“Hacking” URL linking on iOS

AnonymousOn classic computers, including systems with Windows, macOS and Linux, it’s easy to create shortcuts. Just imagine a Windows app, which is, usually, “hidden” in Program Files directory. It’s so simple to make shortcut on desktop or Start Menu, so your favourite apps are always with you. You can even group shortcuts to folders or categories, and it has not to be an app – you can make shortcut on almost anything, including your files created in apps like Word or Excel. But is this possible on iOS?

iOS from Apple does not expand a file system for you. Your apps on homescreens and dock are, in truth, shortcuts. If you were digging into macOS’s file structure, you may know that iOS’s structure is the very same, because iOS is basically stripped-down version of desktop macOS with GUI optimized for touch input. But, within limits of iOS, linking is possible on iOS. For example, with Safari you can create a shortcut to your favourite webpage directly on your home screen. Or some apps allows you to set shortcuts on their widgets. But, are here any possible interactions between apps, while we are talking about file management?

Yes, they are and now I will show you how to “hack” them. As example, I will demonstrate it on app combo of Things 3 and DEVONthink.

DEVONthink is my database of knowledge, which I use for blogging. I have some incompleted articles and tasks and I want to be reminded by Things 3, a to-do app from Cultured Code.

First I need is to link my TXT file stored in DEVONthink to Things 3. It’s so easy, all you need is to launch DEVONthink and to use Share Menu:

DEVONthink URL Scheme

Take a focus on marked button – just tap it and file URL is copied to clipboard. If you use this link in compatible apps, tapping this link will open your linked file in DEVONthink. Now I switch to Things 3. In screenshot below, I’m creating task in Things 3. It’s classic to-do task, like in many similar apps, but please note that marked link:

Things 3 URL Scheme

It’s DEVONthink link pasted from clipboard. Now I have a to-do task in Things 3 with link to specified file stored in DEVONthink database. When I receive reminder from Things 3 that I should get some work on my article, I can open it directly from app -> it will direct me to DEVONthink database and open my desired file. Very handy.

One fun fact: Things 3 and DEVONthink got both iOS and macOS version. When I create reminder via my iPad and later I receive reminder on my desktop Mac, this linking still works directly on my desktop Mac. So no matter if I plan my work on tablet or desktop computer, all is synced and works on 100%.

Of course, apps must support URL linking. So be very careful when you are creating your workflow, especially if you are using relative expensive apps. Always contact developer about this (and other) feature, if you are interested in. If you are finding great file management app with ability to connect to cloud services, NAS, (S)FTP, LAN and other devices, I can recommend FileBrowser from Stratospherix. I’m noting this app, because it supports URL linking:

FileBrowser URL Scheme

URL linking feature is not very widespread in iOS’s apps. iOS automatization app Workflow (recently acquired by Apple) is clear example of properly use of Apple’s built-in iOS technology. Another apps with linking support are Bear and Ulysses, which I was using in past. All mentioned apps can be downloaded by links below:

DEVONthink To Go

Things 3 for iPad

FileBrowserGO

Bear

Ulysses

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