Any time a new app launches in the same category as a first-party, pre-installed app, there’s always a lot to prove. It’s one thing to find new customers in a market limited to third-party options, where prospective users have to pay one way or another to access an app in that category. But when there’s a free, built-in option, third-party apps not only have to prove that they’re good apps, they also have to offer enough extra benefit above and beyond what the Apple-designed default provides. The bar for such apps is raised higher in many ways.
Facing that challenge today is a new app from Flexibits, Cardhop for iOS, which serves as the iPhone and iPad companion to the contacts app launched for Mac in late 2017. Powered by a convenient natural language input system, Cardhop includes a host of features that differentiate it from Apple’s Contacts app and pose a strong threat to the iOS default.
General search results and DuckDuckGo’s Maps tab both embed Apple Maps’ familiar UI with options to display street, satellite, and hybrid views of locations combined with Yelp data for businesses and other destinations. According to DuckDuckGo, users can search by address, geographical place, business name and type, and nearby. Clicking or tapping on the map preview in search results expands the map while selecting a location highlights it on the map.
DuckDuckGo explains elsewhere on its site that it uses GEO::IP lookup to determine users’ location by default. For better results, users can grant DuckDuckGo permission to use their browser location data, in which case DuckDuckGo says searches are still anonymous because the company does not store location data on its servers.
I tried DuckDuckGo’s new Apple Maps integration with several different searches. The search engine had no problem finding the coffee shop I was at this morning, and the familiar Apple Maps UI is a definite plus. However, the results weren’t as good when I ran a few ‘near me’ searches. Searches for coffee, pizza, and barbers ‘near me’ all returned better results before I granted DuckDuckGo access to my location. Of course, these are just a few non-scientific searches from one location, so your results may be different.
First and foremost is the switch to a subscription-based business model by some of my favorite apps. As we noted in our look at the modern economics of the App Store earlier this year, it is becoming increasingly challenging for indie developers – the ones who make the apps we tend to use and cover most frequently on MacStories – to find a balance between reaching new customers with paid app updates and supporting an app over the span of multiple years for existing users who already paid once.
A subscription seems like an obvious solution: new customers can try an app for free and later decide to subscribe; longtime users of an app get to support their favorite app over a longer period of time; developers are more incentivized to keep making an app better thanks to the financial security provided by an ongoing revenue stream. Recurring subscriptions for all apps launched two years ago just before WWDC, and it feels like we’ve only now reached a point where more and more developers are willing to experiment with them. This major shift in app pricing wasn’t always met favorably by longtime users of existing apps, which has resulted in developers testing different approaches such as optional subscriptions, bundles containing subscriptions and In-App Purchases, or even multiple ways to unlock the same features. In looking at the apps included in this list, I was surprised by how many now include some form of recurring subscription; I think this transition will only become more prominent in 2019.
The second trend I noticed in my usage of third-party apps is a strong preference for those that fully embrace modern iOS technologies. From Siri shortcuts (by far, the most important iOS developer framework of 2018) to Files integration and support for external keyboards on iPad, I tend to prioritize apps that eschew proprietary functionalities and adopt native APIs such as iCloud, the Files document browser, or Reminders. With iOS growing more powerful and complex each year, I think it’s only natural that I’ve stuck with apps that shy away from Apple-provided solutions as little as possible; those frameworks are always going to be more integrated with the rest of the system than any alternative a developer can come up with, and I seek that level of integration because I enjoy the comfort of an ecosystem where all the pieces work well together.
Lastly, I’ve noticed some overall changes in the kinds of apps I consider my must-haves for iPhone and iPad. In the “pro” app department, the Photography and Development lists have grown to include apps such as Lightroom, Scriptable, Darkroom, and Halide – all new entries this year. One of my goals with the new iPad Pro is to use it as a workstation for editing photos and programming my own little additions to iOS; I felt like my increased usage of these apps warranted some changes in the annual picks. You will also find more apps designed to interact with macOS as a result of my purchase of a Mac mini (which I’m using as a home server for various tasks) and different utility apps as some of the old ones have been replaced by Shortcuts. An app that, by the way, I can no longer include in this roundup due to my self-imposed rule of not featuring Apple apps because they’re kind of obvious choices for an iOS user (this also applies to Shazam, officially acquired by Apple this year).
Below, you’ll find a collection of the 60 apps I consider my must-haves on the iPhone and iPad, organized in nine categories; whenever possible, I included links to original reviews and past coverage on MacStories. What you will not find is the usual list of awards for best new app and best app update, which we’ve relaunched as a team effort under the MacStories Selects name this year. Instead, at the end of the story you’ll find my App of the Year, which is also joining MacStories Selects as an award that recognizes an overall outstanding iOS app that had a profound impact on my workflow over the past year, regardless of its release date.
Welcome to the MacStories Shortcuts Archive, the official repository for shortcuts created by Federico Viticci and the MacStories team.
Since the original release of Workflow in 2014, we’ve created hundreds of automations to help readers use their iOS devices more efficiently. The goal of this archive is to offer a complete catalogue of our old workflows as well as new custom shortcuts for Apple’s Shortcuts app.
Each shortcut in this archive has been created, updated, and tested by Federico and the MacStories team. Shortcuts are organized in categories, and you can jump directly to a specific category by using one of the section links below.
Wake up an Apple TV on the local network and, if it’s past sunset, dim the lights in the room.
Check if the current time is after predicted sunset time for today.
Add a HomeKit scene that will dim the lights.
Redeem an iTunes code contained in the system clipboard. The shortcut will prompt you to pick a code you previously copied before launching the App Store’s redemption page, where the code will be already filled in.
Scan an iTunes gift card, extract its text, and open the App Store to redeem the associated promo code. You can import an image of a gift card from the clipboard or take a new picture. Toolbox Pro is required for this shortcut.
Calculate travel time to get to the next calendar event that has an address attached to it. The shortcut can be configured for different transportation methods and can be invoked from Siri or the widget.
Create a new calendar event choosing from a list of templates. Templates are represented by a Dictionary action at the beginning of the shortcut and they support customization for calendar name, location, duration, notes, alert time, and the all-day setting. The shortcut will only ask to confirm the event’s title and start date. This shortcut was originally created for members of Club MacStories.
Dictate an iMessage to a friend from a widget. The dictation language is set automatically based on the recipient’s address stored in their contact card. iMessages are sent in the background, but you’ll be asked to confirm the message before sending it.
Open a WhatsApp conversation for a selected contact. The shortcut needs to be configured for contacts that have a Country in their contact card’s Address field; the country and its phone prefix (country code) have to be added in a list at the beginning of the shortcut.
A mail merge shortcut that supports multiple variables for email addresses and a second piece of information for each recipient. Each email address is automatically paired with the corresponding variable in the second group. Supports customizable message and subject templates.
Quickly append text or an audio recording to a note called Scratchpad in your Evernote account. Audio will be recorded using Shortcuts’ native microphone access and recording UI; the audio file supports inline playback within Evernote.
Turn any web article into a clutter-free Evernote note that maintains formatting but removes extra visual elements from the original webpage. The shortcut has to be run in the extension from Safari or Safari View Controller.
Generate a .webarchive version of the current Safari webpage and save it in the Evernote app. The shortcut needs to open Evernote for iOS and is also supported in Safari View Controller. The title of the original webpage is copied to the clipboard for easy pasting in Evernote’s title field.
Save selections from Safari webpages as highlights in Evernote. Ideal for articles that will have multiple highlights, which will be appended to the same note. The shortcut integrates with the ShareQuote shortcut to make it easy to share highlights with iOS extensions later.
Convert a tweet URL into an embeddable rich text version that contains the original text and links of the tweet. The rich text is then appended to an existing note in Evernote. The shortcut cleans up shortened Twitter links, maintains author names, and lets you customize the list of Evernote notes to append tweets to.
A comprehensive menu to save webpages from Safari as notes in Evernote. The shortcut supports saving links as rich text, .webarchive files, PDFs, plain text, or attachments. The shortcut can either create new notes or append to an existing note. See comments below for instructions on how to store a list of your favorite Evernote notebooks, tags, and notes.
Clip any kind of text contained in the system clipboard to a Clipboard.txt file stored in iCloud Drive. This shortcut is designed to allow you to keep a record of previously copied bits of text and easily sync them across devices. The shortcut can be executed from the widget, and it also supports rich text and URLs.
Get a document from Obsidian and back it up to another folder in Finder or Files. This shortcut is best used with the free Obsidian Shortcut Launcher plugin, which can send the title of the current document from Obsidian to Shortcuts.
Create bookmarks for files and folders stored in iCloud Drive (and third-party file providers) that you can reuse as direct launchers. FS Bookmarks requires Scriptable, and it generates launchers that reopen files and folders directly in the Files app.
Scan a document using iOS’ native document scanner. The shortcut lets you choose whether you want to share the scanned file as an image or run OCR on it to extract text. Toolbox Pro is required for this shortcut.
Perform OCR (Optical Character Recognition) on a document. You can import a document from Files or a scanned image from Photos. Recognized text is copied to the clipboard and can be shared with app extensions. Toolbox Pro is required for this shortcut.
Extract all files from a compressed archive passed as input and save them into the same folder in iCloud Drive/Shortcuts. The name of the archive is used to create a new destination folder in Shortcuts’ iCloud Drive container.
Preview the contents of a folder stored inside iCloud Drive/Shortcuts. The shortcut lets you filter items by name; if no name is entered, all files contained in the folder are returned. You can choose to preview a selected file with Quick Look or share it with extensions.
Use youtube-dl to check the available download formats for a YouTube link copied to the clipboard on iOS. The shortcut assumes youtube-dl has been installed on a local Mac under the /usr/local/bin folder.
Change the volume of individual HomePods (or AirPlay speakers) connected to iTunes and choose which ones should be currently active. The shortcut lets you select one or multiple speakers as well as enter an exact volume level.
Export your Safari Reading List items to other apps. This shortcut was designed to run on macOS by reading the contents of Safari’s Bookmarks.plist database. If you’ve already exported this file, the shortcut can run on iOS and iPadOS too.
Split the screen using two windows from currenly running apps. You can choose up to two windows from a list, so one will be resized to fill the left half of the screen, and the other will fill the right half.
Extract section headings from Markdown text shared with the extension and generate a Table of Contents for headings between H2 and H6. The final list supports indentation and is copied to the clipboard as Markdown.
Obisidian Clip for Mac is a variant of MD Clip for Mac. The shortcut formats selected text in Safari as a blockquote and adds a link to the source material and then prepends the results to an Obsidian file called @scratchpad using the Advanced URI Obsidian community plugin. To use the shortcut, make sure you’ve installed the Advanced URI plugin and have specified the vault and file you want to use in the URL action below. In Safari, select text and then select Obsidian Clip for Mac from the app’s Services menu.
Obsidian Clip for Mac was originally published as part of macOS Monterey: The MacStories Review by John Voorhees on MacStories.net.
MD Clip for Mac formats selected text in Safari as a blockquote and adds a link to the source material and then copies the results to the clipboard. To use the shortcut, select text in Safari and then select MD Clip for Mac from the app’s Services menu.
Obsidian Clip for Mac was originally published as part of macOS Monterey: The MacStories Review by John Voorhees on MacStories.net.
Preview Markdown text passed to the Shortcuts extension as converted HTML. The shortcut works from any app that can pass Markdown-formatted plain text to the share sheet, and it’ll open a rich preview inline using a native web view.
myTunes uses two third-party apps, Play and Downie, to download YouTube videos tagged in Play with ‘music-video,’ and then remove the tag. myTunes can be used in combination with the third-party app Channels to automate the process of creating a virtual music video channel. Details on how to set up a Virtual Channel can be found in the story that accompanies this shortcut on MacStories.net.
Frame Nintendo Switch screenshots with a physical Nintendo Switch frame. By default, the shortcut looks for any screenshots with a resolution of 1280x720 or 1920x1080 in your Photos library and asks you to pick one; however, you can also pass screenshots imported with the ShortSwitch shortcut and frame them with SwitchFrame instantly.
Wirelessly transfer screenshots or videos from a Nintendo Switch to an iPhone or iPad. After entering ‘sharing mode’ on a Switch console, the shortcut can connect to the Switch, fetch media, and enable you to save items to Photos or Files, copy them to the clipboard, share them via the share sheet, or frame them with the separate SwitchFrame shortcut.
Timestamper is a shortcut created by John Voorhees for MacStories’s Automation April. The shortcut is one of three that make up Timestamped Notes, a system for creating timestamped notes while you watch video or listen to audio. Timestamper is a simple shortcut that records a clock-based timestamp in your notes as you take notes. The shortcut’s final action requires BetterTouchTool, but it can be removed if you prefer, requiring the shortcut’s timestamp to be manually pasted into your note-taking app.
Download a video from YouTube using youtube-dl and the a-Shell app for iPhone or iPad. The shortcut accepts any YouTube URLs passed from Safari or the YouTube app via the share sheet. Detailed instructions on how to set up youtube-dl and a-Shell can be found here.
Timestamp Converter is a shortcut created by John Voorhees for MacStories’s Automation April. The shortcut is one of three that make up Timestamped Notes, a system for creating timestamped notes while you watch video or listen to audio. To use Timestamp Converter, copy your timestamped notes to the clipboard and run this shortcut, which convertes them to conincide with the time counter of the video you took notes on. Once the shortcut completes the calculation, you’ll have the option to view and copy, save, or share the results.
Video Startup is a shortcut created by John Voorhees for MacStories’s Automation April. The shortcut is one of three that make up Timestamped Notes, a system for creating timestamped notes while you watch video or listen to audio. Video Startup is a Mac-only shortcut that requires the app BetterTouchTool. The other shortcuts that are part of Timestamped Notes can be used without this one by manually starting your video or audio and crating your first timestamped note.
Find the IDs for media sections of your Plex library running on a local server. These IDs can then be used with another shortcut to refresh (scan) individual Plex media sections such as Movies or TV shows. The shortcut requires your Plex token and returns raw XML data. The shortcut was originally created for Club MacStories members.
Refresh (scan) individual Plex media sections such as Movies or TV shows from Shortcuts or Siri. The shortcut requires your Plex token to communicate with a Plex server running on the same local network as the iOS device. The shortcut was originally created for Club MacStories members.
Create a detailed report for the music you’ve listened to in the past year. The shortcut can optionally create a Top 25 playlist for your most played songs and generate a PDF report. The shortcut is primarily designed for Apple Music subscribers.
To calculate number of plays, the shortcut looks at songs that have been played in full without skipping and added to your library in any given year.
Start a playlist in Apple Music with shuffle enabled. The shortcut needs to be configured with the names of your playlists from the Music app. The shortcut supports adding friendly names for playlists if you don’t want to display their actual names.
MusicBot is the all-in-one Apple Music assistant, powered by Shortcuts. Entirely customizable and designed for Apple Music, MusicBot speeds up access to your favorite music and comes with dozens of features to help you play albums, browse songs, check out new releases, and even listen to the Apple Music 1 radio or ambient sounds by Apple Music. Additionally, MusicBot lets you create your own collection of favorite albums and new music releases, comes with AirPlay 2 support and various audio controls, and provides you with Smart Mixes – intelligent playlists to discover songs you love from your Music library with one tap. In its latest update, MusicBot also integrates with Shazam to recognize songs, lets you read the latest music news and album reviews, and fully supports iOS 14’s compact UI.
Use iOS’ native speech-to-text to dictate a note in a language of your choosing from the Shortcuts widget. The list of supported languages can be customized in the shortcut. Starting with Shortcuts 2.2, it is possible to save dictated text to Notes in the background – directly from the widget – without showing the Notes composer. The Notes action can be replaced with other note-taking apps such as Evernote or Drafts.
Get the resolution of any image passed as input. This shortcut supports images copied to the clipboard, the iOS and iPadOS share sheet, picking images from Files, or images selected in Finder on macOS. The shortcut can also run as a Quick Action on macOS.
Preview photos shared from Photos’ share sheet in a custom preview page. The preview contains the photo, its timestamp, plus metadata including an interactive map. Toolbox Pro is required for this shortcut.
Add device frames to screenshots for iPhones (11, 8/SE, and 12-13 generations in mini/standard/Plus/Pro Max sizes), iPad Pro (11” and 12.9”, 2018-2021 models), iPad Air (10.9”, 2020 model), iPad mini (2021 model), Apple Watch S4/5/6/7 (40 and 44mm; 45mm only for the Series 7), iMac (24” model, 2021), MacBook Air (2020 model), and MacBook Pro (2021 models). The shortcut supports portrait and landscape orientations, but does not support Display Zoom; on macOS, the shortcut only supports native (not scaled) display resolutions. If multiple screenshots are passed as input, they will be combined in a single image. The shortcut can be run in the Shortcuts app, as a Home Screen widget, or via the share sheet; on macOS, the shortcut can be pinned to the menu bar and run as a quick action in Finder.
Search your photo library for old photos taken on this day in previous years. The shortcut can look for photos from multiple years, with multiple photos per day. If more than one photo is found, photos are resized to square and combined in a grid.
Screenshot -> Web allows you to select multiple image files that the shortcut resizes to a standard width, converts to PNG, and then optimizes for the web. The image actions are part of Pixelmator Pro and will be available soon after the release of macOS Monterey.
Screenshot -> Web was originally published as part of macOS Monterey: The MacStories Review by John Voorhees on MacStories.net.
Filter your photo library by the lens used to capture a photo. The shortcut is optimized for the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro, and it supports the wide, telephoto, and ultra-wide lenses. By default, the shortcut looks at the last 50 photos from your library and opens a custom preview showing metadata for each photo. Toolbox Pro is required for this shortcut.
Filter your photo library by the lens used to capture a photo. The shortcut is optimized for the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro, and it supports the wide, telephoto, and ultra-wide lenses. By default, the shortcut looks at the last 300 photos from your library.
Translate text recognized from images (thanks to Live Text) to any language supported by Apple’s Translate app. The shortcut accepts images from the share sheet, quick actions in Finder, picking from the Photos app, or taking new pictures with the Camera.
Perform OCR on an image (either captured from the camera or selected from Photos) using Prizmo Go. The shortcut can ask Prizmo Go to perform standard OCR or Cloud OCR. You can choose to copy extracted text to the clipboard or send it as a text file to DEVONthink.
Automatically create and install wallpapers for iPhone and iPad featuring solid colors or gradients. Wallpapers are automatically sized for different devices. This shortcut is designed to be used as a Personal Automation in the Shortcuts app via a single ‘Run Shortcut’ action.
Create a custom icon on your iOS home screen for any app URL scheme, shortcut, contact, or solid color. This shortcut uses the same technique of Apple’s Shortcuts app to save an icon to the home screen, but extends it with the ability to fully customize the launcher, including icons and launch images. (Due to a limitation in iOS 13, you’ll have to force-quit instances of Home Screen Icon Creator-based launchers in the app switcher for the launchers to work again>)
Save a video clip shared from Overcast in the Files app. The shortcut will extract the video file from the Overcast clip (shared via the share sheet) and rename it with the title of episode being shared.
Save the number of reminders completed on the current day as a new row of a Numbers spreadsheet. The completed count will be saved alongside the current date, allowing you to chart your progress over time in Numbers.
Reschedule reminders due today (or overdue) to a later date. You can pick multiple reminders at once and change their due date by choosing from some presets or typing a date manually. Toolbox Pro is required for this shortcut.
Searches the Reminders app for tasks that contain URLs in their note field. Optionally, you can add more filters (for dates, Reminders lists, etc.) to narrow down the list of results. The shortcut lets you open multiple URLs from multiple reminders at once in Safari.
Create a new task in the Reminders database with subtasks based on the GoodTask syntax. Subtasks have to be entered on multiple lines and they’ll be added to the reminder’s note field. Subtasks can be previewed natively in the GoodTask app.
Save a link from the clipboard or shared via the extension to 2Do as a new task. You can pick from multiple lists and optionally define a tag to be automatically applied to the new task. The original link is embedded in the task as a ‘Visit URL’ action.
An advanced shortcut that lets you create multiple tasks at once in Things using natural language parsing. The shortcut has its own special syntax to add tasks with natural language, and takes advantage of Things’ JSON Import for multiple tasks.
Create a reminder for the webpage currently open in Safari or Safari View Controller using the webpage’s original title and URL. The shortcut needs to be executed from the share sheet. The original webpage’s URL will be saved as a rich link in the reminder.
Append notes to an existing task in the Things app. The shortcut can append links or text passed to the share sheet, but it also lets you type or paste your own notes manually. To use the shortcut, you’ll have to add your Things URL token and paste the unique IDs of existing Things tasks.
Turn a Safari webpage into a rich task in Things. The shortcut can add a task with a specific tag, into a specific project, under a specific heading in Things using the webpage’s original title and URL as the task’s metadata. Additionally, you can type a due date in natural language before creating the task in Things.
Reschedule any reminder to a later date. You can pick multiple reminders at once and change their due date by choosing from some presets or typing a date manually. Toolbox Pro is required for this shortcut.
Quickly create a new reminder in the Due app. The shortcut can be run inside the Shortcuts app or via Siri, and it’ll ask you to enter a reminder title and due date. In Siri, dates and times support natural language input.
Create a reminder for the webpage currently open in Safari or Safari View Controller using the webpage’s original title and URL. You can type a due date in natural language. The shortcut needs to be executed from the action extension.
Generate a string of invisible characters based on the Braille Pattern Blank Unicode character (U+2800). This is a workaround to create shortcuts with invisible names on the iOS home screen. The shortcut lets you choose how many times you’d like to repeat the blank character to avoid issues with multiple shortcuts having the same name.
Craft Focused Writing is a shortcut that can be used to create a new dated note in Craft, start a ‘writing’ timer in Timery, play 30 minutes of rain sounds in Dark Noise, resize the Craft window to full screen and then hide all other apps.
Remove unnecessary styles from rich text stored in the system clipboard. This shortcut will maintain formatting for bold, italics, and links, but it’ll remove other elements such as custom fonts, font sizes, colors, and more. The cleaned up rich text will be put back in the clipboard at the end.
Tot Dot Review requires the third-party app Tot by The Iconfactory. The shortcut queries each of Tot’s seven dots, extracting their text. Users can then parse the resulting text to pull out URLs, Apple Maps URLs, addresses, phone numbers, and dates or copy the contents of each note in a Markdown-formatted list that’s copied to the clipboard before the contents of each dot is deleted.
This shortcut extracts a project ID and task ID from a project in your Toggl account. These IDs are needed to configure shortcuts that start timers. To access your Toggl account over the API, enter your email:password combination below. The shortcut communicates directly with the Toggl API.
Start a Toggl timer (with the Timery app) based on an event name found in a specific calendar (or multiple calendars). You have to specify the event name in a list and replace the Siri shortcuts for Timery if you don’t have the app installed.
Stop Long Timer is for Timery users who have a habit of letting their time tracking timers run long after they finish working. The shortcut, which works best when run as a personal automation on a regular schedule (I suggest every hour during yoru work day), will alert you when a timer has been running for more than 4 hours. You’re then given the option to stop the timer or defer any further alerts for 1-3 hours if you need more time.
View all the mentions, @replies, and quoted tweets sent to a specific Twitter user in a single screen. The shortcut is based on Twitter’s advanced search syntax and opens the native Twitter app for iOS.
Use the Dark Sky API to display a short summary of current weather conditions and the forecast for today. The shortcut requires a free Dark Sky API key, which has to be saved in iCloud Drive. It also requires pasting your coordinates in the first Text action. Once configured, the shortcut can be used with the widget or Siri.
Convert a rich text selection from a Safari webpage to Markdown and copy the cleaned-up rich text to the clipboard. The rich text will retain basic formatting with elements such as bold, italics, and hyperlinks. The shortcut needs to run as an extension in Safari.
Create separate PDFs for each hyperlink contained in a Safari selection. Ideal for list of links that have to be converted to multiple PDFs (such as the Club MacStories newsletter archive). The resulting PDFs are saved into iCloud Drive.
Given a selection in Safari, the shortcut finds all image links contained in the selected portion of the page and offers to open them as new tabs. Selected image links are also copied to the clipboard.
Convert between currencies using the Fixer.io web service. The shortcut requires a private API key to operate. The shortcut supports historical exchange rates and lets you convert between currencies using the current date or any past date. You can type dates with natural language. The converted amount is copied to the clipboard at the end.
Publish a Markdown post to WordPress via the Shortcuts action extension. The shortcut can extract the h1 Markdown header from a post and use it as title. Optionally, you can publish both standard and “linked list” post types by adding a custom field supported by your WordPress installation.
Use Shortcuts’ native support for parsing web articles to identify the featured (hero) image of an article and save it to the Photos app. The shortcut needs to run as an extension in Safari or Safari View Controller.
Save a webpage from Safari as a .webarchive or PDF file in DEVONthink To Go. To use this shortcut, share a webpage from Safari with the share sheet. You can optionally add a comment to the item. At the end of the shortcut, the DEVONthink URL to the newly created item will be copied to the clipboard.
Create a template for a linked post to an article in Obsidian. The text selection from a Safari webpage is used as a Markdown blockquote. The original title, author name, and URL of the webpage are also preserved in the sheet.
Create and install Home or Lock Screen wallpapers for iPhone and iPad featuring solid colors or gradients. Wallpapers are automatically sized for different devices. You can enter your favorite color codes manually, or you can let the shortcut generate random colors for you.
A comprehensive shortcut to save a variety of file types into DEVONthink To Go. The shortcut can save Safari webpages, images, text, PDFs, videos, MP3s, and more, with the ability to add more supported file types manually. In most cases, files will be previewed natively in DEVONthink. At the end, the shortcut offers the ability to save each DEVONthink item as a task in Things using the Things Natural Language Parser syntax.
A comprehensive shortcut to save a variety of file types into DEVONthink To Go. The shortcut can save Safari webpages, images, text, PDFs, videos, MP3s, and more, with the ability to add more supported file types manually. In most cases, files will be previewed natively in DEVONthink.
Create a template for a linked post to an article in Drafts 5. The text selection from a Safari webpage is used as a Markdown blockquote. The original title, author name, and URL of the webpage are also preserved in the note.
Clean up URLs by removing tracking parameters from them. The shortcut supports a built-in list of widely known tracking parameters (courtesy of Robb Knight), and can be easily expanded to remove more tracking parameters from URLs.
Create a template for a linked post to an article in Ulysses. The text selection from a Safari webpage is used as a Markdown blockquote. The original title, author name, and URL of the webpage are also preserved in the sheet.
A comprehensive shortcut for your morning routine. This shortcut can read you the news, list your upcoming agenda, turn on HomeKit scenes, and much more. By default, the shortcut requires the AutoSleep app to process sleep data (AutoSleep is only available on iPhone), LookUp for the word of the day, and GoodTask for Reminders lists. It also uses the Today Weather Forecast shortcut. Optionally, the shortcut can also integrate with Apple Music, Overcast, and Deliveries. More details about this shortcut are available in the MacStories iOS 12 review.
An advanced shortcut for Keep It to save new notes in the app as either text or file attachments, which are previewed natively in Keep It. The shortcut can run from the Shortcuts app or as an extension. In addition to saving text notes and files, the shortcut can also save Safari webpages as web archives, live links, or PDF documents. At the end of shortcut, multiple references to Keep It notes can be saved as tasks in Reminders. This shortcut was originally created for members of Club MacStories.
Save one or multiple images in DEVONthink To Go for iOS. Images can be passed from the share sheet or picked manually from Photos or Files. At the end of the shortcut, a plain text reference with a DEVONthink URL for the newly created items will be copied to the system clipboard.
Reformat results for a completed Wordle game to include scores for partial and perfect guesses on each line. The shortcut can ouput results as reformatted emoji or as a single image saved to the Photos app.
Quickly change your device’s system volume by picking a numeric value from a list. You can customize the list to contain your favorite volume presets, which support decimal values. The shortcut can be used from the widget as well.
Filter articles saved in Reeder’s Read Later account by topic. The shortcut relies on iOS’ Natural Language Processing framework to extract organization names from text. You can modify the list of topics to include the ones you prefer. Toolbox Pro and Reeder are required for this shortcut.
Search your DEVONthink To Go database (or specific group) for one or multiple files matching a series of keywords. The shortcut can either perform a basic search or a NEAR-operator search; results can be displayed in Shortcuts (with a ranking score) or in the DEVONthink app.
Open a specific page or sub-section of the Settings app. This shortcut contains over 120 Settings URLs, and you can choose which one to open from a list. You can also create standalone shortcuts for each URL.
Snooze your Slack notifications for 1 hour. The shortcut supports setting a different duration for Slack’s do not disturb mode and can also turn off snooze if already enabled. Requires a test API token.
Anyone is free to download, modify, and redistribute shortcuts from the MacStories archive. Our shortcuts are provided for free and out of love for the Shortcuts automation community. In fact, we encourage readers to download shortcuts and optimize them to their needs. No attribution is necessary, but we always appreciate it.
If you’re new to the Shortcuts app, you can find our coverage here; we also recommend going back through the Workflow archives for additional context. All of our workflows have been updated for the Shortcuts app and are included in this archive.
The archive will be regularly updated with new shortcuts over time. Updates will be shared on Twitter via the @viticci and @macstoriesnet accounts.
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After years of unabated visual and functional changes, iOS 12 is Apple’s opportunity to regroup and reassess the foundation before the next big step – with one notable exception.
We left last year’s iOS 11 update with a palpable tension between two platforms.
On one hand, following a year of minor changes to the iPad and a hardware refresh that came in later than some expected, Apple once again devoted plenty of attention to reimagining the tablet’s role in the world of modern computing. iPad updates in iOS 11, despite having their fair share of critics, largely did not disappoint. On the other hand, the iPhone – by and large still Apple’s crown jewel – had to play second fiddle to a platform that was more in need of a strong, coherent message. And so despite blessing the iPhone with the same features of its larger multitouch cousin (at least most of them), Apple seemed content ceding the smartphone’s spotlight to the iPad. There was a healthy array of new functionalities for both, but iOS 11’s “Monumental leap for iPad” tagline pretty much told the whole story.
iOS 12, available today for the same range of devices that supported iOS 11, feels like a reaction to changes that have occurred around Apple and consumer technology over the past year.
While iOS 11 may go down in Apple software history as the touchstone of the iPad’s maturity, it will also be remembered as one of the company’s most taxing releases for its users. You don’t have to look far into the iOS 11 cycle for headlines lamenting its poor stability on older hardware, plethora of design inconsistencies (which were noted time and time again), and general sense of sluggishness – issues that may have contributed to a slower adoption rate than 2016’s iOS 10.
There were debacles in Apple’s PR and marketing approach as well: performance problems with battery and power management were handled poorly during a key time of the year, culminating with a year-long discounted battery replacement program and a somewhat rushed battery-related addition to iOS’ Settings. Then, of course, there was the much derided iPhone X ad clearly showing one of the many reported iOS bugs on TV, which had to be fixed with an updated commercial before the actual software was fixed. No matter how you slice it, it’s been a rough few months for Apple in the realm of public perception of its software.
At the same time, toward the beginning of 2018, technology observers witnessed the rise of Time Well Spent – an organization and, perhaps more broadly, a public movement demanding that tech companies prioritize enabling healthier relationships with mobile devices. The principles underlying Time Well Spent, from battling smartphone addiction and notification overload to including superior parental controls in mobile OSes, may have originated as a natural consequence of breakneck technological progress; as some argue, they may also be a byproduct of global socioeconomic and political events. Time Well Spent’s ideas found fertile soil in Silicon Valley: earlier this year, Facebook made key changes to its news feed to improve how users spend time on the social network; Apple made a rare commitment to better parental features in a future version of iOS; Google went all out and turned digital well-being into a suite of system features for Android.
It’s important to understand the context in which iOS 12 is launching today, for events of the past year may have directly shaped Apple’s vision for this update.
With iOS 12, Apple wants to rectify iOS’ performance woes, proving to their customers that iOS updates should never induce digital regret. Perhaps more notably though, iOS 12 doesn’t have a single consumer feature that encapsulates this release – like Messages might have been for iOS 10 or the iPad for iOS 11. Instead, iOS 12 is a constellation of enhancements revolving around the overarching theme of time. Apple in 2018 needs more time for whatever the next big step of iOS may be; they want iOS users to understand how much time they’re spending on their devices; and they want to help users spend less time managing certain system features. Also, funnily enough, saving time is at the core (and in the very name) of iOS 12’s most exciting new feature: Shortcuts.
iOS 12 isn’t Apple’s Snow Leopard release: its system changes and updated apps wouldn’t justify a “No New Features” slide. However, for the first time in years, it feels as if the company is happy to let its foot off the gas a little and listen to users more.
For the second time in three years, the iPad isn’t following in the iPhone’s footsteps. With iOS 11, the iPad is going in its own direction – this time, with no cliffhanger.
iOS 9 marked a significant milestone for the iPad platform. In contrast with previous iPhone interface adaptations, iOS 9 did away with longstanding preconceptions and allowed the iPad to reach beyond the comfort of familiarity with the iPhone’s experience.
Shedding the vestiges of intrinsic iPhone OS notions – namely, single-tasking through one app at a time – the combination of more capable hardware with features such as Split View and Picture in Picture inaugurated a new beginning for the iPad’s post-PC endeavors. iOS 9 reset the iPad’s expectations and potential, providing millions of disenchanted users with the modern, powerful PC replacement they’d been envisioning since 2010.
But in many ways, iOS 9 wasn’t enough. The productivity enhancements that set the iPad on a new course felt, in hindsight, like first attempts at reviving its software and app ecosystem. Key aspects of iOS 9 were evidently unfinished, possibly hinting at future optimizations and fixes.
That future didn’t arrive with last year’s iOS 10, which only added to the sense of wondering when the iPad’s next shoe would drop. Amidst consistently declining unit sales and following another bland (at least iPad-wise) mid-cycle update to iOS, the legacy of iOS 9 gradually shifted from a first step packed with promise to a bittersweet one-off effort to infuse new life into the iPad.
With iOS 11, Apple’s iPad vision feels resolute again. Multitasking is blending with multitouch, giving drag and drop a new purpose; the Mac’s best features – from file management to the dock – have been rethought, simplified, and extended specifically for iOS. The iPad’s mission is to reimagine the very concept of a portable computer by empowering a new generation of users to do their best work wherever they are, whenever they want.
If anything, iOS 9 was merely the iPad’s overture.
The iPad, however, is only one part of the broader iOS story, which has been – and most likely always will be – characterized by the iPhone’s evolution and impact on our society.
From that standpoint, not only did iOS 10 deliver with upgrades to core iPhone apps such as Photos, Messages, Music, and Maps – it showed how Apple was judiciously planting the seeds for technologies and human interface guidelines that are blossoming in iOS 11. The two-pronged approach of iOS 10 – updates to consumer apps along with the first signs of native iOS machine learning – resulted in an iPhone update that felt impactful without the need for a ground-up redesign.
For the most part, iOS 11 follows the playbook of last year. The transition to a new design language is still in flux, with a progressive remodeling of iOS 7’s divisive aesthetic and the adoption of friendly UI elements that can guide users across the system. iOS 11’s most notable redesigns, including the App Store and Control Center, lay new foundations and fix what didn’t work before. Refinements – in some cases, reversals of ideas that didn’t pan out – are one of iOS 11’s overarching themes.
iOS 11 also reaps the rewards of investments Apple made in iOS 10 and 2016’s iPhone line. From the upcoming wave of augmented reality apps to deeper computational photography and new responsibilities for iCloud, iOS 11 epitomizes – with remarkable accomplishments and a few missteps along the way – the focus and priorities of the modern Apple.
But perhaps more importantly, unlike iOS 10, iOS 11 presents a cohesive narrative for both the iPad and iPhone. A story where, for the first time in years, the iPad is informing some of the design principles and features of the iPhone’s software. Even from different angles, and each with its own past struggles, both acts in iOS 11 end up asking the same question:
iPad Diaries is a regular series about using the iPad as a primary computer. You can find more installments here and subscribe to the dedicated RSS feed.
For years, I struggled to settle on an accounting workflow I truly liked.
In the past 8 years of MacStories, I’ve tried organizing financial records and statements with plain text files and PDF documents; I’ve used and then abandoned dedicated finance management apps; for a couple of years, I even tested a combination of Dropbox, Excel, and Editorial to visualize transactions and generate invoices with a Markdown template. My Italian bank doesn’t support direct integrations with third-party accounting services, and my particular requirements often include converting expenses from USD to EUR on a per-receipt basis.
Eventually, I always managed to keep my records up to date and neatly sorted with the help of an accountant, but I never loved any of the workflows I had established. In the end, several factors contributed to begrudgingly assembling reports and statements with systems I didn’t find flexible enough.
Sometimes, change is unexpected. More often than not, change sneaks in until it feels grand and inevitable. Gradually, and then suddenly. iOS users have lived through numerous tides of such changes over the past three years.
You wouldn’t have expected it from a device that barely accounted for 10% of the company’s revenues, but iOS 9 was, first and foremost, an iPad update. After years of neglect, Apple stood by its belief in the iPad as the future of computing and revitalized it with a good dose of multitasking. Gone was the long-held dogma of the iPad as a one-app-at-a-time deal; Slide Over and Split View – products of the patient work that went into size classes – brought a higher level of efficiency. Video, too, ended its tenure as a full-screen-only feature. Even external keyboards, once first-party accessories and then seemingly forgotten in the attic of the iPad’s broken promises, made a comeback.
iOS 9 melded foundational, anticipated improvements with breakthrough feature additions. The obvious advent of Apple’s own typeface in contrast to radical iPad updates; the next logical step for web views and the surprising embrace of content-blocking Safari extensions. The message was clear: iOS is in constant evolution. It’s a machine sustained by change – however that may happen.
It would have been reasonable to expect the tenth iteration of iOS to bring a dramatic refresh to the interface or a full Home screen makeover. It happened with another version 10 before – twice. And considering last year’s iPad reboot, it would have been fair to imagine a continuation of that work in iOS 10, taking the iPad further than Split View.
There’s very little of either in iOS 10, which is an iPhone release focused on people – consumers and their iPhone lifestyles; developers and a deeper trust bestowed on their apps. Like its predecessors, iOS 10 treads the line of surprising new features – some of which may appear unforeseen and reactionary – and improvements to existing functionalities.
Even without a clean slate, and with a release cycle that may begin to split across platforms, iOS 10 packs deep changes and hundreds of subtle refinements. The final product is a major leap forward from iOS 9 – at least for iPhone users.
At the same time, iOS 10 is more than a collection of new features. It’s the epitome of Apple’s approach to web services and AI, messaging as a platform, virtual assistants, and the connected home. And as a cornucopia of big themes rather than trivial app updates, iOS 10 shows another side of Apple’s strategy:
Ina Fried, writing for Recode, got more details from Apple on how the company will be collecting new data from iOS 10 devices using differential privacy.
First, it sounds like differential privacy will be applied to specific domains of data collection new in iOS 10:
As for what data is being collected, Apple says that differential privacy will initially be limited to four specific use cases: New words that users add to their local dictionaries, emojis typed by the user (so that Apple can suggest emoji replacements), deep links used inside apps (provided they are marked for public indexing) and lookup hints within notes.
As I tweetedearlier this week, crowdsourced deep link indexing was supposed to launch last year with iOS 9; Apple’s documentation mysteriously changed before the September release, and it’s clear now that the company decided to rewrite the feature with differential privacy behind the scenes. (I had a story about public indexing of deep links here.)
I’m also curious to know what Apple means by “emoji typed by the user”: in the current beta of iOS 10, emoji are automatically suggested if the system finds a match, either in the QuickType bar or with the full-text replacement in Messages. There’s no way to manually train emoji by “typing them”. I’d be curious to know how Apple will be tackling this – perhaps they’ll look at which emoji are not suggested and need to be inserted manually from the user?
I wonder if the decision to make more data collection opt-in will make it less effective. If the whole idea of differential privacy is to glean insight without being able to trace data back to individuals, does it really have to be off by default? If differential privacy works as advertised, part of me thinks Apple should enable it without asking first for the benefit of their services; on the other hand, I’m not surprised Apple doesn’t want to do it even if differential privacy makes it technically impossible to link any piece of data to an individual iOS user. To Apple’s eyes, that would be morally wrong. This very contrast is what makes Apple’s approach to services and data collection trickier (and, depending on your stance, more honest) than other companies’.
Also from the Recode article, this bit about object and scene recognition in the new Photos app:
Apple says it is not using iOS users’ cloud-stored photos to power the image recognition features in iOS 10, instead relying on other data sets to train its algorithms. (Apple hasn’t said what data it is using for that, other than to make clear it is not using its users photos.)
I’ve been thinking about this since the keynote: if Apple isn’t looking at user photos, where do the original concepts of “mountains” and “beach” come from? How do they develop an understanding of new objects that are created in human history (say, a new model of a car, a new videogame console, a new kind of train)?
Apple said at the keynote that “it’s easy to find photos on the Internet” (I’m paraphrasing). Occam’s razor suggests they struck deals with various image search databases or stock footage companies to train their algorithms for iOS 10.