConnect and I like it because it quickly and directly sends whatever I want between any of my devices. I find it does it much more efficiently than using AirDrop. The problem that I ran into was that even though WorkFlow and DeskConnect are made by the same company, they don’t yet work with each other. I had to send an email to the developers of WorkFlow to find out what was going on. It seems that I will have to wait until the DeskConnect version 2 is available to get them to play nice. Until that happens it is a time for making workarounds.

A workflow to send iPad screenshots to my Mac

  1. The first action I dragged in was Get Latest Screenshots and with this it is possible to set how many screenshots I want to work with. I have this set at one screenshot.
  2. The second action I require is Resize Image – With this action I can set the width and the height that I want to have the new image set to. It would have been nice to have a setting for keeping the aspect ratio of the picture so that I could just set the maximum width of the picture. Seeing as it doesn’t, I have to have two workflows. One of these is for landscape shots and the other is for portrait. I set the width to 550 pixels and with a landscape image. I set the height at 412 pixels. This is so that the image doesn’t get stretched or squashed. It is possible to set a crop, but I’m not sure how useful this is, as we don’t know where the crop is going to work from. There is no way to set that you want to have the crop from the top left-hand corner or maybe you want to have it cropped from the centre of the image.
  3. The third action is Open In – This allows me to send the resized image from the workflow to whichever application I like.

When you have made your workflow you have a couple of options. You can have an icon on your desktop of your iPad or iPhone. It will run like any other application. So for this you would have just a normal workflow. You can also set your workflow to be an action extension. This means that you can run the workflow from a share sheet in other applications. To get to the workflow you can tap on the icon that is a square with an arrow pointing out on top of it and then choose the icon which says Run Workflow. Another possibility is to put your workflow into Launch Centre Pro. Launch Centre pro is a another good place to do automation on your iPad or iPhone. I quite like the combination of these two applications together.

Launch Centre Pro

Using My New Workflow To Send Screenshots To My Mac

Like I said, I did want to use DeskConnect which the developers actually showed being used in one of their videos. So it must have worked at some point in time! On account of the fact that this no longer works, I had to find a different way of doing it. So after the image has been resized and I get to the Open In dialog my choice at the moment is to use the application Bit Torrent Sync. This is a very handy application which I also use on my Mac. I do have two extra clicks to make within the iPad application, but once I have done that, the file is very quickly and automatically sent to my Mac. What makes this quite easy is the fact that I have the folder for BT Sync in the sidebar of the Finder. Usually I use these photos for my blogging. It is very easy for me to drag the image from the Finder into MarsEdit blogging software.

Improvements I need to make to my Workflow

The problem with the workflow is that every image that is sent is called Image.png. So what I need to do is to add to the workflow an action to change the file name before it goes to BT Sync. If I don’t do this each time I send an image, the old one gets overwritten. It would be nice if it was to automatically update and add a number in the way that Finder normally works when you copy a file into a folder and inadvertently make a duplicate.

It is slightly annoying that when I get into the application BT Sync I have to choose the folder and then tap on the button to save. Maybe it would be worthwhile to contact the developers of both of these applications to ask them if they have plans to make them work more seamlessly together.

Please leave a message below to tell me about the workflows that you have created.