Monthly Archives: November 2016

Trying Workflow Again

As I've transitioned to the iPad for more of my work, specifically client website updates, my process has been a bit in flux. It's an ongoing experiment. I won't dig into those details here but just wanted to mention it because as a process in flux I find that I'm actively looking for ways to streamline the process.

One particular area is adding new images to a site. For example, every month or so I get images for flyers for Marquand, Mo. More often than not it's a mix of jpgs and pdfs. If I were working from my Mac I'd open the file up from Apple Mail into Affinity Photo (or Photoshop though that is increasingly rare these days). From there I would save it for the web into the appropriate folder for the site on my central store of files on DropBox. Then I open Coda, the site and the file. Update the html and upload the new version along with the image.

How I do it on the iPad: from AirMail (or Apple Mail) if the file is a pdf I open the attachment in Graphic and crop (if necessary). Then I share to a very simple Workflow which prompts me to resize it with desired dimensions. The Workflow then opens up a save to Dropbox dialog in which I navigate to the appropriate folder. Once saved the Workflow then prompts me to save it to my local shared Transmit/Coda file store (on the iPad). Again, I navigate to the appropriate website folder and save. Then I open Coda and the site. I update the html and upload the new version along with the image to the server. The process is nearly identical as the process when using the Mac. If the file is already a jpg I can skip the step of opening the file in Graphic and just open it straight to Workflow where the image is resized and saved. In that case it's actually a couple steps shorter than the Mac process.

When I first set this Workflow up I just had the image files being saved in Dropbox. Then I would open them in the Dropbox app and send them to the local Transmit/Coda file store. This was at least a couple of extra steps. After a few weeks of this longer process it occurred to me to check Workflow to see if I could automate that step and sure enough, it worked. I simply had not thought it through the first time around. I know that I've still not really explored the many possibilities of using Workflow but this has really drawn my attention to the potential of the automation process!

The thing about Workflow is that it really requires imagination as well as an awareness of one's work processes. It's a very powerful toolset but a toolset that really requires the user to make an investment of time and mental focus. To realize the potential it requires one to first analyze the steps taken during our workday as well as a willingness to imagine how those steps might be accomplished by the app which means spending time to understand the features of the app. Then it requires a willingness to experiment in the Workflow building process. It's not that hard but I've noticed in reading others' comments online that there is a blockage for many people. The power of the app is obvious, but the steps and ways that the app can actually be put to use is not.

Much of what I've seen written online about the app offers examples of the Workflows in the gallery. The problem with those, though many might be helpful, is that they often seem trivial on the surface. They seem too simple, too much like tasks that can just be accomplished by going directly to an app or making a request of Siri. Opposite of this are the the far more detailed examples of complicated, custom Workflows don't seem useful as they are designed for very specific tasks. I guess what I'm getting at is that this is the kind of tool that many will download but never use because they are not prepared for that initial time and mental investment. They won't get it because it will seem too simple or too complicated or both.