Ole Zorn's Editorial was the text editor that completely reimagined how I could work from iOS. While I have since moved to Ulysses as my primary text editor, I still use Editorial almost daily for its unique Markdown automation. Editorial's combination of Python scripting and visual workflows for plain text editing is unparalleled and there's nothing else like it on the App Store.
After a couple of years without updates and a long TestFlight beta period, Editorial has been updated for iOS Split View and the 12.9-inch iPad Pro. There are other changes (the workflow editor has been moved to the accessory panel and the Python editor now opens in a separate tab), but, overall, it's still the same Editorial you know and love, updated for the latest iOS devices. I've been using the beta version of Editorial 1.3 for several months now – being able to keep Editorial next to another app is great for editing and research, and moving back and forth between a document and a workflow is easier.
As for everything else, my coverage of Editorial 1.0, 1.1, and 1.2 still stands; Editorial is the text editor for iOS power users thanks to its excellent automation features, advanced Markdown editing, and TaskPaper integration. As I wrote in November, I still edit all my longform stories in Editorial. Despite the paucity of updates, I love the app as it's a shining example of pro software for iOS.
If you haven't played with Editorial in a while, now's a good time to check it out again (the app is also available at a discounted price of $4.99).
Here’s a thought experiment. Let’s imagine that Apple decided to combine their engineering resources to form app teams that delivered both iOS and macOS versions of applications.
In such a scenario it may seem logical to retain application features common to both platforms and to remove those that were perceived to require extra resources. Certainly Automation would be something examined in that regard, and the idea might be posited that: “App Extensions are equivalent to, or could be a replacement for, User Automation in macOS.” And by User Automation, I’m referring to Apple Event scripting, Automator, Services, the UNIX command line utilities, etc.
Let’s examine the validity of that conjecture, beginning with overviews of App Extensions and User Automation.
Airmail, the most powerful email client for iOS and my 2016 App of the Year, has made integrations with third-party apps and services the central element of its experience, allowing users to deeply fine-tune their email workflows. With version 1.5, launching today on the App Store, the developers at Bloop are further expanding Airmail's integration roster with the ability to create custom actions as well as Workflow support to craft automations tailored for messages shared from Airmail.
In the latest update released today, Workflow has received support for six new Bear actions. Bear is the note-taking app with power-user features I reviewed in November, which I'm still using.
With the new Workflow actions, you can further automate Bear without writing a single URL scheme yourself. They are quite powerful: you can create new notes in the app, open a specific note in Bear (something Apple Notes can't do), and even turn a webpage into Markdown and save it as a note in Bear.
My favorite action, though, is 'Add to Bear Note', which can take any file or text and append it to an existing note. I have a Scratchpad note in Bear where I keep a little bit of everything, and with this workflow I can quickly pick a file or a photo and send it to the bottom of the note. Great stuff.
Bear actions are available in the latest version of Workflow.
Kirk McElhearn, writing for Macworld on automation in iTunes following Sal Soghoian's departure from Apple:
No application can do everything its users need, and none should offer everything they want. For this reason, AppleScript has long been the perfect adjunct to iTunes, which is already feature-rich (some say “bloated,” but I disagree), and doesn’t need more options and tools. Many of these AppleScripts are designed to tag files, edit their metadata to correct errors, improve consistency, and ensure that users can find the files they want, and help them efficiently use smart playlists.
It’s not clear whether the termination of Mr. Soghoian means the demise of AppleScript altogether, and particularly in iTunes, but many developers, iTunes users, and others are concerned by this decision.
You see, it’s all about freedom. Freedom to do things we want that Apple doesn’t think we need to be able to do. Freedom to explore. Freedom to discover new ways to link applications, to interact with files, to create our own solutions. We can’t expect apps to cater to all our whims, and tools like AppleScript and Automator allow us to go a step further and discover ways to do things that Apple never even considered.
Losing AppleScript and automation features altogether would be a horrific loss for the Mac. However, I don't think that's going to be the case. Like Jason Snell, I believe today's Apple finds this stuff uninteresting and "vintage"; rather than removing it, I feel like they'll stop pretending they care about it, just as they did for Dashboard. Which isn't an ideal scenario either, but between two poisons, it's the one I'd pick.
See also: Dr. Drang back in 2013, 'When and why I automate'.
Since version 1.0 launched nearly two years ago, Workflow has always offered the ability to share workflows with others. While somewhat simplistic, Workflow's 'Copy Link' button has allowed the proliferation of sites and communities aimed at sharing workflows with the app's users – here at MacStories, workflows are one of the key aspects of our MacStories Weekly newsletter, for instance.
With version 1.6, launching today on the App Store, the Workflow team is revising some of the features that have been in the app since the beginning, starting with the Workflow Gallery and major updates to how workflows are shared, installed, and explained to other users.
Sad news for the Mac automation community: Sal Soghoian, Product Manager of Automation Technologies since 1997, has left Apple. Details from Soghoian himself:
Q. I hear you no longer work for Apple; is that true?
A. Correct. I joined Apple in January of 1997, almost twenty years ago, because of my profound belief that “the power of the computer should reside in the hands of the one using it.” That credo remains my truth to this day. Recently, I was informed that my position as Product Manager of Automation Technologies was eliminated for business reasons. Consequently, I am no longer employed by Apple Inc. But, I still believe my credo to be as true today as ever.
Soghoian's work on AppleScript and other macOS automation, scripting, and accessibility technologies has always been inspiring – we wouldn't have apps like Workflow today hadn't Soghoian pushed the boundaries of user automation at Apple.
I don't know what this means for automation on macOS going forward, but it doesn't feel like a good sign to me. I love his determination, though:
Q. Are you still upbeat about the future of user automation?
A. Absolutely. The need for user automation is a constant. I've seen the benefits and power of individuals being able to automate critical and repetitive tasks. Solution apps are great, emojis are fun, but there's nothing like really great automation tools. I have faith in this community, and that makes me optimistic about what we can do together.
More than ever before, I'm going to keep an eye on Soghoian's website and future projects.
See also: the transcript of Soghoian's WWDC 2016 session on using macOS dictation to perform specific actions (unfortunately, Apple's session video URL doesn't seem to be working anymore).
Integration with native iOS features and apps has always been one of Workflow's strong suits. With an update released today, however, the Workflow team is considerably expanding the scope of the app to work with any web API, giving Workflow a virtually infinite feature set that goes beyond iOS alone.
The latest announcement from Logitech sounds like a good idea: Pop is a physical switch with support for third-party smart home devices that can turn them on individually or trigger scenes.
Pop is a simple switch for controlling Bluetooth and Wi-Fi enabled smart devices, including products from LIFX, Phillips Hue, Lutron, and INSTEON, Smart Things and more. Plus, it works with IFTTT for control of a broader range of products.
Each switch can be used to trigger three different custom commands. For instance, use a single press to turn all the lights in a room on or off. Or, use a double press at dinner time to dim the lights and turn on your favorite Sonos jazz station. And since it works with Logitech’s Harmony hub-based remotes, you could even set a long press to start Movie Time in the living room.
Over the past year, I've bought a few home automation devices to bring more convenience into my life. Sometimes, I miss the ability to press a physical switch instead of fumbling with an app or a widget. The upcoming HomeKit card of Control Center in iOS 10 has improved this aspect, but it doesn't support IFTTT or Sonos.
With the Logitech switch, I could create a recipe to turn off my lights and start recording with Manything as soon as I leave my house with one press. I'm intrigued, but I can't find a European release date on Logitech's website.