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.

Tot Dot Review is all about finding and processing everything in Tot at once. To that end, Tot Dot Review begins with Tot’s Query action for each of its seven dots. Tot’s Query action is by far its most powerful because it returns a Dot Info object that includes the following data:

  • The Dot Info object
  • Dot number
  • Text
  • Line count
  • Word count
  • Character count
  • Modification date
  • JSON
  • Name

To make it easier to search through all seven dots at once, Tot Dot Review includes a Query action for each dot that adds their text to a single Text action that is then set to the variable Dots.

Parse Dots includes options to extract five types of data from Tot.

Parse Dots includes options to extract five types of data from Tot.

With those setup steps out of the way, Tot Dot Review gives you a choice to Parse Tot’s dots or Copy and Clear them. The Parse Dots option offers to extract web URLs, Apple Maps URLs, addresses, phone numbers, and dates from the dots using built-in Shortcuts actions.

Parse Dots uses a series of conditional blocks to extract data from Tot's dots.

Parse Dots uses a series of conditional blocks to extract data from Tot’s dots.

After you pick the data you want to extract, Tot Dot Review runs a series of conditional blocks to extract the categories you’ve chosen, displaying each, so you can pick what you want before copying the information to the clipboard as Markdown-formatted text.

To grab URLs, Tot Dot Review uses the Get URLs from Input action adding each one to a bulleted list, using a Repeat with Each action, but only if the URL doesn’t include calshow:, which is the URL used to show dates in the Calendar app. The results of the repeat loop are saved to a variable called URLs for clarity’s sake.

Apple Maps URLs, addresses, phone numbers, and dates follow the same pattern using the Get Maps URL, Get Address From Input, Get Phone Numbers from Input, and Get Dates from Input actions. Like the URL block, the Apple Maps URL block includes a conditional block to exclude an unusual case where no dot contains an Apple Maps URL, so Shortcuts decides to create a default location-less Maps URL.

Assembling each section of Tot's parsed dots.

Assembling each section of Tot’s parsed dots.

Once parsing all dots is complete, Tot Dot Review assembles Markdown-formatted text sections for each data type that was found, adding them to a variable called Summary. Once every data type has been processed and added to the variable, it’s copied to the clipboard and displayed so you can see what was copied before pasting it into another app.

Parse Dots is a handy option that I use whenever I’m unsure of where something is among Tot’s dots. If I know I’m looking for something like a phone number I jotted down or a URL, Parse Dots makes it quick to find what I want without altering my Tot notes.

Assembling dots into one Text action.

Assembling dots into one Text action.

The second option offered at the beginning of Tot Dot Review is ‘Copy and Clear.’ Using the Text property of the Dot Info object, ‘Copy and Clear’ assembles a Markdown-formatted list of the contents of each dot and offers to clear all dots for a fresh start. Your dots are copied to the clipboard regardless of whether you clear your dots or not, providing the option to create a copy without deleting anything. If, however, you decide to clear your dots, Tot Dot Review uses Tot’s Set Dot action to replace the contents of each dot with an empty note. Copy and Clear is ideal whenever it’s easier to take your notes into a text editor or note-taking app where you can see the contents of all seven dots at once, which can make it easier to find the tidbits I want to save or break out into separate notes.

Clearing out Tot's dots.

Clearing out Tot’s dots.

Tot’s an excellent app. I love the design and the lightly structured system it creates around text. However, when I use the app heavily, the structure sometimes gets in the way, leaving me to click or swipe around from dot to dot more than I’d like. That’s why I made Tot Dot Review: it helps me pinpoint specific scraps I’ve saved or gather everything together in one place where it can be incorporated with other notes, making me more likely to use Tot than ever before.

Tot Dot Review

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.

Get the shortcut here.

You can follow MacStories’ Automation April coverage through our dedicated hub or subscribe to its RSS feed.

Kolide: Endpoint Security Powered by People; Try for Free!

Unlock More with Club MacStories

Founded in 2015, Club MacStories has delivered exclusive content every week for over six years.

In that time, members have enjoyed nearly 400 weekly and monthly newsletters packed with more of your favorite MacStories writing as well as Club-only podcasts, eBooks, discounts on apps, icons, and services. Join today, and you’ll get everything new that we publish every week, plus access to our entire archive of back issues and downloadable perks.

The Club expanded in 2021 with Club MacStories+ and Club Premier. Club MacStories+ members enjoy even more exclusive stories, a vibrant Discord community, a rotating roster of app discounts, and more. And, with Club Premier, you get everything we offer at every Club level plus an extended, ad-free version of our podcast AppStories that is delivered early each week in high-bitrate audio.

Choose the Club plan that’s right for you:

  • Club MacStories: Weekly and monthly newsletters via email and the web that are brimming with app collections, tips, automation workflows, longform writing, a Club-only podcast, periodic giveaways, and more;
  • Club MacStories+: Everything that Club MacStories offers, plus exclusive content like Federico’s Automation Academy and John’s Macintosh Desktop Experience, a powerful web app for searching and exploring over 6 years of content and creating custom RSS feeds of Club content, an active Discord community, and a rotating collection of discounts, and more;
  • Club Premier: Everything in from our other plans and AppStories+, an extended version of our flagship podcast that’s delivered early, ad-free, and in high-bitrate audio.