Apple recently made a gem of a purchase – an app called Workflow that automates tasks you do often on your iPhone. This post shows you how to automate tasks with the Workflow app and get the most out of it.
Apple purchased the $2.99 app Workflow and did something unusual with it. It made the app FREE. As someone who does a lot of stuff using the iPhone, I thought, I’d give it a try and see if the app could help me get more done with less effort.
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The result! Pretty Much Perfect!
What is Workflow?
Workflow is basically a series of actions put together to complete a task. In the app, you combine one or more actions, across apps, to complete a task. For example, you can set a workflow to find a photo, add a caption, and share it on Twitter. There are 3 actions involved here and once you create the workflow, you only have to tap a few buttons or less to get it done.
Now that you have a simple idea of a workflow, its time to see how this can be accomplished in the app.
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Install Workflow App
To get started with the app, you naturally have to download it from the App Store (link at the bottom). You will be guided through the basic features of how to set up a workflow or automation process.
All the workflows you create will show up in the My Workflows Tab. Notice the colorful thumbnails? Each of them represent a workflow.
You’ll also see the Gallery tab where you have some really handy ready-made templates that you can download and use to automate your tasks. For example, you can quickly calculate a tip from a bill, log your weight into the Health app or set a reminder to go off when you reach home.
To run a workflow, you simply tap on the task thumbnail in the My Workflows Tab to open it and then hit the Run button (looks like the Play button). A quicker way to run the workflow is to double-tap the thumbnail.
You can also run the workflow from the Home screen icon, from the Today Widget extension or from your Apple Watch. Even Siri will oblige you, if you ask her nicely!
A Peek at the Essentials Gallery
As I mentioned previously, the Workflow gallery contains some awesome templates ready for download and use. You can browse through the collection and pick your workflow or do a keyword search to find what you need. Once you find a useful workflow, you can preview and download it by hitting the Get Workflow button at the bottom of the screen.
After downloading a workflow template, you can customize it to your liking. For example, if you take a look at the Convert Photos to GIF workflow, you have options to choose which images you want to use for the GIF, set how many seconds you want a photo to show up and whether you want it to look forever or not.
If you find searching for a workflow cumbersome, you can create your own workflow. Creating a workflow from scratch involves dragging and dropping a combination of actions. This may take a little bit of time, but once you have your template, its simply a matter of hitting the button and getting the job done.
How to Create a Workflow from Scratch
To create a workflow from scratch:
1. In the My Workflows tab, click the Create Workflow thumbnail.
2. The Untitled Workflow screen will open up. You’ll see a section asking you what type of workflow you want to build with instructions to drag actions from the left to build your workflow. At the bottom of the screen are a couple of tabs – Actions (with the magic wand) and Workflow.
3. Swipe to the left to view the Actions. This screen lists all the actions you can do on Workflows. I’m going to create a workflow to send a link to a file I have in Dropbox to one of my contacts via email.
4. On the Actions screen. Scroll down and search for the Get file Action.
5. Press and hold the Action and drag it across the screen towards the right. Drop it as soon as you the screen has moved to the Workflow screen. This is what the workflow action will look like now.
6. Next, tap on Service to choose from between Dropbox, iCloud, OneDrive and Box. I’m going with Dropbox. I’ll need to grant the app access to my Dropbox account. Once the authorization is complete, I can set the option to select multiple files.
7. Now that my first action is complete, I want to add another action – to get the link to the file. For this I head back to the Actions tab by doing a left swipe.
8. Now I have a new set of actions to choose from. I’ll scroll down until I find the Get Link to File action. Again, drag and drop the Get Link to File action in the Workflow screen.
9. Finally, I’m going to send my colleague the link to the document. Swipe left to go back to the Actions screen, drag and drop Send Email action to the Workflows screen.
10. In the Workflows area, configure the email details. Add the To, CC, BCC and subject details and click Done.
11. Now before I complete the workflow, I’ll give it a name, choose if I want to add it to my Home screen, Launch Center or share it right away. To do that, tap the Gear icon at the top and fill the required details. I can also choose an icon and color style to give my workflow thumbnail a new look.
11. Tap Done to complete the workflow.
Now when you’re ready to send the file URL from a document in Dropbox to your colleague, just double-tap the thumbnail. You will be asked to choose the file from Dropbox. Tap on the file to select it. Your email app will then open up with the Dropbox URL added to the body of the message. Hit Send if you want to send right away or add a subject, new recipients and some extra message details before sending.
12. Tap Done again to complete the task.
Now every time you plan on sharing files from a Dropbox with your contacts, you can do that it a few clicks. This is just a simple example, but Workflows gives you the ability to create every conceivable type of task using the same process.
Here are some interesting workflow templates available in the Gallery.
Convert Photos to GIF : This workflow creates a GIF using the last 5 photos from your Camera roll.
Save Notes to Dropbox : This workflow takes the Clipboard data and appends it to a file in Dropbox.
Shoot a GIF : This workflow lets you shoot 3 photos to make an animated GIF.
Save Links on Page to Reading List : This workflow gives you access to read all links on a page at a later time.
Live Photo to GIF : This workflow lets you turn a Live Photo into a GIF.
Add Trello Lists: Lets you add one or more lists to one of your Trello boards.
Workflow app for iOS is an absolutely amazing productivity app. You don’t have to be tech savvy to use it either. Just note down the activities you perform regularly on your iPhone. Break them into actions, find them on the app, drag them in the order of completion and its all set.
So no more time wasted in opening multiple apps, searching for files, or going back and forth to get something done. You’ll save a lot of time and have a lot of fun creating workflows for tasks you did not even want to do before on your iPhone.
At first, it may take a bit of time to get the hang of it, but once you’ve created a workflow or two, you’ll have so much fun – my guess is, you won’t want to stop. If you want to learn more creative uses of the app, you can check out this subreddit dedicated to Workflow.
Price: Free Download: Link to App Store
Workflow is completely free to download and use. Its potential is limitless so if you want to get more done with just your iPhone or iPad, get this app now.