Open Twitter.com User Profiles in a 3rd-Party Twitter Client with Workflow

Here's a useful action extension for Workflow that will open a user's profile based on a Twitter.com link in either Tweetbot or Twitterrific.

This works with either a link to a Twitter user's profile, such as https://twitter.com/jordanmerrick, or a direct link to a tweet and it doesn't matter if the link points to the desktop or mobile domain.

An animated GIF of the workflow in action

It's largely unnecessary to have the workflow ask which Twitter client you use, since most people likely just use the one day-to-day, so you should modify the final steps of the workflow to automatically open your preferred app.

For some reason, this workflow doesn't want to run on my iPad with the iOS 9 Public Beta 2. I've tested it on iOS 8 devices and it works fine, so if you're using the latest beta of iOS 9 then you may find it doesn't work. But, you know, that's why it's a beta.

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Backing up Workflows

Until Workflow has its own backup functionality1, it's really important to make sure you're manually backing up your workflows. There's always the possibility that you could accidentally change or delete a workflow, have to reinstall the app or even lose your device.

I'm ashamed to say that I wasn't doing this, and had a close call when a workflow I sent from my iPad to iPhone didn't work, causing the app to crash every time I launched it2. Fortunately, I was able to fix the problem but the thought of losing all my workflows motivated me to figure out a decent backup process.

Each workflow is simply a .wflow file, and the link that Workflow generates is just a web preview. When you add a workflow, you're actually just downloading a very small .wflow file that opens in Workflow.

While Workflow does generate a link on demand that you could technically use as a backup, I prefer to have the actual workflow file itself, just in case there's ever an issue with Workflow's website (or they themselves suffer any data loss).

To that end, I've created a workflow to backup workflows to Dropbox. This does require a working internet connection, as it relies upon the link that Workflow generates. The way the backup workflow operates is as follows:

  1. View the workflow you want to backup and use the Share Sheet to copy its link to the clipboard.
  2. Exit the workflow and then double-tap the "Workflow Backup" workflow to trigger it.
  3. The workflow will use the link in the clipboard and modify it to point to the .wflow file.
  4. The file is downloaded, renamed using the format {Name of workflow} - {ISO8601 datestamp}.wflow3 and saved to Dropbox, under the folder /Workflows.

If you ever need to restore one of these saved workflows, you can use the Dropbox app to open them in Workflow.

Dropbox backup of Workflows

Some of my workflows are adapted for iPhone and iPad, so I've modified the backup workflow on each device to also use an appropriate /iPhone or /iPad subfolder in the /Workflows Dropbox folder.


  1. Another feature sorely lacking from Workflow is the ability to sync workflows between devices. 

  2. I was using Personal Hotspot on my iPhone but, for some reason, my iPhone decided to switch to a public access point while it was receiving the workflow. I'm guessing this corrupted it which, in turn, caused Workflow to crash.  

  3. For example: "Get iTunes Podcast URL - 2015-07-24.wflow" 

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Reddit in the News

The London Evening Standard:

Reddit chief Ellen Pao quits after 'sickening' abuse and death threats from users

Reddit's interim chief executive has resigned after receiving "sickening" abuse in the wake of the sacking of one of the company's employees.

The Guardian:

Reddit chief Ellen Pao resigns after receiving 'sickening' abuse from users

[...] Last week she apologised for letting down users after Reddit sacked its director of talent, Victoria Taylor, who was responsible for the site’s Ask Me Anything forums. Taylor’s dismissal led to a petition from users demanding Pao’s removal that attracted more than 210,000 signatures. It also led to Pao reportedly receiving death threats from users angry at her handling of the situation.

BBC News:

Reddit's Ellen Pao resigns after community's criticism

[...] In a statement, the site criticised some of Reddit's community over "sickening comments" made towards Ms Pao

The New York Times:

It’s Silicon Valley 2, Ellen Pao 0: Fighter of Sexism Is Out at Reddit

Ms. Pao’s abrupt downfall in the face of a torrent of sexist and racist comments, many of them on Reddit itself, is quite likely to renew charges that bullying, harassment and cruel behavior are out of control on the web — and that Silicon Valley’s well-publicized problem with gender and ethnic diversity in its work force persists.

A lot of people are going to be learning about Reddit for the first time through mainstream media, and this will be their immediate impression of it: a sexist, racist community that uses threats of rape and murder as a justifiable way to get what they want.

Congratulations, assholes of Reddit.

Open iTunes Store Albums in Apple Music with Workflow

Apple Music includes an option with its sharing menu to open a song or album in the iTunes Store if you wish to buy it, but there isn't currently a way to do this in reverse. I still like to browse the iTunes Store, but having to switch between apps and perform a search see if an album is available on Apple Music is a bit of a chore.

Starting with iOS 8.4, iTunes Store links now open in the Music app, rather than the iTunes Store. Using a Workflow action extension, it's simply a case of getting the iTunes Store link to a particular album and then immediately opening it. When the URL is opened, the default behaviour takes over and the album is then opened in the Music app. Now, if I stumble across an album in the iTunes Store that I want to stream with Apple Music, I just open the share sheet, tap "Run workflow" and then select "Open in Apple Music".

Workflow to open iTunes Store content in Apple Music

Despite the new behaviour for iTunes Store links, it's still possible to specify whether a link opens within the Music app or the iTunes Store by adding either &app=musicor &app=itunes to the end of an iTunes Store URL. I've included the former in the workflow simply to ensure links open in the Music app.

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My Favorite Tech Support Story →

Thomas Brand:

An elderly couple had sat down at the end of the bar with the tangerine iBook they used for connecting to the internet over AOL dial-up. When I asked them what was the problem he told me in a dry British accent that his computer was "swearing at him and saying the filthiest things."

The Genius Bar is a great source of stories like this.

BnBandits: A Chrome Extension to Replace the Intro Videos on Airbnb With Clips From Home Alone

Visitors to Airbnb's home page are greeted by one of several background videos that depict guests enjoying their stay. Trouble is, they're pretty dull, especially if you're a regular user and see them again and again.

To make the home page more interesting, I've created a Chrome extension (10MB) that will replace these videos with a montage of the traps from Home Alone1.

BnBandits

Installation

This extension isn't on the Chrome Web Store, so installation is a little more of a manual process.

  1. Download and extract the extension.
  2. Open Chrome.
  3. Go to Window > Extensions.
  4. Drag the extracted .crx file onto the window.

  1. If you downloaded this extension when I first released it, you'll want to update to this version (no automatic update, sorry). I've since updated the Chrome extension so that the video is now contained within as the link to the old video is broken. 

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OS X El Capitan and iOS 9 Honourable Mentions

A lot was covered during the extra-long keynote yesterday, though there's never enough time for the executive team to go through every new feature and update to Apple's platforms. Any that aren't considered "showworthy" will be saved for inclusion on the appropriate page on Apple's website.

In no particular order, here's a breakdown of some OS X and iOS "honourable mentions" from Apple.com and Apple Developer that didn't quite make the show.

OS X El Capitan

Photos will gain the same support for 3rd-party editing extensions that iOS 8 introduced:

OS X El Capitan supports third-party tools that will be available from the Mac App Store and accessible right in the Photos app. Use multiple editing extensions from your favorite developers on a single photo, or use a mix of extensions and the editing tools built into Photos. From adding subtle filters to using beautiful texture effects, you can take your photo editing to a whole new level.

Apple TV users will be able to simply AirPlay video from the web:

Play video from a web page to your TV with Apple TV — without showing everything else on your desktop. Just click the AirPlay icon that appears on compatible web videos and you can watch your video on the big screen.

Maps for OS X also gains support for transit directions, and will continue to offer users the ability to make travel plans on their Mac and then send them to their iPhone:

Plan your route on your Mac, then send it to your iPhone with just a few clicks for stop-by-stop directions when you’re out and about.

From the OS X section on Apple Developer, it's not just app developers that will benefit. For example, there will be Force Touch APIs for websites to use within Safari:

The recently introduced Force Touch trackpad that brought a new level of interactivity and control for your Mac apps is now available for your websites.

With Yosemite, Netflix was able to ditch Silverlight for Safari users. Other content providers that wish to do the same will be able to do so in El Capitan:

Stream premium web video content securely with FairPlay Streaming support in Safari on OS X.

More updates to WebKit and Safari:

Support for AirPlay. The same JavaScript API previously available on iOS is now available on OS X, allowing you to add AirPlay support to your custom media controls.

News was a big part of the iOS 9 announcement, and it looks like many of Safari's new technologies (some of which I've already mentioned) are going to come into play when publishers begin creating content for the service:

Force Touch Trackpad Mouse Events. Create interactivity like never before using new events and force information from the Force Touch Trackpad.

CSS Scroll Snapping. Use CSS scroll snapping to keep the focal point of your content in view when scrolling momentum stops.

AirPlay for HTML5 Video. If you use custom controls for your HTML5 media, use JavaScript AirPlay support to add your own control to stream video to Apple TV.

HTML5 Video PiP. Use new JavaScript PiP support to add your own picture-in-picture control to custom controls for HTML5 videos.

Backdrop Filters. Add advanced image filters to the backdrop of your elements to achieve modern iOS and OS X material effects in your web content layouts.

Changes to WebKit provide some support to in-progess standards:

CSS4 support. Allows more sophisticated selector matching behaviors, and allows you to collapse repeated rules into a single rule.

Support for backdrop filters. Allows websites to apply a filter (for example, blur or grayscale) to all the content behind a specific piece of web content.

Other updates of note:

  • The new Notes app has an attachment browser for easy searching of different file types, from photos to documents.
  • Mail now supports tabs for new messages, similar to Safari and Finder tabs, so you can work on multiple messages at once.

iOS 9

A lot of iOS 9's new apps and features were covered by the keynote, though there are still a handful of features to mention.

The iPad received a lot of attention in iOS 9 and external keyboard support gained a welcome update to keyboard shortcuts. Not only are there more shortcuts than ever, but developers can include custom keyboard shortcuts within their apps:

Use keyboard shortcuts to perform even more commands on your iPad — like switching between apps or bringing up Search with a wireless keyboard. And interact with your apps using their own built-in, custom shortcuts. Just press and hold a key like Command, Option, or Control to see shortcuts in any app.

Some great security updates are there, too, including a change to the default passcode option to make it more secure (saving the need for clever workarounds):

The passcodes you use on your Touch ID–enabled iPhone and iPad will now have six digits instead of four. If you use Touch ID, it’s a change you’ll hardly notice. But with one million possible combinations — instead of 10,000 — your passcode will be a lot tougher to crack.

Two-factor authentication was mentioned, though not at any great length, in the keynote. Apple had previously been slow to adopt this but they are making great strides in expanding their requirements for it:

A password alone is not always enough to keep your account secure. With two-factor authentication, when you sign in from a new browser or on a new device, you’ll be prompted for a verification code. This code is automatically displayed on your other Apple devices or sent to your phone. Enter the code and you’re quickly signed in — and any unauthorized users are kept out.

If your Apple ID is being used to sign into a device elsewhere, your iOS devices will show you the location of the device the attempt is being made on:

iOS 9's two-factor authentication will display location information of the device attempting to sign in

Apple's Migration Assistant for Windows has been a great tool for switchers, providing an easy way (in theory) to transfer files from a Windows PC to a Mac. Now, they're doing the same for Android users who want to switch to iOS:

Just download the Move to iOS app to wirelessly switch from your Android device to your new iOS device. It securely transfers your contacts, message history, camera photos and videos, web bookmarks, mail accounts, calendars, wallpaper, and DRM-free songs and books. And it will help you rebuild your app library, too. Any free apps you used — like Facebook and Twitter — are suggested for download from the App Store. And your paid apps are added to your iTunes Wish List.

In more developer-focused news about iOS 9, CloudKit now provides developers with the ability to build a web front-end:

CloudKit JS, you can provide a web interface for your users to access the same data as your apps, making it easier to build apps that work together like never before.

Some other features of note:

  • iOS 9 brings comprehensive support for right-to-left languages.
  • The Shortcut Bar on the iOS keyboard can also be customized for third-party apps (similar to how developers "add" a row to it now).

Sidetrack: A great Feed Wrangler app for iOS

Despite using a number of different RSS services, I've always found myself coming back to Feed Wrangler. It has some great features and Smart Streams are worth the price of admission ($19 a year) alone. While I love the service, I've found that most third-party iOS feed readers offer only basic support, so it's often not possible to manage feeds and Smart Streams without visiting the website or using the official Feed Wrangler app.

I stumbled upon Sidetrack a few days ago via a retweet by @feedwrangler and it's now become my iOS feed reader of choice.

article

Sidetrack is a clean-looking app for both iPhone and iPad (including Apple Watch support) designed exclusively for Feed Wrangler, so it supports certain features that other feed reader apps don't, such as managing feed subscriptions and Smart Streams. Searches can even be saved, once performed, as Smart Streams, a quick way to create new Streams you'll likely want to keep.

stream-feed

The self-described "unconventional" RSS reader is exactly that, so navigating throughout the app, especially between articles, takes some getting used to. Moving between articles requires swiping anywhere on the article, though accessing the feed list and app settings require similar swipes from different areas of the display.

Swiping right moves to the next article, though in apps such as Photos, it's the traditional behaviour of going to back to something. This does, unfortunately, mean you'll often skip through articles accidentally while you become accustomed to the gestures, though toggling between unread, read and starred articles is just a tap away.

Gestures play a big part of Sidetrack's feature set and the entire article-browsing experience, as well as sharing to other services like Instapaper, can all be done through clever swiping without taking your finger or thumb off the display. Swipe right to move onto the next article, swipe down to bring up the sharing options and swipe left/right to select the sharing service to use. This makes one-handed use, especially on an iPhone 6 Plus, very easy to do.

share-gesture

One of my favourite features is Speed Browsing, which increments through articles automatically in a slideshow-like way. Tapping the Play button will cause the app to display each article for a small amount of time before skipping to the next. You can tap anywhere on the screen to stop the process, but it's a clever way of automating the process of swiping through articles, especially if you're subscribed to busy feeds that you may not be fully interested in. It's another way that Sidetrack streamlines the reading experience as you can have the app do the work of moving between articles for you, instead of swiping through them.

In addition to the typical sharing options you've come to expect from feed readers, so there's built-in support for the iOS share sheet and native support for Instapaper, Pocket and Pinboard. You can also configure a sharing option with a custom URL scheme for use with other iOS apps and web services.

The sharing options are quite comprehensive, providing four "slots" that you can use swipe gestures to access, and you can customise how the app handles a single-tap, double-tap and long-tap on an article's headline. Despite what appears to be a plethora of sharing options, the app makes this uncomplicated and easy to configure. The iOS selection menu obeys the order and services selected, so it's just as easy to send specific links within articles to respective services.

share-options

One small annoyance I had with the app was that, during the initial setup, the app's sounds don't obey the mute switch. While the sounds aren't obtrusive and can be disabled once you've connected your Feed Wrangler account, this bugs me.

Update: As of version 3.0.1, this has been fixed.

Sidetrack is a fantastic app and it's a steal at just 99¢. There's an in-app purchase if you'd like to "tip" the developer (you should), though no additional functionality is unlocked.

Post a Text Shot to Twitter with Workflow

You've no doubt seen many Twitter users post "text shots" - a text clipping in the form of an image as a way to provide more content than the 140 character limit allows. The process of doing this can be pretty laborious, though a few apps now exist, such as OneShot, that make this process easier.

As an alternative to using a separate app, we can use a Workflow Action extension to post a text shot to Twitter, along with the title and URL of the page it refers to. The tweet I posted and embedded above was created using this Workflow.

To use the workflow, first take a screenshot of the portion of the page that you want to post as an excerpt and then run the Action extension. The workflow uses this screenshot, giving you the option to crop it specifically to the text you want to include. The content of a tweet will be prefilled with the image, the title of the page you're viewing and the URL, which you can then edit with anything else you'd like to include.

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