John Voorhees

1874 posts on MacStories since November 2015

John, MacStories’ Managing Editor, has been writing about Apple and apps since joining the team in 2015. He also co-hosts MacStories’ podcasts, including AppStories, which explores of the world of apps, MacStories Unwind, a weekly recap of everything MacStories and more, and MacStories Unplugged, a behind-the-scenes, anything-goes show exclusively for Club MacStories members.

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Shortcuts for Mac’s Superpower

Earlier today on Six Colors, Jason Snell wrote about running Shortcuts from the command line:

I was reminded by Simon Støvring, maker of the excellent Mac and iOS utility Data Jar (which is a persistent data store that’s accessible via Shortcuts), that people may not be aware of just how well integrated Shortcuts is into macOS.

Jason has put his finger on something I think has gone unnoticed by a lot of users. The deep integration of Shortcuts with macOS is its superpower, especially because it’s bidirectional. You can run your shortcuts from the command line and run command line scripts in your shortcuts. The same goes for AppleScript.

Add to that the ability to run shortcuts via AppleScript files, as applets, or with third-party apps, and there’s an incredible amount of room for creativity in bringing tools built into macOS and third-party automation apps together in new ways. It’s what led me to build the utility shortcuts I wrote about on MacStories and Club MacStories today and Federico to explore new ways to pass input into shortcuts earlier this week.

Be sure to check out Jason’s story for examples of the way shortcuts can be run from the command line and the results passed to other apps or used by macOS in various ways.

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How to Batch Convert Shortcuts for Use Throughout Monterey and with Other Automation Apps

My latest Shortcuts experiments began in earnest on my way back from Rome. I stopped in Ireland for a few days to deal with COVID testing and start ramping back up to my normal work routine. I wasn’t quite ready to tackle the day-to-day yet, so I decided to revisit a Shortcuts experiment I had started back in June.

I’ve been a fan of PopClip for years and have played around with creating my own extensions for the app occasionally. So, shortly after WWDC, I tried building a PopClip extension that triggered a shortcut that had been saved as a Service. PopClip works with services, and the extension I built came tantalizingly close to working, but it had too many issues to be useful, so I set it aside.

PopClip.

PopClip.

Sitting in Dublin with the released version of Monterey and a new version of PopClip that had been updated to work with Shortcuts, I revisited my early experiments. The updates to macOS and PopClip made adding shortcuts as PopClip extensions trivially easy, as Federico demonstrated recently in MacStories Weekly. Then, when I got home, my Stream Deck was waiting for me, which led to another round of experimentation and an in-depth story on the many ways it can run shortcuts.

Since then, I’ve been incorporating Mac shortcuts I’ve built into my workflows using multiple third-party apps like BetterTouchTool, Alfred, and, of course, PopClip. It wasn’t long before I wished there was a way to batch process shortcuts, so I could use them in multiple ways across Monterey and in third-party apps.

Scripts built with AppleScript are just one way to integrate shortcuts with other apps.

Scripts built with AppleScript are just one way to integrate shortcuts with other apps.

To streamline the process, I turned, of course, to Shortcuts itself. In total, I’ve created four shortcuts to help me deploy my favorite shortcuts across macOS:

  • Script Builder: Generates .scpt files that can be incorporated in other apps from multiple shortcuts using AppleScript
  • Dock Applet Builder: Creates Dock applets from shortcuts that can be launched from the Finder, app launchers, and more
  • Script Applet Builder: Converts shortcuts into AppleScript applets with custom icons that behave like Dock applets but don’t get automatically deposited in your Dock
  • PopClip Builder: Produces and streamlines installation of multiple PopClip extensions with custom icons that run shortcuts

I’ll cover the first two shortcuts here. Script Applet Builder and PopClip Extension Builder are included in The Macintosh Desktop Experience, my column for ClubMacStories+ that explores new ways to make your Mac work for you.

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AppStories, Episode 251 – Obsidian In Depth: The Basics (Part 1)

This week on AppStories, we introduce part one of a new series on Obsidian, explaining what the app is and does, why it’s important, the compromises that come along with using a non-native app, and how we are using it.


On AppStories+, John says goodbye to his M1 iMac review unit and reflects on how it has changed the way he uses the Mac, and Federico explains how he’s using Spark with Apple’s Reminders app.

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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Apple Podcasts Names Its Best Show and Newcomer of 2021

On the heels of the Apple Music Awards, Apple has announced its picks for the Best Show of the Year and Newcomer of the Year, along with the Top New Show, Top Free Channel, Top Show with Subscription, and Top Channel with Subscription. 2021 saw Apple move into subscription-based podcasts and channels that allow podcast producers to create collections of shows, both of which are reflected in the top charts announced today. According to the company’s press release:

“2021 marked the start of a new chapter for podcasting with shows that moved us in ways unlike ever before,” said Oliver Schusser, Apple’s vice president of Apple Music and Beats. “We are honored to recognize the phenomenal creators who are redefining podcasting with this year’s best shows, and to help more listeners around the world discover, enjoy, and support their inspiring work.”

Maya Shankar, host of A Slight Change of Plans.

Maya Shankar, host of A Slight Change of Plans.

The 2021 Apple Podcasts Awards winners are:

Apple’s Podcasts editorial team has also created a curated collection of Top Shows and Top Episodes of 2021 and reported the year-end Top Charts of the most popular free and subscription-based shows and channels. Those lists, along with the award winners, can be found in a special Best of 2021 section of the Apple Podcasts app.

Podcasts continue to be one of the hottest media categories, experiencing rapid growth and experimentation with new business models, including subscriptions like Apple Podcasts program. Apple Podcasts Subscriptions got off to a rocky start earlier this year, but it also isn’t nearly as difficult to use as some people suggest in my experience. I expect that over time, Apple Podcasts Subscriptions will continue to grow as podcasters explore new ways to build sustainable shows.


Apple Announces the 2021 Apple Music Awards

The Apple Music Awards are back, honoring artists in several categories. This is the third year Apple has held the awards and, as was the case the past two years, honors were bestowed for Global Artist of the Year, Breakthrough Artist of the Year, Songwriter of the Year, Top Song of the Year, and Top Album of the Year. This year, however, the company also named five Regional Artists of the Year for Africa, France, Germany, Japan, and Russia:

“The past 12 months have proved to be a remarkable year for music, and we’re thrilled to honor the artists who are shaping culture and connecting with fans around the world on Apple Music,” said Oliver Schusser, Apple’s vice president of Apple Music and Beats. “This year we’re also recognizing more regional artists, showing the world the impact of extraordinary talented musicians who are making waves globally.”

Each Apple Music Award is commemorated with a unique award featuring a 12-inch silicon wafer suspended between a sheet of glass and anodized aluminum. Similar to last year, Apple is celebrating the annual awards with “interviews, original content, and more” on Apple Music and the Apple TV app beginning December 7th.

Olivia Rodrigo was honored with three awards this year.

Olivia Rodrigo was honored with three awards this year.

The 2021 Apple Music Awards winners are:

Wizkid was among five Regional Artists of the Year chosen by Apple this year.

Wizkid was among five Regional Artists of the Year chosen by Apple this year.

It’s not surprising that Olivia Rodrigo won multiple awards this year. Few artists have had the immediate impact on music streaming services that Rodrigo has. It’s also good to see Apple add regional Artists of the Year for the first time. Music is a global media force, but that hasn’t diminished the importance and impact of the medium on a regional level. I hope Apple expands the regional Artist of the Year category to other countries and regions in the future.

Also, it will be interesting to see what Apple has in store beginning December 7th. Events like the Apple Music Awards are the sort of opportunity for integration across multiple Apple services that the company hasn’t done a lot of to date. I’d love to see interviews, live performances, music video collections, playlists, album commentaries by the winners, and podcasts brought together in a unified package that makes it easy to access all related content.


Jason Tate’s Dedicated Now Playing Mini-Computer

Source: Chorus.fm.

Source: Chorus.fm.

As you can imagine, Jason Tate, Chorus.fm’s founder, listens to a lot of music. He wanted a dedicated device that displays the music he listens to throughout the day, so as a weekend project, he built what he wanted:

A small Raspberry Pi powered screen that displays what I am currently listening to. It sits, unassuming, next to my computer on the desk. When no music is playing it displays my most listened to albums from the past week, as well as some my music listening stats pulled from Last.fm.

The device consists of a Raspberry Pi Zero WH, a 4” screen, a 3D-printed enclosure, and other parts. The Pi runs Linux, serving a purpose-built website hosted on a Chorus.fm server that periodically polls the Last.fm API to fetch the currently playing song. The Now Playing screen’s design looks fantastic and is inspired by Marvis Pro, an Apple Music client for the iPhone and iPad that I wrote about last week in MacStories Weekly. If nothing is playing, the device shows Tate’s Last.fm listening stats and top albums played during the past week.

A nice final touch is that Tate’s creation can be controlled entirely with a shortcut that run shell scripts on the Raspberry Pi, allowing it to be shut down, rebooted, and refreshed, or the screen to be turned on and off separately.

I love projects like this and immediately began thinking of ways it could be extended using Apple’s MusicKit framework. Tate is using the device he built on his desk, but the size would work in a lot of environments like a kitchen countertop or bedside table. With the cold weather descending on Chicago, this seems like the perfect sort of project to dig into after the holidays. If you’re interested in learning more and building your own, Jason Tate’s story includes everything you’ll need.

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MacStories Unwind: Shortcuts, Pixelmator Pro, the Apple Watch, and Special Deals on MacStories Pixel Icons

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This week on MacStories Unwind:

MacStories

Club MacStories

AppStories

Unwind


Apple Publishes Annual Holiday Ad: Saving Simon

Every year, Apple publishes a heartwarming holiday ad that shows off its products in some way. This year, Saving Simon, directed by Jason Reitman, shows off the iPhone 13 Pro, which was used to film the three-minute spot.

Saving Simon tells the story of a small snowman that a girl saves from destruction in her yard by storing it in her family’s freezer. In the months that follow, the girl checks in on Simon, who lives in the freezer alongside the family’s frozen food.

When the winter comes again, the girl takes Simon back outside to the family’s front yard. I won’t spoil the ending, but it ends with the family coming together to help the girl and her snowman friend.


This Holiday Season, Give the Gift of Club MacStories, and If You’re a Club Member, Get Something Back For Yourself Too

More Club Gift Options Than Ever Before

The holiday season is upon us, and as you shop for gifts for friends and family, we wanted to remind everyone that Club MacStories memberships can be given as gifts all year long. Every tier of the Club extends what we publish at MacStories, which makes it the perfect gift for someone who wants more of the kind of in-depth app, automation, and other coverage you find on the site every day.

This year saw the introduction of Club MacStories+ and Club Premier, which join the original Club MacStories as gift options for this holiday season.

Pick a Plan

As always,Club MacStories delivers weekly and monthly newsletters by email and now, on the web, packed with our favorite apps, themed collections, tips, Shortcuts automations, and more. Club members also receive MacStories Unplugged, our monthly Club-only podcast, plus periodic giveaways, discounts, and downloadable exclusives like our annual iOS and iPadOS and macOS reviews.

Club MacStories+ offers bonus content, a brand new, powerful web app to read Club articles on the web with advanced search and RSS features, exclusive discounts, and a new Discord community.

Club Premier is the ultimate plan that includes all of Club MacStories, Club MacStories+, and the new extended, ad-free AppStories+ podcast in a single package. It is the best value and the easiest way to get access to everything we do. It is, effectively, the MacStories all-access pass.

To learn more about each tier, visit plus.club.

Gift an Annual Plan Through November 30th, and Extend Your Own Membership

This year we’re doing something new too. Gift accounts are available all year long. However, through November 30th, if you’re already a Club member at any tier and purchase an annual membership for someone as a gift, we’ll extend your membership one month.

The process is simple:

  • Purchase an annual Club membership for someone
  • Send us an email at club@macstories.net to let us know you gifted a membership and include the email address you use to log into the Club

That’s it. We’ll confirm your gift purchase based on your Club email address and extend your membership one month as a thank you from the MacStories team for helping spread the word about Club MacStories.

So, if you have a MacStories reader on your holiday shopping list this season, consider a Club MacStories membership that they can enjoy all year long.

Gift Memberships Are Available at All Tiers

Annual gift memberships can be purchased using the links below:

Annual Club Premier Gift Membership: $120
Annual Club MacStories+ Gift Membership: $100
Annual Club MacStories Gift Membership: $50

We also offer monthly gift memberships too, although they aren’t eligible for the special offer above, which can be purchased here:

Monthly Club Premier Gift Membership: $12
Monthly Club MacStories+ Gift Membership: $10
Monthly Club MacStories Gift Membership: $5


Finally, thanks to all our loyal Club members who have joined since the Club’s debut in 2015. You’re an essential part of what we do here at MacStories, and we hope you’ve enjoyed the Club as much as we enjoy creating its special content for you all year long.

Happy Holidays!

– The MacStories Team