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Workflow for iOS: How it Can Help Your Business

By - Source: Toms IT Pro

Workflow for iOS, which is now free, can help you automate tasks large and small, keeping you efficient.

Apple recently acquired an iOS automation app called Workflow, but the biggest change for users today is that it's now available for iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch free of charge, rather than costing $2.99. Sweet.

While the rumor mill speculates about Apple's long-term intentions, Workflow — a spiritual sibling to the If This Then That (IFTTT) automation app — does what it always has done: let you string together a series of separate actions from various apps via a single command. If you simply want to record a voice memo, just launch the Voice Memo app and start talking. But if you want to execute a sequence of events without having to tap your way around several apps in succession, consider using Workflow.

MORE: Apple Certification Guide: Overview and Career Paths

Gather, create, and arrange different workflows in a personal collection.Gather, create, and arrange different workflows in a personal collection.

Workflow components

With hundreds of actions available from more than 50 different apps — including productivity titans such as Dropbox, Slack and Evernote — Workflow offers innumerable permutations. While Workflow is a powerful productivity aid, the app can be confounding to first-timers and non-scripters. New users should spend time researching how to produce the right kind of workflows to suit their unique situation and be open to using sequences cooked up by others.

Those ready-made examples are easy to find, as Workflow developers have built instructional dialogs and a gallery of finished workflows into the app to give novices a jumpstart. Extensive documentation on the product website explains the app's concepts and techniques: Immediately upon launching Workflow, several introductory panes outline how to get started with the app. A series of taps lets you find and modify existing workflows or build brand new ones. Eventually, you will want to create and share your own original workflows.

Drag individual actions into your own unique workflow.Drag individual actions into your own unique workflow.

Workflow for business

Workflow's main iPhone interface features two tabs at the top of the window: My Workflows and Gallery. The first refers to your chosen ready-made and newly created workflows while the second consists of additional workflows that you can import from the company and other users. From pinpointing the last photo you uploaded to Instagram to locating the nearest ATM machine, the app signals the kinds of sequences you can build and automate. The best way to familiarize yourself with Workflow is to select the built-in ones that interest you and open them to see how they are constructed. The Arrow button at the top of the pane executes actions for testing.

Use pre-made workflows or start from scratch.Use pre-made workflows or start from scratch.Workflow is integrated into iOS, so that to pull various apps together, you must give permission for the app to access them. For example, if you want to get directions to the nearest coffee shop, you need to allow Workflow to access your location. If messaging or email is part of the workflow, you will need to let the app hook into your contacts.

Tap on any workflow and the bottom of the screen shows you two buttons: Actions and Workflow. Actions are a workflow's building blocks, containing some 150 pre-built actions in categories such as Apps, Calendar, Health, Text, Documents, Sharing, Scripting, Web, Calendar, Maps, Contacts, Music, Photos & Video and Sharing. Tap on each to get a description of the action and favorite it, if you want. Tapping gives a description of the action, but sliding the action to the right embeds it in a sequence with other actions that make up your workflow. You can always change your mind and remove a placed action with the Close button.

A multi-faceted interface offers lots of customization options.A multi-faceted interface offers lots of customization options.You'll need to decide what kind of workflow to use: Normal is launched from within the app or from a button on your device interface; Today Widget is accessed via the Notifications pull-down menu or lock screen without launching the app; and Action Extension is launched from the Extensions menu within a host app. You can use 3D Touch gestures on your iPhone 6S (or later) to start building a new workflow, access your Gallery, or add a Widget. You can also sync finished workflows between multiple devices.

Getting started

First, check the app's gallery of pre-made workflows to identify which ones are the most useful to you. Here are 10 helpful shared workflows relevant for business settings:

  1. Directions to next event
  2. View meeting agenda
  3. Share availability
  4. Create Google doc
  5. Shorten URL
  6. Walk to coffee shop
  7. Speak body of article
  8. Running late
  9. Share location
  10. Log caffeine

Workflow for creating an animated GIFWorkflow for creating an animated GIFYou can import any gallery workflow into your own collection, and then customize it. Or you can start a new workflow from scratch.

Here is one I created for selecting and sending images via email.

  1. Create and classify type of workflow.
  2. Name the workflow by accessing controls under the Gear icon.
  3. Pick an icon and color scheme so you can see it easily (or use the default that the app chooses).
  4. Tap the Actions button (at the bottom on the iPhone window or on the left sidebar on the iPad).
  5. Scroll down to the category you want (in this case, Photos & Video) and choose Select Photos and drag it to the right onto the new workflow.
  6. Enable Select Multiple.
  7. Tap the Actions > Suggested Actions and choose Send Email.
  8. In the to: line, you can use the + button to open your Contacts (you may have to give permission for the app to access your contacts for the first time) or use the Ask When Run token, which will ask you each time you run the workflow who to send photos to.
  9. Type in email subject.
  10. Test the action by tapping the Play (triangle) button up top; Workflow should open your Photos app.
  11. Choose the images you want to include from your camera roll or album
  12. An email window should open containing the shots you chose (you can preview the photo in full screen mode).
  13. Tap Done.
  14. That workflow will now always appear in your My Workflows menu until you remove it. To run it again for different pictures, just double tap the workflow on the screen to get started.

If a workflow is something you do every day, just add a button to your home screen by launching the workflow, tapping the Gear icon at the top right, and tapping the Add to Home Screen command.

Create a Workflow button on your home screen and tap to run.Create a Workflow button on your home screen and tap to run.Instead of creating a normal action, you can choose to create an Action Extension, which allows you to run the workflow directly from the Photos app. You can choose this option at the outset or switch to it after you finish your workflow. To convert it, just open the sequence in Workflow, tap the Gear icon, choose Action Extension, and then tap Done.

Creating Workflow widgetsCreating Workflow widgets

Just the beginning

This is just the beginning of what you can accomplish with Workflow. More advanced techniques include scripting and the use of variables (magic and manual) to streamline and add flexibility for building longer workflows. The app's ample instructional notes cover all techniques in depth. Now that the app is free, there's no reason not to give it a go and see whether it helps your business accomplish its goals.

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