THIS WEEK'S SPONSOR:

Ulysses

The Ultimate Writing App for Mac, iPad and iPhone


Shortcuts Rewind: Linking Tricks Using Markdown and Rich Text

Editor’s Note

Over the past several years, Federico has built hundreds of shortcuts that are sprinkled throughout the stories he’s written. Last spring we debuted the MacStories Shortcuts Archive, a one-stop destination that collects all of those shortcuts organized by topic, so readers can find them easily.

There’s no better way to learn how to build your own shortcuts than by downloading someone else’s, which is what makes the Archive such a valuable resource to readers and one of MacStories’ most popular features. Still, it can be hard to pick up best practices and patterns or other tips and tricks from experimentation and tinkering.

That’s why today we are introducing a new series on MacStories called Shortcuts Rewind to add context to the shortcuts in the Archive. Periodically throughout the year, we will pick a few shortcuts from the Archive that we think would benefit from a further explanation, whether that’s to help new Shortcuts users learn the basics, to illustrate a particular technique that can be used across multiple shortcuts, or to automate a task that you might not have thought was possible.

Tying Shortcuts Rewind together is a new graphical approach to explaining shortcuts. As you’ll see, we’ve created a system that dispenses with distracting UI elements and breaks shortcuts into logical sets of actions. The approach allows us to simultaneously provide step-by-step instructions alongside commentary that we hope will help readers achieve a deeper understanding of Shortcuts and assist them in building their own automations.

Let’s get started.


For this first installment of Rewind, I wanted to start with a trio of relatively simple shortcuts that illustrate the power of Shortcuts’ ability to streamline the transformation of one type of content into another. All three shortcuts can be found in the Text section of the Shortcuts Archive, but there are also links to them below. The foundation of this process is the Content Graph, a core part of Shortcuts dating back to its origins as Workflow. The idea is a simple but powerful one that eliminates complexity for the user, handling much of the data compatibility and conversion chores behind the scenes with little or no effort on the part of the user.

At the heart of the three shortcuts discussed below are transformations between plain text, rich text, and URLs. Thanks to the Content Graph, Shortcuts has the flexibility to create powerful text and link handling functionality.

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Jason Snell on Editing Podcasts with Ferrite on an iPad with the Apple Pencil

Jason Snell has edited a lot of podcasts. In fact, The Incomparable, the flagship show of his media and pop culture podcast network of the same name, just reached episode 500.

Since last summer, Snell has been using Ferrite by Wooji Juice to edit nearly every episode of The Incomparable on his iPad with the Apple Pencil. I’ve heard him describe his iPad and Apple Pencil workflow on podcasts before, but there’s nothing like seeing it in action, which you can now do on the Six Colors YouTube channel.

What struck me most about Snell’s video is how natural direct manipulation of multiple audio tracks looks. I’ve always done all of my podcast editing on a Mac with Logic Pro X, but after watching Snell edit an episode with multiple guests, I look forward to trying this myself.

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Connected, Episode 281: Oligarch Modder Community

On this week’s episode of Connected:

Stephen and Myke launch new careers as iPhone designers and Federico keeps refreshing Apple Music. Also: Swift Playgrounds on the Mac, Apple News+ and a few things we are currently enjoying.

You can listen below (and find the show notes here).

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Connected, Episode 281

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Apple Introduces Mac Catalyst Version of Swift Playgrounds

Swift Playgrounds has been around for quite a while on the iPad, but now, it’s on the Mac too as a Mac Catalyst app.

Swift Playgrounds teaches coding concepts and the Swift programming language. Until today, the app, which includes lessons designed to teach Swift alongside a coding environment, was an iPad exclusive. Now, however, anyone interested in learning Swift can move from the iPad to the Mac and back again.

I’ve been a fan of Swift Playgrounds since it debuted. It’s a friendly, easy-to-use environment for experimenting with Swift ideas and concepts, and the lessons available are excellent. With the addition of a native Catalyst app on the Mac, anyone who wants to learn Swift can do so whether they are in front of their Mac or using an iPad. What’s more, the additional space afforded by most Macs there’s more room to navigate playground books and files. Playgrounds on the Mac includes expanded code completion functionality that allows you to navigate code suggestions with the arrow keys on your keyboard or trackpad too.

I haven’t had a chance to spend more than a few minutes with the new Swift Playgrounds yet, but it’s clear from even a cursory review of the app that a lot of thought and care has gone into it. The sidebar and Touch Bar support stand out as terrific Mac-centric additions that take advantage of the Mac’s bigger screen and keyboard and trackpad. I’m looking forward to diving spending more time with Swift Playgrounds on my Mac mini in the coming weeks.

Swift Playgrounds is available as a free download on the Mac App Store and requires macOS Catalina 10.15.3.


FlickType Keyboard Review: Real Typing on an Apple Watch Display

The Apple Watch is steadily moving toward full independence from the iPhone. Making cellular an option, adding new apps at a healthy pace, and enabling apps to be downloaded and run independent of an iPhone are all crucial steps toward the device becoming entirely untethered. I have a cellular Apple Watch and go running with it each week without bringing my iPhone along, and it works great. I’ve even gone to a couple of doctor’s appointments with only my Watch, and the list of things I miss my phone for in those cases is now minimal.

One time the device still falls flat, however, is when I need to send a message. Scribble is too slow for more than a word or two, dictation is hit-or-miss, and canned responses aren’t good enough for most situations. FlickType Keyboard sets out to solve this problem, and entirely succeeds.

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Ulysses: The Ultimate Writing App for Mac, iPad and iPhone [Sponsor]

Ulysses is a powerful text editor for the Mac, iPad, and iPhone with unparalleled depth and an award-winning design that received an Apple Design Award. It’s a compelling combination that allows you to concentrate on your writing in a distraction-free environment with a full complement of cutting edge tools just a click or tap away. Ulysses works where and when you do too by offering iCloud sync between all of your devices, so your writing is always at your fingertips.

The flexibility of Ulysses’ deep toolset means you have all the functionality you need to manage writing projects of any size. The Library sidebar is brings order to your writing allowing you to organize it into groups that can be nested. The app also features powerful search and filtering options, keyword support, in-line images that can be stored locally or remotely on a server, and a whole lot more. Ulysses is updated all the time with new features to support the latest Apple technologies like dark mode, iPad multitasking, and context menus too.

Ulysses’ features go far beyond what other text editors offer. For instance, the app’s Goals feature lets you set character, word, and other types of writing goals that can be attached to a single document or entire group. Goals can be combined with deadlines too, which is a fantastic way to form good writing habits. You can learn more from Ulysses’ excellent tutorial.

When your writing is finished, Ulysses includes a wide variety of export and publishing options too. Your work can be exported as plain text, Markdown, TextBundle, rich text, DOCX, ePub, HTML, and PDF and published using WordPress, Medium, or Ghost. To learn more about Ulysses, visit ulysses.app.

Ulysses is a free download, so you can try it before deciding whether to subscribe for $4.99 per month or $39.99 per year. Students can subscribe for six months at a time for $10.99. The app offers a 14-day free trial, but MacStories readers can take advantage of a special extended three-month free trial right now. It’s a fantastic way to discover the app’s full capabilities, so be sure to check it out right away.

Our thanks to Ulysses for sponsoring MacStories this week.


Adapt, Episode 18: Fixing Multitasking

On this week’s episode of Adapt:

Multitasking is key to using the iPad as a primary computer, but the current drag and drop-centric system is flawed. Ryan shares his idea for a new approach, then Federico details his email app discoveries.

You can listen below (and find the show notes here), and don’t forget to send us questions using #AskAdapt and by tagging our Twitter account.

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Adapt, Episode 18

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Connected, Episode 280: Peanut Butterpeanut Butterpeanut Butter

On this week’s episode of Connected:

This week, most of the show document got shredded as a bunch of breaking news took place during recording. iOS 13.4 is bringing a bunch of changes, Mac Catalyst could become more useful and universal apps are coming to the Mac. When not breaking news, Federico shares a sad story, Myke reads a tweet about bread and Stephen struggles with how to edit the episode.

You can listen below (and find the show notes here).

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01:30:51

Connected, Episode 280

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