8 Reasons to Love Launch Center Pro 2.0

It's been a while since the team at Contrast, formerly known as AppCubby, released an update to its flagship app, Launch Center Pro. Today, they finally release the long-awaited 2.0 version of Launch Center Pro with plenty of great features and a complete iOS 7 redesign.

I was lucky to be a part of the beta tester team. It gave me enough time to play around with the new features and improve my existing actions. In this post, I'd like to highlight eight things that I love about the new Launch Center Pro 2.0.

Launch Center Pro 2.0 allows you to easily share your custom actions.

1. Easy to Share and Import Custom Actions

Previously, any custom actions that you create in Launch Center Pro are private to your iPhone. If you want to share the action, you need to paste the URL in an iMessage, an email, or somewhere in your blog post. Today, it's easy to share actions with others.

Simply tap on the Share Action button at the bottom of the Action Composer window. It will take you to the Launch Center Pro 2.0 share page in Safari. The web form will automatically be filled with the action URL, alongside the action's name. You can add a brief description of what the action is trying to do.

Once published, you will get a unique URL that you can linked to in your iMessage, email, or blog post. The readers/recipients can load the URL from their iPhone's browser, and tap the Install Action button to have the new action be automatically installed on their iPhones.

If you inspect the URL underneath the Install Action button, you can learn about the new launchpro://import URL. Once you know what the syntax is, you can create a simpler install link for your readers/recipients without the need to go through the Launch Center Pro 2.0 share webpage. Here's the syntax for the new launchpro://import URL:


2. Expanded Support for x-callback-url

In the previous version, Launch Center Pro only has limited support for x-callback-url. The most frequent one I use is its text format conversion action which allows me to easily encode a text in the clipboard. Today, the new Launch Center Pro 2.0 expands its x-callback-url support to cover In-App Messaging (launchpro-messaging://) and In-App Email (launchpro-email://) URLs.

This allows me to improve two actions I shared previously: Remind Someone and Mail Later. In the Remind Someone actions, I use Launch Center Pro's In-App Messaging URL to send an iMessage to my wife and friends who already have Due installed on their iPhones. With the expanded x-callback-url support, I can now return to Drafts upon sending the iMessage. You can also create a more complex workflow that involves recursive calls to the In-App Messaging URL, if you need to.

Open this link to automatically install this action on Drafts on your iOS device.

A similar improvement can also be made to my Mail Later action. Because the In-App Email in Launch Center Pro 2.0 now supports x-callback-url, I can return to Due upon sending the email.

Open this link to automatically install this action on Drafts on your iOS device.

The new expanded x-callback-url support also covers the new launchpro://import URL. This allows you to do multiple (batch) imports in a single seating from other apps, such as Drafts.

Even though Launch Center Pro 2.0 doesn't fully support the x-callback-url, e.g. it currently ignores the x-cancel parameter, it's still a very nice upgrade to the previous version. Other Launch Center Pro URLs that have x-callback-url support are launchpro-brightness://, launchpro-dropbox://, and launchpro-clipboard://. For more info on this, you can refer to the official documentation of the feature.

3. Works with TextExpander for iOS 7

One of the problems of being an early adopter to iOS 7 is having some of your apps break their integration points. Due to some changes in the way general pasteboard is structured in iOS 7, the TextExpander developers needed to find an alternate way to share its snippets with other iOS apps. This mandates the other developers to update their apps with the latest TextExpander SDK and its workaround.

Today, the new 2.0 version of Launch Center Pro fully supports the new TextExpander SDK for iOS 7. This allows TextExpander snippets to be properly expanded in Launch Center Pro actions, including the one-button travel packing list creation in Silo that Timothy Rosenberg had built on top of my Drafts action.

Open this link to automatically install this action on Launch Center Pro 2.0 on your iPhone. Note: This assumes you have a snippet in TextExpander that stores a comma-separated list of common things that you'd pack each time you travel under the ttravel abbreviation.

Launch Center Pro 2.0 offers great ways to interact with your Dropbox files.

4. New In-App Dropbox Actions

Launch Center Pro 2.0 comes with two in-app Dropbox actions: actions that are related to downloading the content or link of a file in your Dropbox and actions that are related to uploading the last photo in your Camera Roll to Dropbox.

The actions are pretty straightforward, and you can easily create the ones that you need from the built-in Action Composer. To find great examples of the new In-App Dropbox actions, I'd suggest you read the official documentation for this feature.

5. The New Dropbox Tags

I really like the new Dropbox tags. They allow me to trigger more than one Dropbox-related action from a single URL. You can even use these tags in another app's URL scheme, as long as it's invoked from within Launch Center Pro. These are the two Dropbox tag variants:

  1. [dropbox]&linkonly=1. This allows you to get a sharable link to any file in your Dropbox.
  2. [dropbox-text]. This allows you to download the content of a text file in your Dropbox, and encode it inline within the action URL.

Both variants will trigger a pop up that allows you to pick a file in your Dropbox. By default, the picker will show the contents of your root folder. If you want to specify the folder that you want the picker to limit itself, use the [dropbox:path] or [dropbox-text:path] format to set the overriding path. You don't need to encode the path, though.

Over the past couple of weeks, I have created and used several new actions that utilize these tags. The first one is being able to pick a text file from my Dropbox folder, and load its contents into Drafts. This is similar to Drafts' Import from Dropbox feature, but doesn't require us to switch to Dropbox app to pick the file.

As part of my daily writing, I often find myself having to continue my writing on my iPhone while having a slow internet connection and/or a low battery. I used to open iA Writer, sync the Dropbox contents, open my latest draft, select all the text, copy them into the clipboard, switch to Drafts, and continue writing. Now, I only need to tap one button on Launch Center Pro, pick the draft, and automatically switch to Drafts to continue writing. Without having to sync the entire contents of my Dropbox folder is a huge win, not to mention saving a bunch of unnecessary taps and apps switching.

Open this link to automatically install this action on Launch Center Pro 2.0 on your iPhone.

For more information on how to use these Dropbox tags, you can refer to the official documentation of the feature.

Similar to In-App Email Actions, the In-App Messaging Actions receives a nice upgrade with the x-callback-url support and the new Dropbox tags.

6. Attaching Photos from In-App Messaging and Email Actions

Using &attach= parameter in Launch Center Pro allows you to download the content of an image file in the clipboard, your Camera Roll, or you Dropbox; and embed it in an action that supports a binary image format. Both the in-app email and in-app messaging actions in Launch Center Pro have a nice support for attaching an image in its binary format.

The path parameter in the attach Dropbox photo URL is mandatory. You can fill the value of the parameter with an encoded path, such as Apps/Launch%20Center%20Pro. But, if you want to use the root folder instead, just leave the path value as blank, but do not remove the parameter from the action URL.

For more information on how to use these tags, you can refer to the official documentation of the feature.

7. Three Nice Details

In addition to the big changes in Launch Center Pro 2.0, there are several smaller details that have been added to make the experience better. First, you can now use photos as your action icons. This works great for actions that involve calling or messaging certain people in your Contacts.

Second, is the ability to backup all your Launch Center Pro actions in Dropbox. I haven't had the chance to try restoring from the backup, but it's always great to know that you have backup available.

Third, and most important of them all, is the ability to put a unique label to distinguish one prompt from the other. You might notice that in the travel packing list example above, I have two labeled prompts: [prompt:List Name] and [prompt:Comma Separated Items]. These labels help clarify what you're supposed to enter, without having to remember the order nor the format of each prompt. The fact that you don't need to encode these labels help keep the action URL simpler.

This [prompt:label] is a huge UX improvement over my previous approach of having Drafts' [line|n] tags to parse the different arguments to my actions. Now, I can choose to port some of my Drafts actions to Launch Center Pro, or use Launch Center Pro as a user input facade for my Drafts actions.

For example, in my Meet Someone for an Hour action, I need to two information to create the event in Fantastical: the person I'm meeting and the date/time of the meeting. Previously, I used Drafts' [[line|1]] and [[line|2]] to parse that information. Now, I can port that action to Launch Center Pro and have it prompt me the required information at the right time.

Open this link to automatically install this action on Launch Center Pro 2.0 on your iPhone.

If we take a look at my Mail Later action in the x-callback-ur; example above, you can notice that I'm using multiple lines in Drafts and reusing at least one of them in two separate places of the action's URL.

[line|1]: recipient's email address
[line|2]: email subject
[line|3]: date/time of the reminder
[line|4..]: email body

Creating a new action in Launch Center Pro that acts as a user input facade would help a lot in improving the user experience of complex actions like this.

Open this link to automatically install this action on Launch Center Pro 2.0 on your iPhone.

8. Externally Launch Actions

Finally, we get to the best part of Launch Center Pro 2.0: the ability to define actions and launch it in Launch Center Pro from another app (including from a Javascript bookmarklet). Unlike Drafts, Launch Center Pro doesn't support named action that can be invoked from other apps. The new launchpro://?url= URL allows us to launch a new action using all the features in Launch Center Pro from other apps as though it were created and stored at a previous time.

What makes this feature so powerful is the ability for such actions to use all the prompts in Launch Center Pro, including the new dropbox tags. For example, I can create a Launch Center Pro action that would create a reminder in Due for me to continue my writing (which is essentially picking up a dropbox file and load it into Drafts). This is essentially putting my previous Dropbox-to-Drafts action into the url parameter of launchpro://?url=, and attaching the entire URL into the reminder.

Open this link to automatically install this action on Launch Center Pro 2.0 on your iPhone.

You can also use this technique to wrap any built-in Launch Center Pro actions into your own custom reminders in Due. For example, one of my most frequently used action is Email Link to Dropbox File. Now, I can create a new reminder in Due that would remind me to perform the Dropbox-related action.

Open this link to automatically install this action on Launch Center Pro 2.0 on your iPhone.

Externally launch action also provides a great way to delay the resolution of a specific tag, such as the [clipboard] tag. In the current version of Launch Center Pro 2.0 documentation for x-callback-url support, David Barnard is trying to pass the Dropbox link that's just created and pasted onto the clipboard to Tweetbot.


But, because the action uses tweetbot:// URL directly, instead of launchpro://?url= URL, the encoded [clipboard] tag doesn't get resolved. After all, it's a Launch Center Pro's tag, not a Tweetbot's tag.

My solution to this problem is to use launchpro://?url= URL to force the encoded [clipboard] tag to be resolved on the second pass, i.e. in the x-success parameter. Because I'm using launchpro://?url= URL, the [clipboard] tag will be resolved in Launch Center Pro, before it's being sent to Tweetbot. And, because it's being resolved in the x-success parameter, it will use the updated clipboard content that already has the Dropbox link generated from the previous upload action.

Open this link to automatically install this action on Launch Center Pro 2.0 on your iPhone.


Launch Center Pro 2.0 is a great update to an app that's already essential to my daily workflow. What I write here hopefully can intrigue others to experiment and create exciting actions with it. I wish the developers would add a better way of managing actions, because I believe many people would quickly run out of action grids after maximizing what the new features in Launch Center Pro 2.0 have to offer.

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