The state of automation on the Mac is a bit grim right now. Apple’s sole automation evangelist – the guy behind Automator, has been let go. There’s not going to be a replacement. But things are much more exciting on the iOS side. Apple has bought the stellar iOS automation app Workflow. The app is now free on the App Store.
There are lots of ways to look at this. The internet is filled with opinions. But I’m going to put on my optimist’s hat on for a second and declare that this can only be a good thing for the future of iOS productivity. And it could lead to OS-level automation in iOS – as soon as iOS 11.
A Native Automation App
Workflow is an app that lets you chain together a set of actions – like Lego and automate them with a press of a button. You can keep things simple, using built-in blocks or create your own actions using variables, loops, and even web APIs.
Workflow already works with some apps using an obscure protocol called x-callback-url. It’s a complicated string of text which lets one app launch another app. A lot of workflows are built on this and it’s a hack at best.
Workflow app approved and designed by Apple engineers, and shipped default in iOS 11, can change things drastically. Apple could create its own, simple and secure protocol that lets apps talk with each other. Apple can make it visual if they want, so that users can access it, or keep it something only app developers can play around with.
All The Things It Could Do
One of the biggest complaints about iOS (and especially iPad productivity) is just how much time and effort it takes to do simple things. Something that only takes a couple of seconds to do on the Mac either takes jumping between 3 apps or a couple of minutes of figuring out on iOS.
But if there’s a simple, visual way to chain up actions, either native OS actions or from apps, things could be much simpler. Yes, not everyone will use it, or get it, but professional users would really appreciate something like this.
Workflow Stays Independent and Thrives
Or Apple could keep Workflow independent. Letting the team do what they do, while giving them OS level support for automation.
What Could Automation on iOS Look Like?
Do you think Apple is serious about automation on iOS? Or did Apple acquire Workflow just for the developers? What do you think iOS automation should look like? Share with us in the comments below.
Check out the other features in our iOS 11 Wishlist: