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Introducing the 2022 Automation April Shortcuts Contest Winners

John: One of the hardest things about a new project is keeping it under wraps until it’s ready. That was true of Automation April in general, but it was especially true of the Shortcuts Contest. As soon as we’d decided on the outline of what the contest would be, we knew it was something that had the potential to be special by bringing together the MacStories and broader Shortcuts communities for a single event.

We couldn’t be happier with how this year’s inaugural Automation April Shortcuts Contest went. We had over 200 shortcuts submitted to compete in six categories:

  • Best Everyday Shortcut
  • Best HomeKit Shortcut
  • Best Mac Shortcut
  • Best Media Shortcut
  • Best Productivity Shortcut
  • Best Overall Shortcut

The shortcuts we received were remarkable, and as we’d hoped, they ran the gamut from simple automations that solved one problem exceptionally well to shortcuts that offered broad functionality more like an app than an automation.

Having gone through every one of this year’s submissions, we’ve got a deeper appreciation than ever for just how vibrant and creative the Shortcuts community is. Across every Apple platform, its users are creating clever automations to extend the power of their devices and sharing them with a community that is incredibly generous with their time and efforts in helping others to learn how to build their own shortcuts.

With so many excellent shortcuts from which to choose, picking the winners was tough, but fortunately, we had a crack team of Shortcuts experts to help judge the submissions. Thanks to Simon Støvring, Matthew Cassinelli, Christopher Lawley, Jason Snell, Rosemary Orchard, Alex Cox, and David Sparks for their participation. We appreciate the time each was able to take sifting through this year’s contest submissions.

We’ve also got a little surprise for readers. Alongside the winners in each category, we’ve included a handful of honorable mentions to showcase some of our favorite shortcuts that didn’t win a category. I think you’ll see from the quality of these bonus shortcuts just how deep the field of submissions was.

With that, it’s time to reveal our first ever Automation April Shortcuts Contest winners and share the shortcuts they’ve created.

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Last Week, on Club MacStories: Accessories, a Text to Files Shortcut, MacStories Unplugged, and Interviews with Shortcuts Contest Judges

Because Club MacStories now encompasses more than just newsletters, we’ve created a guide to the past week’s happenings along with a look at what’s coming up next:

MacStories Weekly: Issue 318

Monthly Log: April 2022

This month, we interviewed three of our Automation April Shortcuts Contest judges:

Each judge shared lessons they’ve learned from the hundreds of submissions we’ve received, and shared a recent automation that made a difference to their dailly lives.


Automation April: 10 Shortcuts for Discord, Photos, Finder and Files, Tot, Weather Forecasts, and More

All the shortcuts I created for Automation April this month.

All the shortcuts I created for Automation April this month.

It’s the final week of Automation April, and before we get into the details of the final batch of 10 shortcuts I’ve prepared for this week, I just want to express my gratitude toward all readers – old and new – who checked out MacStories this month, entered the contest, or signed up for Club MacStories. The response to Automation April has exceeded our most optimistic expectations: we received over 200 shortcut submissions for the contest, which is why we’re taking a few extra days to sift through all of them before; look for an official announcement of all the winners next week.

For this final group of 10 shortcuts, I’ve assembled another pretty diverse list of utilities for iPhone, iPad, and Mac that integrate with different parts of Apple’s operating systems. There’s a shortcut that automatically deletes old files from Finder or the Files app; another that finds the unique identifier of a specific task in the Reminders app; there’s a shortcut that gives you a weather report for the location of an upcoming event in your calendar. In case you missed the previous collections of shortcuts, you can find them here and here.

So, with Automation April coming to a close, let’s dive in one last time and check out the details of the shortcuts I’m sharing this week.

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Automation April: Processing Tot Dots with Shortcuts

I’ve used Tot by The Iconfactory on and off since it was released in 2020 and reviewed by Federico, but it never stuck. I never came up with a system for using the app that fits well with how I work. Instead, I would simply dump text and URLs copied from the web or jot notes to myself haphazardly in any of the app’s seven colorful dots. The trouble was that when I went back to the app to find something, I often found myself clicking and scrolling around a lot to find what I wanted.

With the introduction of Tot’s Shortcuts support, I immediately saw an opportunity to process Tot’s dots in ways that would make the app fit better with the way I use it. I still don’t have a system for the app’s seven dots. Instead, I’ve got a shortcut called Tot Dot Review that lets me parse and process Tot’s dots in several different ways that shows off Tot’s shortcuts actions along with a handful of built-in Shortcuts actions for extracting different types of data from text.

Tot Dot Review lets me quickly pull URLs, Apple Maps URLs, addresses, phone numbers, and dates from my Tot notes without skimming through each of the app’s seven notes. I can also copy Tot’s notes into Markdown-formatted text that I can copy and paste into another app for processing and delete the content of all seven Tot notes, so I can start fresh. The combination of options has made it easier to find and manage things in Tot, which has led me to use the app more too.

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AppStories, Episode 271 – Apps with Great Shortcuts Support

This week on AppStories, we share our favorite third-party apps with deep Shortcuts integration.

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On AppStories+, we conclude the episode with a bonus round of apps with great Shortcuts support.

We deliver AppStories+ to subscribers with bonus content, ad-free, and at a high bitrate early every week.

To learn more about the benefits included with an AppStories+ subscription, visit our Plans page, or read the AppStories+ FAQ.

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Last Week, on Club MacStories: A Shortcuts Workshop, an Email Utility, Giveaways, and a Shortcut for Bundling Other Shortcuts

Because Club MacStories now encompasses more than just newsletters, we’ve created a guide to the past week’s happenings along with a look at what’s coming up next:

Automation April: Shortcuts Workshop Part 2

Last Tuesday, Federico and I were joined by Timery developer Joe Hribar for a special Automation April Shortcuts Workshop Town Hall in the Club MacStories+ Discord community to talk about magic and declared Shortcuts variables, action parameters and how Timery makes use of them, automation triggers, and our hope that Apple will allow third-party apps to act as shortcut triggers in the future.

Last week’s conversation was recorded and released in the Club Town Hall podcast feed.

MacStories Weekly: Issue 317

Triage 2

Triage 2

In Issue 317 of MacStories Weekly:

Up Next

Later this week, we’ll have more app giveaways in our Discord community and MacStories Weekly, we’ll publish the Monthly Log newsletter, and an all-new episode of MacStories Unplugged, our Club-only podcast will be released.


Automating Podcast Sessions in Audio Hijack 4 with Shortcuts and Timery

Audio Hijack 4 and Timery.

Audio Hijack 4 and Timery.

For the past week, I’ve been rethinking my approach to time tracking with the Timery app with a focus on simplicity and automation. I appreciate the insights into my habits and patterns afforded by time tracking and Timery’s excellent Reports view, but lately I’ve felt like my setup with projects, tags, and sub-tasks was too convoluted since it was based on a structure I designed years ago.

My daily routine is different now – and it’ll continue to change in 2022 – and I wanted to get rid of the overhead caused by a time tracking system that was too granular. For time tracking to be effective, you need to remember to start a timer whenever you’re working on something; too much friction in the process – such as having to carefully pick from a list of similar projects – defeats the whole purpose of it. There’s also the opposite problem – forgetting to stop a long-running timer – which John explained and fixed in a separate story for Automation April.

So I went back to the drawing board of my Timery projects and reorganized everything with simplicity and ease of activation in mind. I cleaned up my saved timers and shortcut that activates those timers, which I can now trigger system-wide via Raycast on the Mac and the Shortcuts widgets on iPad. I split my work projects into three main areas – MacStories, Club, and podcasts – removed redundant sub-tasks, and grouped related activities under the same tags for more reliable filtering.

How I access my saved timers from the Home Screen.

How I access my saved timers from the Home Screen.

The approach worked well for MacStories and the Club, but podcast timers turned out to be a different beast. You see, when I sit down to record a show like Connected or AppStories, I need to take care of key tasks such as making sure my audio inputs are correct, checking out notes for the show’s outline and intro, and keeping an eye on the Connected audience in Relay’s Discord server. These tasks distract me from time tracking and, as a result, I often forget to start a timer for when I begin recording and, conversely, stop the timer when I’m done. I could automatically start a timer when a calendar event for a show is due in my calendar, but that also doesn’t work for me since it doesn’t account for the time before we actually record the show when I may be chatting privately with Myke and Stephen. Wouldn’t it be great if there was One True Way to automatically start tracking my real recording time when I start talking into the microphone for a show?

As it turns out, thanks to the latest update to Audio Hijack – the new version 4.0 that recently launched on macOS – there is. So for this week’s Automation April story, I’m sharing the custom system I created to trigger a single shortcut that starts time tracking in Timery based on the show I’m recording in that specific moment. Let’s take a look.

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AppStories, Episode 270 – Our Latest Automation April Shortcuts

This week on AppStories, we dig into the collection of shortcuts that we’ve released during Automation April so far, including Federico’s Split View Presets and Cleanup Twitter Link and John’s Timestamped Notes and myTunes shortcuts.

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  • Kolide – Endpoint security powered by people. Try Kolide for 14 days free; no credit card required
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  • RevenueCat – Subscription management built for mobile apps

On AppStories+, Federico and John give listeners a behind-the-scenes look at judging the Automation April Shortcuts Contest, reflect on how much has changed as MacStories turns 13 and AppStories turns 5, and explain how they deal with app overload anxiety.

We deliver AppStories+ to subscribers with bonus content, ad-free, and at a high bitrate early every week.

To learn more about the benefits included with an AppStories+ subscription, visit our Plans page, or read the AppStories+ FAQ.

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Last Week, on Club MacStories: A Space Wallpaper Shortcut, Developer Interview, Utilities to Extend Shortcuts, and Giveaways

Because Club MacStories now encompasses more than just newsletters, we’ve created a guide to the past week’s happenings along with a look at what’s coming up next:

MacStories Weekly: Issue 316

Up Next

On Tuesday at 12:30 PM Eastern US time, we’ll hold our second Automation April live Shortcuts workshop in the Club MacStories+ Discord community.