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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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Tweetbot 7.1 Adds Background Notifications for Follows, Quotes, and User Tweets

A tweet notification from Tweetbot. This one took about four minutes to arrive – not too bad considering they're not based on push notifications.

A tweet notification from Tweetbot. This one took about four minutes to arrive – not too bad considering they’re not based on push notifications.

We’ve been keeping an eye on Tapbots’ rapid development pace for Tweetbot on iPhone and iPad over the past few months (we gave Tweetbot 6 a MacStories Selects award in December), and I continue to be impressed by how Tweetbot is growing and adding new features thanks to its new business model and Twitter’s new API.

In today’s 7.1 update, Tweetbot has gained support for background notifications. These notifications, unlike push notifications, are managed by iOS/iPadOS’ background app refresh system, which comes with some benefits and limitations that Tapbots has outlined here. In terms of why this matters for users, background notifications alllow Tweetbot to support notifications for more types of activities: you can now enable notifications for new followers, people who quote one of your tweets, and – my favorite – new tweets from a specific user. The latter can be enabled on a user’s profile page (pictured below) or by long-pressing someone’s profile picture in the timeline.

Enabling notifications for specific users.

Enabling notifications for specific users.

Being notified when a specific user tweets was one of the features I was missing from the official Twitter app, so I’m glad Tapbots figured out a way to add it to Tweetbot. Since Tapbots’ system is based on Apple’s background app refresh technology and they can’t control the timing of notifications, Tweetbot’s version of these alerts won’t likely be as immediate as the Twitter app, but that’s fine as long as I get a list of new tweets from specific users.

I look forward to testing these notifications over the next few days. Tweetbot 7.1 is available on the App Store for iPhone and iPad; hopefully, we won’t have to wait much longer for Tweetbot 7 to arrive on macOS too.

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Tweetbot 7 Adds Back the App’s Stats View and Includes New Themes

Over three years ago, Tweetbot removed the app’s stats view as a result of Twitter API changes. Today, that view is back in Tweetbot 7 for the iPhone and iPad, thanks to the social media company’s increased willingness to open its platform to third-party developers like Tapbots.

The view includes a graph at the top, followed by statistics detailing your timeline activity for the last week, including Likes, Replies, Tweets, Retweets, Quotes, and Follows. You can swipe across the graph to see each category by day or tap the categories under the graph to jump straight to that view.

Tweetbot 7 also includes new dark themes called hej and bumblebee. Hej features a slate blue background with yellow highlights, while bumblebee has a near-black background with brighter yellow accents.

The pace of Tweetbot updates has picked up significantly in recent months, which is fantastic. I missed the app’s stats view, so it’s nice to see its return. However, with each new feature and refinement to Tweetbot’s iOS and iPadOS apps, the Mac app looks more and more dated. The two versions are badly out of sync in terms of features too. As someone who spends a lot of time on the Mac, that’s disappointing and something that I hope will change soon.

Tweetbot 7 is available as a free update on the App Store for the iPhone and iPad. However, some of the app’s features require a subscription.


Tweetbot 6.6 Gets Support for Creating Polls, Limiting Who Can Reply to Tweets

Tweetbot 6.6 supports creating polls and limiting replies to your tweets.

Tweetbot 6.6 supports creating polls and limiting replies to your tweets.

For the past two months, I’ve been using Tweetbot as my primary Twitter client again. This started off as an experiment to see whether switching to a third-party client with timeline sync would improve my daily use of Twitter, allowing me to miss fewer tweets and catch up on my timeline (I’ve always been a completionist) at my own pace. The experiment has been successful, but, curiously enough, it also made me appreciate the design and power-user features of Tweetbot all over again.

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Tweetbot 6 Moves to Subscription Pricing

Tapbots, the maker of Tweetbot, has released version 6 of the app, introducing a new subscription pricing model along with a handful of timeline and design updates.

The subscription costs $0.99 per month or $5.99 annually. Many of the features previously available as part of the paid app, including multiple account support, advanced filtering, and push notifications, are now subscription-only features. Tapbots says that subscribers will also benefit from future updates as Twitter expands its third-party APIs and ensure Tweetbot’s continued development. You can still download the app to view your timeline if you’re not willing to subscribe, but the free version is read-only, so it isn’t possible to tweet from it.

Tweetbot 6 includes new icons, themes, and other Settings updates.

Tweetbot 6 includes new icons, themes, and other Settings updates.

Aside from the new pricing model, Tweetbot 6 has only implemented a handful of new features, including a few changes to the timeline view and some design changes. In the main timeline, you’ll notice more image thumbnails than before. Polls and cards are also visible thanks to the implementation of Twitter’s latest third-party APIs, and there are new dedicated ‘@’ and ‘#’ buttons in the app’s tweet composition sheet.

Tweetbot 6 has implemented changes to the app’s settings too:

  • There are three new alternative app icons: Future, Future Noir, and Future Metal, which bear a close resemblance to the Modern versions of the icon
  • There are more and different UI themes, including four light versions and five dark versions where previously there were five total
  • Dark mode has been extended to the app’s Settings screens
  • Chrome and Firefox have been added as browser options for opening links
  • Service options for URL shortening, image uploads, and video uploads have been eliminated

The move to subscriptions isn’t easy. No matter how well it is handled, the change upsets a segment of users who aren’t willing to sign up. However, in the long run, a successful transition to subscriptions makes up for lost users with recurring revenue, which I’m sure an experienced development team like Tapbots has considered.

I have no issue with subscriptions conceptually, but they rightly carry the expectation that in return for regular payments, users will receive meaningful, periodic updates. Recognizing this, many developers time the move to a subscription with a substantial app update to start off on the right foot, which Tapbots hasn’t done. Tweetbot’s subscription is primarily based on the promise of future updates. Even though the Tweetbot subscription isn’t expensive, I think Tapbots owes its users more than it has delivered. It’s a shame because Tweetbot remains one of the premier third-party Twitter clients for iOS. Hopefully, the lack of new features in this update will be addressed in subsequent releases.

Tweetbot is available as a free download on the App Store, but a subscription is necessary to send tweets and access other features.


Twitter Launches Brazil Test of Stories-esque ‘Fleets’ Feature

Today Twitter announced a test, limited to Brazil, of a major new feature for the social service: Fleets, which take their inspiration from the Stories feature found on Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook.

Fleets, short for “fleeting tweets,” live at the top of your timeline just like stories do in other social media apps, and they disappear after 24 hours. Multiple fleets can be written in a day and include text, images, GIFs, and videos, but the way they are interacted with is different than a standard tweet. There’s no way to retweet or reply to someone’s tweet in a public sense; instead, followers can react to a fleet via DM, or a reaction which is sent via DM. Presumably this means that if someone’s DMs are closed, only people they follow can respond to their fleets.

This new test was announced by Twitter Product Lead Kayvon Beykpour in a series of tweets where you can see both images and video of fleets being demoed.

Normally tests of new features, especially ones as limited as this, wouldn’t necessarily merit reporting on because there’s a good chance they may not come to fruition in full release. Fleets, however, are a major new functionality for Twitter and they have clearly had a lot of work poured into them. They’re also a reflection of where other social media services have already moved, making it highly likely that they’ll eventually get a wide release on Twitter, in some form or another.

Although I’m not a big user of ephemeral sharing on other services, and that’s unlikely to change here, I’m nevertheless happy to see Twitter continue pouring work into evolving its product. If fleets do get a worldwide release in the future, I’ll be interested to see if they cause the quality of timelines to improve as tweets are reserved for more important statements while fleets house everything else.


Twitter Simplifies Adding Tweets to Past Threads

Yesterday, Twitter rolled out a useful new feature that makes it easier to append new tweets to a past thread in its iOS app. Although you could already find an old thread and add to it, the new feature lets you do so from inside the compose field. That way, you can start a fresh tweet and decide after you’ve written it that you want to tack it onto an old thread.

The mechanic is simple. From the tweet compose view, pull down. Your most recent tweet will appear so you can continue it as a thread. Alternatively, there’s also an ellipses button next to ‘Continue Thread’ that you can tap, and all of your tweets come into view in reverse chronological order. Pick one, and the tweet you were composing is added to that thread. If you have second thoughts, there’s still an option to remove the tweet from the thread before tapping the Tweet button and sending the new message.

Twitter announced the feature with a tweet that includes a GIF demonstrating how it works:

Features like this have slowly but surely led me to start using the official Twitter app again. It’s been a painful process after years of using third-party Twitter clients, and I’m still doing a lot of my tweet reading in Tweetbot where I have an extensive collection of muted terms. Yet, as my overall time using the service has waned a little, I’ve found that the features that I can’t get from third-party apps have drawn me in more and more.


Twitter Rolling Out Redesigned iPad Interface

Chance Miller, writing for 9to5Mac:

Twitter is rolling out an update to the official Twitter for iPad app that brings a much-needed interface redesign. With today’s update, Twitter for iPad now better takes advantage of the added screen real estate available on the iPad.

As first noted by _Applesfera_, Twitter for iPad now features a multi-column view that allows you to see quite a bit more information. Up until now, Twitter for iPad featured a single timeline of content, surrounded by white space on either side. This led to a lot of wasted space, particularly in landscape mode.

With this redesign, Twitter for iPad now looks and behaves more like the Twitter web app. The menu bar has moved from the bottom to the side of your timeline. On the other side of the timeline, you’ll now find trending topics and other dynamic content.

I’m intrigued by this redesign because, for the past several years, the Twitter app for iPad has offered one of the worst designs on the platform, with an oversized iPhone layout that took no advantage of the extra screen real estate provided by the iPad Pro.

Looking at these early screenshots, I don’t love that Twitter is using the additional column for trends and search options – I’d rather have a customizable column (à la Tweetdeck) to display any kind of Twitter content. It would be great if the extra column could also show tweets from search results: for the past several months, I’ve been using a saved search to check out a complete timeline of my mentions; in theory, I should be be able to view my timeline and mentions at the same time by virtue of having two columns on iPad. Unfortunately, I think Twitter is just going to replicate the web app’s layout and use the additional column for search filters and trends (example) – tweets will always be displayed in the main timeline. If you compare the current Twitter web app running in Safari for iPadOS to the screenshots of the iPad app’s redesign, you’ll notice that they’re essentially using the same layout.

It looks like Twitter is A/B testing this redesign for now, and I don’t have it yet. I’m going to reserve judgement until I can actually play around with it, but if my interpretation is correct, this won’t bring true multi-column support to Twitter for iPad. Sadly, the original, groundbreaking, Loren Brichter-designed Twitter for iPad is still a distant memory.

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Twitter Adds Support for iOS Live Photos by Making Them GIFs

Twitter today announced long-overdue support for iOS Live Photos. Rolling out now on all compatible platforms, whenever you add a Live Photo to a tweet you’re composing, you’ll see a new GIF button in the corner of the image. By default the button is crossed out, indicating the Live Photo will be shared as a still image. However, with a single tap you can choose to share your Live Photo as a GIF instead.

Live Photos first debuted in 2015 alongside the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, but there were plenty of questions at the time about whether the feature would be adopted by social media services or not. For Twitter we now know that the answer was yes, eventually.

I think turning Live Photos into GIFs is a great idea, especially since Twitter auto-plays GIFs by default as you scroll your timeline. Not every Live Photo deserves to be converted to a GIF, which is why I’m glad the feature isn’t on by default, but being able to change that with a single tap is a nice option to have.