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Due Adds Modern Shortcuts Support with New Reminder Creation Parameters

At some point, I think everyone who manages their work and personal lives in a task manager runs into a clutter problem. With everything from reminders to move my laundry from the washer to the dryer to another to publish our latest MacStories project, it often feels like my list of tasks never gets shorter.

If you’ve ever experienced that feeling yourself, or just want a lightweight way to quickly manage your life, Due is a fantastic option that Federico and I have both covered since it first debuted in the earliest days of the App Store. What I like so much about Due is that by moving short-term, smaller tasks out of my main task manager to it, my primary task manager becomes more focused and easier to use. It’s also so simple to add reminders and timers to Due that I’m far more likely to use the app for ephemeral to-dos, reducing day-to-day mental overhead.

The core functionality of Due has remained the same since Federico’s review of version 2.0 and my review of version 3.0, which are great places to start if you’re unfamiliar with the app. What I said in my review of 3.0 is as true today as ever:

Due is a pro-user implementation of reminders and timers. The app has one of the best quick-entry UIs I’ve used in an app. Picking dates and times is a clunky, laborious process in most apps, but Due gets it right making it simple to add a date and time to a reminder with a combination of natural language recognition and a unique date and time grid.

With today’s release of version 20.5 of Due, the app adds updated Shortcuts support complete with actions with parameters, which I expect will make Due an integral component of many users’ shortcuts. The app’s numbering scheme changed earlier this year, too, jumping from version 3 to 20 to indicate the release year.

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HomePass 1.7 Brings Refreshed UI, Customizable Data Fields, and Improved Shortcuts Support

My HomeKit setup started out simple enough with a few Hue bulbs, but over time, it has grown to include security cameras, door sensors, electrical outlets, and more. As the number of accessories connected to my network grew, so did the hassle of managing them.

The initial setup of a device is rarely the problem. Instead, the trouble starts when you need to set up an accessory again later. In that case, you may have discarded or lost the documentation containing the HomeKit accessory code, or it may be in a hard to reach location. That’s where HomePass by Aaron Pearce comes in handy. It stores and manages your HomeKit accessory codes and other relevant information in one place.

Digital spring cleaning is something that’s been on my mind as I’ve been stuck at home and had some extra free time. We discussed the topic on AppStories this week in the context of apps, but HomePass provides the opportunity to extend digital spring cleaning to your HomeKit devices too.

We’ve covered HomePass before, so I won’t go into all the details of its core functionality. Instead, I’ll focus on what’s new and the features that make HomePass one of my favorite HomeKit utilities.

As with prior versions, HomePass remains incredibly easy to use because it pulls information about your HomeKit accessories from the Home app’s database. Add to that the fact that accessory codes can be added by scanning the stickers that you find on most devices or entering them manually, and you’re starting with a lot of information with virtually no effort.

With the latest update, HomePass has added greater flexibility and a more compact UI that works better with larger collections of HomeKit devices. For instance, sometimes you want to add more information about an accessory than is available in the Home app. With version 1.7 of HomePass, you can now add custom fields to a device’s entry to collect additional details. I’ve been satisfied with the existing fields that are auto-filled from the Home app, plus HomePass’s notes section, but it’s also something I’m glad will be available if the need arises for me in the future.

On the iPhone, devices stored in HomePass are now organized in a two-column grid of rounded rectangles a little like the tiles found in the Home app. Like Home+ 4 by Matthias Hochgatterer, HomePass does something Home can’t, though, which is collapse rooms by tapping on their names to hide away devices you don’t want to see. Combined with the new layout on the iPhone, which is similar to the existing layout on the iPad, it’s easier to manage a large collection of devices from a single screen.

From HomePass's Settings tab you can manage custom fields, export your data, and pick from four different icons.

From HomePass’s Settings tab you can manage custom fields, export your data, and pick from four different icons.

HomePass is organized into tabs now too. The first tab organizes devices by your home’s rooms. The second tab organizes the same accessories by category like ‘Bridge,’ ‘Camera,’ ‘Outlet,’ and ‘Sensor.’ Like rooms, devices are laid out in a grid, and sections can be collapsed. Categories is an excellent alternative way to break down your HomeKit devices functionally.

Device tiles support context menus now too. Long-pressing on a tile offers options to edit or delete the device or copy its code. It’s a terrific way to quickly grab a code when that’s all you need.

Tapping on an item opens up a view with the details about each device. Long-pressing on the HomeKit accessory code allows you to copy it. Also, at the bottom are buttons to set up ‘Get Code’ and ‘Copy Code’ actions using Add to Siri. Once set up, the actions can be triggered using Siri voice commands or included in custom shortcuts you build.

HomePass now supports context menus, better Shortcuts support, and custom device fields.

HomePass now supports context menus, better Shortcuts support, and custom device fields.

In addition to device-specific actions, the app comes with the following built-in Shortcuts actions that have been improved by the addition of parameters:

  • ‘Copy HomeKit Code,’ which presents a list of your devices by default, and copies the code for the one you pick to the clipboard. The action can also be used to grab the code of a specified device and pass it to the next action.
  • ‘Get HomeKit Code’ also retrieves a device’s code, but passes it to the next action without copying it.
  • ‘Get Accessory,’ which the app’s description seems to suggest retrieves all of the information about a device, though it only returns the name of a specified accessory when I’ve used it.
  • ‘Get All Accessories,’ which retrieves a list of all your HomeKit devices.

The app includes an x-callback-url scheme that developers can use to automatically add devices to HomePass from their apps too.

The app’s final tab is Settings, where you can manage the new custom fields, pick from among four Home screen icons, and export your device data as a PDF or CSV file for safekeeping.

I don’t use HomePass often, but it’s one of those utilities I’m glad is on my iPhone because it eliminates frustration when I need it. Too often in the past, I’ve had to dismantle gear to find a HomeKit code. Now that I’m in the habit of adding codes to HomePass when I get a new device, troubleshooting issues with my setup is far easier. Moreover, with a larger collection of devices than I had when I started using HomePass, version 1.7 has substantially improved their management.

HomePass is available on the App Store for $2.99.

Pushcut: The Powerful Companion for Shortcuts and Home Automation [Sponsor]

Pushcut is a one-of-a-kind utility that extends the power of Apple’s Shortcuts app with a smart notification system that supercharges your shortcuts and home automations.

Pushcut includes an easy-to-use but sophisticated notification editor that lets users set up push notifications based on factors like location and time. The notifications are feature-rich allowing users to pick from multiple choices and perform several actions from a single notification.

The app includes a powerful web API too, which allows you to extend the functionality of Apple’s Home app, for example. Home includes an automation component, but it’s limited. However, with Pushcut, controlling a HomeKit device can trigger a notification on your iOS device that prompts you to run a shortcut that couldn’t be run in Home.

Pushcut is being updated all the time and just added a feature that lets users run a personal Automation Server on an iOS device they keep at home. Trigger your shortcuts from IFTTT, Zapier, Integromat, or HomeKit automations, run Home scenes automatically when leaving from or arriving at a location, and even run shortcuts on a schedule without user interaction. It’s a powerful way to take Shortcuts to an all-new level.

If you’ve ever been frustrated by some of the limitations of Shortcuts, you need to try Pushcut today. Whether you want to extend Home’s automations, enhance how location and iBeacons integrate with Shortcuts, schedule shortcuts, or kick off shortcuts from your Apple Watch, Pushcut is the powerful companion you need.

Download Pushcut from the App Store now and give it a try. You won’t believe how much you can accomplish with the help of Pushcuts.

Our thanks to Pushcut for sponsoring MacStories this week.

Shortcuts Corner: Opening YouTube Watch Later, Subscribing to RSS Feeds with NetNewsWire, and Uploading Images via FTP

For this week’s installment of the Shortcuts Corner, I’ve prepared quite an assortment of miscellaneous shortcuts to share with MacStories readers and Club MacStories members (because I’ve been spending all my time at home due to the state of emergency in Italy, I’ve been reorganizing my entire Shortcuts library, among other things). Following this week’s launch of NetNewsWire for iPhone and iPad, I’ve adapted an existing shortcut to let you subscribe to feeds using the popular RSS client. I’ve also created shortcuts to reopen the watch later queue in the YouTube app, copy app links from the App Store, and copy a webpage selection from Safari as rich text.

Furthermore, exclusively for Club MacStories members, I’ve created an advanced shortcut to upload images to a remote FTP server and copy their public URLs to the clipboard. Let’s dig in.

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Shortcuts Rewind: Dates, Calendars, and Beyond

For this installment of Shortcuts Rewind, I’m going to focus on date and calendar actions. I’ll also touch on some of the Shortcuts actions that Apple Maps offers and explain dictionaries.

I wanted to cover date and calendar actions early in the Shortcuts Rewind series because they’re the sort of actions that come in handy over and over in a wide variety of shortcuts. Plus, date-based shortcuts are useful to lots of people. After all, everyone deals with schedules and meetings to some degree.

With Shortcuts, dates become modifiable building blocks that go hand-in-hand with events that the app allows you to decouple from your calendar app and recombine in new ways. It’s a powerful pairing that, along with an understanding of dictionaries, can be extended to other contexts over and over.

You can download each of the three shortcuts I cover at the end of each section of this story or by visiting the MacStories Shortcuts Archive, where you’ll find these and over 200 other shortcuts. Once you download one of the shortcuts, opening it on an iPad side-by-side with this walkthrough is a terrific way to learn how each works. Another technique that is effective is to rebuild each shortcut from scratch yourself, as you follow along below.

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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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Introducing MacStories Shortcuts Icons Color Edition, Featuring 350 Multi-Color Icons

The Color set is a brand new version of MacStories Shortcuts Icons.

The Color set is a brand new version of MacStories Shortcuts Icons.

After working on this for months, I’m thrilled to announce the second product released under the MacStories Pixel brand: today we’re launching MacStories Shortcuts Icons (Color), a different version of our icon set that features multi-color glyphs and two background options.

Here’s the gist of today’s launch: MacStories Shortcuts Icons (Color) are a new, separate set available for $14.99 here. What makes the Color set different: while the Classic set comes with monochrome glyphs, the Color version features multi-color glyphs with white or pure black backgrounds.

You can read more details about MacStories Shortcuts Icons (Color) here and buy the new set here.

And here’s a look at the difference between the two sets in practice:

The new Color set (left) features stunning multi-color glyphs. The Classic set (right) now includes black and white icons too.

The new Color set (left) features stunning multi-color glyphs. The Classic set (right) now includes black and white icons too.

As part of today’s launch, we’ve also redesigned the MacStories Pixel homepage to accomodate our new suite of products.

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Shortcuts Icons (Color)

Shortcuts Icons (Color) offers 400 custom icons for your Home screen shortcuts, featuring multi-color glyphs painstakingly colored with a consistent palette, on white or black backgrounds.

With two different background options, you can make your shortcuts look more like apps or blend in seamlessly with Home screens featuring a black wallpaper. They’re designed to make your shortcuts look unique and different.

All sales are final. Read our terms of use here.

Just like iOS’ dark mode, the color palette in the Color set changes subtly between light and dark modes for an optimal viewing experience.

Additionally, if you have a pure black wallpaper on your iPhone or iPad Home screen, the black version of the icons will blend in with the Home screen seamlessly, allowing you to put together some fascinating custom layouts.

You can find a complete preview of the Color set’s 400 glyphs and two background modes below:

For more information and details about MacStories Shortcuts Icons, you can read our FAQ section here.