Launcher v4.0 now available on the App Store

Summary

Cromulent Labs is thrilled to announce that the latest major version, 4.0, of their popular Launcher app is available for immediate download on the Apple App Store. This version contains the following features:

  • Shortcut Launchers: Utilize the power of the Shortcuts app without the complication
    • Settings launchers are back. Launch the Settings app to specific screens.
    • New launchers to turn Wifi, Bluetooth, Airplane Mode, Low Battery Mode, Cellular Data, and DND on or off with one tap.
    • Launch any app on your device — no more limits.
  • Support for iOS 13. Launcher widgets will now automatically follow system light or dark mode.
  • New Jumbo Size Launchers: easier to tap when you are on the go.
  • Web Launchers can optionally be opened in Google Chrome, Firefox or DuckDuckGo.
  • Over 1000+ new glyphs in Create Your Own Icon.
  • New Option: Pin launchers to the bottom of the screen where they are easier to tap (app only).

Shortcut Launchers

As you may know, Apple places many limitations on third-party apps like Launcher, but because they own and develop the Shortcuts app, it is allowed to perform many functions that our users have been requesting over the years. However, with Shortcuts’ power comes complication as well, and setting up shortcuts is not nearly as easy as setting up new launchers in Launcher. Therefore, it made sense to add a tighter coupling between Launcher and Shortcuts to allow our users to take advantage of the power of Shortcuts without all of the complication, especially now that the Shortcuts app is built-in to iOS 13.

Settings Launchers

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One of the most popular Launcher features were the Settings launchers that were added shortly after Launcher was originally released. It is cumbersome to navigate the Settings app to choose a different Wifi hotspot or connect to a new Bluetooth device, and some settings are buried deep within the app. So having one tap access to frequently used screens within the Settings app was a huge productivity boost.

Sadly, Apple made me remove the Settings launchers back in 2017 and they ended up removing the ability for third-party apps to open those screens in iOS 11. However, in iOS 13, the Shortcuts app has the ability to open the Settings app to any screen, so we have added shortcut launchers that open the most popular and useful screens within the Settings app in Launcher v4.0.

Please note that because this feature is currently approved by Apple, they will sometimes force developers to remove features they have previously approved. So I can’t guarantee that they won’t force me to remove the Settings launchers again in the future. Apple could also remove this functionality from the Shortcuts app at any time, which affect the shortcut launchers as well.

Shortcut Utility Launchers

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One of the features that our users have requested the most over the years has been launchers that can toggle important system settings like Wifi, Bluetooth, Cellular Data, Low Power Mode, Airplane Mode and DND. Recently the Shortcuts app added the ability to toggle these settings, and so we have added shortcut launchers in Launcher v4.0 that can perform these functions as well. Note that the Shortcuts app will be launched in order to accomplish these functions.

Launch Any App

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Due to limitations in iOS, Launcher can only launch apps using the app’s “custom URL scheme”, which is something that an app’s developer has to add to their app. For years our users have requested apps to be added and we have added tens of thousands of apps to the Launcher app database. However, not all apps have custom URL schemes, which means we haven’t been able to launch every app out there until now.

Shortcuts has the ability to launch any app on your device, so as long as Launcher can run a shortcut, you can now launch any app on your device using Launcher. You’ll see in the new Launcher app list that there is an option to search the App Store and in the list, any app that has the Shortcuts icon can now be launched with a shortcut launcher. We don’t have shortcut launchers for every app in the App Store yet, but so far we have almost 500,000 shortcut launchers and we are adding more every day. If you see an app that you want to launch that hasn’t been added yet, just tap on it and we should add it within 24 hours.

Caveats

While the new shortcut launchers are much easier to set up in Launcher than setting up shortcuts in the Shortcuts app, there is some added complication in setting up shortcut launchers that cannot be avoided.

Firstly, before you create shortcut launchers, you have to enable a global setting in the Settings app to allow Shortcuts to import shortcuts from other apps. The steps required to enable this setting are listed in Launcher the first time you attempt to set up a shortcut launcher:

shortcuts-import

Once you have enabled importing of shortcuts, you will not have to do this again. However, for every shortcut launcher you add, there is a second step of importing the shortcut into the Shortcuts app. This will happen automatically when you save the shortcut launcher. Just make sure that you always tap the “Add Untrusted Shortcut” button in the Shortcuts app or the launcher will not function properly.

And lastly, every shortcut launcher will need to first open the Shortcuts app when it is launched before it can open the target app. We feel this is a minor inconvenience that is worth the functionality that it enables.

Conclusion

The addition of shortcut launchers adds long-requested functionality and makes Launcher once again the most useful and powerful launcher on the App Store. With multiple widgets that can show or hide based on time or location, folders, and tons of customization options including 5 different launcher sizes, the Launcher widget is a far superior way to launch shortcuts than the Shortcuts widget or any other widget on the App Store.

Please download Launcher v4.0 today and give it a try. We think you’ll find the more powerful Launcher even more useful than it already was.

Voice Copilot now available on the App Store

We are proud to announce our latest app is now available for free on the App Store for iPhone and iPad.

Voice Copilot is an app that can be used entirely with your voice to find directions to any location. It is very powerful, yet incredibly simple to use. You can search for a location and Voice Copilot will list the possible matches to you out loud and allow you to choose the one you want with your voice. You can even add a stop along the way. It will then launch your favorite mapping app with driving directions to your destination without you needing to touch or look at your phone at all.

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Voice Copilot features:

  • Get directions to locations safely by using the app entirely hands-free.
  • Ability to add a stop along your route.
  • Entire app can be navigated and manipulated using just your voice.
  • Launches directions using your favorite app: Google Maps, Waze, or Apple Maps.

All functionality is available for free with some premium features available via an in-app subscription.

Voice Copilot premium features:

  • High quality speaking voices.
  • Google Maps place search and driving ETAs.
  • Remove ads.
  • Support further development.

Download Voice Copilot today and start driving more safely.

Warning: Google Ads Location Targeting Is A Dark Pattern

With Google’s ad revenue growth slowing while their traffic acquisition costs continue to increase, we see them pulling more and more dirty tricks to keep investors happy. No wonder they dropped their “Don’t Be Evil” motto years ago!

Remember when sponsored links in search used to be very clearly labeled with a different background color? Now every year like clockwork they reduce the difference between sponsored and organic results and they are now nearly indistinguishable. On mobile, where they struggle with lower CPCs, they keep increasing the number of sponsored results and they now completely fill the first two screens of even the largest phone displays.

And despite increasing antitrust investigations from both the EU and US, Google shows no signs of stopping questionable behavior as long as it results in more ad revenue.

This is a story of just another evil way that Google is trying…

View original post 1,234 more words

On Upcoming Changes in iOS 11

UPDATE Sep 13, 2017: Apple released the final version of iOS 11 to developers yesterday and I am sad to report that none of the issues in this post were fixed, so all of these problems will remain when iOS 11 is released to the public on September 19. Hopefully feedback from users will encourage them to fix some of them in future iOS 11 releases.

Intro

iOS11 is currently still in beta and it’s impossible to know what the final product will be until it is released in mid-September, but based on the most current beta, I wanted to let Launcher users know about changes that will likely come with this new version of iOS if and when you choose to upgrade to it.

Here is a quick summary of the changes coming in iOS 11 so far that will affect Launcher (I will explain them in more detail below):

  1. Settings launchers will only launch the Settings app and no longer direct you to a specific screen like Wifi or Bluetooth settings.
  2. Several Apple built-in apps can no longer be launched. That list is: Camera, Clock, Contacts, Phone (can still launch phone calls, just not the app), Stocks, Voice Memos and Weather.
  3. Tapping on a launcher to make a phone or FaceTime call now prompts the user every time to make sure that they really want to make the call.
  4. Pulling down the notification center shows the Notifications screen every time even if the last time you had it open to the Widgets screen.
  5. Apps won’t launch properly the first time they are launched from the Notification Center due to a bug in iOS 11.

I don’t expect the first two issues to change in the final version of iOS 11, but I am hopeful that there could be some change in the last three. Continue reading for more details on each change. I plan on updating this post if anything changes in upcoming versions of iOS 11.

Settings Launchers

Back in March when submitting a bug fix, Apple App Review told me that I had to remove the Settings launchers from Launcher within one week or they would remove it from the App Store. This was unfortunate since the Settings launchers are extremely useful and were one of the most popular features of the app. I’ve received countless emails from users upset about their removal, but sadly it is out of my hands.

The silver lining was that even though I had to remove the ability for users to create new Settings launchers, existing Settings launchers still continued to function properly. Unfortunately, in the latest beta version of iOS 11, the Settings launchers will only launch the Settings app and they no longer take you to a specific screen within the app. I suspect that this change was intentional and that this will be the case when iOS 11 ships in September.

Many people have asked why Apple would want to get rid of this very useful functionality. The only reason they have given me is that the URLs used to get to specific screens within the Settings app are “private APIs” and shouldn’t be used. The App Store has always banned the use of private APIs and while a URL is not technically an API, App Review claims to be enforcing this part of the App Review Guidelines [2.5.1] in this case. From what I can tell this comes down to the fact that Apple engineers don’t want to bother with publishing a public API that can be used to get into specific screens within the Settings app, like they do in macOS. They created a way to do it on iOS with URLs, but they only wanted to use these internally for themselves and didn’t want third party developers to use them. Presumably they don’t think this is functionality is worth spending the time maintaining going forward so it’s just easier for them to ban its usage.

Un-launchable Apple Apps

As they did in iOS 10, Apple has again made it not possible to launch certain built-in Apple apps via their custom URL schemes. The list of affected apps are: Camera, Clock, Contacts, Phone (can still launch phone calls, just not the app), Stocks, Voice Memos and Weather.

In iOS 10, a workaround was discovered for this change and for the last year Launcher users have been able to launch these apps. However, in iOS 11 Apple has fixed it so that the previous workaround no longer works. I don’t expect to find another workaround for this problem, so it seems that it won’t be possible to have launchers for these apps going forward.

Note that you can launch most of these apps from the new Control Center in iOS 11, so not all hope is lost. But it is a hassle when you want to launch an app and you have to remember if it can be launched from Notification Center or Control Center.

Confirmation Required on Every Phone Call

Starting in iOS 10.3, Apple added a security “feature” that required a user to confirm every phone call initiated from a third party app. Most Launcher users didn’t notice this change since they usually initiate phone calls from Launcher widgets and this new feature only affected phone calls initiated within apps. Starting in iOS 11, Apple has extended this “feature” to widgets as well.

It makes sense that Apple doesn’t want nefarious app developers tricking users into making unwanted phone calls. However, they have implemented the fix for this issue without regard to its impact on user experience at all.

Starting in iOS 10, Apple added a confirmation prompt the first time a third party app launched another app. You see these pop ups now in Launcher when you tap on a newly added app launcher that says “Open in AppName?”  They are annoying, but at least they only pop-up once and don’t show again for the launched app once you confirm by tapping the Open button.

I filed a ticket with Apple asking them to update the implementation of this new phone call security feature in a similar fashion — only prompt the user the first time they make a phone call to a specific phone number. Once a user confirms that they really want to make that phone call, then don’t prompt them again. So far Apple has ignored this request and I don’t know if they will fix it before iOS 11 is released.

I have hopes that Apple will actually make this fix more user friendly if they receive enough feedback from users complaining about its impact on user experience. So, if you are running the iOS 11 beta, please send Apple feedback in the Feedback app telling them how the implementation of this feature needs to be improved.

Notification Center Always Opens to Notifications

As you may recall, Apple changed the behavior of the Notification Center in iOS 10 to always open to the Notifications screen which means that to get to widgets you now have to swipe down and to the left every time. It had previously always opened to either the Notifications or the Widgets screen based on which was the last one open. Thankfully, Apple reverted to the older behavior in iOS 10.2 and fans of Launcher, heavy users of widgets, rejoiced.

For some reason Apple has decided to always open the Notification Center to the Notifications screen again in iOS 11. Maybe they’ll change their mind again or perhaps this time it will stick. Feel free to send Apple feedback in the Feedback app complaining about the extra required swipe to get to widgets if you are running the iOS 11 beta.

App Launches Fail the First Time

When you add a new app launcher for a third party app, iOS will pop up a dialog and confirm that you want to launch it. This dialog says “Open in AppName?” and if you tap “Open” then the app launches and the dialog doesn’t pop up again for that app. However, this behavior is broken for widgets in the Notification Center and on the Lock Screen in iOS 11 (but not in the widgets you access by swiping right from the Home Screen for some reason). When you tap “Open” in the dialog, nothing happens and that app doesn’t launch. The workaround is to launch it again from the widget and the dialog won’t pop up again and it will launch properly.

iOS 11 is easily the buggiest iOS that Apple has released in years, possibly ever. I filed 9 different bugs with Apple that affected Launcher in iOS 11 and they fixed 3 of them. Some easily reproducible crash bugs were completely ignored. Luckily I was able to work around most of the unfixed bugs in the upcoming Launcher version 3.1. However, there is a bug that I cannot work around because it occurs outside of the Launcher app and widget. I hope that Apple will fix it soon and if you send them feedback letting them know of this bug, that may encourage them to finally get around to fixing it.

Conclusion

So far every change in iOS 11 that affects Launcher is a negative one. In previous iOS upgrades they at least added some useful new functionality along with new restrictions, but so far I don’t know of any positive changes for Launcher in this coming iOS version. As always, the only way to avoid these negative changes is to to stay on iOS 10 as long as you can.

On Upcoming Changes in iOS 10

UPDATE October 7, 2016: We’ve discovered a workaround for the issue with the un-launchable system apps in iOS 10 and a fix is now out in Launcher v2.2.3 now. Please note that this is just a workaround, it doesn’t mean that Apple changed their mind on the issue. In fact, it is quite possible that they could release a new version of iOS 10 that breaks this workaround, so beware when upgrading iOS 10 versions. We’ll try to keep everyone up to date if we discover that a new version of iOS 10 breaks the workaround.

UPDATE September 8, 2016: Apple has released the iOS 10 final candidate and they did not restore this functionality and these system apps are still not launchable. This is disappointing, but it is still possible that Apple could restore this functionality in an update to iOS 10 in the future. If this is something you would like to see, please send them feedback. Details on how to do this are in the original post below.

The only way currently to launch these system apps is to either remain on iOS 9 or downgrade your device back to iOS 9. However, you will only be able to downgrade back to iOS 9 until September 19, 2016 or so. Here are instructions on how to do that.

As some of you may have heard, Apple has made changes in iOS 10 so that some system apps can no longer be launched from third-party apps like Launcher. Namely, the apps that were previously launchable in iOS 8 and 9 from widgets, but can no longer be launched in iOS 10 are: Settings, Clock, Weather, Contacts, iCloud Drive, Voice Memos, and the Phone app (just launching the app is affected, you can still make phone calls).

Obviously the removal of this functionality is as disappointing to me as it is to you. In particular, Settings launchers are very popular because of the tremendous utility of being able to directly open specific screens within the Settings app without the burden of navigating to them when you want to quickly toggle a setting.

Several users have asked me if this loss of functionality is going to remain in iOS 10 once it is out of beta and only Apple knows the answer to that question. There is a precedent of Apple removing functionality in iOS betas only to add it back before the final version is released. Apple removed the ability to lookup the device’s Wifi SSID in iOS 9 betas only to have the functionality restored once iOS 9 was released.

This is where I need your help. I’m not sure that Apple understands how many users are relying on this functionality, and I hope that if enough users contact them to let them know how useful it is and that they don’t want to see it removed, perhaps Apple will change their mind before iOS 10 is released in September.

If you have the iOS 10 beta installed on your device, you can send them feedback using the installed Feedback app. If you don’t have iOS 10 installed yet, you can send them feedback here. Please remember that calm, well-reasoned justifications will go much farther than yelling and screaming.

The following is a good example of the proper feedback to send. Feel free to use it as a template for forming your own feedback.

Dear Apple,

Since widgets were introduced in iOS 8, certain system apps like Settings were able to be launched via their custom URL schemes from widgets. However, this functionality has been removed in iOS 10 as the “prefs” custom URL scheme no longer works. The ability to have a button to go straight into the Bluetooth screen within the Settings app to quickly and efficiently connect devices is invaluable to me and the loss of this functionality greatly diminishes the utility of my iPhone. Therefore, I would like to ask you to either revert this change or create an alternative way to allow the Settings app to be launched from third party widgets in iOS 10.

Thank you for your consideration.

Launcher v2.0 now out

We are thrilled to announce the the next major version of Launcher is out on the App Store today. It took by far the biggest development effort so far to get this version complete and out of the door. A special thanks to all of our great beta testers for helping test all of the great, new features.

The new features in v2.0 are:

  1. Multiple Widgets! This greatly increases the number of launchers you can have in your Notification Center and helps the organization of your launchers. Each widget can be configured to show or hide based on time, day, and/or location, which is functionality never before seen in the App Store. Set up widgets for home, work, the gym, morning, weekdays, or whatever you can come up with so that you always have relevant launchers at your fingertips.
  2. iCloud backup and restore of launchers to make your life easier when you install Launcher on multiple devices or upgrade your device.
  3. More icon customization including circular icons and the ability to create your own custom icons to help personalize your launchers.

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Enjoy!

Explanation of canOpenURL changes in iOS 9

Intro

Since iOS 9 has been out for almost 4 months, I realize that this post is a bit overdue, but since I still see a lot of misinformation on the subject bandied about on social media, I figure it is better late than never.

Here are some examples of misconceptions I still hear propagated by developers about the changes Apple made to the canOpenURL call in iOS 9:

“You can now only call up to 50 unique custom URL schemes in an app.”

“Apple made this change to kill app launching apps.”

In this post I will try to explain the changes made in iOS 9 that affect the canOpenURL call as clearly and concisely as I can in order to quell any remaining fear or false information out there on the subject. And then I’ll probably discuss more of the mundane details for developers out there with too much time on their hands.

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