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Workflow review: A great way to combine actions on your iOS device

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The Good You can store an unlimited number of tasks on your iOS device. Even without programming experience, you quickly learn the ropes.

The Bad Currently there's no way to sync your workflows between iOS devices even using iCloud or Dropbox.

The Bottom Line With a little practice, Workflow will let you speed up repetitive tasks or carry out complex actions, all with the touch of a button.


8.1 Overall
  • Setup 9
  • Features 8
  • Interface 7
  • Performance 9

Workflow is a new app that puts powerful automation tools at your fingertips on iOS. With its intuitive interface, deep integration with core iOS features and third-party apps, you can connect services and perform repetitive tasks with just a tap of a button.

It's great, even if it has one big problem. You can't sync the app with other devices, so if you save work on your iPad, for example, you can't pick it up your again iPhone. That leaves a powerful app that only works on one device at a time.

Getting started

The first time you launch the app, it guides you through the drag-­and-­drop interface by making an example workflow capturing three photos and turning them into a GIF. Once you've completed the tutorial, you can then begin creating your own workflows. Or if you're not sure where to begin, you can browse the Workflow gallery that holds flows created by both the company and fellow users.

For those familiar with Automator that comes with Mac OS X, Workflow will feel right at home on your iPad or iPhone.

Creating a workflow

At the center of the Workflow app are the app and service integrations built into it. Each "Action" should be viewed as one step, with a workflow consisting of a series of actions. To make a workflow, place actions in the order you'd like it to run.

For example, if you wanted to create a workflow to view files and folders stored in iCloud Drive, you would need two different actions. The first would be the "Get file" action, which itself brings up the iCloud Drive file picker. Next, you would need the Quick Look action that acts exactly like OS X's Preview app by providing you an thumbnail preview of the file.

When you tap on the Run button within the app, it displays your iCloud Drive files followed by a preview of the file you select (from there you can then send the file to another app, if needed). Unsure of what an action does? Instead of dragging it over to the workflow, just tap on its name and a brief description will drop down and display an explanation.

The above is one of the more basic workflows, but it's also extremely convenient. Right now, iOS doesn't offer a method for viewing your iCloud Drive files outside of apps capable of handling iCloud Drive files. And with the ability to place a shortcut to any workflow on your device's home screen, Workflow earns its keep.

In addition to adding a workflow to the home screen, you can also set a workflow to be available as a Share extension making it possible to share text and content with Workflow from other apps. The interface feels right at home on both an iPhone and iPad, with intuitive gestures used for navigation and interaction.

It took me under five minutes to create my first workflow that would use the last three screenshots in my camera roll to create a GIF. The thinking behind this workflow was that I could then send it to loved ones when I was asked how to perform a task on an iOS device. The hardest part of the process was actually coming up with the idea, but creating the workflow in the app was easy.

As simple or complex as you want

An app like this makes you feel like you need to have years of programming knowledge behind you when combining actions and on first blush, can be very intimidating. But fortunately, you don't have to have any programming knowledge to use the app. That being said, if you do have a basic grasp on If statements and variables, you're going to find the app even more useful.

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