We speculated for years about whether Shortcuts would come to the Mac and, if so, in what form. In 2019, Dr. Drang wrote about his concern that Shortcuts would come to the Mac as a Catalyst app that couldn’t interoperate with existing Mac automation tools. It was a legitimate concern, especially given the state of Mac Catalyst apps at the time.
As Drang explains in a post today, those early concerns haven’t materialized. Shortcuts for Mac isn’t limited by Mac Catalyst, and Apple has directly plugged the app into the existing Mac automation ecosystem. Drang concludes that:
All in all, this is looks like everything I wanted in Mac Shortcuts. As I said in the post two years ago, the ability to run every kind of automation from every other kind of automation is key to making a fluid system, where you can use each tool for what it does best. Also, it means that third-party automation tools like Keyboard Maestro, which has a good AppleScript dictionary for running its macros, will fit in well with the new environment even before they incorporate Intents that are directly accessible from Shortcuts.
As Drang notes, Shortcuts for Mac’s ability to run AppleScript and for shortcuts to be run from AppleScript or from the command line is an important feature that promises to significantly increase the app’s utility from day one. Even before existing Mac automation apps do anything to support Shortcuts, they will work with it if they support AppleScript or shell scripting. That will allow users to build shortcuts that incorporate workflows created in apps like Keyboard Maestro and for Keyboard Maestro to run shortcuts from the very start.
However, before automation fans run out and install Monterey to start building new automations, it’s worth noting that Shortcuts for Mac is a brand new app in the first beta of Monterey. As Drang notes, some functionality isn’t enabled yet, and there are significant bugs that need to be worked out throughout the app. That’s to be expected, and there are still good reasons to be excited about Shortcuts for Mac. For now, though, adventurous automators should approach Shortcuts for Mac with realistic expectations about what they will be able to create.
Photo editing and management app Darkroom, which added a new Clarity tool last month, has added substantial new Shortcuts actions to the app that allow users to automate a wide variety of its features for the first time. The update is notable because it allows Darkroom to work hand-in-hand with other apps, something which few photography apps do. For now, the shortcuts are available in Apple’s Shortcuts app on iPhones and iPads, but this fall, when macOS Monterey is released, the Darkroom team says that it plans to offer the same actions on the Mac.
The update features five Shortcuts actions:
- Import to Darkroom
- Flag Photos
- Reject Photos
- Add Photos to Favorites
- Edit With Darkroom
The Import to Darkroom action adds images to Darkroom and can simultaneously apply a filter with the intensity you choose, set a frame aspect ratio with an inset, and optionally prepare the processed image for export. The Edit With Darkroom action can also apply filters and apply a frame to an image and adds the ability to crop an image to any of a long list of preset aspect ratios and add a watermark to images, all without opening Darkroom. Cropping an image has also been added as an edit that can be pasted to multiple images inside the Darkroom app itself.
The Flag, Reject, and Favorite actions do as you’d expect, allowing you to mark images accordingly without doing so from inside Darkroom itself. Flagging and rejecting photos is a recent addition to Darkroom, which I previously covered on MacStories.
It’s fantastic to see Darkroom adding such deep support for Shortcuts. The app itself is one of my favorite photo editors. However, by freeing its core features from the app itself, Darkroom gains the advantage of becoming part of more complex photo-editing workflows, automatically processing images in multiple apps, without the images having to be opened sequentially in each app. I’ve just begun to scratch the surface of what Darkroom’s new Shortcuts actions can do, but the possibilities are intriguing.
To say we’ve followed Shortcuts closely at MacStories is probably an understatement. Federico was relying on it to run MacStories months before it was publicly released as Workflow, and today, the app is deeply embedded in every aspect of our production of the website, podcasts, and Club MacStories content, as well as the way we operate the business.
As someone who works across a Mac and iPad all day, the lack of Shortcuts on the Mac was frustrating, but something I was willing to deal with because the app was such a good fit for the way I worked, even when I had to run it in parallel to my Mac instead of on it. Going into WWDC, though, my feelings about automation on the Mac aligned closely to what Jason Snell wrote on Six Colors earlier this year. As we discussed on AppStories, the time had come for Shortcuts to be available on all of Apple’s platforms, which was why I was so pleased to see it become a reality during this week’s WWDC keynote.
Chaim Gartenberg, writing for The Verge, on one of Shortcuts’ most annoying limitations in iOS 14 – its obsession for showing notifications for anything it does:
Apple, I assume, mandates notifications because Shortcuts are extremely powerful tools for automating things on your iPhone, and it’s easy to imagine unscrupulous use of them.
But the thing is, the power of Shortcuts is to automate things in the background that I don’t want to have to deal with, whether that’s automatically disabling rotation lock when I open or close an app, open an app with a custom icon, or change the wallpaper when the battery life is low. A big glaring notification every time I do something detracts from that idea. I want my phone to be quietly helpful, not shouting in my face every time it does what I asked it to.
Years ago in my review of iOS and iPadOS 13, I argued in favor of adding an “expert mode” to Shortcuts so power users could turn off confirmation prompts for automations (which Apple removed the following year) and other notifications. Two years later, I think this goes well beyond expert users.
Since the release of iOS 14, millions of people have turned to Shortcuts as a way to customize app icons on their Home Screens. And every time they tap one of those custom icons, they have to see an alert that tells them the action they just performed was, in fact, performed. Imagine if your Mac showed you an alert every time you opened an app saying ‘You opened an app’. That’s pretty much what Shortcuts does whenever you run an automation or a shortcut added to the Home Screen.
Given the popularity of custom icons powered by Shortcuts in iOS 14 and the universal disdain for its notifications, I would be very surprised if there’s no way to turn these off in iOS 15.
Jason Snell writing on Six Colors:
The more I use Shortcuts, the more I realize that in many ways, user automation on iOS has outpaced automation on the Mac. Let me give you an example: On iOS I built a shortcut to grab the contents of selected text in Safari and open the results in a text editor—converted to Markdown, with the title of the page set as the title and its URL set as a link. It’s not remotely the most complicated shortcut I’ve built, but it’s great—and has saved me a lot of time while improving the quality of my link posts…
I love it so much, I decided to build the same automation on the Mac. The results were ugly. My Keyboard Maestro macro forces Safari to copy the selected text to the clipboard, moves to BBEdit, opens a new window, pastes in the HTML, runs an HTML to Markdown Service on the selection, then runs an AppleScript script that cleans up the results. It’s ridiculous.
This is a fantastic example of something that I’ve experienced over and over to the point where I hesitate before trying to automate anything on the Mac. As Jason points out, Shortcuts isn’t exactly easy, but I find that I usually spend the most time figuring out the best approach to a problem rather than how to implement it in Shortcuts, which is automation at its best. It’s a self-reinforcing cycle that encourages me to experiment more with Shortcuts and use Mac automation less.
iCloud links to shortcuts broke sometime in the past 24 hours. Instead of opening the Shortcuts app and allowing users to install a shared shortcut, tapping a shortcut link displays an alert with the message ‘Shortcut Not Found,’ explaining that the link may be invalid or the shortcut may have been deleted. Based on our internal testing, the issue appears to affect all shortcut links created before yesterday.
The problem with shortcut links first surfaced in the Shortcuts subreddit late yesterday and early today on Twitter. Yesterday also saw the release of OS betas by Apple, but there is currently no evidence that the two events are linked. It’s also unknown whether the change was intentional or not. However, given that URLs can still be created and shared for new shortcuts, it seems more likely that the issue is related to a bug. We have contacted Apple seeking clarification about the situation but haven’t received a statement from the company.
The issue affects everyone who has shared shortcuts, from individual users to publications like MacStories that have shared shortcuts online. As a result, none of the shortcuts shared in the MacStories Shortcuts Archive currently work. That’s also true for other sites like RoutineHub and the shortcuts subreddit and writers and YouTubers like Chris Lawley and Matthew Cassinelli who have shared many of their own shortcuts.
Unfortunately, as this story is published, we don’t yet know if or when shortcuts links will begin working again. We will update this post as new information surfaces.
Update: Late yesterday, we received the following statement from Apple about the problem with previously-shared shortcuts links:
We are aware of an issue where previously shared shortcuts are currently unavailable. Newly shared shortcuts are available, and we are working to restore previously shared shortcuts as quickly as possible.
This is great news for shortcuts users. We don’t know yet when previously-shared shortcuts will be available, but we’ll let you know as soon as they are, so keep an eye on MacStories for further updates.
In the latest update to his popular podcast app, developer Marco Arment has shipped a completely overhauled version of Overcast for Apple Watch. The update not only resolves some longstanding issues with the old Watch client but also debuts playback speed controls, chapter skipping, and show notes for the first time on the Apple Watch.
When you first open the new Apple Watch app, Overcast will spend some time fully syncing with its iPhone counterpart. Once this initial sync completes, you’ll gain access to the new interface. Instead of the previous three-page, horizontal-scrolling layout, Overcast for Apple Watch now features a much simpler design. At the top, you’ll find large buttons to manually request a sync with your iPhone and to access the app’s settings.
In the last update to Apple Frames – my shortcut to put screenshots captured on iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch inside physical device frames – from December, I added support for the iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 12 Pro Max. Since the introduction of revamped widgets in iOS 14, Apple Frames is the only shortcut I’ve configured as a small, standalone Shortcuts widget on the first page of my Home Screen: I use it dozens of times every single day, and I can’t even begin to imagine the amount of time its image-based automation has saved me over the years.
In September, I shared WallCreator, a shortcut to generate wallpapers for iPhone and iPad using gradients or solid colors. The first version of WallCreator allowed you to generate randomized wallpapers with just a couple taps from either the Shortcuts app or Home Screen widget. Because it was built entirely with native HTML and CSS actions, the shortcut had no external dependencies and didn’t require any third-party apps or connections to web servers. Here’s what I wrote:
Here’s the gist of what WallCreator can do: with just a few taps, you can either generate a wallpaper with a solid color or gradient. You can choose to enter your own colors (using their English names or Hex codes) or, even better, let WallCreator generate random solid colors or gradients for you.
You don’t need to worry about anything else: WallCreator will create the right version of a wallpaper for different iPhone and iPad models automatically, without having to specify any option; at the end of the shortcut, you can preview the newly-generated wallpaper and, if you like it, save it as an image to the Photos app. Otherwise, you can tell WallCreator you want to generate another image and start over.
Today, I’m pleased to announce the release of WallCreator 2.0, which has been updated for iOS and iPadOS 14.3 and Shortcuts’ new ‘Set Wallpaper’ action. Among other additions (which I’m going to detail below), WallCreator can now both save and install wallpapers on your device for you. Furthermore, thanks to the comeback of the ‘Set Wallpaper’ action, I’ve been able to create a WallCreator “spin-off” that runs as a headless automation and can change either your Home Screen or Lock Screen wallpaper (or both) on your behalf, with no manual interactions required. This is a pretty big update to WallCreator, so let’s dive in.