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Posts tagged with "shortcuts"

Shortcuts Needs a Notification Toggle

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.

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The Case for Shortcuts on the Mac

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.

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Recently-Created Shortcuts Links Are Currently Broken

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.


Overcast Revamps Apple Watch App and Shortcuts Actions

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.

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Apple Frames, Now with Support for the 2020 iPad Air

Silvia's iPad Air Home Screen. Wallpaper via [Club MacStories](https://club.macstories.net/).

Silvia’s iPad Air Home Screen. Wallpaper via Club MacStories.

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.

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WallCreator 2.0 Adds Ability to Set Wallpapers, Save and Restore Favorites, Plus Automation Support

WallCreator 2.0.

WallCreator 2.0.

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.

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Apple Frames, Now with Support for the iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 12 Pro Max

John Voorhees' iPhone 12 Pro Max Home Screen, framed with Apple Frames.

John Voorhees’ iPhone 12 Pro Max Home Screen, framed with Apple Frames.

When I released the updated version of Apple Frames, my shortcut to quickly put screenshots inside physical frames of Apple devices, in late October, I was only able to add support for the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro. Unlike other shortcuts you may find on the Internet, Apple Frames is based on Apple’s official device images, which are available on the company’s Marketing page here. At the time, the .zip file labeled ‘iPhone 12’ only contained assets for the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro, and I promised I’d add support for the smallest and biggest iPhone models as soon as possible.

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ShortSwitch: A Shortcut to Quickly Import Screenshots and Videos from a Nintendo Switch on Your iPhone and iPad

ShortSwitch for iOS 14.

ShortSwitch for iOS 14.

Last week, Nintendo rolled out a new feature that simplifies importing screenshots and videos taken on a Nintendo Switch on any smart device. As part of the console’s 11.0 firmware, you can now share up to 10 screenshots or a single video capture from the Nintendo Switch media gallery and, by scanning a series of QR codes with your phone or tablet, wirelessly connect your device to the console and save them via a web browser. Although Nintendo’s approach may not be as intuitive or modern as, say, Microsoft automatically saving all screenshots you take on an Xbox console and uploading them to your Xbox account, it is a clever, platform-agnostic solution that will keep working with any device that can scan a QR code and connect to the console’s Wi-Fi network.1

As someone who plays a lot of Nintendo Switch games2 and has always disliked having to share screenshots via Nintendo’s Twitter integration on the Switch, I’ve long wanted an easier way to send images and videos from the console to my iPhone and iPad. As soon as I tested Nintendo’s new feature, I had a feeling I could further speed up the process with Shortcuts and remove the (little) friction left in Nintendo’s system for sharing media between the console and smart devices.

The result is ShortSwitch, a shortcut that automatically recognizes media being shared by a Nintendo Switch over Wi-Fi and which gives you the option to save all items at once in Photos or Files, share them via the share sheet, or copy them to the clipboard. ShortSwitch does this by directly accessing the local web server created by the Nintendo Switch to share media; because it doesn’t need to connect to the Internet or use third-party apps, ShortSwitch runs instantly and allows you to save multiple items at once in just a couple seconds. Even better, you can configure ShortSwitch to run as a Personal Automation on your iPhone and iPad, which means the shortcut will run automatically as soon as you connect your iPhone or iPad to a Nintendo Switch.

You can download ShortSwitch at the end of this article and find it (alongside 220+ other free shortcuts) in the MacStories Shortcuts Archive. Now, allow me to explain how ShortSwitch works and how I put it together.

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Year-End Music Insights From Apple’s Replay 2020 and Top 100 Playlists, Plus MacStories’ Apple Music Wrapped Shortcut

Apple’s annual Replay playlists are available and updated throughout most of the year by visiting replay.music.apple.com. However, as of this week, if you visit the site, you will see your year-end statistics too, which provide insights about your listening habits in 2020.

When you click or tap the ‘Get Your Replay Mix’ button, a webpage is generated with:

  • The total number of hours you’ve listened to Apple Music in the past year
  • Your 2020 Replay playlist of top-played tracks, including the number of times you played each song
  • The number of artists you’ve listened to this year and a list of the ones you’ve listened to the most, including the hours you spent listening to each
  • The number of albums you listened to along with a personal top 10 that shows how many times you listened to each album
  • Links to past annual Replay playlists

I find these statistics fascinating and wish that they didn’t require you to visit a special website. I understand there is a privacy angle here, which undoubtedly is why Apple doesn’t generate these statistics for you automatically. However, the Replay playlists are still a feature that should be built into the company’s apps.

Spotify does a much better job with the year-end Wrapped playlist and related statistics it creates for users. In addition to the playlist, Spotify breaks down the year in music, reporting on trends on its ‘For the Record’ podcast and the company’s blog. For anyone interested in where the global music scene is heading, these Spotify features and articles are a terrific resource.

The report created by the Apple Music Wrapped shortcut. It's true, I really like [Kyoto](https://music.apple.com/us/album/kyoto/1504699857?i=1504699860).

The report created by the Apple Music Wrapped shortcut. It’s true, I really like Kyoto.

If you’re looking for a way to approximate Spotify’s Wrapped playlist for Apple Music and extend Apple’s Replay report, check out the Apple Music Wrapped shortcut that Federico created a couple of years ago and has updated for 2020. The shortcut, which is part of the MacStories Shortcuts Archive, generates a report on your music listening for the past year that can be viewed in Safari, creates a PDF you can save to Files or Dropbox, and can build a Top 25 playlist that it saves to the Music app. You can read more about Apple Music Wrapped’s features here.

Apple Music Wrapped

Create a detailed report for the music you’ve listened to in the past year. The shortcut can optionally create a Top 25 playlist for your most played songs and generate a PDF report. The shortcut is primarily designed for Apple Music subscribers.
To calculate number of plays, the shortcut looks at songs that have been played in full without skipping and added to your library in any given year.

Get the shortcut here.

Apple's many Top 100 playlists.

Apple’s many Top 100 playlists.

Apple has also debuted a series of Top 100 year-end playlists. There are global, Shazam, most-read lyrics, and country-specific Top 100 lists for a total of 51 playlists available to US Apple Music subscribers. The Top 100 I find most interesting is the Shazam list, which is generated from 9.2 billion songs identified by the app. The top song, Dance Monkey by Tones And I was identified by Shazam a whopping 24.6 million times in 2020.

I’ve enjoyed looking through my Replay statistics for 2020 and checking out a few of the Top 100 lists, but there’s so much more Apple can do to extend its year-end lists for individual users and in aggregate. The issue is part of a broader Apple Music discovery problem that extends from the inability to track Apple Music 1 radio shows to the almost non-existent promotion of Apple Music TV. Although the situation has improved, Apple Music still needs better discovery and personalization tools to compete effectively with Spotify.