September 23, 2017 at 7:37 PM by Dr. Drang
Despite my initial distaste for its drag-and-drop programming paradigm1 and the vague suspicion we all have that Apple is going to kill it sooner or later, I’m finding myself using Workflow more and more. Like the tea and grill reminders I wrote about a couple of months ago, the macros2 I make with it aren’t complicated, but they’re easy to make, easy to use, and they save me a surprising amount of time.
Something I do quite often from my phone is send links to my family via Messages. Without Workflow, the process goes like this:
- Bring up the Share Sheet and tap Copy.
- Switch to Messages.
- Scroll through the threads until I find the one that includes everyone I want to send the link to.
- Paste the link, add comment if necessary, and send.
With Workflow, the process is:
Bring up the Share Sheet, tap Run Workflow and then Message URL to Family.
Choose which family members to send it to in a list selection screen and tap Done.
Messages comes up with the proper thread active and the link ready to go. Add comment if necessary and send.
Written out like this, it may not seem like the savings is worth it, but believe me, it is. The “Switch to Messages” and “Find the right message thread” steps always take longer than they ought to. Also, when the macro is done, I’m automatically taken back to web page or tweet or whatever I was at when I thought “this would be good to share.”
Here are the actions that comprise the macro:
The first two actions get the URL and save it to the variable
MessageText for later use. The Contacts action is the most important, as it allows you, via the ⊕ button to add people to the short list that we then choose from in the next action. The choices (plural because Select Multiple is on) are then stored in the
Finally, we retrieve the URL from
MessageText and pipe it to the Send Message action, which has the Recipients set to
If you have just a couple of people, or a couple of lists of people, you’re always sending links to, you could make individual macros for sending to each. In a macro like that, you wouldn’t need variables or the choosing action. They would be a single-action macros where the URL is sent directly to the Send Message action and the Recipients would be hard-wired in when you wrote them.
I started thinking I could do it this way but immediately realized the combinatorial problem, as there are 15 ways to make a list of up to four people:
- 4 ways with just one person (obviously)
- 6 ways with two people
- 4 ways with three people
- 1 way with all four people (also obviously)
In general, if you have [n] people with whom you share links individually and in various groupings, there will be [2^n - 1] combinations that have to be covered, a number that can get out of hand quickly. Hence the advantage of a single macro that puts all the people in a list and has you choose them.
I suspect there’s already a macro like this in the Workflow Gallery (which you can access from within the app), but I didn’t feel like searching for it. Also, it couldn’t be used “out of the box”—whatever might be in the Gallery would have to be customized to my family contacts.