I’ve written a bit about Drafts before. It’s had a massive overhaul and added a load of new functionality. I’ve only had a brief play with the new features, and whilst they seem quite useful, it still isn’t the level of automation I’d like to have in my device.
I’ll give it a bit more of a chance, but it doesn’t go far enough.
Actions for iPad presents as another interesting possibility for automating things. This time automating the use of your Mac from your iPad. Here’s what the app store description says:
Control your computer applications in the best way, your way.
Advanced but incredibly simple to use, Actions is a revolutionary app that lets you interact more naturally with your computer, thanks to your beloved iPad.
You can send a wide variety of commands (see the list below) to any software with a tap and create your personal palette for each one. Your most used actions will be always lying directly at your side, handily and neatly organized in Sets and Subsets.
Each Set is completely customizable with different colors and many icons (+900!), and contextual aware: change app on your computer and your iPad will always show you the right set of actions, it’s automagic!
Actions covers universal digital needs: you can both improve and streamline you workflow with massive softwares as Adobe Suite’s and idly control your everyday apps with ease, or even iTunes remotely from the warm side of your sofa.
Direct manipulation and instant feedback lets you save time and frustrations, transforming your digital experience in something new, closer to the future of computer interaction.
Compose your palette choosing from a wide variety of actions:
- system commands
- media controls
- windows handling
- launch webpages
- create email templates
- text snippets
- Mac & Win compatibility
- Wi-fi syncing with auto-reconnection
- Works in landscape and portrait
- Organize your actions in Sets and Subsets
- Highly customizable (Sizes, Colors & Icons)
- 900 icons to choose from for your touchpads
- Multitouch gestures for most used actions
- Automatic set switching
- Target actions to a specific app
- Backup and exchange your sets with your friends
- Built in presets for the most popular applications, such as:
Ableton Live, Adobe After Effects, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Indesign, Adobe Lightroom, Adobe Photoshop, Aperture, Evernote, Excel, Internet Explorer, Final Cut, Finder, Firefox, Garageband, Chrome, iCal, iMovie, iPhoto, iTunes, Keynote, Logic Pro, Mail, Notes, Numbers, Outlook, Pages, Pixelmator, Powerpoint, Reeder, Reminders, Safari, TextEdit, Vlc, Word, Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP, Windows Media Player.
I’m going to see what it can do as it’s only £2.49, which isn’t much more than a coffee, so it’s not like it’s a big investment. Also, the developers have an interesting feature in the works involving macros which could be really useful.
I read about this app, Pythonista and how much you could do with it, so I finally buckled and bought it. So far I’ve only got to take a look at the sample code that comes with the app, and that’s quite impressive. However, what I’m really interested in is the ability of this app to effectively script iOS.
I think my next step will be to take a look in the forums and see what other people have made with Pythonista. When I’ve got a clearer idea of what’s possible I’ll write something again.
I saw the new version of Tasker for Android today. It really is very cool stuff, but it also serves as a constant reminder that iOS has very little at all in the way of automation applications or functionality. I’ve mentioned drafts and launch center pro before, but neither of these are a patch on Tasker. It’s a real shame as it’s a gap in the market which I’m sure would be filled if Apple would let developers make something like tasker, but that’s not going to happen for a while yet I think.
This is another automation app that I got that without really knowing what I was going to use it for. However, it’s been updated and added a load of new stuff. Here’s what they loaded it up with:
- In-app messaging actions — group messaging and preset text
- In-app email actions — attach last photo taken or attach photo from the clipboard
- Clipboard actions — place text on clipboard, place last photo on clipboard, convert text on clipboard, and x-callback-url support
- Expanded Text Expander support — snippets can now be expanded automatically while launching an action
- New Tweet action — tweet last photo taken
- Reorganized Action Composer
So that all looks really cool. However, having dug around in there for a bit longer I’m still none the wiser about how I can use this in a constructive way! I’d really like to find ways to make use of this automation, although there isn’t a huge amount of automation available. It is still at the periphery. Still, I want to give it a go and see if I can make any active use of it.
I’ve had this app for a week or so now and although it has some amazing functionality I’m still not entirely sure what I want to do with it or how it’ll ever be useful. It’s sort of in the ‘solution in search of a problem’ camp.
The app itself has a huge amount of functionality to it. It’s able to share text and mark up to a very wide number of services and can be configured very easily to do this. So much so that I actually made a little search function for drafts that allows you to send a piece of text into Palm Sounds (blog) and search the entire site with that text. It’s pretty simple. The search URL is:
Yep, that’s all there is to it. You put that into drafts and you can send any text to search Palm Sounds.
So that’s all well and good, but, what’s it for? What can I use it for? The short answer is I haven’t really thought of a reason as yet. Which is a bit of a shame as I think this is a clever app.
When I think of one, I’ll let you know.
I wrote yesterday about an app called drafts. I was showing it to a friend today and it made me realise that actually, whilst I do look out for these kind of automation app they rarely, if ever, do what I need them to do or end up being part of any wider automation solution that I’m looking for. So, why bother? Well, that’s a good question, and one that I find myself asking quite a lot.
Another app that showed some promise was (is) Launch Center Pro. The idea of this app was to be able to launch apps with specific criteria. However, it suffers the from the same limitations as Drafts. What it is able to do is limited to simple app launches and actions like, ‘launch app X and search for Y criteria’.
The last one is called triggers. Triggers is a different beast altogether. It’s more about creating physical parameters and when those are met it triggers a response. Quite interesting really, but again limited. The app doesn’t work in the background, which means that it can’t track it’s physical activities when it isn’t on. So, not much use.
So iOS is in many ways a good deal behind the likes of Android when it comes to automation. Nothing like Tasker (Android app) exists for iOS. If it did, if Apple allowed it, that would be amazing.
Here’s a quick list of the apps I mentioned:
I’ve only just heard about this app for iOS which seems to be a great companion to apps like Launch Center Pro, but both seem to come into their own when used with tweaks or hacks like these from lifehacker.
I’ve been looking for better ways to automate things in iOS, ideally in a similar way to Tasker for Android, but nothing comes close, at least not so far. However, things are improving. So I’m going to have to have a look at some of these automation ideas and see where they can take me next.
I’ll keep you posted on how the experiments are going.
I found out about Belkin’s WeMo technology a few weeks ago. It’s a really accessible method of implementing home automation and control it via an iPhone app from Belkin. The hardware is sort of modular in that you can buy a single unit which is essentially just a switch which can be controlled via the web / app. There’s also a motion detection modular as well. Whilst on it’s own that’s pretty amazing on it’s own, it gets better. WeMo also integrates with IFTTT!
What’s IFTTT? It’s one of the best automation services ever. IFTTT (If This Then That) allows you to make decisions and trigger actions using social services like twitter and facebook and loads more besides. It’s amazing. Anyway, you can control the WeMo hardware using IFTTT. Now that’ll be amazing.
The only downside is that WeMo isn’t available in the UK as yet. Hopefully it’ll be available in October. I hope it isn’t much longer to wait than that.
And non-jailbroken? No, it’s for real. An app called Launch Center allows you to run a number of automations with stuff like texts and tweets and launching apps. I’m going to give it a go and see just how useful it is. One thing I do know is that it isn’t anything like as good as Android Tasker, but it is a very small step in the right direction for iOS.
As part of my ongoing experimenting with Android and Tasker I decided to see if I could get tasker to make a recording every morning at a specific time and then send me a text to confirm it was done.
Well of course tasker is more than up to this and this morning it worked relatively well although I’m having a few problems with getting the file to play now, but I’m sure that’s just teething troubles. Once I’ve got that sorted I’ll start to post the recordings.
I’ve been messing around with Tasker for a few days now, and I have to say that it is one very good reason to move completely to Android. Tasker is so flexible and modular that it can do pretty much anything in terms of automating an Android device.
If there was a Tasker like app for iOS it would be a massive seller, but of course it doesn’t fit with the whole sandbox approach from Apple. Big big shame.
I found myself seriously considering a move to Android away from the iPhone on my next contract renewal, and if Apple don’t pull something stupendous out of the bag with the iPhone 5 I might just do it.
I’ll post some of my Tasker automations soon too, then you’ll see what I mean.
If you don’t know ‘if this then that’ then you should. It’s an amazing way to automate services on the internet. For example, you might want certain items matching a specific search criteria from an RSS feed to always end up in your ReadItLater items. No problem. You can automate that using ITTT (if this then that) and it will check the feed every 15 minutes and drop items straight into RIL for you.
ITTT can connect to a whole host of services that are brilliant when put together. I’m only just starting to get into it at the moment, but I can see it being really useful. You can try it out here.