Workflow by DeskConnect has become one of my most used and most indispensable iOS apps. With its powerful and efficiency-gaining functionality, Workflow is an app I use repeatedly throughout the day and take delight experimenting with.
If you haven’t used Workflow before, the app connects and combines apps and actions to automate tasks on iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. With the ability to create workflows ranging from choosing pre-written messages to send someone to changing the case of a text string to combining burst photos into GIFs to adding entries into Health.app, Workflow has hundreds of actions to create countless combinations however you see fit.
If you have used Workflow before, perhaps you’ve run into the same situation I have: you have a string of actions in one workflow you’d like to have in another workflow, and getting those actions in the other workflow requires you to recreate them one by one. Depending on how many there are, this can be rather vexing. What Workflow could use is the ability to copy actions from one workflow to another. How might that work? Like this.
Start with a new workflow:
Like usual, you swipe right to reveal the actions view:
From there, you drag a new “Copy Actions” action to the workflow:
At first, this action doesn’t do anything as it awaits further, uh, action in case you want to set something else up first. When you’re ready to copy actions from another workflow, tap the “Select” button and you’re presented with a new view containing all your workflows:
Choose the workflow that has the actions you want to copy, and the workflow slides in from the right with its actions grayed out and selectable:
From there, select the actions to copy:
Once you select all the actions you want to copy, press the “Copy Actions” button at the bottom, and the view disappears to reveal underneath the new workflow with the selected actions in place of the “Copy Actions” action:
And there we have an easy way to copy actions from one workflow to another that both maintains and builds upon the existing foundation and interactions in Workflow.
But why stop there? Perhaps you noticed another new action in the favorites list: “Run Workflow”. The block of actions copied above really could be a reusable workflow that is called from multiple other workflows. You could use the above method to copy the actions into those other workflows, but what happens when you want to update that reusable workflow? You’d have to update it in multiple places. Nah.
Instead, what Workflow could also use is a “Run Workflow” action that pauses the workflow it’s in, allows the designated workflow to run and optionally return something, and then continues the original workflow. How might that work? Like this.
Using the actions above, create a new workflow that checks for input text or otherwise asks for input. Below that block of actions, drag a new “Return” action:
In this case, the action would return text, but in other workflows, it could return an image, a URL, a date, and more.
Back in the original workflow, you can now delete that block of actions and replace it with a “Run Workflow” action:
Like with the “Copy Actions” action, tap the “Select” button, and you’re presented with a new view containing all your workflows:
From there, select the workflow to embed, and the view disappears and updates the action:
When you run the workflow, it executes the embedded workflow to get or ask for text, returns the text, and proceeds with the rest of the workflow.
Now in the future if you want to build on this reusable workflow (for example by adding a string of actions to replace dumb quotes with smart quotes), you can make edits in one place and have all the other workflows that embed the reusable workflow enjoy those edits. That’s far more efficient.
And efficiency is what this is all about. Each new version of Workflow gets better and better with more actions to build more workflows to be more efficient. And I hope one day soon building workflows becomes a bit more efficient with the ability to copy actions from one workflow to another and the ability to embed one workflow in another. If I may quote Workflow, that’s powerful automation made simpler.