iOS Shortcuts Integration

I’d like to see the iOS app be treated as a first-class, native app. The app itself is done fairly well - it runs smoothly and mostly meets my needs for browsing and adding to bases (minus a few key features, for which there are already feature requests).

But the iOS app is not treated as a first-class citizen in the iOS ecosystem, and this is evident in two things that I’d like to see fixed.

  1. When hitting a URL for a table or a record, Safari opens to handle the URL, as usual, but it ultimately resolves to a page on the Airtable site suggesting I download the Airtable app… but I have the Airtable app. So there is a link at the bottom that says “Already have the app? Open in app.” – most web apps that have iOS native apps as well preform this redirect on behalf of the user, so that the user doesn’t have to click an extra link to view their content in the native app. Great, so I tap that link, and my Airtable app opens to the last table I was on when I last closed it, spins for a bit, and then just stays on that last table I was on, even though the record link I originally hit was for a different base/table. I’d like to see this changed so that working with table/record URL’s in the iOS ecosystem always treats the iOS app as the target for those URL’s, and then successfully opens the table or record requested.

  2. Shortcuts integration. Right now all I can do in Shortcuts is “Open App: Airtable”. Super disappointing. Anything else I want to do I have to do via the API, and at the end of it all, I can’t ask Shortcuts to take me to my newly created record in the native app because of issue #1 described above. I’d like to see the Airtable iOS app donate a slew of useful actions to the Shortcuts app. Airtable is an incredible productivity tool, and Shortcuts is the new, definitive productivity hub in the iOS ecosystem.

Please update the iOS app to behave like a true, fully-functional, native iOS productivity app.

5 Likes

Indeed! This is a huge issue if - and only if - you ever want your app to play and integrate at the same level as practically all other apps. :wink:

Airtable’s (browser) app does a fairly good job of supporting “deep links”. A search tool that indexes a record using the API can actually take users right to that record which is achieved through the immutable addressability of objects inside the Airtable app.

Mobile developers (by and large) instrument their apps with immutable addressability by using URL Schemes. They’re easy to implement, proven, and require little testing.

URL Schemes have been around at least since 2012 and their use has really started to take off since 2017. Without support for direct addressability of objects and features, it’s impossible to use the mobile app in an automated workflow that utilizes data from another app. Furthermore, mobile is where you really need to support arbitrary interconnectedness between apps. URL Schemes help us avoid typing, tapping, context switching - it’s the one climate that benefits from deep linking more than any other.

1 Like

Oddly, I noticed that a web app running on iPad in Safari/iOS linking to the Airtable domain causes the Airtable iOS app to load and display the record selected in the Airborne web app.

This means my comment is not entirely accurate - Airtable iOS does seem to support at least one URL scheme and perhaps many more. I do see a number of iOS apps that support URL Schemes but which are not registered.

Yes, I have noticed that, at the very least, the airtable: URL scheme is available, and sometimes a URL for an Airtable record will successfully launch the Airtable app on my phone.

However, I’ve never had the Airtable app also successfully resolve the table/record being requested – after 15s or so of a spinning circle, it just exposes the last table/record I was viewing when I had the app open, or else the home screen.

If, indeed, they have exposed extended parameters for their URL scheme, it would be great if they’d publish that in their reference docs. It would certainly be a step in the right direction.

However, and I am no expert on this, but I think that Apple is trying to move away from apps using URL schemes to expose interoperability, and rather requesting that they donate Shortcuts actions instead (I think these are similar to Siri intents, but targeted at the Shortcuts app and capable of passing and receiving parameters). This gives Apple a more secure and sandboxed way of handling interoperability.

I’m certainly not going to go exploring trying to see what URL scheme parameters I can get to work - I’ll just keep using the API from Shortcuts for now. But it would be really great if I could just explore a set of rich actions within the Shortcuts app instead!

Yes - the original schemes approach does create a greater responsibility for developers to ensure that script injections (inside the URL) are thwarted.

And I’m not entirely sure what the underlying difference is between schemes and how Shortcuts (the app) processes connectedness. But I believe Shortcuts is dependent upon the other as described in this Apple document.

I get the sense that one does not replace the other as evident in this how-to from Apple. Indeed, according to this, the Shortcuts app (itself) supports URL Schemes.

There’s also Universal and Custom links and I have a hunch that maybe Airtable is using one of these link methods to make it possible to open deep links into their iOS app. This would explain why Shortcuts cannot interact in any way with Airtable on iOS.

I don’t want to make these comments overly complex but I think it’s important to put a finer point on the difference between links and actions. Universal links make it possible to access and index content in mobile apps, whereas, Airtable can benefit by going further to support actions - i.e., find a record, make a copy, open the copy in edit mode. The latter - as I understand the architecture - cannot be achieved without supporting a few discrete URL Schemes.

Bottom Line

Airtable does not seem to play well in terms of calling it from other apps or when calling it from Shortcuts (which I think is formerly Workflow).

This suggestion gets two very enthusiastic thumbs up from me!

2 Likes