How to add actions for language translations
I know my last post about WhatsApp URLs was beyond niche and that not everyone is interested in hacking iOS apps to get them to interact with others. Perhaps it's the influence of podcasts (like The Prompt) on ways to streamline workflows — who knows. In a way, I want to challenge myself and see how easy they are; check if URL schemes are something I can recommend to non-geek iPhone owners.
What I'm going to cover today was too specific and nerdy to include it on my review of Agile Tortoise's Terminology 3 but not difficult. I thought it deserved an article on its own because it takes a great app to a higher level. When I wrote about it last week I briefly mentioned custom actions, using the expression expandable design:
What custom actions really do is to lookup words on particular websites — perform online searches — you can set up yourself and see the results directly on the app. On the actions menu you can easily add quick access buttons to lookup words on online resources like Google or Urban Dictionary.
Terminology 3 comes with an Actions menu you may have accidentally bumped into swiping from the edge of the screen to the left. This actions sheet already comes populated with some entries, which is a great way to show new users how this feature works. A typical use would be typing a term on the search box, opening the definition and comparing the result with other online dictionary. The reason why you want to do this from Terminology is that you don't need to type the word again on a web browser or any other dictionary app. A custom action gets you the term you were looking for, not just a web view asking you to type again.
A good way to start is visiting the Action Directory on actions.agiletortoise.com from your iPhone (there are links on the actions sheet and on the Settings menu of the app too). The Terminology 3 Action Directory has a list of popular services that can be used with the app. All of the actions with a circle icon use an external website; squares will launch a separate app, such as Tweetbot. I'm going to concentrate on the first one because it offers endless possibilities. The developer has even more documentation on how to manage actions following this method.
Install from the directory
Let's start by installing one of the actions listed on the directory. Choosing something like the Google Images action will search on Google for pictures of the term you're looking up on terminology. Tapping on the install button will import the action to Terminology automatically and add a link on the action sheet ready to use. You can add as many as you want, edit order and names within the app Settings → Manage Actions → Edit.
Adding your own actions
Now you know how to add actions from the directory, let's switch gears and try to create our own. For this example I'm going to use the English definition search on WordReference.com:
- Open WordReference.com on a web browser and select English definition.
- Type a term and tap on search (I'm using the word banana).
- On the definition page for this word, copy the URL from the address bar of the web browser.
- Open Terminology 3 and navigate to the Action Detail view following Settings → Manage Actions → Add (+).
Now you are ready to create a Terminology action for a WordReference English definition. On the Action Detail view, simply enter a name for this action. On the URL field, paste the URL you have copied on the third step (it should look like http://www.wordreference.com/definition/banana)
If you save the action just like this, next time you use it, Terminology will give you the definition of banana on WordReference. Here's where the Tag reference comes into place: tags are the variables; such are the term you are looking up. For our exercise, let's enter the tag reference menu and copy the first one [[term]]. Return to the Action Detail view and substitute the word banana for [[term]] with a copy and paste until it looks like this. The new custom action will appear now on the action sheet with the others you have installed.
Make your own recipes
Although it can be a little confusing to describe, following all the steps on the iPhone is very easy. On a website with different searches for translations and synonyms like WordReference, this custom action method works fantastically well. I'm sharing some of my favourite recipes that I use for Spanish translation work hoping you find it inspiring to create your own. Tapping on the link with an iPhone running Terminology 3 will install it.