Thursday, March 7, 2013

Using iOS URL Schemes

Ever wondered how iOS apps, which run on an isolated sandbox mode without access to other apps, can sometimes launch external apps and perform actions on them? You might... but more interesting is knowing that you can use that same power yourself, thanks to URL Schemes.

Any App on iOS can register a URL scheme, in order to be able to receive data from any other app. Just like your browser bar usually displays a web address in the form of "", you can also communicate with different iOS apps if you know their URL Schemes.

For instance, a link pointing to "facetime://00123456789" will prompt your iPhone to place a facetime call to that number. (Previousely, you could even access some iOS settings like airplane mode by clicing on a link to "prefs:root=AIRPLANE_MODE" - but unfortunately Apple changed their mind about it, and it doesn't work  now.)

But the interesting part is that any App can do it and not only iOS system apps. For instance, if you want to send a message to Twitter, you can do it by clicking on:

When you combine this knowledge with an app like Quick button that simplifies the process of creating buttons for specific URLs, the possibilities are endless. Creating buttons that make calls for your closest friends, sending preset messages to them or to different social networks, etc. etc. Give it a try and make your iPhone work for you, and not the other way around.

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