Essays on Technology and Culture

iOS Automation for Complete Doofuses

In the realm of iOS Automation, if Federico Viticci is a Guru, I am merely an Advanced Beginner. But that still might be further along than you. If you’re curious about working apps like Drafts, Workflow, and Launch Center Pro into your iOS life, I’ve put together some advice on getting started.

Pick one app to start

What do you do with your iOS devices? If you find yourself doing a lot of repetitive tasks in various apps, or want to link a bunch of apps together, look into Launch Center Pro. If you type a lot, look into Drafts. If you wish you had fast ways to do various processes on your device, Workflow is for you. If you write a lot on your iOS device, Editorial is a good place to start. It’s easy, too easy, to get overwhelmed by what these apps can do. By picking one app, and one subset of things you can do, you can get your feet wet without going crazy.

Try pre-existing workflows and actions

For Drafts and Editorial, there are huge databases of pre-existing actions and workflows you can download and install to get started. Just scroll though the Drafts 4 Action Directory, or the Workflow subreddit and see if anything there does something you find yourself doing the long way around. Launch Center Pro doesn’t have a directory for finding things you can do with it, but its built-in Action Composer has useful ways to get inside of a bunch of apps with deep URL schemes. It’s worth poking through to see what you can do just with the apps you already have on your phone.

The “biqnx” file

This is something I stole from Merlin Mann. I keep a note file tagged “biqnx” (for “Bugs, Ideas, Questions, and Notes”) that stores every thing I want to know how to do in a certain app. Every so often, go through that file and see if you can’t either find a pre-existing solution to integrate, or make your own. I know from my experience that I’ll often think: “wouldn’t it be nice to do $thing with my phone,” and then forget about it. Having a biqnx file gives me a place to quickly stow ideas, and set them up when I have time to experiment. And even when I don’t, it gives me something to crawl through action directories for.


If you use your iOS devices a lot, it’s worth your time to check out at least one of these apps and see what it can do for you. Just go start playing around. Sure, if you’re sinking more time into coming up with workflows and actions than working, it might not be worth it, but I trust you. Pick an app that suits what you do a lot of, and dive in. Just don’t let it keep you from actually working.