Fiery Feeds, The RSS Reader For Power Users

November 09, 2014

Fiery Feeds, The RSS Reader For Power Users → via @_patrickwelker

When talking about consuming and working with RSS feeds, I’m a creature of habit: the client and reader have to be customizable, sync has to work and the one thing that is of the utmost importance to me, I simply can’t picture myself in a world where I can’t file RSS articles like I’m used to. Especially the experience of the latter was missing on my iPhone. Well, at least until I discovered Fiery Feeds by Lukas Burgstaller (@voidStern).


Due to managing RSS being a topic of special interest to me, let us go a little bit further back in time, because I have…

Three Devices, but Only One Way of Dealing With RSS

On the Mac, I use ReadKit which has proven to be an excellent reader — it also receives updates more frequently than the RSS crowds darling, Reeder. Fore ReadKit I have a set of Keyboard Maestro macros - all linked in the post above - which I use to file interesting articles into one of my many buckets.

On the iPad, Mr. Reader, an excellent RSS reader (which I happen to had the chance to design the icon for) is my weapon of choice. The form factor of the iPad and the versatility of Mr. Reader make this a winning team for me. It’s by far the best solution to RSS {verb: to indulge in reading an article provided by RDF Site Summary}. The actions I use with the Mister are the same as those on my Mac.

On the iPhone, there was no satisfying way for me to read RSS. My app of choice was Unread for a long time. I read a lot, but I also file away many articles for dealing with them later on, when I have more time at hand. Whilst Unread is an excellent reader, I felt limited by its filing capabilities. I always had to jump through hoops when I found an interesting article which I wanted to include in my link list here on RocketINK. The custom share sheet from Unread didn’t make this any easier.

Typically, an article which is a link list candidate gets formatted as (1) a Markdown list entry with a Markdown link, (2) followed by another list entry which is indented and (3) has an interactive prompt so that I can provide a little summary for the link:

- Example: [Link to Captain NES](
	- If you want to take the reigns and become Nintendo's fanboy no. 1, don't talk to me unless you have a NES scepter.

So, with iOS 8 finally having a better native sharing dialog things did become easier and indeed made a lot of my actions dispensable. Finally I could use my favorite Pinboard client (Pushpin) and add a link. Brilliant. All I had to do was switch from Unread to another app which support the native share sheet. Happy end? Well, we’re not quite there yet.

While having more options with better integrations is indeed part of the solution to my filing woes, some essentials still are only possible when using URL schemes. That’s also the reason I wrote “why we still need URL schemes when iOS 8 brings the sharing dialog to every app” and came to the following conclusion:

To conclude, for the way I work within iOS, the current state of inter-app communication is superb, but not sufficient for my particular needs. The best solution for power-users are the kind of apps we will hopefully see more more of in the future. Those which will function as a bridge between the x-callback-url protocol and existing native integrations. This way we can use the best of both worlds.

Admitted, the more powerful and versatile extensions become, the more redundant URL schemes will be. But for now, they still are the swiss-army knife for iOS automation.

In the quoted article I also promised to introduce to you an application which handles “updating” a virtually deprecated custom share sheet for iOS 8 in a smart way. Well, this day has come. This day was also…

The Day I Started to Use My iPhone for RSS Again

On the 9th October I bought an iPhone 6 Plus. Soon I realized what I had feared all along: this device is made for reading. The huge display absolutely shines at it. I had toyed with the idea of ditching my iPad mini before, but only after spending enough time with my new phone the idea started to appeal more and more to me.

Fast forward, the short answer is no, I haven’t sold my iPad. It stays, although it would certainly be nice to have one device less to manage. After all, it is a completely different gadget with is own advantages and drawbacks. A comparison between the differences of the iPhone 6 Plus and the iPad mini could fill books in my opinion.

In brief, the top argument for keeping the iPad was “apps”. There are exactly three iPad-only apps which I rely on heavily; one of them was Mr. Reader. Another one is Paper by FiftyThree which I depend on for my teaser images on every blog post. Doing it on the iPhone is possible, but it’s just not the same experience.1

So, a couple of days later after the big purchase for my bigger phone which burnt the biggest hole in my pockets for a long time, I went looking for a new RSS reader. Like I said many a times, Mr. Reader rocks my RSS world and I want this experience on my iPhone, too.

If you’re an automation nut like me, you were probably looking for an RSS reader which offers good support for custom URL schemes. Until recently the situation on the App Store for a niche product like this could be summed up with “no app fit the bill”. Nevertheless, after several pages of RSS clients (most of which I already tried at some point) I finally came upon a new one (or, at least new to me): Fiery Feeds.

The description sounded too good to be true. I downloaded it immediately, opened it up, entered my first URL scheme and heaved a sigh of relief. Everything worked as advertised. So let’s talk about it.

Fiery Facts


Lukas updated his app to version 1.4 two days before I bought my new phone. Fiery gained support for iOS 8 and the new iPhones. It’s also a Universal app. Although, I haven’t tried it on the iPad since I won’t delete my Mr. Favorite.

I’m syncing my feeds with Feedly since I snatched a lifetime subscription when they offered it. Otherwise Feedbin would have been the chosen one. Both services and a couple more are supported by Fiery.

Fiery Feeds supports Feedly, Feedbin, MnmlRdr, Feed Wrangler and Fever. You can even add multiple services or multiple accounts of one service.

Sharing Brilliance

Regarding the custom sharing dialog of Fiery, Lukas was smart by adding the option to use the native iOS 8 sharing dialog instead. Depending on your needs, you can go with one or the other. Matter of fact, if you go with the custom share sheet solution you can still access the iOS default. At the top left is the usual suspect, a small sheet icon with an arrow pointing upwards. The unmistakable sign for sharing something on iOS. Press it and the native dialog will slide up as a layer above the custom one.


The cool thing is that your custom URL actions also show up in the iOS sharing dialog. And, that’s also why I set “Use System Sharing Dialog” as my default instead of the custom share sheet.2 I disabled almost all actions and only added the URL schemes I really missed. Thanks to Launch Center Pro’s list feature there aren’t many custom solutions I need anymore.


Here are all the different actions that ship preconfigured with Fiery:3

Web Actions URL Actions Mail Actions
Pinboard 1Password Mail Article
Instapaper Todo Mail URL
Pocket Instapaper Mail Preview
Readability Firetask Mail Image
Delicious Velocity  
Evernote OmniFocus  
SendToReader Safari  
Buffer Readability  
One Note Things  
Copy URL Drafts  
Messages Felix  
Copy Image Riposte  
1Password Fill Login Chrome  
Twitter Clear  
Facebook Simplenote  
  Keep Everything  

The action I use most frequently is an action which sends a Markdown Link to Drafts, then forwards it to Launch Center Pro where I can select from a list in which bucket I want to drop the generated link. In the example below it’s my scratch file in Dropbox; there’s also a prompt to enter additional information.4


More Options Is the Better Option

Fiery comes with several options. That said, it isn’t en par with Mr. Reader where you can even manage your subscriptions (e.g. adding feeds, unsubscribe or rename them). The Mister is hard to match in terms of features. Fiery has a plethora of customization options and comes in close second.

For instance, a nice feature which I came to appreciate is that you can scroll horizontally through articles with a swipe. Speaking of it, Fiery of course supports the landscape mode… where you can browse horizontally, too.


With Fiery, all the basics settings one needs are there. The look can adapt to your layout preferences, for instance the preview length of (I’m always down with the lowest amount of lines possible). And, besides selecting your favorite font (Open Dyslexic)5 you could also port your favorite theme over in a few simple steps (by editing a JSON file).

If you come from Reeder, you might enjoy Lukas’ sepia theme which has a similar color palette:


By the way… the horrid theme you saw in the GIF above goes by the name “Bonfire”. It’s inspired by my favorite infrared theme from Unread “Campfire”, and I took the liberty to port it over to Fiery since it’s a great theme to read in the dark and feel like you’re in a submarine.


You can download it here:



More Details

Attention to detail is always important in the apps we use on a daily basis. I spend a good amount of time reading articles, so it’s highly appreciated that Fiery supports fullscreen reading. Whilst scrolling through a larger article the top and bottom bar slides away and makes for a distraction-free reading environment.

Another feature worth mentioning are keyboard shortcuts. Not only are there enough swipe gestures, but if you own an external keyboard “you can control the entire app with your keyboard”.

For the crazy ones there’s even a Today widget which can display up to 12 items. Another feature I can’t picture anyone with more than 20 subscriptons in their feed reader using is push notifications for new articles. But that’s just me.

What I absolutely love on Big Hubert (my iPhone 6 Plus) are the image previews which Fiery (optionally) displays in its list view when it finds images in articles.

Lastly, quick actions come to the rescue of those which subscribe to sites with a huge output. They are accessible with a right swipe over an article in list view and allow you to favorite an article _(this option might vary depending on the service you;re using)__, mark all items above or below as read, and, open the share sheet without even having opened the article in the first place.


As usual you can swipe left and mark an item as read.

Pet-Peeves And The Verdict

The background sync works great, but in my case I also had to activate “Sync On Launch” and “Sync On Exit” because Fiery became unresponsive from time to time. This however, fixed it for me.

A personal preference would be another default color scheme than the sophisticated blue. Something more fresh and vibrant that reflects the name more… along with a nicer icon. But that’s just my having odd wishes again.

Otherwise I had zero problmes with Fiery and highly recommend it to power-users and people who like a versatile, URL scheme supporting Feed reader for their iPhone.

  1. I came close to selling my iPad. But the sole reason was to have the money worth a months rent. I didn’t because I need it to keep the look of the blog intact.

  2. You can this option in Fiery’s settings under “Interface”.

  3. Note, the Drafts action needs to be updated from drafts:// to drafts4://; that is, if you’re using the latest version… which I definitely recommend.

  4. I hope to have my Launch Center Pro post ready before Christmas this year. Then you get a peak behind the curtain.

  5. When selecting a font the whole UI gets that font assigned to it. I find it a bit odd since I’m used to only having the articles displaying in my ever odder font. Then again, it makes up for it by being consistent. I’d still prefer to have two different fonts, one for the UI and the other just for reading.

TapCellar, Try Out a Different Brand From Time to Time

November 04, 2014

LINK – TapCellar, Try Out a Different Brand From Time to Time → via @_patrickwelker

My Internet pal Gabe Weatherhead (@macdrifter) released and iOS app with his buddy Jeff Hunsberger (@jeffhunsberger).

If you enjoy a malty beverage from time to time, go ahead and read Gabe’s post on TapCellar.

With all the detail, smart thoughts and small touches that went into the app, it’s exactly the app I’ve been waiting for… if only it would be for cheese.1

I especially like the rating mechanism, it’s really well-thought through. Also the sync with is straight forward — it’s a good choice.

You should listen to the TapCellar introduction episode on their dedicated beer podcast “Nerds on Draft” to get the whole picture.2

As you can already tell, they are serious about beer and their app is the nerds beer client of choice.

Official site: TapCellar by Gravity Well Group
Buy it: iTunes Affiliate Link

On this note:


  1. This is no joke guys. Make a cheese app!

  2. I love the bavarian folk music in the intro.

Sometimes Apple Is Slow, Sometimes They Are Quick

November 04, 2014

Sometimes Apple Is Slow, Sometimes They Are Quick → via @_patrickwelker

Apple is a phenomenon in that they on the one side are pushing out new features and functionality by the mass in their recent releases, and, on the other side trying to take things slow. This article is about why slow sometimes feels pretty annoying to us (the customers).

To illustrate a typical case of ‘Apple slowness’ I decided to focus on the current state of the iOS keyboard (incl. the new integration for 3rd-party keyboards). Take it as a minimal case study on the basis of the iOS keyboard fiasco.1

Mr. Portrait and His New Landscape

I preferred typing in portrait mode since my first iPhone. However, now we have bigger phones and a Home screen who went iPad, sporting a landscape mode, too — just like his bigger sister.

I found myself actually using the landscape mode more and more. Especially with the 6 Plus it finally made sense to me — I couldn’t bare the squeezed view before, with only 2/5 of the display left and the rest of the screen all keyboard there was nothing for me to like about it before.

I’m also pretty sure we will see more apps over the time which add this functionality. Matter of fact, it will become good practice to offer support for both views in most apps. The user should have the option to decide which view is convenient at the time, and, with Apple leading the way I have no doubt others will follow soon.

What Bothers Me About the State of iOS Keyboards

With the mass of new additions to iOS, Apple themselves are in need of tying up the one or other loose end. One of the things that really bugs me is the Apple keyboard itself, more precisely the landscape mode. It’s just not user-friendly for avid typers.

I’m no exclusion, the current design dichotomy renders the landscape mode keyboard 88% useless for me. Now I want to officially join in the chorus by pointing out the obvious:

The keyboard integration is broken on iOS 8. Patrick Welker


My brain refuses to switch modes when I switch my keyboard and in my opinion it shouldn’t. Apple will eventually fix this… with time.

Time is the keyword here. If have learned one thing about Apple since joining the party in 2005 then that it’s always baby steps with Apple. No matter if it’s hardware upgrades, software updates or additions to the OS. Apple wouldn’t be Apple if they haven’t planned every step meticulously… and throw out a boom every once in a while.

Part of Apple’s slowness or adversity of rushing things is marketing related, the other half is the managing part. Owing to the fact that the have (too?) small development teams, the latter has to be divided upon different parts of their product palette (which isn’t narrow at all with two OS’s, software, their online presence, et cetera).

In principle this is a smart move, since this is also what makes us anticipate the next Apple keynote each and every year.

Time is also the magical word, when we think of the restrictions for users and developers. Think back to when Touch ID was brand new and we all gasped. I wondered back then what a useful companion it will be(come). It took a whole iOS cycle to open up Touch ID for third-party apps like 1Password, but now it’s one hell of a feature. I wouldn’t want to miss it anymore.

Hopefully they allow more access to system specific options again in other areas… with time.

For instance, it would be nice, not to have browse through all installed Keyboards before being able to return to the default Apple keyboard. The default Apple keyboards have the touch and hole shortcut to display a menu of all installed keyboards, third-party keyboards aren’t allowed to use it.


Here’s another consistency issue I illustrated for you2:


If you want to get the full picture, here’s a link to the extended version without the keyboards being cropped: large + extended version.

Last Call

To round this post up, let me start by saying that I’ve currently nine keyboards. I divided them up in these three groups ordered by priorities:

Essentials Nice to Have Gimmicks
Default US Swype Emoji++
Default German TextExpander Kaomoji
Clips Cell GIF (Riffsy)

In consequence, since I already stated that the implementation is broken in my opinion, I only have the essentials activated for me. Of course I’d really like to use the one’s from the second category, too… and if every thing would be buttery smooth, I’d even throw in the gimmick section.

The initial statement and fear of fellow Apple enthusiasts was, that the market will be flooded with Keyboards like it already happened with Twitter clients, weather apps, text editors, soundboard and fart apps. There will be gems and there will be quite the opposite.

Another thing where a lot of the canon appeared to agree on was that the effect of keyboard extensions - being a new toy to play with - will wear of and most reasonable users would end up with maybe one or two additional keyboards.

For me, I don’t see this minimalism happening. When I look at my Mac, I see a jam-packed computer with services, scripts and neat little apps that do one thing well. This is also the category I’d put the new keyboard extensions in. Hence, I don’t like to limit myself and only have the bare essentials on-board. To say it with the words of one of my all-time favorite bands:


Although this post has some nagging in it, the message I want to bring across is: try to be patient.3

I say the following with confidence and belief: I’m sure that the first keyboard I see out of my nine keyboards, won’t be random anymore in a year. Apple will figure it out, the OS is new and the rough edges will get smoothen out over time (just like sorting extensions will some day just starting to work).


Okay, I couldn’t leave it at that because I feel that “being patient” should only address people who are already used to Apple products. You guys know the drill of the past couple of years and are probably aware of the fact that Apple needs to sort out their self-inflicted dilemma with rushing features out and providing a product that stays true to one of their core principles:


People who are new to the world of Apple count on having a functional close to zero errors release in their hands on launch day.

Since iOS 7, codename bugaboo, I’m became careful myself with recommending updates to family members – in hindsight, I even wish I never suggest version 7.0 of iOS to any iPad owner.

Remember, there are two sides to every story, and I hope Apple will find their rhythm. Better sooner than later.

  1. Dramatized version (depending on how you read it).

  2. I saw something similar in my Twitter timeline a while ago. I couldn’t fit the it/the author again, so I had to do it myself again. No credit taken for the idea from my side.

  3. Feel free to mumble it repeativly as you do with any mantra. I can come in handy in those times when you wait another year for that Retina Cinema Display.

Why We Still Need URL Schemes When iOS 8 Brings the Sharing Dialog to Every App?

November 03, 2014

Why We Still Need URL Schemes When iOS 8 Brings the Sharing Dialog to Every App? → via @_patrickwelker

Good question. Glad you’ve asked.1 Before I answer this question, let’s back up.

Personally, I love automating my Mac, that’s for sure. And, despite of not posting many articles here about iOS automation, I’m a big fan.

Although, getting to a point where I was comfortable with customizing and enhancing my iOS experience was quite an odyssey. Automation on iOS has come a long way. The road was nothing but rocky… here’s a brief recap of what was and what is to come.

URL Scheme History or What You Should Know About the Dying Breed

You probably aware that apps like Launch Center Pro, Drafts and Mr. Reader provided a variety of ways to send and interact with data. I refer to them as my “hub” for triggering actions or opening other apps. These powerful iOS applications can allow a sort of interaction between apps which wasn’t possible before, c.f. exporting data from the app you’re currently in to another app. All this works thanks to their excellent use of URL schemes.

This was huge in the pre-iOS 8 era because it was a bridge to do more with iOS than what was originally intended and within the limited scope that Apple enforced upon it’s users. In early 2011 one of the pioneers, Greg Pierce, the developer of Drafts invented the x-callback-url protocol and added the necessary base for something that quickly grew over everyones expectations – even Greg’s.

The x-callback-url specification is intended to standardize the use of URLs and registered URL schemes for inter-app communication and messaging on Apple’s iOS platforms.

More and more developers followed and added support for URL schemes to their apps. Depending on the app, integration varied from basics actions like opening an app, up to advanced features with several parameters which users could edit. For example, one of my favorite apps, 1Writer, allows for replacing the content of a document. Another one which is incredibly useful to me is, a timer and reminder app with an excellent documentation and many parameters to tweak their URL schema.

In the beginning users had to fear that Apple might even take away support for these kind of hacks, but somehow they survived. Apple just silently tolerated them.

The biggest drawback of URL schemes still persists today: ultimately they are just not highly accessible – especially the advanced ones where you chain actions together, which is usually what your after when you trying to automate a task. It takes time and a willingness to learn them and to get it right.

On the educational front, URL scheme evangelist Alex Guyot (who published an insane amount of actions on his soon to be retired blog “The Axx“) wrote a guide to Launch Center Pro for MacStories to explain how to properly encode URL schemes to get them working and do what you want.

Others who publicly made an effort to shared their wisdom about iOS automation are…

Those guys aren’t the only ones, but their websites were the ones I most frequently visited when I wanted to learn some advanced automation techniques.

In addition to everything that was already in the App Store, in July 2012 Ole Moritz (@olemoritz) changed the game with the release of Pythonista. Not only did his app support the x-callback-url protocol, the main attraction of his app was providing a complete Python IDE on iOS. Combined with URL schemes this was the next level of iOS automation. If you were fluid in Python, the possibilities on the once restricted platform that iOS is suddenly became a lot less limited. Ole kicked it up a notch and his next app – Editorial, a Markdown editor – followed the same principle featuring a fully fledged Python IDE, but the app introduced another feature: workflows which made chaining different actions together easier then ever before. Later on, followed a UI Editor which allowed users to build own little interfaces on top of Editorial.

2014-11-03-editorial-ftp.png Alex Guyot’s FTP Client UI for Editorial

However, let’s head back from Ole’s Python-powered apps to URL schemes. Over the time developers lowered the entry bar and stepped it up, too. For instance Contrast, makers of Launch Center Pro, came up with some nifty solutions. They added special operators which could handle different kind of encodings for the user and a list builder to simplify the process of generating a useful dialog like this…


… which could free up space on you’re Home screen since otherwise you would have these sticking around (instead of storing them in a folder away along with other ‘nice’ apps like Newsstand):


But once you taste blood, you want more. A simple list builder isn’t enough, as you want nested lists. Consequently this means that you still have to do some handwork. Furthermore, regarding the special operators… I haven’t seen many people use them so far. Most users on Twitter seem a bit daunted by them and still encode there Launch Center actions by hand with several layers of percent-encoding, rendering their URL unreadable in the process.

Prime Time

In the past month we passed the peak of URL scheme high point. With well-established apps that provide good documentation of what is possible within their application, like: and a user base that has contributed tons of actions ready to use – even for beginners since most of those actions can be imported with one tab.

Some examples of quality documentation and support.

But no matter what… the truth is, even once you get the hang of building your own URL schemes, you still need to do the old trial and error routine from time to time to make an url scheme work because some apps provide functions that can render advanced chains of URLs useless if not treated with care.

In short: iOS automation with URL schemes is still something only an approximately small amount of iOS users is willing to indulge.

As sad as it is, I think the golden age of URL schemes was over the moment Apple introduced its solutions to inter-app communication at the WWDC on June 2th, 2014. It will continue to exist and will have its loyal user-base, but it won’t be the center of attention anymore when it comes to automation.

The Transition

iOS 8 was released on September 17, 2014 and while it’s only on the market for a short period of time, Apple has already put their foot down several times rejecting and removing quite useful and promising apps.


First, there was the banishment of Launcher from the App Store - a Today view widget in the Notification Center to launch other apps via URL schemes - and second, the rejection of Craig Pearlman (@blackfog)’s Workflows app - a graphical URL workflow builder - which he worked on for more than half a year:

Craig had to find out the hard way that his app conflicts with Apple’s policy of what is allowed and what not. They made changes to the document about 2 years ago defining that new apps2 shall not have the sole purpose of launching other apps. Don’t ask me where they draw the line… but it’s a shame. I’d have wished for a peaceful coexistence between powerful apps and Apple’s latest additions to their OS: keyboard extensions, photo editing extensions, lockscreen widgets, the document provider API and the revamped sharing dialog.

Another restriction is that apps aren’t allowed to replicate existing functionalities on iOS. I guess the formulation of the relevant paragraphs is that broad on purpose. It certainly does feel a bit random when apps like Launcher and Workflows happen to meet the exclusion criteria whilst others like Quick-Tap get approved.

But Apple being strict is no news at all. If Apple where my girlfriend, I’d say she got a tad too much control issues. (I think now is the perfect time to throw in a MF Doom quote… it’s either now or never.)

She f***ing with your head and got your heart in a tight curl. MF Doom »Favorite Ladies«

NFC Automation Excursion

With the general train of thought in this article being iOS automation and Apple slowly opening up, I can’t conceal what I would be most exciting about: NFC. More precisely, automation with NFC. Trigger (formerly NFC Task Launcher) from the Google Play Store is the one app in which I envy Android users for years now.

The procedure is the following: you get yourself some stickers (tags) or configure another trigger and configure them to perform certain actions when you tap with your device on the tag. It’s also a bit cheaper than placing iBeacons in your living room and the bedroom.

Sample applications are…

  • front-door: leave your home and the Wi-Fi network shuts down
  • car: activate bluetooth
  • bedroom: activate airplane mode, set volume to 5%, set the brightness to 1%

It would get even better if we can hook up x-callback-url’s with it. Basically you could build an analoge Launch Center Pro for starting Backups, publishing blog post and uploading the last picture in your camera roll3 automatically to your Twitter – you know, the awkward one of you clipping your dogs toe nails wearing a kilt and smiling affectedly.

Of course Trigger has even more features and options than you and I can imagine, we’re iPhone users…. That’s also why the realistic timeframe for such a support would be in 7 years or, more likely, never. In case this would be possible with a trusted Cydia developers app, I’d be tempted to jailbreak again. The last time I did it, was for f.lux.4

Here’s a general introduction…

… and a home automation demo:

The Destination

Despite Apple acting arbitrary like with the rejections mentioned above, it is more clear what their motivation is when considering their grand scheme: keeping iOS safe, simple to use and doing this by preserving their own design aesthetic.

It seems Apple wants developers to focus on implementations which take place within their delimited parameter, ultimately making their vision of “iOS as a whole” better. As long as you stay away from the fuzzy lines which mark borders in their policy you’re okay as a developer.

Presumably, some other advantages for customers are that…

  • … in case of lockscreen widgets users wont’t solely use their lockscreen instead of the real iOS. Extensions are build to have a short lifecycle;
  • … we have found a fix constant in the (outdated) Home screen. It’s the place even grandma got accustomed to and instantly knows her way through. When someone switches from the first iOS version to the latest they still know how to use their phone. After all Apple is prone of being user-friendly. This contributes to it.

With extensions, widgets, the document provider integration and whatnot the new road is paved. So let’s cut the chase:

Why Do We Still Need a URL Schemes When iOS 8 Brings the Sharing Dialog to Every App?

There are advancements in more than one area, but I decided to pick the new sharing dialog as an example. It’s a large piece of the puzzle which went put together, is Apple’s current solution to the problem that inter-app communication was on iOS… and (unlike the document provider API) all your favorite apps already seem to support it.

Coming from zero “automation” this must feel like heaven. Speaking as someone who has a background with a decent set of automation I can say, this was long awaited and it is a fantastic feature.

In brief, things drastically changed for most people. Apart from that, some things won’t change so much for others.

Despite some extensions being valuable additions to my automation and worfklow toolbelt, I still have a good amount of bookmarklets in Safari for apps that have no extension yet or only have simply extensions. My hunch is that I will have to wait quite some time until I can replace these bookmarklets. They give me options to trigger a variety of Launch Center Pro lists acting on a websites title and URL in different ways (which you will hear about soon).5

But in all honesty, now that extensions are here, using bookmarklets feels like a workaround. Most times it’s exactly that, an extra step which manifests itself by having to tap the bookmark icon, eventually opening the folder with my bookmarklets, searching for the right own (without any visual aids other than emojis or unicode characters) and then in the final instance touching them to trigger the action. If you have the bookmarks bookmarklet folder always open you can cut a few steps. Still, it’s not ideal, but for power-user stuff this is status quo.

Whereas some workflows remain untouched, others get a breeze of fresh air. for instance, a clipboard manager for iOS, is great if you don’t want to send the content far far away but rather act upon it soon. Linky makes sending of web findings to social networks a joy. Lastly, the Drafts extension takes care of the rest. I hope Drafts will be capable to customize the extension with selected Drafts actions soon, then I can get rid of each and every bookmarklet.

In a nutshell and without all the back and forth, the new sharing dialog with extensions and actions is a bliss and I’m certain it will be the biggest part of the future what iOS automation is. The greatest benefit over URL schemes is, that it is available in every application.

The only ones in trouble are apps which use a custom sharing dialog like Mr. Reader, Unread and Riposte. Those apps went the extra mile and created something which was superior to Apple’s outdated approach. Now they are missing out on the increasing availability of new extensions. The latter two apps are both developed by Jared Sinclair (@jaredsinclair) who created the OvershareKit – a custom share sheet - which he developed to provide “better inter-app communication and sharing APIs”. Jared stated that he will not publish any updates, but to make sure that OvershareKit is iOS 8 compatible.

Extensions are Apple’s answer to the problem that OvershareKit was created to solve. It seems to me that it’s better for all involved – both developers and users – for any app that’s using OvershareKit to migrate to Extensions and the UIActivity frameworks. … Evernote has a rich and complicated API. It doesn’t make sense for outside developers like me to spend limited resources building support for Evernote. Jared Sinclair

Ditching ones own creation is hard, maybe too hard. I hope Oliver Fürniß (@curioustimes) from CuriousTimes finds a better way for his Mr. Reader. I will share with you what such a way could look like this week. Until then, lets take the shortcut to the finish line of this article.

To conclude, for the way I work within iOS, the current state of inter-app communication is superb, but not sufficient for my particular needs. The best solution for power-users are the kind of apps we will hopefully see more more of in the future. Those which will function as a bridge between the x-callback-url protocol and existing native integrations. This way we can use the best of both worlds.

I depend on hubs – be it Launch Center Pro or Drafts, both are in my 3-app dock on the iPhone and provide the convenience I seek for to send files to remote locations, to launch a set of actions or provide me with a menu of different choices when I’m not yet decided where to put the data in question. Powerful and versatile apps will always have a place on my phone and I’m still glad if a developer add support for url schemes. X-callback-url apps are not dying, they are just getting old like the rest of us. Let’s grow old in dignity together.

  1. I’m a gemini, speaking astrologically, not enzygotic.

  2. Read: Launch Center Pro is safe.

  3. Yet another example where Apple was willing to listen to their customers and “fix it”.

  4. I hereby admit that I’m eager to try out a good Android phone for over one year now. In all honesty, it’s a tinkerer friendly platform and this is exactly what appeals to me. It would be of the greatest interest to me to see if I could life without one part of the eco-system of what Apple is. Of course if I’d happen to make the switch, all the money put in the App Store so far is kind of gone. Then again, I pay for premium upgrades anyway. The family would be okay with using Skype or WhatsApp, that I know.

  5. I heard Federico Viticci speak of some developer (quite possible it was Ole Zorn) who works on an extension which allows to collect bookmarklets or x-callback-url and display them as options. This would be the missing link for me… please, ominous developer, if you read this then beta me.