We all love Android’s approach to when you have multiple apps to do the same job: it gives you a chooser to select which one you want. But Android’s chooser can be a bit annoying sometimes, especially with web links (URLs).
Sometimes you click a link that goes to bit.ly, and you choose to open a web browser, but the browser finds that the link really goes to YouTube, and you have to choose again. By the time it’s loaded a browser and shown you some options twice, it’s 10 or 15 seconds before you’re watching that cat video, when the phone could have worked that out for itself in half a second.
Sometimes you want to open a link with one app “Always”… but is it really always? Maybe it’s just “almost always”, and you want to change your mind later, but it takes ages to go through the settings and click “Reset defaults”, just for this one occasion.
Have you ever tried opening a YouTube video when you need to sign into the Wi-Fi? The app goes crazy, because it tries to access the video and gets a sign-in page it can’t deal with, and worse yet, it doesn’t tell you that’s what’s wrong.
And worse yet if you have two browsers installed! I have Firefox and Chrome. I almost always use Firefox, but some sites don’t work in Firefox, so there are some sites I always open in Chrome. But Android’s chooser can’t understand that, so it makes me pick by hand every time.
Let’s not forget the biggest annoyance of all: whenever you install or remove an app, Android forgets the defaults you set up. To Android, “Always” means “well, for now, but ask me again after I change apps”.
Well, we think it’s time for something better. Here’s a manifesto for a better chooser:-
- It should unshorten short-URLs (such as bit.ly, goo.gl, t.co, fb.me) so they automatically open in the right app. But this might take extra battery and data use, so it should be optional.
- It should let you “Open with…“, and make it easy to change your mind after you click “Always”.
- It should detect when there’s a problem (such as a captive Wi-Fi network or a broken link), so you can decide what to do about it.
- It should understand the rules you use to choose a browser, so it can make the same choice without bothering you.
- When you’ve told it what you want, it should keep doing that until you tell it not to, instead of second-guessing you.
At Shadowburst, we believe in converting thought to action, so we took this manifesto and did something about it. We created bURLy, a chooser that’s strong enough to deal with those unruly links:-
- It investigates link that apps open, to find out where they really go, and it’ll do this automatically or on-demand.
- It has a unique manual override button. You can use this to override rules with more specific ones, or just to do something special with a particular link.
- It can show you the rules you’ve created, so it’s easy to rearrange them, temporarily disable them, or delete them completely.
- It detects network errors, link problems (such as 404 errors), and captive Wi-Fi networks, and warns you in terms you can understand.
- It gives you a simple way to create rules to help choose what app to open each time. Rules can be based on specific web pages, domains, or MIME types, and there are more rules to come in future releases.
- And it remembers those rules for as long as you want. Once you’ve made a rule, it won’t ask you again about that case until you decide.
More than that, it also gives you new ways to use web links. It can open URLs from the clipboard or NFC tags, even in apps that don’t support NFC. It can block sites completely. It can download files directly into the Downloads app, without opening a browser (and of course you can do that with a rule too). And best of all, it can let apps that don’t normally show up for links handle file types they support. For example, you can open links to image files directly in the Gallery app.
Oh, and there’s one more thing: it’s a free download from Google Play.