This is an idea I’ve had for a while, but I think it needs a clearer description. I have a very clear picture in my head of what the UI might look like, and whenever I think about it, I really wish I had this tool. The idea might well become more clear if I’m ever able to put together some mockups. But basically, if you’re a Roam, Obsidian, or other “linked notes” tool user, imagine that functionality, except for being able to link to something in any other app (that could be linked externally) from an in-line search in any other (supported) app, and with automatic sharing/permissions to make that link work in the context you’ve created it. I’ve called it “Easy Linking” as a code name for now…
The basic idea is some manner of persistent agent/watcher (e.g. Chrome app, Windows systray app, Android background service, etc.) that looks for specific text patterns like “@twit Oshyan” (or beginning with “@tw…” and autocompleting), then performs a search with realtime in-line/overlaid results, lets you select a link or destination, and then adds a link or potentially performs some action in the current app or one you link to or “call” (invoke). Perhaps most importantly, through its integrations with each service, it would have access to sharing permissions, and would automatically determine the minimum amount of sharing/permissions needed to share the link/file in each context. More on that below. Obviously it would need API integration with each service to work best.
This would be useful both for interlinking content in your own, private files, documents, etc., as well as for external linking, sharing, etc.
Obviously it could use a hotkey instead of a dynamic text parsing/triggering. But I think there are also ways to balance privacy and functionality, at the least with some options.
Simple Use Case Example
I am writing a text to a friend and want to send them a Dropbox link. I write “Hey John, here’s that file you wanted @drop” and it brings up search results for dropbox where I can either just hit Enter to select the top result, or scroll a list and click to select a different one, which then gets its link dropped-in, with an optional (perhaps default-on) “share with this person” function, like a little slide-to-unlock/enable type widget.
This would share it in the least broad way possible given the context, so for example if it’s in a text message, it won’t know the person’s email unless that person is also in Contacts (on a mobile at least) and the user has given permission to access contacts (or enabled “use contacts for enhanced sharing” or something). So in the case it doesn’t know the email, it has to set to “share with anyone with link”, which could have an optional (default on) “are you sure” confirmation. Whereas if it was in an email that I invoked the link, it would just make sure it was shared with that specific email address.
Send Message Optional Functionality
Another possibly useful function would be to be more generally triggerable, perhaps at least on Desktop OS’s with a [email protected](8) or something, and then be able to perform some communication functions based around links, depending on context of the current window. This is mainly applicable to websites, I suppose, so the limited functionality may not justify it for the hassle to implement. But for example if you were on a website you could “[email protected] John” and it would tweet the website link to him (ideally with a screenshot embed or something), and optionally do a DM instead perhaps (at least if you’re following each other). Consider how else this could be useful. Obviously it should support as many communications platforms as possible, so FB, Instagram, WhatsApp, etc. as well.
Could it be useful for more than just linking to websites? Depending on platform and medium, it could do things like attachments, so if you’re in, say, Dropbox looking at a doc, you could @twit John and it would send a link to that doc to him, sort of like the reverse of the above idea (and it would be good to have both sides covered now I think of it, i.e. sharing from both apps). Of course Dropbox has its own sharing functions, but you would have to either copy the link and paste it manually into Twitter, or have the Twitter app on your phone to use it, at the least. So one possible value of this app is that, as long as you connect your accounts to it and set it up on any platform (e.g. Windows or web), if you’re on another platform and logged-in as you, it can send stuff on your behalf, even without that app installed. So that’s pretty cool actually…
Depending on platform, some of this functionality may not be possible. I know that a Windows app would work, and probably a Chrome app as well. Android may be possible, but one of the biggest markets on iPhone might be tricky. Unsure about Mac OS, too.
It should probably pop-up as small and unobtrusive as possible, with either a gesture (e.g. swipe up) to activate it, or just pressing on it (a bit slower). So something like a small circle with a glowing/pulsing @ overlaid above where the person is typing, perhaps semi-transparent and with an unobtrusive line connecting to the @ (or other text) that triggered it.
Potentially allow it to use other characters and/or hotkeys, with @ as the default but not only.
Competition and Similar Tools
What other tools do things like this? Obviously each service often has its own linking functions, but generally you have to be in that app to do it. I think the main differentiators here are 1: triggering a link/message/etc. automatically based on typed text (i.e. faster/smoother, no need to switch apps), 2: support of multiple services through a single system and UI approach, and 3: using/inserting links rather than e.g. MMS (for pictures, etc.). At the least. There may be more.
Promising, but Mac-only so far
Also quite promising. Cross platform. But high pricing and unclear differences between Free and Pro ($12/mo).
Chrome extension that I have/use, relies on Chrome, and not made for linking others to your files, but surprisingly fast and decent.
Unclear exactly what it does? No info, just have to sign up. Worth testing I guess.
https://wheredatapp.com (no longer available, dead link)
https://usefyi.com/how-it-works/ (aggregation for file services with central search, but not contextual, opens new tab in Chrome)
https://hookproductivity.com/ Mac-only, link creator, requires all people to have app installed for links to work, but seems related and cool (free version available).