Customize Your Input Devices

MacStories Starter Pack: Getting a Handle on Links By Treating Them Like Email

Editor’s Note: Getting a Handle on Links By Treating Them Like Email is part of the MacStories Starter Pack, a collection of ready-to-use shortcuts, apps, workflows, and more that we’ve created to help you get the most out of your Mac, iPhone, and iPad.

I’ve had a link problem for a long time. Links accumulate everywhere: in Messages, mail clients, text files, Discord, Trello, research tools, and elsewhere else imaginable. If they weren’t digital, I’m sure I’d be tripping over links on my way to the kitchen for breakfast each morning.

Part of my problem is an occupational hazard. Links to apps, articles I may want to link on MacStories, images on our CDN, podcast episodes uploaded for publication, and materials from advertisers are just a small sampling of the links I deal with every day.

But links are part of everyone’s lives. Friends and family send us links to things to read, videos to watch, itineraries for trips, and a lot more. Companies send us links to things we buy online and deals we want to check out. Most of all, though, there are the many links we collect ourselves throughout our day. The Internet touches every aspect of our lives, which means links permeate every corner of our days, yet links are collected, organized, and processed haphazardly on an ad hoc basis by most of us.

Over the holidays, I sat down to think about links and how I deal with them. It didn’t take long to realize that thinking about links in the abstract is about as useful as thinking about email messages and tasks. The trouble is that links can represent almost anything from a short video that will take two minutes to watch to an expensive purchase that you will need hours to research. They vary widely in importance, the attention required to deal with them, and relevancy. As a result, it doesn’t do you much good to treat links without also considering what they represent.

Leaving links locked inside the app where you found them isn’t much use either. I’d never considered that links could benefit from a more structured processing approach like email or tasks, but having just reorganized my approach to email, I realized that they absolutely can. The trick is to keep the system lightweight and flexible and to be willing to delete most of your links to avoid clutter.

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MacStories Starter Pack: Frame Nintendo Switch Screenshots with SwitchFrame

Breath of the Wild, framed with SwitchFrame in Shortcuts.

Breath of the Wild, framed with SwitchFrame in Shortcuts.

Editor’s Note: Frame Nintendo Switch Screenshots with SwitchFrame is part of the MacStories Starter Pack, a collection of ready-to-use shortcuts, apps, workflows, and more that we’ve created to help you get the most out of your Mac, iPhone, and iPad.

Following the release of version 11.0 of the Nintendo Switch firmware in December 2020, I released ShortSwitch, a shortcut that simplified the process of importing screenshots and videos from a Nintendo Switch console on the same Wi-Fi network as your iPhone or iPad. ShortSwitch continues to be one of my favorite utilities I’ve built in the Shortcuts app, and it’s become my default way of transferring media from the Switch to my iPhone before tweeting it. With ShortSwitch, you don’t need to scan the second QR code displayed on the console, and you can quickly preview or save multiple files at once. It still works reliably, and you can download it here.

That said, I’ve always wondered if I could improve another aspect of screenshots captured on the Nintendo Switch: framing them with a physical device template of a Switch console, just like I can frame iPhone, iPad, and Mac screenshots with Apple Frames. So a few months ago, Silvia and I got to work. After finding a Switch template we liked, Silvia modified it, and I was able to put together SwitchFrame – a shortcut that frames Switch screenshots with a classic Nintendo Switch console featuring red and blue Joy Cons.

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MacStories Starter Pack: Why I Abandoned the Search for the Perfect Email App and Am Making Do With a Hybrid Approach

Editor’s Note: Why I Abandoned the Search for the Perfect Email App and Am Making Do With a Hybrid Approach is part of the MacStories Starter Pack, a collection of ready-to-use shortcuts, apps, workflows, and more that we’ve created to help you get the most out of your Mac, iPhone, and iPad.

I’ve been revisiting my approach to email every year for what seems like forever. No matter which app I picked, I was never satisfied. On one level, that’s surprising because I don’t think my email needs are unique or complex. Even so, the features I value in an email app are ones that I care about a lot. The trouble is that a lot of MacStories readers could say the same thing but would pick an entirely different set of features they care about the most. This is a problem and conversation that goes back to the early days AppStories, and really, long before even that.

As 2021 came to a close, I knew something had to change and that I’d have to let go of my longstanding preference of using the same app across all of my devices. I don’t abandon that approach lightly because I don’t like the mental overhead of juggling multiple apps with different features to accomplish the same task. However, what started as patience as I waited for Apple to modernize Mail or a third-party developer to build something better, began to feel like stubborn inflexibility on my part. I knew it was time to make the most of an imperfect situation by cobbling together a hybrid solution that I hope will provide readers with some pointers on how they can improve how they manage email too.

Before I get to the apps I’m using to manage my email day-to-day, I want to cover how I dealt with my email backlog. My email accounts get messy as the end of the year approaches because it’s our busy season at MacStories. I used to feel bad about it, but I don’t anymore. It’s not my job to have a perfectly organized inbox, which is good because it can be a mess at times. Still, a backlog of messages makes any email app harder to use no matter how good it is, so I spent some time over the holidays tidying up.

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MacStories Starter Pack: Clean Up URLs and Remove Tracking Parameters with URL Cleaner

URL Cleaner for iOS.

URL Cleaner for iOS.

Editor’s Note: Clean Up URLs and Remove Tracking Parameters with URL Cleaner is part of the MacStories Starter Pack, a collection of ready-to-use shortcuts, apps, workflows, and more that we’ve created to help you get the most out of your Mac, iPhone, and iPad.

Picture this:

You’ve just come across an interesting article or product you want to share with someone, so you copy the URL and you’re ready to send it over iMessage, tweet it, link it on your site – you name it. Then, you notice that the URL has a bunch of ugly tracking parameters appended to the end of it. I’m sure you’ve seen them too: it’s those ?utm and soc_src1 and similar strings of text that some web publishers rely on to monitor where traffic is coming from and track other parameters about clicked URLs. For a publisher, those bits of data can actually be useful; for the end user, however, I’ve always wished there was an easy way for apps or extensions to “clean up” URLs and return the vanilla version of a link without any tracking parameter attached.

So, for the debut of our MacStories Pack event, I decided to fix the problem myself with a shortcut I appropriately called URL Cleaner. With this shortcut, which you can download for free at the end of the story and find in the MacStories Shortcuts Archive, you’ll be able to instantly remove popular tracking parameters from any URL and get a “cleaned up” version of it copied into the system clipboard. Best of all, URL Cleaner has been specifically optimized for iOS, iPadOS, and macOS, taking advantage of desktop-specific actions in macOS Monterey all while remaining integrated with the share sheet and Siri on iPhone and iPad.

Let’s take a look.

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BetterTouchTool: Introducing the Notch Bar [Sponsor]

BetterTouchTool is an indispensable Mac app that has stood the test of time. The app was one of the first covered by MacStories back in November 2009. In those early days, BetterTouchTool was a simple app for adding customizable gestures to MacBook trackpads and the Magic Mouse.

Nowadays, the app can configure gestures for the Magic Mouse and Magic Trackpad (1-3), it enables full Touch Bar customization, allows users to define keyboard shortcuts, including a powerful Hyper Key, bind the buttons of mice, create custom mouse gestures, customize the Siri Remote, and connect and configure MIDI devices. Also, it works great together with the new Shortcuts app on macOS Monterey.

BetterTouchTool’s developer, Andreas Hegenberg, recently introduced a new feature that is rapidly evolving: the “Notch Bar”. It is in an early development stage but already has quite a few fans, and now, Andreas would love to get your feedback on the feature to make it even better.

The Notch Bar is a customizable menu bar add-on that allows you to create completely custom bars with only the functions and widgets you regularly use. It works best on screens with a Notch, but can also be used on standard screens. It leaves your standard menu bar intact but hidden, so you can easily switch between standard and Notch Bar modes - e.g. by setting a keyboard shortcut to do so.

The Notch Bar comes with lots of default widgets, e.g. to show an emoji picker, calendar events, Shortcuts, weather, date/time, or your clipboard history. It can easily be extended using custom and third-party script widgets too. For example, the amazing Crypto Touch Bar app can now export crypto widgets for the Notch Bar.

For more info on the Notch Bar and a Quick Start Guide, please have a look at:

Here are a few examples of how Andreas is using the Notch Bar himself:

And don’t forget to send Andreas your feedback and ideas how to improve the Notch Bar.

BetterTouchTool comes with a 45-day trial, after which you can choose between a license that includes all updates for 2 years and a lifetime license.

For a limited time, MacStories readers can purchase BetterTouchTool for 20% off by using the coupon code MACSTORIESBTT at checkout. So, don’t delay. Go to to learn more about this fantastic Mac app and take advantage of the special limited-time, 20% discount on BetterTouchTool.

Our thanks to BetterTouchTool for sponsoring MacStories this week.

MacStories Unwind: The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap and The Protégé


This week on MacStories Unwind, Federico revisits The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap, a game originally released for the Game Boy Advance in 2004, and John enjoys an action-thriller movie starring Samuel L Jackson, Maggie Q, and Michael Keaton about a pair of globe-trotting assassins.

Federico’s Pick:

John’s Pick:

MacStories Rewind

Start The Year Off Right with Next Week’s 2022 MacStories Starter Pack Event

Monday, we’re launching a brand new special event: The MacStories Starter Pack. The idea is simple. As our busy OS review season winds down, Federico and I dig into a wide range of experiments every year. We build shortcuts, try new apps, and look for new ways to get more out of the technology we use. This year, we’ve collected the best of what we’ve learned from that annual process into a series of stories we’ll publish over the course of next week.

You’ll find a lot of variety in what we’ve got planned, but the common thread is that every story will have something you can take away and use right away. There will be shortcuts, app recommendations, workflow ideas, and more, spanning everything from ways to work more efficiently to making the most of your downtime. We think you’ll love what we’ve got in store for you.

Would you be shocked to learn that Federico has a bunch of shortcuts lined up for the Starter Pack? I’ve had a front row seat to what has to be one of Federico’s most inspired periods of shortcut creation ever. I won’t spoil his surprises, but what Federico has in store for next week represents weeks of reverse engineering, testing, and refinement of a collection of shortcuts that is incredibly useful on all of Apple’s platforms and will include two advanced, Club MacStories-only automations. Federico also has a special surprise for Obsidian users that I’ve been testing and has quickly become a cornerstone to my own note-taking and writing workflows.

The MacStories Starter Pack isn’t just about automation, though. A substantial part of what I do at MacStories changed in 2021 with the introduction of Club MacStories+ and Club Premier. Most of those changes happened behind the scenes, but changes in how we produce everything from Club newsletters to podcasts strained my existing workflows. As I headed into the holidays, it was clear that the old ways of doing things had to be rethought and adapted to last year’s changes and where MacStories is heading in 2022.

As a result of my holiday workflow experiments, I’ve done more than mix up the apps I use. I’ve also reconsidered how those apps fit together, which is something that is more important to me than ever and dovetails nicely with the app interoperability trend that Federico and I recently covered on AppStories. I also spent the holiday season reevaluating how I manage the torrent of information that crosses my desk every week, so I spend less time looking for things and more time writing about them.

Next week, I’ll share the apps I’m using, how I’ve improved the way they fit together, and how I’m managing more information more efficiently than ever. Along the way, I’ll share what’s worked, along with tips and strategies on how to adapt the workflows to suit your own needs. I’ll also round out the week with a hardware review.

The MacStories Starter Pack will begin Monday and continue throughout the week with new daily stories on MacStories. We’ll have special treats just for Club MacStories members on Friday, too, so be sure to stop by the site throughout the week to get the latest installment of the Starter Pack. We’ve got a Starter Pack hub and RSS feed you can follow too.

The MacStories Starter Pack is just the start of what promises to be a big 2022 at MacStories. Our WWDC coverage, the Summer OS Preview Series, each fall’s review season, and the MacStories Selects Awards have become traditions that the MacStories community looks forward to every year. With the Starter Pack and plans we’re working on for the spring, our goal is to offer something special you can look forward to throughout the year, regardless of whether an Apple event is on the horizon. We’ve got a packed schedule in store for everyone in 2022 and can’t wait to get started next week with our first-ever MacStories Starter Pack.

You can follow the MacStories Starter Pack on our hub, or subscribe to the dedicated Starter Pack RSS feed.

Federico Shares a Starter Pack of Shortcuts on Apple’s App Store

Source: App Store.

Source: App Store.

Today, the App Store published an interview with our very own Federico Viticci, who shared seven shortcuts for users who want to learn more about what Apple’s automation app enables on the Mac. Federico explains his interest in Shortcuts in the interview:

It’s all about removing friction from everyday tasks.

As the story recounts, Shortcuts has been Federico’s obsession for years and the tool that permeates every aspect of what we do at MacStories.

To help newcomers get started exploring and building their own shortcuts, Federico shared seven shortcuts that work on the Mac, iPhone, and iPad that are linked in the App Store’s article and can also be found in the MacStories Shortcuts Archive:

Create Reminder

Quickly create a new reminder from anywhere on your Mac, iPhone, or iPad. Optionally, the shortcut can also attach a URL previously copied to the clipboard as a rich link to the reminder.

Get the shortcut here.

Quickly open a link previously copied to the clipboard with Safari. The shortcut works on iOS, iPadOS, and macOS.

Get the shortcut here.

Get Image Resolution

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.

Get the shortcut here.

Load Calendar Set

This shortcut lets you reopen one of your existing calendar sets in Fantastical. Optionally, you can also pair a specific set with a specific calendar view in Fantastical.

The shortcut works on iOS, iPadOS, and macOS, and it uses Fantastical’s native Shortcuts integration.

Get the shortcut here.

LookUp Definition

Look up a word definition using LookUp. The shortcut lets you choose among different definition types, and it can also add a word to a collection.

Get the shortcut here.

Things Checklist Template

Create a task with a checklist in Things based on a fixed template that is stored in the Shortcuts app.

Get the shortcut here.

Get Articles from Reeder

View articles saved for later in Reeder. You can choose a specific article from your read-later account in Reeder, or open a random article in the app.

Get the shortcut here.

These and many more shortcuts are available for free on the MacStories Shortcuts Archive, a collection that has grown to over 200 shortcuts, that run the gamut from simple, single-purpose utility shortcuts to complex shortcuts comprised of hundreds of actions like MusicBot and to Club MacStories members.

Mac Widgets Need a Dashboard

On 512 Pixels, Stephen Hackett argues that Apple should bring back Dashboard, a macOS feature that disappeared with Catalina. Dashboard gave users access to Apple and third-party widgets: single-purpose utilities that were a lot like the widgets on the iPhone, iPad, and Mac today, except they were better because they were also interactive.

Widgets’ lack of interactivity on the Mac is compounded by the fact that they share a panel with notifications and are hidden behind a click on the menu bar’s clock. I couldn’t agree more with Stephen’s conclusion:

Apple needs to rethink this and let this new class of widgets breathe, being able to use the entire screen like the widgets of yore could. Bringing back Dashboard is an obvious solution here, and I’d love to see it make a return.

The Dashboard metaphor worked for widgets before and it could work again, but I’d love to see Apple make the desktop the Dashboard, letting users mix files, folders, and widgets the same way I can mix apps and widgets on my iPhone or iPad.