As someone who has chosen to get most of his work done on iOS instead of a Mac, I'm always looking for tools that can help me replicate, or even better, improve on my Mac based workflows. One pain point for me on iOS has been managing and creating contacts. Apple's native Contacts app as well as Mail and Messages have some capabilities of working with groups, but they are limited. And while apps like Fantastical and Due have allowed for parsing of natural text to create events and reminders, creating contacts has always consisted of filling in fields by moving around a form.
Today Greg Pierce of Agile Tortoise, the genius behind Drafts as well as Tally and Terminology, releases Interact: an app that allows you to do more with your contacts.
Interact works with your system contacts and does not store any contact info on its own server. Everything that happens in the app impacts the contacts in Contacts.app and however those contacts are stored/synced (iCloud, Google, etc.). Once you give Interact permission to access your contacts, you can go to work.
Interact focuses on enhancing your contact experience in 3 different areas:
- Contact Creation
- Contact Organization and Management
- Sharing and Communication
These improvements have allowed Interact to replace not only Apple's Contacts app, but also some workflows I had cobbled together to get around the limitations of Contacts.
Pierce is the developer behind the x-callback standard which allowed apps to send information to each other long before iOS 8 brought extensions. This allowed for levels of automation that were previously unimaginable on iOS, and are still widely used today. With Interact, he has taken his talent for making work easier on iOS and masterfully improved the process of creating a contact.
Interact has a feature called the Scratchpad which allows you to enter contact information as plain text, and the app automatically parses this text into its appropriate categories which can then be used to create a new contact.
When an item is bolded, this means Interact has parsed the text and categorized it. If there is information that confuses the app, you can assign it a tag by selecting the parameter such as first name, last name, company, and more from the list above the keyboard. In my experience though, Interact has had no trouble parsing information correctly on its own.
Aside from the added ease of natural text input, Interact speeds up the process of adding contacts as well by allowing the process to be automated. Over the last few months, I have used 3 different methods to quickly get contact information into the scratchpad. On devices without 3D Touch (my iPad Pro and my former iPhone 6), I use Drafts to type in the contact information, then use a Drafts’s x-callback action to send the text to Interact's scratchpad for parsing. With Drafts living on my home screen and always opening to blank text, the awkward “Hang on, I’m not ready for you to tell me your contact information” conversation doesn’t have to happen.
When I upgraded my iPhone to a 6s Plus in December, I began using Interact's 3D Touch shortcut to quickly access the scratchpad which is even faster and allows Interact to begin parsing immediately.
Finally, perhaps my favorite way to get contact info into Interact is through this workflow I created using Workflow to automate the exchange of contact information. Workflow will ask you for the phone number of the person you are exchanging contacts with, send them your contact, then ask for their name and send their info to Interact's Scratchpad. This process is one I have long wished to automate, and now can thanks to Interact.
Contact Groups were never something I paid much attention to due to their lack of manageability on iOS. Occasionally, I might have set them up for email purposes, but even that was rare. However, there are regularly times at work where I might need to text every member of my 2nd grade team, or share pictures with the same group of family members. Before Interact, I had set up workflows in Workflow to quickly message files or information to groups. Now with the ability to quickly create groups, I can simply type the group name into the "To:" field in Messages, and send what I need.
Group management in Interact is flexible and allows you to add members to a group in several different ways. The first is to simply scroll through you contacts (or search), and when you locate the person you want to add to the group, tap the 3 dots and select Group Membership.
Also, if you are viewing a group and wish to add a member, you can select the add member button at the top, and search for contacts to add.
Whatever view you are in, Interact allows you to create and manage groups to increase your ease of communication on iOS.
You can also rearrange the properties of contacts using Interact. iOS currently defaults to having contact data arranged by order of entry, so if you begin using a newer email address as your primary, it will be listed as the last address which could be confusing if you send someone your contact card. Interact has a handy drag and drop interface which allows you to sort this kind of information.
Sharing and Communication
For me, this is a feature that doesn’t make as much sense with how my brain works. With 8.5 years of using an iPhone, it’s difficult for me to go anywhere but straight into messages or mail to actually send a message. Interact allows you to select a file (either within the app or sharing directly from an app via a Share Extension), select what contacts you wish to send the file to, and either message or mail it.
My main request for this is to be able to send email through 3rd party apps such as Outlook1 as this is what I use for work email with my school district’s Exchange account, and currently have no way to easily send a file from iCloud Drive.
While the sharing and communication features haven’t been easily used by me, I can see how others would love them. Since I’m not the expert to explain how it works, here is Pierce’s own video on the Interact Context:
Interact has greatly improved how I manage contacts on iOS, and truly makes it easier for me to interact with others. Pierce is an expert at making iOS processes faster and easier, and he has completely changed how I manage contacts.
Interact is available on the App Store today for an introductory price of $4.99.
- Interact can currently send email through Outlook to one contact at a time, but not to multiple. I have spoken to Pierce, and this is something he hopes to add in the future. ↩︎