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Posts tagged with "shortcuts"

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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GoodLinks 1.7: New iOS 16 Shortcuts Actions, Focus Filter Support, Lock Screen Widgets, and More

I’m really excited about the latest update to GoodLinks for iPhone. The app has always had some of the best automation support of any link management or read-later app I’ve used. However, with version 1.7, which was released last week, GoodLinks has taken its automation tools to a new level, opening up more ways to customize how you save, manage, and use links than ever before.

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Lock Screen One: Text Widgets for Your iOS 16 Lock Screen Automated with Shortcuts

Yesterday, I covered Widgetsmith, which among many other things, can display whatever text you’d like in an iOS 16 Lock Screen widget. Lock Screen One is a new app from Sindre Sorhus, the maker of Shortcuts utility Actions, which does something similar, but with a twist. Like Widgetsmith, Lock Screen One lets you add text to an inline or rectangular widget, but it also lets you automate the process with Shortcuts. Let’s take a look.

I’ve been thinking about text-based widgets ever since trying them in Widgetsmith. Paired with Focus modes, they can be used as an added contextual reminder of the Focus mode you’re in, displaying information relevant to what you’re doing, for example. However, the downside of a Focus mode approach is that it’s inflexible. Who wants to change that text manually or set up multiple Focus modes with different text widgets? I sure don’t.

Lock Screen One solves that problem with Shortcuts. The app has just two Shortcuts actions, but they’re exactly what you need, along with personal automations to check and change a Lock Screen widget’s text on a schedule or based on other conditions. Add the Always-On display of the iPhone 14 Pro to the mix, and you can create an element of dynamism with simple text widgets that’s impressive.

The only real constraint on what you can do with the ability to update a text widget is space. Neither widget size offered by Lock Screen One holds a lot of text, but that still opens up possibilities like displaying sports scores, short daily quotes, weather data, and more.

My demo Daily Stats shortcut.

My demo Daily Stats shortcut.

To give you an idea of what’s possible, I created a shortcut that feeds into a Lock Screen One rectangular widget that lists my total time tracked in Timery for the day, the number of incomplete tasks I have in the Reminders app and my next event in Calendars. The shortcut, called Daily Stats, uses Lock Screen One’s Set Lock Screen Text to change the widget’s text and can be tied to personal automations that are triggered throughout the day to update the widget regularly. Lock Screen One also offers a Get Lock Screen Text Shortcuts action that returns whatever the app’s widget is currently displaying.

You can download Daily Stats, which requires Timery, here.

Note that I’ve seen some circumstances where data in Timery or Reminders doesn’t update every time the shortcut is run. I’m not sure if this is a Shortcuts or Lock Screen One bug. I’d also like to see Lock Screen One updated to allow for its inline and rectangular widgets to use different text. Currently, if you use both widget types, they display the same string of text.

Lock Screen One is a great example of an app that uses Shortcuts to its advantage to make what would otherwise be a static widget that you’d have to change manually or with Focus modes into one that is far more dynamic. Not only do Lock Screen One’s Shortcuts actions extend how its widget can be updated, but it opens the widget to data from other apps and web APIs, greatly expanding what is possible with a simple text-based widget.

Lock Screen One is free to download on the App Store.


LockFlow: A Simple Way to Add Shortcuts to the iOS 16 Lock Screen

A shortcut isn’t worth building if invoking it is more trouble than doing the same thing another way. Fortunately, that’s rarely the case because shortcuts can be triggered in so many ways. Still, you can never have too many options because more options mean more contexts where running the shortcut saves time. That’s why I was glad to see a brand new app called LockFlow released alongside the iOS 16 release. The app makes it incredibly simple to add shortcut widgets to your iPhone Lock Screen.

There are a couple of ways to set up your shortcuts to work with LockFlow. The first option is to use a special helper shortcut that’s bundled with the app. When you run it, the shortcut prompts you to pick the shortcuts for which you’d like to make Lock Screen widgets. The shortcuts you pick will then be listed in the LockFlow app for turning into widgets.

One word of warning, though. If you have hundreds of shortcuts, the scrolling performance of the helper shortcut isn’t great. However, because Lock Screen widget space is limited, I expect that most people won’t need to use the helper shortcut often. You also have the option of adding shortcuts by hand inside LockFlow, but you need to be careful to enter the exact name of the shortcut for the widget to work.

Adding a shortcut to LockFlow can be accomplished in the app or with a helper shortcut.

Adding a shortcut to LockFlow can be accomplished in the app or with a helper shortcut.

When you’re finished adding shortcuts to LockFlow, tap on one to give it an icon and test it if you’d like. That’s it. There’s nothing else to do other than head to your Lock Screen and add one of your new widgets.

When you add a LockFlow widget to your Lock Screen, it will be a generic circle with the word Edit in the middle. Tap it and pick the shortcut you want the widget to launch, which will replace the generic graphic with the icon you picked in LockFlow. Now, whenever you tap that widget, it will run your shortcut. My only quibble with this part of the app is that I think the widget’s iconography should be a little bigger than it is.

There are a lot of interesting use cases for LockFlow. You can use the widget as an app launcher with a single-action shortcut using the Open App action. Other options include controlling HomeKit scenes, switching Focus modes, starting a favorite playlist, and a lot more.

Personally, I’ve been using LockFlow with a shortcut that I adapted from one Federico made for Club MacStories members that appends text to a dedicated section of a Markdown note in Obsidian. I’ve also used it to shuffle a playlist of every song I’ve ever marked as ‘Loved’ in Apple Music. Both are the kind of actions I want to get to as quickly as possible with little effort, which is precisely where LockFlow excels.

LockFlow is available on the App Store as a free download.


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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Photo Editor Acorn Adds Deep Shortcuts Integration

Photo editors are the perfect fit with automation tools because, so often, there’s a set of edits, filters, transformations, or file exports that you want to apply to multiple images. Many apps come with some sort of built-in batch processing tool, which is great, but supporting automation opens the door to integrating users’ photo editing processes with system features like Finder and other apps.

Earlier this year, Pixelmator Pro added deep Shortcuts integration, which opened up a long list of the app’s functionality via Shortcuts, enabling shortcuts like the machine learning-based super resolution one that Federico shared during Automation April. More recently, that app has been joined by Acorn, a Mac app with a long history of supporting automation with AppleScript and JavaScript support, as well as Automator actions.

With the release of version 7.2 at the end of July, Acorn added its own deep catalog of Shortcuts actions for users, including actions to:

  • Create images from the clipboard
  • Crop, rotate, flip, trim, and resize images
  • Apply individual filters and presets
  • Change the color profile of photos
  • Search for text in images

There’s some overlap with what can be done with other apps like Pixelmator Pro, but not as much as you might think. By combining Acorn’s actions with other system and third-party app actions, extremely sophisticated workflows that would take substantial time to complete one image at a time can be reduced to running a single shortcut, which, of course, is what Shortcuts and other automation schemes are all about.

Acorn is available directly from Flying Meat Software for $20.00, 50% off the regular price. The app is also on the Mac App Store for $20.99.


Apple Should Do More to Address the Needs of New Shortcuts Users

Matthew Cassinelli writing for iMore that Apple should be doing more to make it easier for new users to get started with Shortcuts:

In many ways, Shortcuts is “learning to code“ for the masses, and Shortcuts as a programming language should have the educational support, technical resources, and community development that Apple’s user base deserves. At least to match the quality and values the company imbues into all of its other products.

I agree. Although Apple has used Siri and will introduce App Intents this fall as simple entry points into the Shortcuts app, there’s a lot more that could be done. As Cassinelli argues, that includes better action descriptions, debugging tools, and more active curation of the Shortcuts Gallery. Shortcuts has made a lot of progress over the past few years, especially when it comes to meeting experienced users’ needs. Now would be a good time to focus on bringing new users into the fold.

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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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Ventura Adds Shortcuts to Its Share Menu

When Shortcuts debuted on the Mac in Monterey, Apple added more ways to run an automation than anyone expected, but there was one big omission. Shortcuts wasn’t included in Monterey’s share menu. That was a big disappointment for anyone (like me) who has built a lot of shortcuts that rely on the share sheet on iOS and iPadOS. That’s why I’m happy to report that this fall, when Ventura is released, Shortcuts users will, at last, be able to trigger their shortcuts from the Mac’s Share menu.

Enabling Shortcuts's share extension in System Settings.

Enabling Shortcuts’s share extension in System Settings.

Shortcuts was toggled off by default in Systems settings on my Mac, so you may not see it if you go directly to the Share menu. To enable it, open System Settings and go to the Extensions section of the Privacy & Security section, where you’ll find it under Sharing. Once toggled on, you’ll be able to select it like any other Share menu item, which will display a list of shortcuts that accept the input that the app you’re using offers.

Running a Shortcut from the share menu in Safari.

Running a Shortcut from the share menu in Safari.

My testing is ongoing, but despite some bugs, the new Shortcuts share item works well across a variety of system and third-party apps. For example, Safari can pass the active webpage, its URL, and a PDF to Shortcuts, where I’ve used the input with actions like Get Current Web Page from Safari, Get Details of Safari Web Page, and Get Contents of Web Page.

Safari’s inputs also work with File actions like Save File, which can be used to create nicely-formatted PDFs of webpages. However, due to what appears to be a bug in Shortcuts, PDFs can only be saved if the URL is also passed as input to the Save File action, resulting in the creation of a PDF and two HTML files of the webpage contents. Another limit of Safari’s Share menu support is that it currently doesn’t work with text selections.

A PDF of a MacStories article created using Shortcuts via the Share menu.

A PDF of a MacStories article created using Shortcuts via the Share menu.

Safari is where I expect to use Shortcuts’ Share menu the most, but it works with other apps too. So far, I’ve used Shortcuts from the Share menu to:

  • Convert a PNG image to JPEG
  • Open a file from Finder
  • Add a PDF to Keep It for Mac
  • Send a PNG from Pixelmator Pro to Keep It for Mac
  • Add Mac App Store URLs to the Trello board we use to organize our Club MacStories newsletters

There are other ways to accomplish any of these things without a share extension, but the Share menu lets you trigger your shortcuts from the context in which you’re working, which I prefer.

The addition of Share menu support is promising, but it still needs work. In addition to the Safari limitations and bugs I mentioned above, it’s worth noting that if a shortcut fails from the Share menu, the app becomes unresponsive and needs to be quit and restarted before it will work again. Also, Shortcuts’ picker window opens behind the app you’re using, so if your app window is in the center of the screen, Shortcuts’ picker might be hidden. Interaction with the app from which you trigger a shortcut is blocked while your shortcut is running too.

The Share menu, which has undergone a redesign in Ventura, removes a couple of features that would be useful with Shortcuts that I hope are added back. First, it’s no longer possible to reorder share extensions in System Settings. I’d like to move Shortcuts to the top of my list, but I can’t. Second, because the Share menu is now an independent floating pallette instead of a submenu of File → Share, individual share extensions can no longer be assigned a keyboard shortcut in System Settings.

Notwithstanding some rough edges, though, it’s good to see Shortcuts come to the Share menu. I’ve found ways around its omission from Monterey, but none have ever seemed as natural as clicking the share button in an app’s toolbar. Hopefully, by the time it’s released in the fall, Shortcuts’ share extension will do everything on the Mac that it can do on the iPhone and iPad.