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Posts tagged with "automation"

Apple Marks Global Accessibility Awareness Day with a Preview of OS Features Coming Later This Year

Source: Apple.

Source: Apple.

Thursday is Global Accessibility Awareness Day, and to mark the occasion, Apple has previewed several new accessibility features coming to its OSes later this year. Although this accessibility preview has become an annual affair, this year’s preview is more packed than most years, with a wide variety of features for navigating UIs, automating tasks, interacting with Siri and CarPlay, enabling live captions in visionOS, and more. Apple hasn’t announced when these features will debut, but if past years are any indication, most should be released in the fall as part of the annual OS release cycle.

Eye Tracking

Often, Apple’s work in one area lends itself to new accessibility features in another. With Eye Tracking in iOS and iPadOS, the connection to the company’s work on visionOS is clear. The feature will allow users to look at UI elements on the iPhone and iPad, and the front-facing camera – combined with a machine learning model – will follow their gaze, moving the selection as what they look at changes. No additional hardware is necessary.

Eye Tracking also works with Dwell, meaning that when a user pauses their gaze on an interface element, it will be clicked. The feature, which requires a one-time calibration setup process, will work with Apple’s apps, as well as third-party apps, on iPhones and iPads with an A12 Bionic chip or newer.

Vocal Shortcuts

Source: Apple.

Source: Apple.

Vocal Shortcuts provide a way to define custom utterances that launch shortcuts and other tasks. The phrases are defined on-device for maximum privacy using a process similar to Personal Voice. The feature is like triggering shortcuts with Siri, but it doesn’t require an assistant trigger word or phrase.

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The Joy of Shortcuts

I read this post by Jarrod Blundy a few weeks ago and forgot to link it on MacStories. I think Jarrod did a great job explaining why Apple’s Shortcuts app resonates so strongly with a specific type of person:

But mostly, it just lights up my brain in a way that few other things do.

[…]

But when there’s a little burr in my computing life that I think could be sanded down with Shortcuts, my wheels get turning and it’s hard to pull myself away from refining, adding features, and solving down to an ideal answer. I’m sure if I learned traditional coding, I’d feel the same. Or if I had a workshop to craft furniture or pound metal into useful shapes. But since I don’t know that much about programming languages nor have the desire to craft physical products, Shortcuts is my IDE, my workshop.

For me, despite the (many) issues of the Shortcuts app on all platforms, the reason I can’t pull myself away from it is that there’s nothing else like it on any modern computing platform (yes, I have tried Tasker and Power Automate and, no, I did not like them). Shortcuts appeals to that part of my brain that loves it when a plan comes together and different things happen in succession. If you’re a gamer, it’s similar to the satisfaction of watching Final Fantasy XII’s Gambits play out in real time, and it’s why I need to check out Unicorn Overlord as soon as possible.

I love software that lets me design a plan and watch it execute automatically. I’ve shared hundreds of shortcuts over the years, and I’m still chasing that high.

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Obsidian Shortcut Launcher 1.1 Brings Support for File Properties and Backlinks

The updated Obsidian Shortcut Launcher with support for passing document backlinks to Shortcuts.

The updated Obsidian Shortcut Launcher with support for passing document backlinks to Shortcuts.

Two years ago, we released Obsidian Shortcut Launcher, a free plugin to trigger shortcuts from Obsidian with the ability to pass input text to Apple’s automation app. In case you missed it in January 2022, here’s how I described the plugin:

With Obsidian Shortcut Launcher (or ‘OSL’), you’ll be able to trigger any shortcut you want from Obsidian, passing along values such as the text of the document you’re working on, its name, text selection, and more. Obsidian Shortcut Launcher is free to use and works on iOS, iPadOS, and macOS.

Obsidian Shortcut Launcher is the result of weeks of planning and work from me and Finn Voorhees, and it has created an entirely new dimension in how I use Obsidian and Shortcuts on a daily basis.

I’ve been using Obsidian Shortcut Launcher every day for the past two years, and I couldn’t imagine a better way to integrate my favorite text editor and note-taking app with Shortcuts. I’ve built launchers to publish articles to WordPress, upload images, perform backups of my iOS reviews, and a lot more. You can read more about my examples and find a usage guide for the plugin in the original story.

Today, I’m pleased to announce that we’re releasing version 1.1 of Obsidian Shortcut Launcher with two new integrations: properties and backlinks.

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Apple Frames 3.2 Brings iPhone 15 Pro Frames, Files Picker, and Adjustable Spacing

Apple Frames 3.2.

Apple Frames 3.2.

Today, I’m releasing version 3.2 of Apple Frames, my shortcut to put screenshots taken on Apple devices into physical device templates. If you want to skip ahead, you can download Apple Frames 3.2 at the end of this story or find it in the MacStories Shortcuts Archive.

Version 3.2 is a major update that introduces brand new frames for the iPhone 15 Pro line, improves the reliability of framing screenshots from devices with the Dynamic Island, and, perhaps most importantly, extends the Frames API with new configuration options to give you even more control over framed images.

Let’s dive in.

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MultiButton 1.1 Makes the Action Button Change Its Behavior Based on the Currently Open App

The same Action button; multiple behaviors for different apps.

The same Action button; multiple behaviors for different apps.

What if the Action button could change its behavior depending on which app is currently open?

That’s what I started wondering months ago after I released MultiButton, my shortcut for toggling between two commands assigned to the Action button rather than being limited to only one. Having the choice between two distinct commands is great, but can you imagine if MultiButton could become a truly contextual shortcut system that adapted to whatever app is currently on-screen?

I’ve spent the past few months working on this idea, and I’m happy to report that I was able to get it to work. In the process, I realized that what I’d designed was a comprehensive, advanced automation system that can be extended beyond MultiButton to a variety of use cases.

Later this week in MacStories Weekly and exclusively for Club MacStories members (of all tiers), I will release my latest creation that makes contextual app automation possible. It’s called CAPS, which stands for Contextual Apps Plugin System.

CAPS is comprised of three standalone shortcuts that allow you to define rules for which shortcuts should be run when the Action button is pressed while using a particular app. CAPS supports creating an unlimited number of rules for as many apps as you want; best of all, it’s based on an open file format that can be integrated with all kinds of shortcuts.

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Automation Academy: My Collection of Advanced Shortcuts for Things

Earlier today, Federico released a series of seven advanced shortcuts for the task manager Things as part of his Automation Academy column, an exclusive perk of Club MacStories+ and Club Premier.

Federico explains in the introduction of the story why he returned to Things a few months ago and has been happy with the decision:

not only does the design of the Things app create a more relaxed environment for me to manage my responsibilities, but Cultured Code’s embrace of Shortcuts automation has allowed me to create dozens of custom enhancements for Things.

It’s the flexibility that Things’ Shortcuts actions offer that allows for such deep customization. The shortcuts shared today include automations to:

  • Automatically move tasks scheduled for a certain time to Things’ Evening section
  • Postponing evening tasks
  • Rescheduling tasks to the next evening
  • Tag selected tasks as active
  • Pin tasks
  • Select from a menu of Things shortcuts
  • Create tasks, an updated version of a previously-shared shortcut

All of the shortcuts are ready to be used immediately and are accompanied by a detailed walk-through of the techniques used to build them and an explanation of how Federico is using them.

Discounts are just one of the many Club MacStories perks.

Discounts are just one of the many Club MacStories perks.

Automation Academy is just one of many perks that Club MacStories+ and Club Premier members enjoy including:

  • Weekly and monthly newsletters 
  • A sophisticated web app with search and filtering tools to navigate eight years of content
  • Customizable RSS feeds
  • Bonus columns
  • An early and ad-free version of our Internet culture and media podcast, MacStories Unwind
  • A vibrant Discord community of smart app and automation fans who trade a wealth of tips and discoveries every day
  • Live Discord audio events after Apple events and at other times of the year

On top of that, Club Premier members get AppStories+, an extended, ad-free version of our flagship podcast that we deliver early every week in high-bitrate audio.

Use the buttons below to learn more and sign up for Club MacStories+ or Club Premier.

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Juno 1.1 for visionOS Adds the Ability to Open YouTube.com URLs in the App

Opening videos in Juno from the YouTube website.

Opening videos in Juno from the YouTube website.

John covered Juno, Christian Selig’s new YouTube client for visionOS, on MacStories last week, and I’ve been using the app for the past few days as my default way of watching YouTube videos on my Vision Pro. Today, Selig released version 1.1 of Juno with some welcome quality-of-life enhancements such as the ability to choose video quality, faster load times, and support for dropping YouTube links in the app to watch them directly in Juno. You can read more about the changes on Selig’s blog.

The one new feature I want to call out here is the addition of URL schemes which have, once again, come to the rescue to help me navigate the early limitations of a new Apple platform.

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Vision Pro App Spotlight: Shortcut Buttons Turns Your Shortcuts into Spatial Launchers

Shortcut Buttons for visionOS.

Shortcut Buttons for visionOS.

I received my Apple Vision Pro yesterday (for the full story of how it eventually found its way to Italy, you don’t want to miss the next episode of AppStories), and, as you can imagine, I’ve been busy downloading all the apps, learning my way around visionOS and – just today – using the extended Mac display mode. The first 24 hours with a Vision Pro are a whirlwind of curiosity and genuine nerd excitement, but despite my attention being pulled to a hundred different places, I’ve found the time to test one app in particular: Shortcut Buttons by Finn Voorhees.

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An Investigation into the Home App’s Clean Power Forecast Feature

Ever since Apple’s OSes were updated in the fall, I’ve been intrigued by the Home app’s new Clean Grid Forecast feature that predicts periods when the energy you use is ‘More Clean.’ The feature immediately reminded me of Clean Energy Charging, which works with Optimized Battery Charging, to charge your iPhone during periods when the electricity generated in your area is cleanest.

However, Clean Grid Forecast also raised more questions in my mind than it answered, like ‘What does More Clean mean?’ and ‘How does Apple know if the energy is cleaner?,’ and ‘How much cleaner is it anyway?’ These are the kind of answers that GridStatus.io, a website that offers electrical grid data, set out to answer by comparing Apple’s ‘More Clean’ periods with publicly available energy generation data.

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