Launch Center Pro is well known for its flexibility and power, especially among the iOS automation geeks. But, I'd argue that many people use Launch Center Pro a bit differently than how most geeks would. That's why the Contrast team releases a brand new app to address the non-geek audience.
Called Contact Center, the new app is a simplified version of Launch Center Pro, focused more on making it easy to communicate with people in your Contacts list. Instead of allowing you to write deep-links or create a chain of actions, Contact Center lets you create shortcuts to call, message, email, and more.
That's why Contact Center uses a different set of terms than what Launch Center Pro uses. It uses shortcut instead of action, and folder instead of group. Other than these changes, Contact Center looks and works very similar to Launch Center Pro. So, you can fill in the grids of shortcuts with direct shortcuts or folders of shortcuts.
Folder from Contact
One of the advantages that Contact Center offers is how easy it is for anyone (even non-geeks) to setup various ways to contact someone. Simply tap the '+' button on the top right corner, and choose the Folder from Contact option, and watch how Contact Center generates a new folder containing shortcuts surrounding how you can communicate with the contact you selected. The folder will use the Contact's first name as its name and the Contact's avatar as its icon.
This feature also acts as a nice showcase of how you can use Contact Center to its maximum potential. For example, in this initial release, Contact Center will generate Call, Message, Email, FaceTime, FaceTime Audio, WhatsApp, Message GIF, and Message Camera shortcuts.
Because one entry in your Contacts list may have different ways for you to call and message, Contact Center uses a convention to select which one to use for the generated shortcuts. As far as I know, these are the conventions:
- If the Contact has multiple entries of phone numbers, Contact Center will use the following priorities to generate its Call shortcut: iPhone, mobile, and main. If the Contact doesn't have those labeled entries, Contact Center will use the next available phone number even though it uses a custom label. Contact Center treats home and work labels the same way it treats a custom label.
- Whatever the phone number Contact Center uses for the Call shortcut, it will reuse it for the Message, FaceTime, and FaceTime Audio shortcuts.
- If the Contact has multiple entries of email addresses, Contact Center will use the first email address to generate its Email shortcut. On the other hand, if the Contact doesn't have an email address, Contact Center will not generate the Email shortcut.
- For its WhatsApp shortcut, Contact Center uses something similar to Launch Center Pro's
[contact-abid], a way for WhatsApp to uniquely identify its users. And if the Contact doesn't have the WhatsApp's ABID information, Contact Center will still redirect to WhatsApp where you will be prompted to invite the Contact to WhatsApp using any one of her available phone numbers.
Contact Center reuses some of the great features in Launch Center Pro, such as its
attach=photo sub-arguments where you can use it to attach photos and images to your messages and emails. If you create a new message or email shortcut in Contact Center, you will see a wide variety of options where you can get the photos from, including the clipboard, your Photo Library, or even capturing from your front/rear camera.
When Contact Center generates the shortcuts from Contact information, it will create two photo messaging shortcuts: Message Camera and Message GIF. The first one will use the rear camera of the iPhone and the latter will use the GIF library in Giphy.com to download the perfect GIF and send it to your Contact.
Similar to Launch Center Pro, Contact Center also allows you to create a completely custom shortcut from scratch. In this initial version, you can create shortcuts to send an email, send a text message, or call someone in your Contacts list. You can also create actions in third-party apps, such as WhatsApp and Yo. Based on my experience with Launch Center Pro, the Contrast team will likely add the supported third-party apps at anytime by changing their server-side configuration.
The most common example of a custom shortcut that you'd create first is canned messages. If you create a shortcut to send an email or a message, you can set the message body to either None, Ask Each Time, Clipboard, or Predefined Text. Setting the body to Predefined Text makes it easy to send a canned message to anyone in your Contacts list.
Setting the body to Ask Each Time is similar to Launch Center Pro's
[prompt] tag. Similarly, setting it to Clipboard is similar to Launch Center Pro's
[clipboard] tag. You can even use other tags from Launch Center Pro inside the Predefined Text's body to solve a more complex scenario. For example, you can use the
[list] tag to prompt a quick list of options to choose from.
Feel free to try mixing other Launch Center Pro tags, such as
[contact], inside your Predefined Text's body. If you end up using multiple
[list] tags in a single message body, I'd suggest you put a prompt label on each of them. If you don't, they will show the default label: "Shortcut Input".
URL Schemes Inside the Shortcuts
Even though Contact Center is not designed to launch URL schemes, you can still embed URL schemes into the message body of a shortcut. For example, you can write a URL scheme to add a reminder in Due, a task in Clear, or an event in Fantastical; and embed it inside the message body. The idea is to send it across someone in your Contacts list who might want to add such reminder, task, or event with a single tap.
Here's an example of a custom body message to prompt the content of a reminder and send it to someone in your Contacts list as a Due URL:
Can you please add this to your Reminders in Due?
Here's another example of prompting a task and sending it as a Clear URL:
Can you add this to your todo list?
And, here's another example of prompting for an event/reminder and sending it as a Fantastical URL:
Can you please add this to your Fantastical?
fantastical2://x-callback-url/parse?sentence=[+prompt-text:Event/Reminder]&reminder=[list:Event or Reminder|Event=0|Reminder=1]
All of these examples work great if you're sending the message to someone that you know has installed these apps. That's why I tend to organize my Contact Center shortcuts based on contacts.
A Couple of Notes
Until this initial release, Contact Center does not have any documented URL scheme that you can use to trigger any of its in-app functions. The only URL scheme that I'm aware of is
contactcenter:, and you can use it only to open the app. And, because most of the in-app functions that you want to trigger from Contact Center are already available in Launch Center Pro, I'd suggest you use Launch Center Pro's URL scheme for these purposes.
Contact Center is released with an interesting business model. Instead of being a paid app, the Contrast team releases it as a free app with ads. As a free app, it would be easier for new users to download the app and give it a try. Then, if they like it, they can remove the ads via an in-app purchase.
Build on top of the foundation of Launch Center Pro, Contact Center comes right out of the gate as a solid app. I use it alongside Launch Center Pro, and load it with shortcuts that are specific to the people I frequently communicate with. Now, I use Launch Center Pro mainly for task automation and keep all the communication shortcuts in Contact Center.
Get it on the App Store: iPhone