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Posts tagged with "automation"

Masto-Redirect, a Mastodon Shortcut to Redirect Profiles and Posts to Your Own Instance

Using Masto-Redirect in Safari.

Using Masto-Redirect in Safari.

Like many others over the past month, I’ve been thinking deeply about my experience with Twitter and whether I want to align my social media usage with the kind of platform Twitter is rapidly becoming. It’s a complex discussion (if my readers are still on Twitter, am I doing them a disservice by not using Twitter?), but in the meantime, I’ve decided to learn more about Mastodon. And in doing so, I came across an aspect of the service that I wanted to improve with a shortcut.

I created an account on Mastodon.social all the way back in 2018, and you can find me as @viticci there as well. I don’t want to turn this post into a guide to Mastodon (you can find an excellent one here), but, long story short, Mastodon is a decentralized service that is based on a federated network of instances. Essentially, there isn’t a single “Mastodon website” like, say, twitter.com; instead, there can be multiple Mastodon instances across different domains (hence why it’s “decentralized”) but, thanks to an underlying API, you can follow and be followed by people regardless of the instance they’re on. I can be on Mastodon.social, and you can be on Journa.host or Mastodon.online (different instances of Mastodon), but we can still communicate with one another via the protocol Mastodon uses. It’s like living in different countries but speaking the same language. You can read more about this here.

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Apple Frames 3.0: Completely Rewritten, Support for iPhone 14 Pro and Dynamic Island, New Devices, Multiple Display Resolutions, and More

Apple Frames 3.0.

Apple Frames 3.0.

Today, I’m pleased to announce the release of version 3.0 of Apple Frames, my shortcut to put screenshots taken on various Apple devices inside physical frames for iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple Watch.

Apple Frames 3.0 is a major update that involved a complete re-architecture of the shortcut to improve its performance and reliability on all Apple platforms. For Apple Frames 3.0, I entirely rebuilt its underlying file structure to move away from base64 and embrace Files/Finder to store assets. As a result, Apple Frames 3.0 is faster, easier to debug, and – hopefully – easier to maintain going forward.

But Apple Frames 3.0 goes beyond a new technical foundation. This update to the shortcut introduces full compatibility with the iPhone 14 Pro and 14 Pro Max with Dynamic Island, Apple Watch Ultra, and the M2 MacBook Air. And that’s not all: Apple Frames 3.0 also brings full support for resolution scaling on all iPad models that offer the ‘More Space’ display mode in iPadOS 16. And in the process, I also added support for ‘Default’ and ‘More Space’ options on the Apple Silicon-based MacBook Airs, MacBook Pros, and iMac. All of this, as always, in a native shortcut designed for high performance that uses Apple’s official device images and requires no manual configuration whatsoever.

Apple Frames 3.0 is the biggest, most versatile version of Apple Frames to date, and I’m proud of the results. Let’s dive in.

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Creating Lock Screen Widgets for Specific Notes via the Apple Notes URL Scheme

All I wanted was a widget.

All I wanted was a widget.

A few days ago, as I was playing around with my Lock Screen on iOS 16, I wondered: would it be possible to use the hidden Apple Notes URL scheme to create widget launchers to reopen specific notes in the Notes app?

That led me down a fascinating rabbit hole filled with hidden Shortcuts tricks and discoveries I thought would be useful to document on MacStories for everyone to see.

You know, for posterity.

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Shortcuts in iOS 16: The Potential of App Shortcuts for Everyone

App Shortcuts in iOS 16.

App Shortcuts in iOS 16.

A note from Federico: This year, I’ve decided to try some new things for my annual iOS 16 review. Some you’ll see on Monday. One of them is previewing small excerpts from the review in the OS Preview series on MacStories and MacStories Weekly for Club MacStories. Today, I’m posting a preview of a section of the Shortcuts chapter here, and a section of the Everything Else chapter in MacStories Weekly. I hope you enjoy these. I’ll see you for the full story – and more reveals – on Monday.


In iOS 16, the Shortcuts app hasn’t undergone a major redesign or technical rewrite; instead, Apple’s efforts have focused on adding more actions for system apps, extending the developer API, bringing more stability, and making Shortcuts more approachable for new users.

The last point is both important and likely the reason why some Shortcuts power users will be disappointed by this year’s update. There isn’t a lot for them in this new version of the app: as we’ll see in my iPadOS review, there’s no integration with Files quick actions, no support for Stage Manager actions, and no system-wide hotkeys still. If you’re an advanced Shortcuts user and were wishing for more system-level enhancements in addition to stability this year: I hear you, but we’ll talk about this later on.

What we do have in iOS 16 is a fascinating new feature to get newcomers started with the Shortcuts app, a grab bag of useful new actions for Apple apps, and some solid developer-related enhancements that will make third-party actions much better than before. Let’s take a look.

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Generating Markdown Links to Mail Messages with Shortcuts and AppleScript

One of the system app updates we covered on AppStories this week that I’m most excited about is Mail. The app will finally introduce several advanced features this fall, including:

  • Undo send, allowing you to recall a message for 10 seconds after sending a message
  • Message scheduling with suggested and fully-customizable future delivery times and dates
  • Follow Up, which surfaces requests you’ve made in messages for which you haven’t received a response
  • Remind Me, a snooze-like feature for scheduling messages to reappear in your inbox later
  • Missing recipient and attachment alerts
  • Improved search

For the first time in quite a while, that list makes Mail a much more attractive alternative to third-party apps. Mail won’t match every feature offered by third parties, but my needs for advanced email client features are fairly modest, which I expect puts me squarely in the demographic that Apple is targeting.

Mimestream offers Gmail's excellent search and other features in a native Mac package.

Mimestream offers Gmail’s excellent search and other features in a native Mac package.

Until recently, my email use was split between Mimestream, which is only available on the Mac, and Spark on iOS and iPadOS. The split wasn’t ideal, but because I handle most of my email on my Mac, I tolerated it.

For the past several weeks, I’ve been using Mail exclusively on all of my devices, which has been a refreshing change of pace. Still, it’s not perfect. Of the features I use most in third-party mail clients, the single biggest shortcoming of Mail is its clunky implementation of deep linking.

I drop links to email messages in my notes and tasks all the time as a way to quickly access important contextual information. Mimestream offers Gmail URLs, and Spark can create its own app-specific and web URLs right within those apps’ UIs.

I like the way drag and drop on the iPhone and iPad links a message to its subject, but having to use drag and drop is clunky.

I like the way drag and drop on the iPhone and iPad links a message to its subject, but having to use drag and drop is clunky.

In contrast, on iOS and iPadOS, you can only link to a Mail message by dragging it out of Mail into another app’s text field. I’ll take it, but I’d prefer if I could quickly generate a link from the share sheet or with Shortcuts instead. The situation on the Mac isn’t much better, requiring users to resort to AppleScript to construct a URL that links back to a Mail message.

With weeks of Ventura testing ahead of me, I decided to see what I could do to improve the situation. The result isn’t perfect: I still have no choice on iOS and iPadOS but to drag and drop messages. However, I’ve improved the experience on the Mac using a combination of AppleScript and a shortcut that I trigger using Raycast to link the subject of a Mail message to its URL. For added context, my shortcut adds the sender’s name too.

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Introducing the 2022 Automation April Shortcuts Contest Winners

John: One of the hardest things about a new project is keeping it under wraps until it’s ready. That was true of Automation April in general, but it was especially true of the Shortcuts Contest. As soon as we’d decided on the outline of what the contest would be, we knew it was something that had the potential to be special by bringing together the MacStories and broader Shortcuts communities for a single event.

We couldn’t be happier with how this year’s inaugural Automation April Shortcuts Contest went. We had over 200 shortcuts submitted to compete in six categories:

  • Best Everyday Shortcut
  • Best HomeKit Shortcut
  • Best Mac Shortcut
  • Best Media Shortcut
  • Best Productivity Shortcut
  • Best Overall Shortcut

The shortcuts we received were remarkable, and as we’d hoped, they ran the gamut from simple automations that solved one problem exceptionally well to shortcuts that offered broad functionality more like an app than an automation.

Having gone through every one of this year’s submissions, we’ve got a deeper appreciation than ever for just how vibrant and creative the Shortcuts community is. Across every Apple platform, its users are creating clever automations to extend the power of their devices and sharing them with a community that is incredibly generous with their time and efforts in helping others to learn how to build their own shortcuts.

With so many excellent shortcuts from which to choose, picking the winners was tough, but fortunately, we had a crack team of Shortcuts experts to help judge the submissions. Thanks to Simon Støvring, Matthew Cassinelli, Christopher Lawley, Jason Snell, Rosemary Orchard, Alex Cox, and David Sparks for their participation. We appreciate the time each was able to take sifting through this year’s contest submissions.

We’ve also got a little surprise for readers. Alongside the winners in each category, we’ve included a handful of honorable mentions to showcase some of our favorite shortcuts that didn’t win a category. I think you’ll see from the quality of these bonus shortcuts just how deep the field of submissions was.

With that, it’s time to reveal our first ever Automation April Shortcuts Contest winners and share the shortcuts they’ve created.

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Automating Podcast Sessions in Audio Hijack 4 with Shortcuts and Timery

Audio Hijack 4 and Timery.

Audio Hijack 4 and Timery.

For the past week, I’ve been rethinking my approach to time tracking with the Timery app with a focus on simplicity and automation. I appreciate the insights into my habits and patterns afforded by time tracking and Timery’s excellent Reports view, but lately I’ve felt like my setup with projects, tags, and sub-tasks was too convoluted since it was based on a structure I designed years ago.

My daily routine is different now – and it’ll continue to change in 2022 – and I wanted to get rid of the overhead caused by a time tracking system that was too granular. For time tracking to be effective, you need to remember to start a timer whenever you’re working on something; too much friction in the process – such as having to carefully pick from a list of similar projects – defeats the whole purpose of it. There’s also the opposite problem – forgetting to stop a long-running timer – which John explained and fixed in a separate story for Automation April.

So I went back to the drawing board of my Timery projects and reorganized everything with simplicity and ease of activation in mind. I cleaned up my saved timers and shortcut that activates those timers, which I can now trigger system-wide via Raycast on the Mac and the Shortcuts widgets on iPad. I split my work projects into three main areas – MacStories, Club, and podcasts – removed redundant sub-tasks, and grouped related activities under the same tags for more reliable filtering.

How I access my saved timers from the Home Screen.

How I access my saved timers from the Home Screen.

The approach worked well for MacStories and the Club, but podcast timers turned out to be a different beast. You see, when I sit down to record a show like Connected or AppStories, I need to take care of key tasks such as making sure my audio inputs are correct, checking out notes for the show’s outline and intro, and keeping an eye on the Connected audience in Relay’s Discord server. These tasks distract me from time tracking and, as a result, I often forget to start a timer for when I begin recording and, conversely, stop the timer when I’m done. I could automatically start a timer when a calendar event for a show is due in my calendar, but that also doesn’t work for me since it doesn’t account for the time before we actually record the show when I may be chatting privately with Myke and Stephen. Wouldn’t it be great if there was One True Way to automatically start tracking my real recording time when I start talking into the microphone for a show?

As it turns out, thanks to the latest update to Audio Hijack – the new version 4.0 that recently launched on macOS – there is. So for this week’s Automation April story, I’m sharing the custom system I created to trigger a single shortcut that starts time tracking in Timery based on the show I’m recording in that specific moment. Let’s take a look.

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Automation April: 10 Shortcuts for Mac Multitasking, Markdown, Reminders, Music Lyrics, Twitter, and More

10 shortcuts for Automation April.

10 shortcuts for Automation April.

Automation April is well underway: we’ve entered the second week of our month-long special event about automation on Apple platforms, and – in case you haven’t noticed – things are happening everywhere. We’ve published Shortcuts-focused articles on MacStories; interviewed developers of Shortcuts-compatible apps on AppStories; we’ve hosted a Town Hall Workshop on our Discord along with giveaways. And, of course, our panel of judges is now busy testing and evaluating shortcuts submitted by people for the Automation April Shortcuts Contest. If you haven’t yet, now would be a great time to start following @AutomationApril on Twitter to keep up with everything we’re doing.

Last week, I shared an initial batch of 10 shortcuts I prepared for Automation April here on MacStories. I’m back this week with another set of 10 shortcuts that encompass a variety of platforms, app integrations, and functionalities. In this week’s collection, you’ll find even more shortcuts to speed up macOS multitasking; a shortcut that makes it easy to create a calendar event starting from a date; there will be a couple of shortcuts for Markdown and Obsidian users too.

I’m having a lot of fun sharing these sets of shortcuts for Automation April. So once again, let’s dive in.

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Automation April: 10 Shortcuts for Apple Translate, Live Text, Finder Images, Pixelmator Pro, and More

Shortcuts I've prepared for Automation April.

Shortcuts I’ve prepared for Automation April.

It’s Week 1 of Automation April, and as I announced last week, alongside the several initiatives we’ve prepared for this month-long automation event, I’ve been working on 30 shortcuts to share with everyone for free on MacStories this month.

Today, I’m pleased to share the first group of 10 shortcuts that will join the other 250 on the MacStories Shortcuts Archive. These shortcuts are a diverse collection of utilities that have been specifically optimized for the latest versions of iOS, iPadOS, and macOS Monterey. Below, you’ll find shortcuts that take advantage of new actions for Translate and Live Text; there are Mac-only shortcuts that integrate with Finder and AppleScript; there’s even a shortcut that helps you speed up multitasking and window control on macOS.

As always, all the shortcuts I’m sharing as part of Automation April have been tested across all Apple devices and you can install them via the iCloud download links in this story. So grab a good cup of espresso, take a break from the Automation April contest, and let’s have a look.

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