Getting Started with Workflow


Text by Thought Asylum: Source  

Workflow is the app that has revolutionised automation on the iOS platform. With it’s drag and drop Automator style interface and vast array of actions it is a veritable Swiss Army knife for Apple mobile devices. Even though many find it intuitive, it can take a little getting used to if you’ve never used anything like it before. To that end and arising from a conversation on Twitter with Philip Brown I decided to put together some information about how to really get started and expand your knowledge of Workflow.

Overview & How-To

Getting started is probably the biggest hurdle. Unfortunately it is also the first.


The MacStories web site and in particular Federico Viticci are a great starting point for anyone who wants to get a really good feel for Workflow. They have several posts relating to Workflow (usually tied into a version release) and the posts are always tagged.
One word of warning is that Federico’s posts often go into great detail and so can take a little while to read … but they are definitely worth the effort.

Mac Power Users

If you fancy a more lean back way to learn about Workflow you can’t go wrong if you take the time to listen to the Mac Powers Users Workflow episode dedicated to the app – and while you’re at it subscribe to the podcast!
Full disclosure – I may have got a mention on the MPU Live podcast in relation to Workflow 😉
One of the hosts (David Sparks, a.k.a. MacSparky) has also created a Workflow Field Guide. This is a paid for resource and not one I’ve used; though I do have some of his other field guides and they are quality resources. It may be worth a closer look.

The site has a nice gentle introduction to creating workflows and is a perfect place to take a look if you want some quick examples and some ideas for how to build and bug fix your workflows.

Thought Asylum

I’m guessing you may have already noticed, but just in case you missed it there are some posts and pages on this very web site that might just help you get started with Workflow.


The Workflow app itself has what I would call very light touch documentation. The workflow actions will display brief descriptions when you tap on them and most have fairly obviously named options … but you can’t currently drill in to get more detail.
That being said, the Workflow team are building a set of help documentation. I think the focus is on development and it is slow going, but the quality is high and hopefully it will catch up to the app in time.


Because the documentation is so minimal and as any good developer will tell you, having a go and reading through other people’s examples is a great way to start, I’ve pulled together some resources where you can get example workflows that take you beyond the ‘Make a GIF’ workflow you get after initially installing the Workflow app.

Workflow Gallery

The first and perhaps most obvious place is the Gallery that is built right into the Workflow app. When you first open the app there’s an option of “My Workflows” at the top of the screen and next to it is “Gallery”. Tap on that and you’ll get a curated list of Workflows. I think they are mainly from the Workflow developer team, but there is an in-app option to submit your own examples for consideration of adding to the Gallery.

Thought Asylum Workflow Examples

I don’t want to self promote this site too much, but I do have an ever expanding set of example workflows (they live in their own blog on this site). These workflows have been created specifically to demonstrate certain options, techniques and principles to Workflow users and/or to answer a Workflow query I’ve picked up on Twitter (see below).
I also blog about more involved workflows (i.e. ones that are not simply examples; ones I write to use myself) and these are tagged ‘Workflow’ in the main site blog.

Workflow Gallery (An Unofficial Collection)

There’s an unofficial Workflow Gallery (not the same one as in the app) that has a curated set of (at the time of writing almost three dozen) Workflows.

Workflow Version Control System

Soon after Workflow’s launch, Workflow VCS appeared. It is a service that scours Twitter and Reddit (see below) for workflows. When it finds one it automatically adds it to its searchable repository.
I personally don’t use it much as because it picks up every posted link it pulls in a lot of junky stuff too. However if you know what sort of thing you’re looking for in terms of an example or if you remember seeing something linked to on Social Media in the past then it is a good place to start your search.

Automation 4 iOS

This blog seems to have content from a mixture of sources, but every few weeks Frank van Exter seems to post a list of Workflows he’s spotted on Twitter since he last posted. The lists are not curated (and Frank is very explicit about that), but it is probably easier in terms of volume to scan through one of these posts every time they appear rather than scouring back through everything that Workflow VCS captures.  Y

Read further on Thought Asylum for the whole story


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