Launch Center is a $0.99 app for iOS that allows you to create shortcuts that are kept in one handy list. You can do things like make an email, call, or SMS shortcut to someone that you contact a lot, a Tweet shortcut that uses the official Twitter, or even a flashlight shortcut to turn on your iPhone’s LED. It’s pretty darn handy.
But, what’s awesome is that you can schedule these shortcuts to show up in iOS 5’s Notification Center as well as create custom Website/App shortcuts. Here are 7 Launch Center hacks that save your time while using your iPhone.
1. Add tasks to your inbox
That will open up a blank task for your OF inbox.
For other services that support task addition by sending an email to a special address you could create a new LC shortcut for email, add the special address, and then go about it that way.
2. Launching apps
If you are a heavy app user on you iOS device your Springboard probably isn’t cutting it for you anymore. I have even resorted to using Spotlight Search for an app if I don’t want to look for it.
With LC you can setup a shortcut to launch an app. Most apps have a URL that is associated with them (like omnifocus:// above). You can check out AppCubby’s site for some of the URLs for different apps.
3. Reminders and process
Every day I want to make sure that I go through my RSS queue. So, with LC I can create a custom app launcher for my RSS app, Reeder (reeder://) and then tell LC to schedule it everyday at 7pm. If I want it to go multiple times I could create multiple instances of the same launcher set for different times during the day.
So, you could set these types of reminders for all sorts of things like calling your parents, sending SMS’s to people, searching Google for something that you do everyday (like your own name, you narcissist), or anything else you are too smart to remember.
4. Custom searches
If there is something that you search for on a regular basis on your iPhone, then setting up a custom search within LC is the way to go. Just create a new “Launch Website/App” shortcut, name it, and add your search URL. Here are a couple of things to get your started:
Weather in a certain place: http://bing.com/search?q=weather+in+pittsburgh+pa
Twitter searches: http://twitter.com/#!/search/lifehack
Any other type of Google (or even Bing) searches: http://google.com/search?q=<whatever+you+are+searching+for>
You have to make sure that instead of using spaces in your query you use “+” symbols. Also, if you are searching for crazy characters that aren’t supported in URLs, then you have to encode them.
5. Launch iOS settings
One thing that I truly miss from Android is being able to make almost anything a widget or shortcut on your home screen. We have seen some of the ways that you can setup shortcuts to get to options in iOS settings, but they require that you have some sort of internet connection and are sort of clunky to setup.
With LC you can create a “Launch Website/App” shortcut that uses the iOS “prefs” shortcut to open up settings. Here are just a few:
iCloud Storage and Backup: prefs:root=CASTLE&path=STORAGE_AND_BACKUP
If you want a full list of the ones that you can use, check out this Stack Overflow page for more. There are a ton of them.
6. Launch custom actions inside of apps
If an app has a published URL scheme, you can save those URLs as shortcuts in LC. For instance, my favorite Twitter app, Tweetbot, has a pretty nice URL scheme for iOS. I setup two shortcuts:
Twitter timeline: tweetbot:///timeline
Tweet with Tweetbot: tweetbot:///Post
For this example you need to have three forward slashes as you can put an optional screenname after the second one (for people that use multiple Twitter accounts).
If you have a favorite app and you would like to see what things you can do with their URL scheme, just Google something like “iOS URL scheme” to see what your options are.
7. Find businesses close to you with Google Maps
Wherever you are there usually is a Starbucks nearby. And rather than opening Maps and typing out Starbucks, you can use this shortcut to find one. Create a new LC “Launch Website/App” shortcut with the URL set to this:
This will open up the mobile version of Google maps, but will at least give you any of the Starbucks that are around your location. You can also change the query to whatever you want like “mexican+food” or “bars+and+clubs”.
Launch Center is pretty awesome and is getting close to making its way to my iPhone dock. There are a couple of things that would make LC even better, like having a better repeat function, grouping of similar shortcuts and tasks, and keeping some of the shortcuts in iOS Notification Center so they can be used at any time (this may be a limitation of Notification Center, not LC).
But, as you can see, this one little app can save you a ton of time doing things that you repeatedly do on your iOS device.