(And a mini-introduction to Launch Center Pro.)
Ever send a message to a group of people from your Mac? If you have, you know it’s easy if you’ve created a “Group” in your Contacts app, and then addressed the email to the Group. (Even better: address the email to nobody, and put the Group’s name in the BCC box so the email addresses aren’t advertised to each recipient.) Having a Group set up in the Contacts app saves you the time it takes to add each person as an email recipient individually every time you want to send to the whole group. If you send mail to the same sets of people frequently the time savings can really add up.
Not sure about “Groups”? Need an example? Here’s one: a group containing the members of your softball team. Here’s another: your immediate family. One more: the members of a committee you’re on. And one more after that: the members of the City Council. You have to send emails to the members of those groups all the time, and it’s a pain to add each recipient every time. So, on your Mac, you go to Contacts and make a Group for the softball team, and another one for the family, and another one for the committee, and another one for the City Council, and when you want to send an email to the people in a Group you just address the email to the Group and everybody gets a copy. Easy. At least it’s easy on the Mac.
Then you go to to your iPhone or iPad, and you try to do it there. Turns out it doesn’t work, even though the Groups you made on the Mac transfer over to the iPhone and iPad. It’s not because you’re doing it wrong. Apple’s Mail app on the iPhone and iPad is just not as good as Apple’s Mail app on the Mac. Yes “someone should do something about this,” but as of iOS 7 that’s the way it is.
Now, if you search the internet for “how to send a group email from your iPhone or iPad” you will find some clever ways of doing it, most of them (like this one) based on stuffing all of the email addresses into a single card in the Contacts app. It works. And if all we wanted to do was send an email to multiple people without having to type their names over and over, and if I wasn’t trying to teach you something new that will help you ten times over, I would advise you to do it that way.
But we have bigger goals.
How would you like to send an email to a group of people, have the subject already filled in, as well as a head start on the message itself, all in a couple of taps? Wouldn’t that be awesome? Of course it would be.
And how would you like to do all of the above in a groovy iOS app, and know you had only begun to scratch that app’s surface, giving you something new to play with as you wait for Apple’s iOS 8? I think you’d like it very much. I know I do.
Without further ado, I give you Launch Center Pro.
Launch Center Pro is the best way to speed up and automate the things you do over and over on an iPhone or an iPad. It’s extremely powerful, and extremely well done. I’ll give you the mini-introduction by showing you how to do the Group Email thing. If you want to learn more I’ve put a list of websites and tutorials for further study at the bottom of this post.
Note: The regular price for Launch Center Pro is $4.99 and that’s what I paid. This blog post took so long to write that the price changed before I was done!
(Note #2: I’m going to give screenshots from the iPhone version but the iPad app is similar. You can take what you learn in this blog post straight to the iPad without any trouble.)
Here’s Launch Center Pro’s main screen, the first time you start the app.
Sort of looks like the iPhone’s Home screen.
I don’t know who Jon and Anna are but we are going to replace them with our own stuff. Note the Settings button at top left, and the Edit button at top right. We’re going to use the Edit button soon. But first, let’s tap on that button at bottom right, the one that says “Email Anna.” When you do that, you get an email, pre-addressed, pre-subjected, and pre-filled in. That’s almost exactly what we are trying to do, except it’s addressed to only one person.
One of the neat things about Launch Center Pro is that it doesn’t replace the Mail app. Instead, it (somehow) controls the Mail app and tells it what to do: make an email addressed to Anna, with a particular subject and a particular message body. You can of course edit the message before sending it, and it will show up in your Mail app’s Sent folder– in fact, everything about this message is just like every other mail message, except that we used a shortcut to get this one started.
Very nice, but we want to make our own. Here’s how we do it. Tap the Edit button at the top right. You’ll see this:
Tap the X in the corner of the Email Anna icon and you’ll see this:
You’ll be asked whether you want to delete the “Action” and the answer is yes. So delete it.
Now we can tap the “+” where Email Anna used to be, and make our own shortcut, or “Action.” You get a choice between making an Action or a Group– we’ll make an Action.
The first time I did this I thought “I’ll bet this is going to be complicated.” Wrong (again)! What could have been complicated is made easy– all we do it make choices from a list, and bingo, our Action is built for us. Tap the “+” at the bottom right corner, where Email Anna used to be, and you’ll see this screen:
(Lots to see here but remember, this is the mini-introduction to Launch Center Pro, not the full-on tutorial, so we are going to focus on the stuff we need for our Group Email project and leave the rest for you to explore.)
The Action Composer is where we build our Actions, and it’s what makes Launch Center Pro usable by regular people as well as high-end users. We’re going to start by tapping System Actions, which bring us to this screen:
It’s a long list. Scroll down until you see Mail (not “In-App Email” in this case). When you tap Mail you get some more choices, and here they are:
We’re going to choose Email with Body & Subject. Tap that and we get this:
Now this is easy. Let’s fill in the blanks with something I use every day, in Real Life.
In Real Life, I make appointments to help people with their Macs, iPhones, and iPads. When I make those appointments it’s imperative that I alert my Office Manager, Dee, so that she knows right away what I’ve done. Otherwise, she might schedule another appointment for the same time period, leading to a conflict.
Over the years we’ve developed a system where I send Dee an email with “Appointment Alert!” as the subject (so she can pick it out from the millions of other emails she gets) as soon as I make an appointment. I like to get a copy of the email too, for reference. Writing that email is not a giant task, but on an iPhone it’s a little bit clumsy, and it’s something I have to do all the time. When I realized I could create, title, and address those emails in two taps using Launch Center Pro I was sold.
Here’s how the screen looked after I typed everything in– for the last time! The “Name” field at the top is just for me to remember it by– I could have called it “AA” or anything else.
Tapping Done at top right takes us back to this screen, and if you look at the URL you’ll see why the Action Composer is such a cool thing. Yes, Launch Center Pro actually works via URLs, but no, you don’t have to know anything about them. The Action Composer does it for you.
You can choose another icon if you’d like. You can use one of Launch Center Pro’s, you can build your own, and you can choose a photo from your iPhone’s photo library. Plenty of options there but I chose the regular Mail icon. Tap Done to show that you’re done with the Action, and Done again to get out of Edit mode.
Here’s how it looks over here.
From now on, if I want to send that email to Dee and to me, with the subject line already filled in (and possibly with some standard text in the body– I should think about that), all I have to do is launch Launch Center Pro, and then tap the Appointment Alert! button. That’s two taps, and zero typing. Pretty nice.
So… if you want to send a Group Email from your iPhone or iPad, get yourself a copy of Launch Center Pro. Make a new Action that makes a new Mail message with Body & Subject. Put in the desired recipients– even make some of them CC or BCC– and you are all set.
And if you think that’s cool, remember: we are only scratching Launch Center Pro’s surface.
For further study:
- Launch Center Pro web page
- Launch Center Pro introductory video
- A Comprehensive and Updated Guide to Launch Center Pro by Alex Guyot at MacStories
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