Using WhatsApp's URL scheme to message faster

Access the chat window of your most used contacts

WhatsApp takes ages to launch on my iPhone. It says, "connecting" for a while; it gets unresponsive for some seconds when all I want to do is to send a message to my friend. Surely there has to be a faster way that doesn't involve opening the app from the last message on Notification Center.

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Apart from its pricing model, WhatsApp's 2.10.1 update for iOS opens the door for interaction with other apps for geeks in general to play with its new URL scheme That sounds interesting, but what does URL and scheme have to do with WhatsApp? System app URLs can open parts of an app immediately without having to interact with the normal user interface, in fact, not even needing to launch the app at all.

To give you an example, imagine a Google search. You need to tap on the Safari icon, tap on the search box and wait for the keyboard to appear. Then you can type the query. With a URL scheme you would skip the first steps and start typing the query directly. You can see how this system can speed up tasks such as sending an email, setting a timer, create a new calendar event… you name it. The latest version of WhatsApp on the App Store supports URL interactions too.

The DIY solution

While these text sequences can be typed directly on Safari or used on hyperlinks in other apps like Mail, App Cubby's Launch Center Pro can be used as a dashboard to quickly access these in a usable manner. Now that WhatsApp is supporting this kind of wizardry, I've been trying to do integrate WhatsApp with Launch Center Pro with a degree of success. Right out of the box you can add a link to create a new message. I could not, however, open a chat window with a specific contact and had to resort to some Google research.

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The answer is by the usual suspect Federico Viticci of MacStories, who is a fan of this kind of cross-app interaction. The workaround for normal users requires you to backup your WhatsApp conversations to iCloud, dig into the iCloud Mobile data library on your Mac and access a SQL database.

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All of this is to identify the Address book ID that the app has assigned to your contacts. You are not going to have an entry saying "Mom"; all you get are some cryptic digits that you need to test yourself. Since my WhatsApp recent only had 14 contacts on the chat history, this part was much easier. Following the steps described on MacStories you can add chat windows for specific users and groups directly on an app like Launch Center Pro.

Using a third-party app

If you don't have the 20 minutes required to read the interactions, backup and test whom the cryptic contactabid IDs really are, there's also a small utility that just does that. 1TapWA is a paid app that promises to speed up your WhatsApp messaging by placing direct access to chat conversations on your iPhone’s home screen. What it looks like it's doing is to trigger these URL scheme using some bookmarks, which can be conveniently set up with avatars and pictures as icons. Neat trick.

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The app, which I admittedly haven't tried myself, also uses other bits and pieces from WhatsApp URL in a friendly manner. I guess that by using the [[prompt]] command it can add a pre-filled message such as "I'm on my way", or any other default message. Let's remember these can also be set up with a little more effort with Launch Center Pro if you choose to take the geeky route.

With the popularity of WhatsApp it's very likely other apps will begin implementing this type of cross-app communications soon. In the meantime, you can try these URL combinations yourself or 1TapWA with its custom home screen icons for your favourite contacts. Happy WhatsApping!