Capture, process and automate with Drafts and Launch Center Pro

Drafts for iPhone and iPad is one of my favorite utilities. I love that it manages two sides of GTD – capture and processing – so well. Many solutions do one or the other. Drafts handles both on the one device.

Capture

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To capture a thought or piece of information with Drafts, just tap it and start typing. There’s no new document to create, to tags or categories to fiddle with, nothing. It’s as easy as opening a notebook and grabbing a pen. I use it to collect tidbits all day. It’s very easy but the real power is in the processing.

Process

When you’re processing an inbox, you must decide what each item is, what must be done (if anything) and then move that information into your system. When I’m processing a stack of index cards on my desk, I’ve got to have apps like OmniFocus and Evernote open on my computer. Drafts lets me send actions and reference material directly to those apps with a tap.

Automation options

Federico Viticci at MacStories recently wrote a great article about iOS workflow automation with Drafts. You should read it. In it, he mentions how powerful the combination of x-callback-urls, Drafts and Launch Center Pro can be. Briefly, you can create an action in Launch Center Pro that passes text to Drafts, which triggers an action of its own and then sends you right back to Launch Center Pro. It’s very convenient and super fast.

From Drafts to digital notebook in a snap

I wanted to use this idea to move notes from Drafts to nvALT, which is my digital notebook. I name notes in nvALT according to a convention described by Michael Schechter, who borrowed heavily from Merlin Mann. It makes things very easy to find. Fortunately, I’m now using Launch Center Pro and Drafts to create a note in Simplenote (and, as a result, nVALT on my Macs) that uses the naming convention with a bare minimum of effort. Here’s how.

Set up Drafts

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First, create a URL action in Drafts that will pass the note to Simplenote. Mine looks like this:

simplenote://new?tag=Drafts&content=[[draft]][[time_short]]

The “[[draft]]” pulls the content of the note and the “[[time_short]]” appends the current date and time to the end of the title. Once that’s done, it’s time for Launch Center Pro.

Set up Launch Center Pro

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In Launch Center Pro, we’ll create an action to pass text to Drafts and then jump right back. To begin, follow these steps:

  1. Tap the edit button (It looks like a pen) in the upper right-hand corner.
  2. Tap a blank square to create a new action.
  3. A slip appears. Selection Action.
  4. The action edit screen appears. Enter a descriptive name (I chose Drafts>Simplenote).
  5. Add the URL. Here’s what mine looks like:

drafts://x-callback-url/create?text=[prompt]&action=Simplenote&x-success=launchpro%3A

  1. Tap done.

This action will pop up a compose field (below), pass the text to Drafts which then triggers the Simplenote action we created earlier and finally, comes back to Launch Center Pro. The whole thing takes 2–3 seconds. Plus, I’ve got Simplenote set up to sync with nvALT on my Macs. The new note appears with my naming convention intact.

readyforinput

This has saved me a lot of time and I hope you like it, too. There’s much that can be down here, so start playing with Drafts and Launch Center Pro. Thanks to Federico and Mike for the inspiration.

Thanks for reading. You’ll find more tech-y “how-to’s” here.

3 Comments on "Capture, process and automate with Drafts and Launch Center Pro"

  1. Just to be sure, is it [[time_short]] or [[time_shot]]? Both are used in the post, so I’m guessing one is a typo.

  2. Karlos says:

    Maybe I’m missing something here. But what is the point of sending it in this way? Launch Center Pro -> Drafts -> Simplenote. Why not just run Drafts and save it to Simplenote?

    • hp says:

      I was wondering too. Maybe the convenience of always hitting Launch Center Pro and not needing to hit Drafts ever (one app less to keep available on home screen)?

      I don’t use Launch Center Pro since I don’t find must use for it so I guess I’d be better just launching Drafts > Simplenote, if I used Drafts but I just use Simplenote straight.

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