An iPad Remote for Mac and Windows
I first learned of the Actions iPad app while listening to a recent episode of one my favourite podcasts, MacPowerUsers. This particular episode consisted of series of clever user-contributed workflows and one of the contributors, Jarrob Job showcased this gem from app developer Usefool.
In a nutshell, Actions allows you to control your Mac or Windows computer using your iPad and a grid of user-configurable buttons. Among other things, buttons can be configured to invoke shortcut key combinations on your computer that in turn trigger functions in the foreground app. Sets of buttons can be "magnetically" linked to a specific Mac application prompting Actions to automatically display the appropriate set on your iPad when you either launch or switch to the corresponding app on your Mac.
An Alternative to Memorizing Shortcut Keys?
If you've watched my Alfred 2 Hotkeys screencast, you know that I'm a big fan of shortcut keys. I maintain that it's a good idea to learn and create shortcuts keys for quick access to functionality in your frequently used apps, and I've learned that there are instances where tapping brightly-colour buttons on an iPad is almost as efficient as using a keyboard, while removing the necessity of memorizing sometimes arcane keyboard combinations. Some apps in particular really lend themselves to being controlled by Actions — I feature one such app in this article.
My First Set: Fuze Meeting
I frequently use an online meeting solution from FuzeBox called Fuze Meeting to host online meetings, courses and webinars for my business ventures, Technically Simple and Learn Daylite. My goal is always to keep my attention focused on participants and I strive to minimize distractions resulting from interactions with the underlying technology.
Actions provides a convenient and intuitive way for me to access the features of Fuze Meeting I use most frequently and I've found that tapping clearly-labelled buttons on my iPad is a very natural way to interact with this software. Read on as I walk you through my setup. I'm using Fuze Meeting on the Mac, but I expect that most, if not all of what I share here will work equally well on Windows.
A Remote Control for Fuze Meeting
With Actions running on my iPad, the following interface appears as soon as I launch Fuze Meeting on my Mac (click the image to see a larger version). When I'm working in my office I have both my MacBook Air and my iMac at my disposal and I can easily choose which Mac is being controlled by Actions — a nice touch.
I've colour-coded the buttons based on the type of functionality they provide:
- Grey buttons are for general functionality, such as joining or creating meetings and uploading content to FuzeBox's servers,
- Purple buttons are for manipulating meeting content,
- Green buttons allow me to control audio, video and screen sharing during a live meeting,
- Blue buttons are related to interactions with users…and the prominent
- Red button makes it easy for me to end a meeting when we're done.
You'll notice that three of the buttons (Meetings, Audio and Invite) have a white circle along the bottom edge. Tapping these buttons reveals another set of buttons with related functionality. I cover these in more detail below.
Creating and Joining Meetings
Tapping on Meetings reveals a set of five buttons, each of which triggers meeting-related features within Fuze Meeting.
I created a Fuze Meeting that I call my "Meeting Room" and use it over and over again. This means that I don't need to create a new meeting each time I have an online meeting and that clients can use the same meeting link each time. Actions allows a button to be assigned to a URL and I took advantage of this feature when I created the "Open Meeting Room" button.
Connecting and Configuring Audio
Tapping the Audio button on main interface gives me access to the different options for audio. I typically use the VoIP option, as I find that this offers the best audio quality, but it's nice to know I can easily switch to phone-based audio if needed and that I can conveniently access audio settings.
Inviting Additional Attendees
Lastly, the Invite button makes it easy to invite participants to a live meeting, either by phone or by email.
Beyond Fuze Meeting
Inspired by my success with Fuze Meeting, I created sets for some other Mac apps that I use frequently, among them Daylite, OmniFocus, Rdio and even a flight simulator called X-Plane (nice not to have to remember how to turn on the landing lights on my virtual Boeing 747). And I have no doubt that I'll come up with many more creative uses for this clever app over time.
At the time of writing, Actions is available for $3.99 on the App Store (affiliate link).