iOS Automation with Workflow

01 December 2015 by Coleman McCormick

If you’re a mobile power user like me, you’re always on the lookout for tools and applications to optimize your productivity on your smartphone or tablet. Whether it’s related to taking notes, sharing files and photos, or collecting data, there are thousands of apps out there for different purposes. But on mobile, most apps are heavily siloed and designed around single activities.

With the release of iOS 8 back in 2014, Apple started to relax the sandboxing of apps and introduced iOS Extensions to allow developers to (securely) build tools to integrate apps together. I recently discovered an excellent tool for bringing real desktop-like automation capability to iOS called Workflow. It lets you connect apps and actions together to automate repetitive tasks. Within the app, there are supported third-party apps as well as a host of scripting actions to move data around. It works sort of like IFTTT or Zapier, but with apps on your iOS device instead of web services. You can even turn your workflows into home screen icons or app share sheet extensions for maximum ease-of-use.

Workflow for iOS

Here are a few types of things you can do using Workflow, to give you some context:

Being in constant pursuit of streamlining and automation, I wanted to see what I could do using Workflow with Fulcrum to speed up simple data collection processes. One of the things I use Fulcrum for all the time is to collect bike rack locations around town. As an avid cyclist, I like having a ready-made map of all the parking spots when I’m biking downtown. But instead of having to open Fulcrum, possibly switch apps, and start a new record from scratch, I wanted a quick button to present me a list to select what type of rack it is and automatically open up Fulcrum with a record already pre-filled and ready.

So using several of Workflow’s built-in scripting rules I stitched it together using the Fulcrum API and Fulcrum’s ability to accept mobile URL actions. My workflow gets the list of bike rack types from my Fulcrum app, presents a list to pick from, then opens Fulcrum in edit mode. Here it is in action:

I published this workflow so you can download to try for yourself. You’ll have to make modifications to make it work with your own form ID and API key.

Workflow is crazy powerful, but certainly has a steep learning curve. The app is $3.99 on the App Store, which is a steal given all of the powerful options it adds for productivity. If you’re into automation and looking to level up your mobile processes, check it out and see what you can come up with! For more excellent resources on what you can do with Workflow, Federico Viticci from MacStories has published some excellent pieces covering all the ins and outs of what the app can do.

About the author

Coleman is a geographer and our Executive VP, working every day with our customers to bring better data management capability to their operations.

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