I love useful, time-saving utilities. When David Barnard of App Cubby gave us a demo of Launch Center's first iteration in January, I knew he had made one. Now, Launch Center Pro is available (US$2.99 for a limited time), improving upon its predecessor and earning a spot in my iPhone's dock. With a simple tap-and-slide, you can launch apps, perform actions and more. Here's my look at Launch Center Pro.
An action app
Launch Center Pro is an app of verbs. Search. Shoot. Call. Text. Add. In creating shortcuts you must pause and think about what you actually want to do. In a way, it's akin to creating an effective to-do list. For example, "Friday's presentation" is not an action step, but "outline presentation" is. The difference, of course, is the verb "outline." As the clever demo video above explains, "Messages is an app. Messaging your friend is an action."
Think of Launch Center Pro as an intelligent iOS folder, or even a second Springboard, with two main benefits. First, it lets you launch applications. There are many apps that I use often enough to warrant addition to Launch Center Pro, but not quite enough to keep on my home screen. 1Password is a good example. Other apps are buried in folders. For example, Instacast and Rdio live in a folder labeled "Listen." Launch Center Pro lets me get right at them.
The app's other benefit is performing actions that are typically only available within apps themselves. For example, you can add an item to OmniFocus, add an event with location data to Agenda or view Facebook notifications. This is where the app really shines and saves so much time.
Here's how it works. Launch Center Pro features three screens, or "groups," by default. Each group provides a 3x4 grid, and you can add one action per square, for a total of 12 actions per group. To add an action, tap the Edit button in the upper right-hand corner to enter edit mode.
The background changes from grey to a cute "blueprint" layout. From there you have several options:
- Tap the "+" to add a new app or action or group
- Tap the "X" in each actions left-hand corner to remove its action
- Tap and drag to re-order actions
If you create a new group, you get an additional 3x4 grid which you can name however you like ("Work," "Kids," etc.) and identify with a custom icon.
Adding an action brings up the Action Composer. Your options are sorted into three categories: Common, Installed and Featured. Common actions include tweet, brightness and flashlight, plus options for sending mail, text messages and making phone calls.
Some apps support running an action from within Launch Center Pro, and some don't. You'll find a full list of compatible apps here. If you're favorite isn't listed, there's still hope, as Launch Center will work with any app that has a valid URL scheme.
Once you're set up, you're good to go. Launch the app and tap and hold on the desired group. Slide your finger to the action or app you're after and finally let go to execute it. It's so simple and fast that before long your muscle memory takes over and you don't even have to look. For instance, I know I can check my Mint stats by tapping on the center and sliding to the upper right. It's second nature and I don't even think about it.
You start to think as you use Launch Center Pro. First, about being deliberate about what you want to do, like compose an email to a certain contact or create a well-worded note in OmniFocus. You consider how Apple's iOS Springboard could be different. Launch Center Pro feels like an evolved, intelligent iOS folder. It stores frequently used or coherently-grouped apps and actions. That last bit is a real time-saver.
Launch Center Pro is available in the App Store now at a limited time price of $2.99. Those who love handy utilities that save time and let you work faster will want to pick it up. It's in my iPhone's dock to stay.