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How to make your bedroom smart

It’s the bedroom, right? So do you need tech there, beyond an alarm clock? Well, sure you do.

You’ll be sleeping there so you can benefit from gadgets that really show you how well you’re sleeping, or not. They can even help you get to sleep, and then there’s stuff to wake you up better, including with a hot drink.

Oh, and tech can help you stay safe with a smoke alarm that you’ll hear without being terrified by it. Here are some great gadgets to make your bedroom smart.

Withings Aura Sleep monitor

How well do you sleep? Tech company Withings is hoping to help you sleep better. The Aura system starts with an alarm clock that wakes you with light as well as carefully chosen music, if you wish. The speaker can channel Spotify, if you have a premium account, so there’s a wide range of music to choose from.

The light works to simulate sunrise, but the Aura can also help you get to sleep by shining optimised colours that help you nod off. There’s also an optional sleep sensor that slips under the mattress to measure how deeply you’re sleeping, as well as how long. It can even adapt the time the light clock wakes you so that it’s the best time in your sleep cycle. Clever stuff.

PRICE: $290,

Honeywell Lyric Round Wi-Fi Thermostat


If the bedroom gets too cold, or worse, too warm, it can be difficult to sleep so it’s important to have a good thermostat. Trouble is, if you’re lying in bed and the thermostat controlling the temperature is downstairs, getting up might not seem appealing.

The Lyric Round is controllable from your smartphone, so you can adjust the temperature from 20 feet away, without having to get out of bed. There are other clever features here, too. The thermostat can use the location information on your phone to know where you are, so when it senses you’re heading home, it can warm up a chilly house. 

PRICE: $229,

Swan STM100 Teasmade


Waking up to a cup of tea (or coffee) is always an appealing thought. The Teasmade, hugely popular in British bedrooms in the 1930s and beyond, has now been reborn for the twenty-first century with an LCD clock that dims the clock face automatically. Just before it wakes you up, the teasmade rapidly heats the 600ml capacity and sounds its alarm after boiling.

The ceramic teapot sits inside the unit. Fill the tank then place two tea bags or two teaspoons of instant coffee in the pot and go to sleep, happy in the knowledge that the Teasmade will do the rest. It even has a reading light built in.

PRICE: $120 (plus shipping),

Samsung SleepSense bed sensor


This is part of Samsung’s SmartThings range of gadgets that talk to each other. It’s a flat disc that sits under your mattress and gives you extremely detailed information how you slept (how long, how often you woke, how much REM sleep, how long it took to fall asleep and more).

Even better, it can connect to Samsung’s SmartThings phone app which can control other items in your house, such as a thermostat (including the Honeywell model above) or light bulbs, to help you adjust other factors that might let you sleep better. 

PRICE: $199,

Dyson Supersonic


This powerful hairdryer is an essential for your bedroom dressing table. It’s light and easy to hold, thanks to a better balance than previous machines. That’s because the motor is in the base of the handle.

The Supersonic is designed so it won’t damage your hair because it never gets too hot – intelligent heat control checks the temperature 20 times a second. It’s also much quieter than rival hairdryers, not least because it uses the expertise from the company’s hand dryers with its Air Multiplier technology. It looks brilliant, too, but it’s not cheap.

PRICE: $820,

Nest Protect smoke and CO alarm


Smoke alarms can be life savers. But if you’ve spent much time waving a tea towel in front of one to desperately try and quell the noise when you’ve burnt the toast, you may prefer to try the Nest.

With a signal from your mobile, you can silence it. And if the Nest senses smoke or carbon monoxide, it tells you, using a voice alarm, indicating where the situation is happening. It can send notifications to your phone, not just for worrying gases but to let you know the battery is running low.

PRICE: $99,

The Honeywell Lyric Water Leak and Freeze Detector is an early warning system that notifies you on your smartphone when a leak is detected or the temperature drops below a temperature of your choice. By catching it early, you may be able to avoid expensive repairs and loss of treasured items. To find out more visit

This article was created in association with Honeywell.

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The Zeeq smart pillow is the Swiss Army knife of bedding

Sleep tracking has never really taken off the same way activity tracking has, probably because no one really wants to wear their smartwatch to bed. (That’s when you should be charging it anyway.) The Zeeq from REM-Fit aims to fix that by taking the tech off your wrist and putting it in a place that’s a lot more comfortable when you’re asleep: inside your pillow.

The Zeeq, which hit Kickstarter today, isn’t the first smart pillow. However, most sleep devices tend to focus on fixing one problem, and they can be pricey. Zeeq packs enough features to justify replacing your current bedding setup. It’ll track your motion and the volume of your snoring, calculating a “SleepScore” to indicate the overall quality of your rest. But the Zeeq isn’t just a passive observer of your nights: Speakers inside the pillow make it so you can fall asleep to your favorite tunes, and a motor inside vibrates to wake you up or just nudge you to stop snoring.

Zeeq speaker

In fact, music is why Rem-Fit’s director of technology, Miguel Marrero, hacked together the original Zeeq prototype in the first place. He finds it hard to sleep without some music playing in the background — a state of affairs that doesn’t make his wife very happy lying next to him. So he came up with the idea of putting a speaker inside the pillow that only he could hear. But while he was in there, he realized he could pack a lot more into the hardware, so he did — tying it into REM-Fit’s existing monitor system as well.

Because REM-fit is a subsidiary of Protect-A-Bed, a manufacturer of mattress protectors, Zeeq doesn’t slight its bedding aspects in any way. At first glance the Zeeq looks like any other premium king-sized pillow, with a quilted outer cover and a stylish stripe of purple fabric running down each side. The cover is removable for easy laundering, and the interior of the pillow itself is easily accessible via a series of zippers. The pillow is filled with shredded memory foam, which makes it easy for users to customize the exact shape of the bedding to their individual needs. In fact, that was one of the first things I did before spending four nights with the Zeeq, gutting its Grimace-colored innards to get it to a height that would be more friendly to my neck. If that sounds somewhat grisly it should: The memory foam was extremely messy, sticking to my hands and leaving little bits of purple fuzz all over my bed.

Zeeq interior

However, I did appreciate the options the Zeeq’s design gives you. Being able to launder the cover and replace the innards means that you can use it for a lot longer — justifying the extra cost that the embedded tech adds.

Buried deep within the Zeeq are three loosely connected speaker pods. The whole thing is jointed so that users can fold up their pillows if they so desire — yet another sign of REM-Fit’s desire to put sleep first and make this thing as flexible and comfortable as possible. The speakers are a bit large, but they’re buried deep enough that the sound don’t extend far beyond the surface of the pillow. Someone sitting up or lying next to you wouldn’t hear a thing, unless you cranked up the volume really high — high enough that even you couldn’t get to sleep.

However, I could hear the motors in the pillow quite well from across the room. Not a roar, but still distinguishable when I was testing the various functions in the app. Zeeq doesn’t require that you take advantage of all of its features. You will need the iOS or Android app to set them up, though. A small remote in the Zeeq itself does permit some basic functions: on/off, volume and starting a sleep cycle. But the team behind the smart pillow would really prefer you use the app, if only because of the wellness survey the app presents in order to build a more complete picture of your health. Questions include your stress level, exercise and how much alcohol you consumed that day. In the long run it’s useful, but when you’re exhausted and just want to drop off to dreamland, it can be an annoyance. What’s more, I haven’t seen any way to skip the questions and answer them later instead.

Zeeq app

During my time with the Zeeq, I used the app exclusively to start my sleep cycle and experiment with the various functions. Unfortunately for this hands-on, I don’t snore, so I couldn’t tell you if that alarm actually works. My roommate did take a pretend nap on the pillow which registered his fake snoring, but the snore alarm never went off — possibly because he was never deeply asleep and the pillow detected that.

The first night I elected to try out the music. The app lets you set up a playlist that can draw songs from three sources. The first option, “Zeeq Sleep Tracks,” is a selection of free mood music and sound effects. The second option, “Music,” is whatever’s available on your phone, while a third option is available to Spotify Premium users, allowing them to connect their account and stream music to the pillow from there. I don’t pay for Spotify, so I opted to use tracks from my phone. Unfortunately, all of my downloaded music is in my Google Music account, which is invisible to Zeeq. (There went my idea to fall asleep to the Hamilton cast recording.) Since I lacked the patience to load tracks directly into my phone’s storage, I decided to give the Sleep Tracks a try.

I downloaded a selection of forest noises and lay down. And it was nice, for a bit. The sound of leaves in a breeze and the murmur of insects was soothing enough; a pleasant change from my usual soundtrack of traffic. However, there was this one particular bird noise working against me: Every time I was starting to drift off peacefully the bird would trill, pulling me back to wakefulness. Luckily, the music was only set to play for 15 minutes, so I was still able to get a good night’s rest. The pillow was comfortable too, though I realized I needed to rebalance the stuffing as one side was underfilled.

My morning was a little less restful. The Zeeq has two types of alarms: a normal alarm that you can set to have the pillow vibrate at a certain time, and the SmartWake function, which will wake you up a bit earlier if it senses you’re starting to stir a bit early. This is meant to match your body’s natural sleep cycle, and keep you from falling into a deep sleep just before your alarm goes off, which is a normally a recipe for extra crankiness. It’s a great idea, which I never personally got to experience while testing the pillow.

What did happen that first morning, though, was that the vibration went off and it was absolutely terrifying. Worried that the lowest setting might be too subtle to wake me up, I had set the vibration level to “high.” My skull was rattling as a result. I bolted up in bed, frantically searching for the pillow’s remote and mashing the button repeatedly to make it stop. I might actually prefer an obnoxious morning radio show to the sheer terror I felt here.

Zeeq remote

The next day I set the vibration lower and added a new weekend alarm time for 10:15am. Unfortunately, I didn’t actually wake up until after 11. I have no idea if it was just too subtle for me to notice and eventually stopped, or if it even went off at all. Once I did get out of bed I opened the app to shut down the sleep cycle, only to see no data had been recorded on the Zeeq that night — or the previous one.

After a third night of no recorded data I got in touch with the Zeeq team and did a bit of troubleshooting. They gave me a new version of the app, and also instructed me to reset the pillow. One or both of these did the trick: A few test sleeps mid-afternoon yielded data, which meant I was good to go Sunday night. It should be pointed out that while you can start a sleep cycle at any point during the day, only the last one seems be recorded as the official sleep record for that particular date.

Zeeq pillow

This morning I woke up before the alarm. It did go off, at least, but I can’t tell you if the lower setting was too little or too much as I was already out of bed. I also now have one night of data, and my sleep Sunday night was merely “average,” with 5 1/2 hours of deep sleep. At around 1:34am it also registered a noise of 77db, though it only lasted a minute, too short to be a proper bout of snoring — had it caught me yelling into the other room to turn the TV down?

I’ve been a loyal Fitbit user for years, and I do still care about the sleep data it provides. If I feel crappy during the day, it’s nice to be able to look at my stats and know that yes, I slept horribly the night before. But while Fitbit can tell you how well you slept, it can’t make it any better. In that sense Zeeq is a godsend, because it’s not only recording the data but it’s also doing its part to make you sleep better through thoughtful bedding design and some nice little features. It might not be able to turn down your sheets and fluff your pillows, but it’s certainly the next best thing.

Zeeq’s Kickstarter starts at $99 for early bird backers, down from the eventual retail price of $299. You won’t have to wait long for that good night’s rest, either — the Zeeq is set to ship to backers in December, just in time for a long winter’s nap.

Source: Kickstarter


Hyperloop One’s BamBrogan allegedly left due to harassment

When Hyperloop One co-founder Brogan BamBrogan quit the company last week, it prompted plenty of questions. After all, the prodigious former SpaceX engineer walked away from a startup that he’d built just when things were getting exiting. Now, Buzzfeed is claiming to have seen court documents that say BamBrogan’s departure was down to harassment from the company’s former legal counsel. The report believes that the co-founder has filed a restraining order against Afshin Pishevar, apparently citing threats of violence and stalking. The issue is more complicated since Afshin Pishevar is the brother of Hyperloop One’s other co-founder, Shervin Pishevar.

Hyperloop One has done more than anyone to bring legitimacy to Elon Musk’s initial concept of mass transit via vacuum tubes. Brogan BamBrogan brought along a pedigree of success, having previously designed SpaceX’s Falcon 1 rocket and Dragon spacecraft. The combination between him and Pishevar, a Silicon Valley billionaire who has backed Uber, AirBnB and Warby Parker, seemed irresistible. According to Buzzfeed’s anonymous sources, this partnership is no more and a high-profile lawsuit is also on its way. We, naturally, reached out to Hyperloop One, but company representatives declined to comment at this time.

It couldn’t come at a worse time, since such lawsuits are often expensive, time-consuming distractions that are likely to derail Hyperloop’s progress. In the meantime Josh Giegel, BamBrogan’s replacement, is taking the reins at Hyperloop and has the unenviable job of replacing his former boss. Giegel doesn’t have the box-office name, but he is an alumnus of both SpaceX and Virgin Galactic, where he designed propulsion systems. But it remains to be seen if he is capable of bridging the gap between the fantasy and reality.

Oh, and because we’re tired of people asking: Brogan BamBrogan changed his name from Kevin Brogan when he married his wife, Bambi BamBrogan. It’s a thing that people do when they’re in love, and is the least interesting thing anyone could be talking about, ever.

Source: Buzzfeed


Polaroid’s mobile photo app is all about moving snapshots

To say that Polaroid missed the boat on mobile photography apps would be an understatement. The original Instagram logo was based on a Polaroid camera, and the company’s main answer was to build a camera that looked like that logo. However, it’s ready to give smartphone apps a proper shot with Polaroid Swing, a social photo service that promises a fresher take on the endless image feed. You’re capturing 1-second videos that become moving photos (think Apple’s Live Photos or HTC’s Zoe shots) — the “Swing” comes from using either phone motion or your finger to control them. The app is only available on iPhones right now, but an Android version is “coming soon.”

I’ve given the app a try, and it can be fun to flick through shots (although you may want a steady hand to avoid moving pictures involuntarily). The interface is simple, and it’s easy to sign up, find your friends and share your creations. The challenge, I’d say, is convincing people that Swing will do something they can’t already do somewhere else — Instagram’s Boomerang already fills a similar role, and a 1-second clip in Vine or Instagram itself might be enough for most people. Polaroid’s app has the backing of Twitter co-creator Biz Stone, who’s serving as chairman behind the project, but it’ll only grow if people believe that leaving their existing photo services is worth the effort.

Source: App Store, Polaroid Swing


The best commuter bike lights

By Eve O’Neill

This post was done in partnership with The Sweethome, a buyer’s guide to the best things for your home. Read the full article here.

We’ve tested 54 different commuter lights in the last four years, and have researched literally hundreds. After all that, and a lot of price fluctuations, we believe the Light & Motion Urban 350 is currently the best way to see and be seen in traffic without spending a fortune. You can’t get a better-made light for the price and it looks great. Pair it with the Cygolite Hotshot 50, a taillight that runs seemingly forever and works in all kinds of conditions. It can be seen in traffic from half a block away, day or night, and costs less than anything comparable.

How we tested

New and redesigned 2016 lights tested for this guide. Photo: Eve O’Neill

To test our latest batch of lights, we simply shined each one on the ground, and didn’t find anything we hadn’t seen during testing in previous years: All the brands project different patterns, some square, some round, some smooth, some wavy—and when we look at them projected from our bike onto a city street, they look similar.

We’ve installed every mount there is—the screw-lock mounts of Cygolite and NiteRider, CatEye’s FlexTight bracket, Knog’s trademark bungee, ratchet-style clamps used by Planet Bike and Serfas, and every other iteration of silicone-strap and hard-plastic mechanisms—and ridden them on terrible roads.

We’ve tested battery life, draining more than 25 lights to empty to cross-check run-time claims and find out how light output changed over time and how the lights turned off.

We even started freezing our taillights to see if cold temperatures would compromise the battery.

All of these things do matter. But we decided the most important thing we could do is look at each light from the vantage point of a car. So our panel of five testers sat in the driver’s seat and observed our top headlight contenders from two critical angles: as the driver prepares to make a right turn as a bike in the bike lane approaches it from behind, and on the car’s left as the driver is getting ready to pull out of a parking space or exit the vehicle.

We also had testers look at our taillights. They stood on the sidewalk a block away and observed in order to address a question that numbers can’t answer—when a driver looks at this light, will they see that it’s a bike? We’ve done this both in daylight and at night, and in a bracket-style elimination round we narrowed the field to our top choices.

The best headlight

The Urban 350 in Voltage. It comes in two other colors, Blue Moon (white on blue) and Obsidian Stout (black on black). Photo: Eve O’Neill

The Light & Motion Urban 350 was our upgrade pick for years, and now that it’s dropped in price, we feel you can’t get a better light for the money. It has four light modes, including one that can blink and shine light ahead of you at the same time so you can see and be seen in traffic simultaneously. Bright amber side cutouts increase your visibility to cars on either side of you, and the silicone mount is both easy to use and superstrong—ours hasn’t stretched or broken in three years of long-term testing, and no matter how hard you mash the power button the light won’t budge. Light & Motion Urbans are also FL-1 certified, which means the company took measures to guarantee you get the number of lumens advertised on the box, a claim that can often be misleading. The best part is that these lights look great. They’re a pleasure to hold and use, something that can hardly be said about any bike light. They also come in several nifty color schemes and are available as brighter models if you want more light.

Our top pick works great, but if you want the light that our testers rated most visible from a car driver’s seat, the Cygolite Metro 400 is it. It has two more modes than our top choice, including a very bright day flash (the most eye-piercing we’ve seen—which you should not use at night because you’ll blind everyone!) and a walking mode that runs the light on low power to save battery.

The best taillight

The button on the lower left is the on-off. The button to its right lets you customize the frequency of the blink pattern. Photo: Eve O’Neill

A very bright and affordable light, the Cygolite Hotshot 50 is an updated version of the older 2-watt version. It’s brighter overall, and the on-off button, which we thought was a little sticky on the original, was redesigned on all the Hotshot models and is now easier to operate. Observers sitting in a car’s driver’s seat chose it as the most visible light out of all the models we tested thanks to its attention-getting flashing pattern and bright LED. It’s a workhorse piece of gear that has shown more consistent battery life and fewer mounting issues than anything we’ve tried. A brighter version is now available, the Hotshot Pro 80, for those who ride in very dark areas (or very sunny ones).

If you don’t want to use the traditional hard mount that comes with the Hotshot, get the Hotshot Micro. It performs the same, but comes in a smaller package and has slightly less run time (but you won’t notice).

Our favorite light combo

The Cygolite Metro 400 headlight and the Hotshot 50 taillight.

The Cygolite Metro 400 was our top pick in the past and is still a great value. More important, our testers regularly rate the blinking pattern on Cygolites as the most visible. It has the simultaneous blink/steady pattern that we love for its ability to let you see while also shining into the eyeballs of traffic, and a quick-release mount (the hard kind) that doesn’t budge once you put it on. This combo includes the Hotshot 2-watt, which is an older version of our current taillight pick, the Hotshot 50. But older doesn’t mean outdated—it’s a touch less bright, but still plenty bright for a commute. Otherwise, the design is identical, including the easy-to-push button like our top choice, and we don’t think you’ll even notice the difference in light output.

If you can’t find what you’re looking for here, we also have some alternative picks in our full guide: a brighter light that can give you more visibility (or more battery life), a permanently installed, antitheft pick, and a rec for a helmet-mounted front-and-rear set if you want to augment your on-bike lights (also a great option for those who use bike share). We also have an alternative taillight option with a wider, brighter beam.

This guide may have been updated by The Sweethome. To see the current recommendation, please go here.


Honda unveils first hybrid motor without heavy rare earth metals

Honda pledged to reduce its use of rare earth metals a decade ago, and the automaker took another step towards that goal this week. It unveiled its new hybrid motor that was co-developed alongside Daido Steel, another Japan-based company. The new motor doesn’t use heavy rare earth metals like dysprosium and terbium, instead relying on magnets from Daido Steel that cost 10 percent less and weigh 8 percent lighter than the previous components. In fact, the automaker is the first to develop a hybrid motor that doesn’t use the heavy metals. Honda says the new engines will reduce its reliance on the pricey rare earth metals that are primarily supplied by China.

The new hybrid motors will make their debut in the compact Freed minivan this fall, a vehicle that’s already on the road in Asia. Honda also noted during the announcement that not only would cutting out the rare earth metals save money, but it would also reduce the potential for price fluctuations on the materials it uses to build the engines. The new motors don’t nix rare earth elements entirely though, as the new version still has neodymium which is found in North America, Australia and China.

Source: Reuters


Google’s Project Fi offers fast data when you travel

Starting today, Google Project Fi subscribers who use data abroad can expect between 10 and 20 times faster data connections thanks to a new deal with Hutchinson Whampoa, the parent company to Three in the UK.

While Fi has been hammering down mobile costs for domestic use in the US, it had been hampered by limited browsing while abroad. Previously, Google had limited roaming speeds to 256Kbps to ensure a reliable service for users travelling abroad before the deals were in place.

In addition to providing faster data in 135 countries for the same $10 per GB fee as in the US, Google recently boosted the wireless reception of the service for customers and removed the requirement for an invitation. You will still need a Fi-compatible phone though.

On Three’s side of things, it’s a move that makes a lot of sense — it already offers its UK customers roaming that’s included with your regular package in a host of countries, so adding another US carrier to the list can only improve its appeal to potential customers.

Source: Android Blog


Georgia Tech’s DURUS robot has a more natural human-like stride

Last time we saw the DURUS robot walking like a human, it was still doing so relatively flat footed. The folks at Georgia Tech’s AMBER-Lab have improved the robot’s movements to incorporate even more human-like heel strikes and push-offs. As you can see in the video below, the new range of motion gives DURUS a more natural stride, and the ability to wear some sweet sneakers. Until about a week ago, the robot shuffled along flat footed before getting a pair of new metal feet with arches soles. After some tweaking of the algorithms and a few falls, DURUS now strides like the rest of us.

“Our robot is able to take much longer, faster steps than its flat-footed counterparts because it’s replicating human locomotion,” said director Georgia Tech’s lab and engineering professor Aaron Ames. He explained that the new behavior makes strides towards the eventual goal of having DURUS walk outdoors.

DURUS has springs between its ankles and feet that act like elastic tendons in humans. The springs allow the robot to store mechanical energy from the heel strike to be used when the toe pushes off the ground. As you might expect, this makes the system very efficient with a 1.4 cost of transport, a common measure of robotic locomotion. Compare that to the 3.0 cost of transport for other humanoid robots and you can see the kinds of upgrades Ames and the students at Georgia Tech are making. Ames also said that updates like this one to DURUS could mean big improvements to robotic devices like prostheses and exoskeletons.

Source: Georgia Tech


9 ways to automate tasks on iOS – CNET

workflow-for-ios.jpgEnlarge Image

Taylor Martin/CNET

It may be a little daunting, but Workflow is one of the most useful applications you can install on an iPhone. With simple automations, it reduces multi-step processes to a single tap and makes some actions that weren’t previously possible on iOS, such as downloading and extracting ZIP files, quite simple.

Knowing where to start with Workflow (currently $2.99, £2.29 or AU$4.49) is half the battle. Here are some helpful automations to get you started.

Track expenses

Tracking expenses isn’t a difficult process, but it’s time consuming and monotonous. Using the Send Receipts workflow, you can quickly backup any photos you’ve taken of receipts to Dropbox and email them to your boss with the tap of a button.

Running the workflow opens an image picker, where you can select all the receipt images from a business trip or other purchases. Those images will be uploaded to a preset Dropbox directory, a new email draft will be created with a Dropbox link for the uploaded images, the dollar amount (which you will need to set manually) and a description of what the items are. All you need to do is dress up the email with a few dad jokes and press send.

AirDrop recent screenshots

I take a lot of screenshots, and one of the easiest ways to get those screenshots transferred over to my Mac is using AirDrop. Using the AirDrop Screenshot workflow, the most recent screenshots will automatically be selected and sent using AirDrop to whichever nearby Apple device you select. The number of screenshots can be set before running the workflow.

Alternatively, you can edit the workflow to individually select screenshots by swapping the Get Latest Screenshots action with Select Photos and navigating to the Screenshots album after running the workflow. Once you select the images, choose your Mac with the AirDrop share menu and the images will appear on your Mac in a few seconds.

…then delete those screenshots

Once you have all your screenshots on your Mac, you might want to quickly delete them from your iPhone or iPad to free up space. Using the Delete Screenshots workflow, you can do exactly that in one fell swoop.

Before you run the workflow, choose how many of the latest screenshots you want to remove, click the play button at the top to run the workflow and choose whether you want them to be automatically or selectively deleted. Keep in mind, if you have a large number of screenshots selected, deleting them selectively — one by one — will take a very long time, and the workflow will not stop running until you finish deleting them all.

Share your availability

Taylor Martin/CNET

The Share Availability workflow takes a look at your calendar for a selected date, finds the times where you have no appointments and composes a new text message with the times that you’re available. From there, all you need to do is choose a recipient and hit Send.

Direct download links for Dropbox files

When sharing files with a Dropbox share link, you’re taken to the Dropbox website where you can login to add the files to your personal Dropbox or download them to your computer.

If, however, you want to share a direct download link to a file you have saved in your Dropbox (meaning the file will automatically download when someone visits the link), add the Direct Dropbox Link workflow from Workflow Directory.

This workflow can also be useful for sharing GIFs or pictures from your Dropbox on Twitter, in forums or even on Facebook.

Download any file

When it comes to downloading files you normally can’t with iOS, the File Downloader workflow is the answer. This workflow lets you temporarily download files to your iPhone and upload them to any of your cloud storage accounts, such as Dropbox, iCloud Drive, Google Drive, OneDrive and more.

Say, for instance, someone shared a ZIP file with you from Dropbox. Normally, there isn’t much you could do with that link from your iPhone. You could, however, pass that Dropbox link through the Direct Dropbox Link workflow, then open that URL with the File Downloader workflow to add it to your iCloud Drive or Google Drive accounts.

Turn websites into PDFs

To turn any text or a web page into a PDF, add the Make PDF workflow to your collection. Whenever you want to save a site or text into a PDF, hit the share button, select Run Workflow from the share menu and select Make PDF.

A preview of the PDF will appear, which you can then share and send or share as you normally would with iOS.

Get EXIF data for images

By default, there is no way to view EXIF data for images on iOS, though there are plenty of third-party apps which allow you to view and edit the EXIF data. But if all you want to know is when or where you took a photo, use the Image Details workflow.

To use it, open the Photos application and select an image. Tap the share button, select Run Workflow, and tap Image Details. The device with which you took the photo will be listed, as well as the resolution of the image and the time and date it was taken. When you press OK, you can view where the image was taken in Apple Maps (assuming location data is present) or exit the workflow.

Expand URLs

Enlarge Image

Taylor Martin/CNET

I’m almost always wary of clicking on shortened links. Many people use them for analytics and tracking purposes, but they’re commonly used for more nefarious reasons too.

If you’re unsure where a shortened link might take you, copy it, open the Workflows app and run the Expand URL workflow. The full, expanded URL will be copied to your clipboard and displayed at the bottom of the workflow page. You can then open Safari and paste the URL if everything looks fine or avoid it altogether without opening a link that might have taken you to somewhere on the web you never intended to be.

Bonus: Bend the rules

What makes Workflow so compelling is not only that it extends the capabilities of the iPhone or that it allows third-party apps to intermingle with native apps and features in unique ways, but it also allows people to collaborate on workflows. There is even a subreddit dedicated to the Workflow community.

Furthermore, you can share your workflows with other users. Or you can download workflows from the Gallery within the app, the unofficial Workflow Directory or directly from other Workflow users, and tweak and mold each of those workflows to suit your needs.

If you like what a workflow does but not the way it finishes or shares the output, change it. For example, the Expand URL workflow is great, but it only copies the expanded URL to the clipboard. To improve the workflow, I added a step which provides a text preview of the URL and asks whether you want to open the URL or cancel.

To get the absolute most out of Workflow, you should not only find the workflows which appeal to you, but take the time to personalize them by creating workflows for specific contacts or your favorite apps.


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