Siri Shortcuts and Workflow

Siri Shortcuts & Workflow

Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) kicked off today and most of what was announced is interesting but nothing felt terribly revolutionary. Except for Siri Shortcuts. Siri Shortcuts is clearly what Apple has done with Workflow, which they purchased last year. I’ve used Workflow for iOS for some time now, but only recently have I started doing more and more with it. It has the ability to speak to various apps using URL schemes supported by the various apps (and using the x-callback scheme to get data back from them). It’s amazingly powerful and I have workflows that replicate an iTunes Playlist to my Spotify account or vice verse, alert my wife when I am on my way home complete with map and an ETA, to move items between Things, Trello, and Ulysses (it’s complicated), and so forth. (For the best collection of cool workflows and excellent descriptions of same, see the writings of Frederico Vittici at especially in their weekly newsletter, Club MacStories.

A workflow to set a slack reminder for myself
A workflow to set a slack reminder for myself

Sometime in the last while they also added the ability for Workflow to be able to talk to APIs using GET or POST. This is especially interesting to me as I work with a number of APIs in my day job, both external services we talk to and our own web applications. I use Paw on my Mac to test these APIs out but in my ever-ongoing quest to do more and more on my iPad Pro, having a tool that can do this there is gold to me. I haven’t started playing with it yet but I did push off the reminder in Slack all day today (hopefully I’ll get time to check it out tomorrow).

My great fear is that Apple’s reimagining of Workflow into Siri Suggestions, while adding all the power of Siri to control the shortcuts themselves, will also include a significant reduction in capabilities. Apple has had a track record of taking complex solutions and paring them down to, presumably, make them simpler, easier, and more elegant for their end users. But Workflow is a power tool and I would hate to lose any of the amazing functionality it currently offers.

Unfortunately, the new Siri Shortcuts app is not included in the initial beta 1 release of iOS 12 (and before my developer friends give me crap for installing it while not actually developing anything currently let me point out that I am using a work iPad Mini 4 that I have mostly stopped using in favor of my own personal iPad Pro. So it can be safely destroyed by a beta operating system and rebuilt from scratch with no ill effects to me or my current workflow). Since it is not included, I cannot test it out or see whether it is missing the features I consider essential.

That’s the only feature of iOS that jumped out at me as it is something that pertains to my own work. Most of the rest of the features look fun and I am looking forward to playing with them.