Launch Center Pro review: Automate common tasks to save you time
With this automation software, you can create a speed dial-like button to quickly perform everyday tasks on your iPhone.
Are you tired of the repetitive tap dance that completing simple tasks on your iPhone sometimes requires? If so, then Launch Center Pro may just be the best app you've probably never heard about.
What it does is let iOS users automate repetitive tasks such as "send an e-mail to my boss," and other common actions that only require a tap of your finger. No, it's not glamorous, but it simplifies the actions you do most, and in the process, saves you a ton of time. At $4.99, Launch Center Pro is expensive, but once you learn the ropes, you'll quickly see that it's worth the money.
Launch actions, not just apps
Recently, the app was updated with some small, but notable features, such as an option to use the iOS Share Sheet, better photo attachment options, and the ability to use the Fleksy keyboard within the app. So even though the app has matured over its lifespan, the developers continue to make minor changes to keep improving it.
The first time you open Launch Center Pro you'll see a video walking you through the basics of the app. I suggest checking it out, as mastering all aspects of the app takes time.
After the video is finished, you'll find a grid of icons already populated with both actions and groups. An action can be as simple as launching one of your favorite apps, or much more complex multi-part actions across several apps and services. Groups are nothing more than folders that can hold up to fourteen actions each. The grid has room for fifteen different icons total, so there is plenty of room to create as many actions as you want and organize them into groups to make them easy to find.
Launch Center Pro can do things as simple as launching apps for you, but what is more impressive is how fast you can do actions with multiple moving parts. As an example, through a Launch Center Pro action, you can upload the last photo in your Camera Roll to Dropbox and copy the sharing link to your device's clipboard; ready to be shared however you see fit with as little as just two taps. Without Launch Center Pro, duplicating this same process through the Photos app or the official Dropbox app takes a lot more time and effort.
Some examples of more common actions within the app include performing a search on Yelp, sending a predefined text message to a friend or loved one, and posting your last photo to Facebook or Twitter. Each of these takes only a couple taps, which is much easier than opening an app or browser, navigating to the page you want, then performing the action manually.
Creating personalized actions
To create a new action, tap on the edit button in the top-right corner of the screen and select one of the tiles in the grid to be the home of a new action. Advanced users who already know the URL schemes (more on this later) for the apps and actions they want to carry out, can manually type them in. But for the rest of us, you can use Launch Center Pro's Action Composer.
In Action Composer you'll find a list of system actions, installed apps that are supported, and a list of all Launch Center Pro supported apps. Selecting an action from the list will populate the action composer with the proper URL scheme, and you can then enter the required information (a phone number for someone you want to text, for example) or edit the action further to add more functionality.
For complex multi-part actions, I would have to get a bit more familiar with some of the commands to manually enter them. For most power users, entering these URL schemes won't be a big deal. But it would be nice to see Launch Center Pro add the ability to combine complex actions through the composer without requiring people to manually enter the rest of the information.
How does it work?
In order to automate actions, Launch Center Pro relies on third-party apps that include URL schemes. URL schemes are nothing more than a technical term for the way Apple requires apps to talk to (and interact with) one another. Items such as text and photos can be passed back and forth through these unique addresses, or the schemes can simply link to a specific screen within an app.
The only problem with relying on URL schemes is Launch Center Pro also relies on both third-party app developers and Apple to continue to support them, both in apps and across iOS. Without support for URL schemes, Launch Center Pro will no longer work.
After creating an action, you can share it from the edit screen. When you select share, a link for the specific action is created, which can in turn be posted online, or shared via Messages or just about any social network. You can also import actions created and shared by fellow users.
It's important to note that as helpful as sharing actions can be to fellow users, you should be conscious of what information is included in the action you're sharing. While scrolling through Twitter for shared actions, I stumbled upon one that happened to have the phone number of the person's wife in the action. The action itself is a handy one I will use regularly, but he obviously should have edited the phone number out before sharing it publicly. In other words, the sharing features are great, but be careful what you share.
To get you started right away, the Launch Center Pro team posted some of the more useful actions on its Sample Action page.
Launch Center Pro makes it easy to create shortcuts to basic and complex actions with only a couple of taps on your screen. Sure, there's a bit of a learning curve when it comes to creating complex actions, and for some it will be intimidating, but with a little trial and error, and a few visits to the support pages, you'll be up and running in no time. Just be sure to bookmark this support page to refer to when you run into road blocks.
I do have one long-term concern for the app. As I pointed out, Launch Center Pro relies on third-party developers to incorporate URL schemes, and also for Apple to maintain the URL scheme API throughout iOS. If any of the supported developers decides maintaining URL schemes is too much work, or Apple removes them in an update, suddenly your actions will no longer work.
Still, Launch Center Pro is an excellent way to streamline your most common actions on iOS, and with only a little bit of experimentation, you'll be saving yourself a lot of time.