Group Text+ and Email+ Offer A New Approach to Group Messaging

Group messaging is definitely a known problem. Different people have their own group messaging problems. The #1 problem in group messaging is always on finding that lowest common denominator platform within the group. Dealing with mostly iPhone users may lead you to use iMessage exclusively. But, if you have to deal with Android users, you may have to rely on cross-platform solutions such as WhatsApp or SMS.

There are also other impromptu needs that are not suitable for SMS, e.g. sharing the group photos you just took with newly-met business associates or sending notes to all the meeting attendees. For these cases, you may have to rely on emails instead.

Regardless what your needs are, the built-in iMessage and Mail apps in iOS are not built for sending these messages quickly on your iPhone/iPad. For example, you can’t easily group (and ungroup) people in your Contacts list whom you frequently send messages/emails to. Sending multiple photos from within these apps is not easy, either.

Fortunately, Contrast — the development team behind Launch Center Pro — just released two new apps aimed to ease these problems: Group Text+ to send group iMessage/SMS, and Email+ to send group emails.

Watch video trailer of Group Text+ on Vimeo

Shortcuts to Groups and Individual Contacts

Both GroupText+ and Email+ offer a new approach in the way you manage your frequently-used contacts. I’d suggest you browse your existing behavior in both iMessage app and your Sent Mail folder to determine the best way to use this feature.

Both apps allow you to create pre-defined groups (such as Co-workers, Family, etc.), add individual contacts, and rearrange them in any order. Each time you want to send a new message/email, you can mix and match these icons to fit the needs. For example, you may want to share your holiday vacation photos with your co-workers, family, and one specific friend you meet during that period.

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8 Reasons to Love Drafts 4

In less than 48 hours ago, Drafts 4 was released. It's a major update released as a separate app. I'd suggest you read Alex Guyot's excellent review in MacStories. He covered many things that highlight why Drafts 4 is such a great update.

To keep my review brief, I'd also suggest you to read the official release notes. It should give you an overview of all the new things in Drafts 4. I will briefly mention some of my favorite additions that I won't cover in details here:

  • Markdown syntax highlighting
  • New Markdown processor tag: %%...%%
  • Access to all iOS fonts, including the user-installed ones
  • Arrange mode a la Phraseology
  • Version history for modifications that allows you to rollback to a particular version
  • Location tracking for notes creation and modification - which is also accessible via the new tags: [[longitude]], [[latitude]], [[created_longitude]], [[created_latitude]], [[modified_longitude]], and [[modified_latitude]]
  • iCloud/CloudKit sync covering both drafts and actions
  • Sort notes by last accessed date, created date, or modified date
  • Track the geo-locations for each note
  • Deeper integration with Evernote by generating raw ENML markup
  • The new dark theme
  • iOS 8 Today's View widget
  • iOS 8 Document Picker which allows you to pick documents from Dropbox, iCloud, and other providers (e.g. Box)

With those out of the way, I will now focus on the ones that I will cover in more details.

Watch video showing how to migrate to Drafts 4 on Vimeo

1. Easy Migration Path from Drafts 3

Because Drafts 4 is released as a separate app, it can co-exist with Drafts 3.5. And, I believe this arrangement makes it easy for existing users to migrate their notes and custom actions to the new version.

First, you need to have both apps installed on your device. Then, you can export all or some of your notes. Because Drafts 4 uses Flagged instead of Pinned to keep things more akin to typical email clients, all your pinned notes in Drafts 3 will be exported as flagged notes in Drafts 4.

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10 Reasons to Love Launch Center Pro 2.3

It's been four months since we received an update to Launch Center Pro. But, it's an update well worth the wait. In fact, I'd argue it's so massive that it should be called 3.0. And, here are the reasons why I think it's an awesome update.

1. Nested Encoding Helper Tags

If you're familiar with x-callback-url, you've probably already tried to create your own custom actions that involve more than one URL scheme. If you do, you will typically need to encode the URL behind x-success parameter. Launch Center Pro includes a special {{..}} tag to help encode the enclosed URL.

With the new 2.3 version, you can nest these encoding helper tags to make your URL schemes easier to write and read. You can even nest unlimited number of these tags. Launch Center Pro will resolve them from inside out.

As an example, I have rewritten my previous Drafts action to cross-post to Twitter, Facebook, and App.net, by chaining them inside Launch Center Pro.

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

After prompting the user for the text to be cross-posted, I store it in the clipboard and use Drafts' ||clipboard|| tag to retrieve it before running any of the action. Because the clipboard content doesn't change throughout the chain of actions, I can use the same ||clipboard|| for all the subsequent actions too.

2. Expand the [clipboard] Tag at the Right Time

As shown in the previous example, clipboard is a great, yet tricky, resource. Prior to this, Launch Center Pro supports [clipboard] and [[clipboard]] tags to return the encoded and decoded version of the clipboard content. But, there's a catch to it. These tags will only be translated once, i.e. before Launch Center Pro runs the URL. While this may be enough for most use cases, there are some cases where we need a better way to manage the clipboard.

For example, if we want to chain one or more actions that can modify the clipboard content, and return to Launch Center Pro to work with the updated clipboard content, we need to resort to an encoding hack. This is probably one of the reasons why Drafts released the ||clipboard|| tag.

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Mingle Lets You Launch Actions From Your Contacts List

By now, I'm sure you're already familiar with Launch Center Pro and Drafts. These apps make a lot of iOS automations possible through their custom actions. Yesterday, Samir Ghobril released Mingle, an app that allows you to create custom actions and launch them based on your Contacts list.

Mingle lets you launch actions from your Contacts list.

How It Works

Mingle uses a custom Contacts list view that lets you to drag a contact's avatar to the right to switch the focus to any of the four actions. It allows you to setup exactly four contact-based actions that you can trigger by dragging the contact's avatar. As you drag to the right, Mingle will reveal the first action's icon. Then, as you hold and drag farther, you can see all the other icons too (one at a time).

If you arrive on the action that you want to launch, simply release your finger. Mingle will execute the URL schemes stored for that action.

Mingle supports the standard iOS URL schemes that you may already comfortable with. For example, you can attach a Tweetbot URL that lets you send a quick DM based on the contact's Twitter username.

What makes Mingle special is its ability to pull contact information into tags and allows you to craft your own actions using them. For example, you can use [phoneNumber] and [email] tags to extract the first phone number and email address for the selected contact. Other tags include [displayName], [twitter], and [url].

Mingle also includes many built-in actions that can give you hints on how you can create your own actions. For example, the WhatsApp message action looks like this:

whatsapp://send?text=[prompt:Message]&abid=[ABID]

As shown on that action, Mingle also supports [prompt:Title] tag - similar to Launch Center Pro's [prompt] tag. And, you can even work with more specific contact-based tags such as [ABID] (used by WhatsApp to uniquely identify its users), [social:], and [IM:].

Mingle has three custom URL schemes of its own, mingle-message://?recipient=, mingle-email://?recipient=, and mingle-tweet://?username=. Because these are contact-based URL schemes, they're useful only for in-app usages.

After beta-testing the app for a couple of weeks, here are a few custom actions that I use.

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Launch iOS Actions from the Mac using Alfred and Command-C

In my first post about Command-C last week, I haven't really explored into the possibilities of sending data from Mac to iOS. After spending a few days learning AppleScript the hard (and maybe, wrong) way, I'm finally ready to share a few Alfred workflows that you can use to send data and trigger actions on your iOS apps.

The basic idea is pretty straightforward. On iOS, we store our custom URL actions in Drafts or Launch Center Pro. We need to find a similar place where we can store our custom URL actions. My choice is to go with Alfred. You are welcome to create similar approaches with other launcher Mac apps, such as Launch Bar, Quicksilver, and Keyboard Maestro.

Alfred 2 Power Pack allows users to create their own custom workflows.

Alfred 2 and its Power Pack

To install and run the actions in this post, you need to download Alfred 2, and purchase its Power Pack. You need the Power Pack to create and install custom workflows.

I have created a bundle where you can download all of the custom workflows I outline in this post. If this is the first time you install a custom Alfred workflow, simply double tap on the file in Finder, and it will automatically be added onto your copy of Alfred.

From Alfred to Drafts

By now, I'm sure you know that Command-C can send text/images from Mac to iOS. The problem with this built-in feature is the clipboard data still floats around the iOS pasteboard. What if we could put the clipboard data, assuming it's in text format, straight into Drafts instead?

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