When I was casually browsing through the list of applications that had been updated recently on my iPhone 6 (I’m very lazy and set everything to auto update - or is that efficient?! You decide), I saw that Launcher had been recently updated. Up until now, I’d only used the free version and even that was used only sparingly. I’m a keen Launch Centre Pro user and I had the mistaken opinion that the two applications performed pretty much the exact same tasks and therefore there was no need for purchasing the full version of Launcher.
I was very wrong.
Launcher is great. It allows you get at your favourite applications and workflows directly from your lock screen and Notification Centre (with a Touch ID/keypad unlock) and I thought it may be a good idea to just run through the basics of this functionality as well as share my (evolving) Launcher Home Screen.
There are now six categories of shortcuts which are: Contact Launcher App Launcher Special Launcher Music Launcher Web Launcher Custom Launcher
This is a comprehensive list of actions, somewhat akin to Contrast’s excellent Contact Centre. As well as the standard shortcuts for Calls, iMessages/SMS, FaceTime and Email, there is integration for WhatsApp, Skype as well as the ability to get directions to Contacts addresses (provided their address attribute is populated in your Contacts application) from Waze, Apple Maps and Google Maps. I’ve tested this functionality and it works superbly.
On my Launcher Home Screen, I have my wife on ‘Speed Dial’ so to speak in the top left hand corner, as well as two message launchers, one for my wife and one for my eldest daughter. I’m thinking of dropping the message launchers, however, as I generally create all text in Drafts or dictate via Siri.
This is the main section where you will dive into to create your Launcher shortcuts.
There are three main subsections of applications available here - System Launchable, Built-In Launchers and Installed Launchable.
System Launchable covers the stock applications that you find pre-installed on your iOS device when you first configure it.
NOTE - If you see a > sign to the right of an application, this means that you can tap the application and there is a submenu for available actions. For example, lots of people will have a shortcut for Mail -> Email Someone for a contact that they frequently have to email on the go. They can then configure the button to open an email compose window (using the default Mail app) with the Recipient Email address filled in. If it is an email you send regularly, like a report or status update, you have the option of automatically adding in a Subject and text too.
I have one System Launchable shortcut at this time and that is Settings -> Personal Hotspot. I work in cafes and other public locations so need to tether to my iOS devices a lot. This helps me quickly configure them when needed.
The only System Launchable I may add a shortcut to in the future is Settings -> Bluetooth as I find myself having to occasionally reconnect to wireless headphones, controllers and to my car. Otherwise, I am not really into them that much.
There are only two Built In Launchers at the time of writing - Flashlight and Home Screen which perform two very obvious tasks. Because I can get to the Flashlight easily from Command Centre (swipe up from the bottom of any screen) I don’t have this. The Home Screen one, to my knowledge, is only handy if you have left an app open when the device has auto-locked and you wish to go to the Home Screen when you have unlocked. This isn’t enough for me to give it a place on my Launcher Home Screen.
Installed Launchable is essentially a list of your applications that can be opened via Launcher, or can be launched on a particular sub-screen of feature of the app. The list of available applications is exhaustive, so I will simply list the ones that have graduated to my main screen.
Workflow - I have several workflows setup in this tidy little application and it’s great to get to them with one swipe.
Drafts 4 - Where all of my writing begins
OmniFocus - My favourite task manager
Launch Centre Pro - I have a lot of LCP actions that go into more detail with the URL callbacks available in Launcher. I need to run both concurrently due to the sheer number of automations I want to take place.
Downcast - I use this for listening to Podcasts in the car, so want it in a very handy location.
1Password - My only Password Manager
Camera+ - I wish it did Video, then it would be my only camera application. Some great filters and power user tools.
Dragon Dictate - looks dated but serves a great purpose when I need to dictate while driving.
Calcbot - because now I’m nearly 40, my brain is slowing..slowing..slowing.
Special Launcher This is a great section and I’ve utilised it for testing on my home screen. Here, we have Magic Launchers, Built-In Launchers (these are the same ones we covered earlier) and Meta Launchers.
Magic Launchers are very quick shortcuts that take you to some configuration and status information of your phone. As before, I will highlight the ones I use on my Home Launcher screen
Wifi - shows the realtime upload/download speeds of my Wireless network, whilst pressing the icon will take me to the Wifi configuration page within Settings.
Disk Space - displays the percentage of available disk space. Pressing the icon takes you to the Manage Storage section within Settings.
Battery - shows the amount of battery remaining as a percentage and when selected, takes you to the Battery Usage section in Settings.
There other useful selections you can make, like Mobile, Uber, Weather and others, but nothing I feel I need at this time.
Meta Launchers are exactly that - they are a bit ‘meta’!. There are three selections, New Maps Go Here Launcher, New Google Maps Go Here Launcher and New Waze Go Here Launcher and all three of them do essentially the same things, but for their own particular application. Clicking one will create a new Launcher icon, with a shortcut to directions for your current location. To make an example, you may find yourself at a meeting in a new client location and youknow you will need to navigate there again at some point in the future. You can pull down Launcher, click on the relevant ‘Meta Launcher’ for your app of choice and a new Launcher icon will automatically appear, with directions to your current co-ordinates ready to go. Can be very handy, especially if you don’t know the exact name of the road or location where you are (I’ve had that, so I have this on my home screen!)
Music Launchers are great and I will make more use of them in the future.
They are essentially one-touch shortcuts to any artist, album or playlist that you have in your Apple Music library. So far, I only have two while I play with the functionality - a shortcut to my Focus playlist for when I reading/writing and a shortcut to my Muse tracks for when I’m out of focus mode and need to chill back out. Not having to go into the Apple Music application is sometimes great and this, I think, is my favourite new feature in Launcher.
Web Launchers are one touch shortcuts to websites, opened in Safari and Custom Launchers are for the more advanced user and are used to provide shortcuts to applications that are not formally compatible with Launcher. This is done by utilisiing advanced URL callback schemes. I’m yet to delve into this any deeper as yet, but when I feel the itch, I will certainly be looking at it more.
So there is my Launcher setup. I have to say, it’s now a firm part of my daily workflow. If this ever gets taken down again by Apple I will be so very disappointed! The developers have done a great job with making it easy to use, functional and just so damned useful.
I’d love to know how you utilise it - feel free to drop me an email or comment outlining your setups.