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Posts tagged with "automation"

MacStories Starter Pack: Introducing Obsidian Shortcut Launcher, A Free Plugin to Trigger Shortcuts from Obsidian

Obsidian Shortcut Launcher is a free plugin that works on iOS, iPadOS, and macOS.

Obsidian Shortcut Launcher is a free plugin that works on iOS, iPadOS, and macOS.

Editor’s Note: Obsidian Shortcut Launcher is part of the MacStories Starter Pack, a collection of ready-to-use shortcuts, apps, workflows, and more that we’ve created to help you get the most out of your Mac, iPhone, and iPad.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that, over the past year, Obsidian has become as essential to my workflow as Shortcuts. As I have been thoroughly documenting in the My Obsidian Setup series for Club MacStories members, Obsidian – which is the MacStories Selects 2021 App of the Year – is more than a text editor: it’s something more similar to an OS for writers that encompasses note-taking, Markdown writing, journaling, research, and more. At this point, just like I can’t imagine using Apple devices without Shortcuts, I can’t imagine taking notes or writing articles without Obsidian.

Which means that it shouldn’t surprise anyone either that I wanted to combine my two favorite apps and figure out a way to integrate Obsidian with Shortcuts.

Today, I’m thrilled to introduce Obsidian Shortcut Launcher, a free Obsidian plugin – available in the Community Plugins section of the app – that lets you trigger shortcuts as commands from Obsidian. 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. Because OSL is available in Obsidian’s Community Plugins list, you can find its source code here. Read on below to find out how OSL works behind the scenes, how I’ve been using it for my setup, and how you can start using it yourself with Obsidian and your favorite shortcuts.

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MacStories Starter Pack: Frame Nintendo Switch Screenshots with SwitchFrame

Breath of the Wild, framed with SwitchFrame in Shortcuts.

Breath of the Wild, framed with SwitchFrame in Shortcuts.

Editor’s Note: Frame Nintendo Switch Screenshots with SwitchFrame is part of the MacStories Starter Pack, a collection of ready-to-use shortcuts, apps, workflows, and more that we’ve created to help you get the most out of your Mac, iPhone, and iPad.

Following the release of version 11.0 of the Nintendo Switch firmware in December 2020, I released ShortSwitch, a shortcut that simplified the process of importing screenshots and videos from a Nintendo Switch console on the same Wi-Fi network as your iPhone or iPad. ShortSwitch continues to be one of my favorite utilities I’ve built in the Shortcuts app, and it’s become my default way of transferring media from the Switch to my iPhone before tweeting it. With ShortSwitch, you don’t need to scan the second QR code displayed on the console, and you can quickly preview or save multiple files at once. It still works reliably, and you can download it here.

That said, I’ve always wondered if I could improve another aspect of screenshots captured on the Nintendo Switch: framing them with a physical device template of a Switch console, just like I can frame iPhone, iPad, and Mac screenshots with Apple Frames. So a few months ago, Silvia and I got to work. After finding a Switch template we liked, Silvia modified it, and I was able to put together SwitchFrame – a shortcut that frames Switch screenshots with a classic Nintendo Switch console featuring red and blue Joy Cons.

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MacStories Starter Pack: Clean Up URLs and Remove Tracking Parameters with URL Cleaner

URL Cleaner for iOS.

URL Cleaner for iOS.

Editor’s Note: Clean Up URLs and Remove Tracking Parameters with URL Cleaner is part of the MacStories Starter Pack, a collection of ready-to-use shortcuts, apps, workflows, and more that we’ve created to help you get the most out of your Mac, iPhone, and iPad.

Picture this:

You’ve just come across an interesting article or product you want to share with someone, so you copy the URL and you’re ready to send it over iMessage, tweet it, link it on your site – you name it. Then, you notice that the URL has a bunch of ugly tracking parameters appended to the end of it. I’m sure you’ve seen them too: it’s those ?utm and soc_src1 and similar strings of text that some web publishers rely on to monitor where traffic is coming from and track other parameters about clicked URLs. For a publisher, those bits of data can actually be useful; for the end user, however, I’ve always wished there was an easy way for apps or extensions to “clean up” URLs and return the vanilla version of a link without any tracking parameter attached.

So, for the debut of our MacStories Pack event, I decided to fix the problem myself with a shortcut I appropriately called URL Cleaner. With this shortcut, which you can download for free at the end of the story and find in the MacStories Shortcuts Archive, you’ll be able to instantly remove popular tracking parameters from any URL and get a “cleaned up” version of it copied into the system clipboard. Best of all, URL Cleaner has been specifically optimized for iOS, iPadOS, and macOS, taking advantage of desktop-specific actions in macOS Monterey all while remaining integrated with the share sheet and Siri on iPhone and iPad.

Let’s take a look.

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WordleBot 1.1, Now Fully Accessible with Native Emoji-to-Image Conversion

WordleBot 1.1.

WordleBot 1.1.

Following the release of my WordleBot shortcut last week, I’ve received a lot of useful and informative feedback from users in the accessibility community regarding the shortcut’s ability to annotate Wordle results with descriptions. Although well-intentioned, my original approach was misguided: even with line-based scores, the grid of emoji characters still performed horribly with screen-reading technologies such as Apple’s VoiceOver. WordleBot didn’t do much to make results more accessible for VoiceOver users since it was only reformatting the grid of emoji characters with additional text.

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WordleBot: A Shortcut to Annotate Your Wordle Results with Scores

WordleBot for iPhone.

WordleBot for iPhone.

Update, January 18: I have released version 1.1 of WordleBot with support for converting emoji results to a single image. You can read the article here and redownload the updated shortcut below.

I, like the rest of the Twitter over the past few weeks, have fallen in love with Wordle, Josh Wardle’s ingenious daily word game (if you somehow missed it, check out Wardle’s profile in The New York Times). It’s so refreshing to have something so disarmingly simple, yet challenging that isn’t out to scam us (although some have tried) or sell our data on the Internet these days. Wordle reminds me of Brain Age for Nintendo DS in its heyday: everyone I know does it and is talking about it, at least for now. For me, Wordle has become this nice, daily ritual that I try to complete with my girlfriend to improve our English skills.

Wordle is a web app, and it comes with a clever built-in sharing feature that lets you share your results with other people by visualizing them as emoji of different colors based on the letters you guessed in the daily puzzle. I’m sure you’ve seen those tweets featuring lots of green and yellow emoji pass by on your timeline. While I think Wordle’s default sharing mechanism is fun, on-brand, and already iconic, I don’t like how its output is not accessible or descriptive enough. Folks with visual impairments such as colorblindness may find the emoji-laden Wordle tweets nearly impossible to decipher; those blocks of emoji don’t play well with screen-reading technologies such as VoiceOver; and, I just thought it’d be useful to figure out a way to score each line of the puzzle to bring some additional context to your Wordle results.

So, I made WordleBot, a shortcut that takes Wordle’s default shareable text and reformats it with partial and perfect scores for each line. With WordleBot, you’ll be able to share results that keep the original Wordle aesthetic and format but also include scores for 🟨 and 🟩 letters on each line, like this tweet:

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Apple Frames 2.1: Apple Watch Series 7 and 2021 MacBook Pro Support, New Update Flow, Plus Chinese and Czech Localization

Apple Frames, now with support for the latest MacBook Pros.

Apple Frames, now with support for the latest MacBook Pros.

Today I’m pleased to announce the release of Apple Frames 2.1, the first major update to version 2.0 of my popular Apple Frames shortcut, which I launched last October. It took me longer than I hoped to put together this update, but I’m happy that I was able to add compatibility fo all the latest device frames supported by Apple, new languages, as well as a brand new update flow that will make it easier to download the latest templates powering Apple Frames in the future.

Let’s take a look.

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Early Experiments with BetterTouchTool’s ‘Notch Bar’ as a Visual Shortcuts Launcher for macOS

The notch bar in BetterTouchTool.

The notch bar in BetterTouchTool.

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been playing around with (and thoroughly enjoying) BetterTouchTool’s latest major feature: the notch bar. This feature is currently available as an optional alpha update in BetterTouchTool, and it’s still rough around the edges, so don’t consider this short post a full review of it; I’m sure we will revisit this functionality more in depth over the course of 2022. However, since I believe the notch bar is one of the most exciting developments in the Shortcuts for Mac ecosystem lately, and since I’m having so much fun with it, I figured it’d be worth an early hands-on preview before the end of the year.

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Exporting Links from Safari Reading List via Shortcuts for Mac

Reading List Exporter.

Reading List Exporter.

A few weeks ago in the second lesson of the Automation Academy for Club MacStories+ and Club Premier members, I wrote about how I’ve been using Reminders as a read-later app in addition to traditional task management. The full details are in the story, but to sum up: using a combination of shortcuts based on Apple’s native actions, I can use Reminders to choose between long and short stories whenever I’m in the mood to read something. I love this setup, and I’ve been using it for nearly three months now.

Earlier this week, however, I realized I still hadn’t re-imported old articles from Safari Reading List – my previous read-later tool – into Reminders. That immediately posed an interesting challenge. Sure, I could manually re-save each article from Safari Reading List to Reminders, but that sounded like a chore. Other read-later apps such as Reeder and GoodLinks have long offered Shortcuts actions to fetch links from their databases and process them in Shortcuts however you see fit; Reading List, like other Apple apps, doesn’t support any actions to get the URLs you previously saved. And that’s when I had an idea.

Now that it’s available on macOS, Shortcuts can get access to application support files that are kept private and hidden from users on iOS and iPadOS. More specifically, I remembered that Safari for Mac has long stored its bookmarks and Reading List items in a file called Bookmarks.plist, which folks have been able to read via AppleScript for years. Under the hood, a .plist file is nothing but a fancy dictionary, and we know that Shortcuts has excellent support for parsing dictionaries and extracting data from them.

The plan was simple, and I knew what to do.

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The Curious Case of Apple’s Missing App Integrations for Shortcuts

Shortcuts for Mac.

Shortcuts for Mac.

In researching topics for the Automation Academy over the past few months, I’ve been digging into all the details of Apple’s built-in actions and comparing them against older versions of the Shortcuts app as well as third-party options offered by developers. In doing this, I’ve realized something that has been bothering me for a while: there is a clear inconsistency between modern features in Apple apps and their associated Shortcuts actions. The gap between functionalities in apps and matching Shortcuts actions has expanded over the years, and I think it’s time Apple takes a serious look at its app actions to reverse this trend.

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