Categories
Apps Shortcuts

Making a simple Menu Bar applet to replace Shortcuts’ progress meter

Yesterday on Six Colors, Jason Snell wrote a post called Create visual feedback for running Shortcuts about a method he’s using to check his progress in a long-running shortcut using a Menu Bar utility.

His post was born out of frustration with the Shortcuts menu bar applet, which we discussed on Mastodon as being somewhat unobvious as a signal for progression:

Earlier today, I was complaining to Shortcuts expert Matthew Cassinelli about how there’s no really good way to view progress of a running Shortcut on macOS. Yes, the Shortcuts menu item in the menu bar sort of tries to display progress, but… it doesn’t provide any information I find particularly valuable.

I’m frustrated because I do have some Shortcuts that take time to run, yet unless I have them beep or display a notification when they reach a certain point in the process, I have no idea what they’re doing or if they’re even working.

If you didn’t know, the Shortcuts menu bar icon changes while a shortcut is running to indicate progression.

Plus, any currently-active shortcut also appears at the bottom in the Menu Bar item’s list of shortcuts (unless the shortcut is already a Menu Bar shortcut, in which case it animates in place).

However, as I mentioned in parts of our conversation, that shortcut simply shows the total percentage of actions the shortcut has progressed through so far:

That means that any type of Repeat loops quickly make this useless as it could be repeating hundreds of times but show at 90% done because of the placement of the action.

My personal solution for my logging shortcuts that uploads hundreds of posts to Airtable/my website has a method where it uses Show Notification at certain points in the chain so I know when one of multiple files is uploaded or the item is finished publishing and is moving onto the next one.

I like this because I only need intermittent reminders for this particular task, plus the list of notifications in Notification Center lets me see a sort of visual progression over time.

In his piece, Jason found a solution in SwiftBar, a Mac utility app that lets him use Shortcuts to reload data into scripts that display different data/icons in the Menu Bar.

My alternate suggestion was One Thing, a Mac app by prolific developer Sindre Sorhus that lets you update a simple text widget in the Menu Bar using Shortcuts.

By counting the total number of items passed into a longer-running repeat process, one could use the Repeat Index to calculate a current progression through the total and have One Thing update at the end of each loop – here’s an example shortcut:

This is a quick-and-dirty solution, which doesn’t apply at scale to every type of shortcut — if you’re finding yourself with long-running repeats, however, both mine or Jason’s solution might work for you.

Plus, there’s likely many more apps to display progression in the Menu Bar — let me know if you build your own solution too!

Check out the One Thing progress bar shortcut and get One Thing on the Mac App Store for free.

Plus, check out the One Thing folder in the Shortcuts Library — I have shortcuts for setting your current One Thing for the moment, showing the Now Playing track from Music, and for putting Today’s tasks from Things’s beta in your Menu Bar.

Categories
Shortcuts

New in the Shortcuts Library: One Thing Menu Bar shortcuts

I’ve just added a new folder to the Shortcuts Library — my set of One Thing Menu Bar shortcuts:

Open One Thing:

Activates the One Thing menu bar app to display any text.

Use this shortcut to activate One Thing on your Mac and have its applet display in the menu bar.

Tapping on One Thing will display its edit window, which lets you change the text and have that show up in the Menu Bar instead.

Set my One Thing:

Previews your current One Thing, then prompts you to update it.

Use this shortcut to change your active text displayed in One Thing in the Menu Bar on your Mac.

This shortcut gets the current menu bar text and shows it in the prompt, plus includes the current text as the default answer.

In effect, this is the same as tapping the menu bar item, but this flow can be used with Run Shortcut inside any other shortcut when you want to update your current status.

Add Now Playing to Menu Bar:

Displays the current song playing in Apple Music in the Menu Bar.

Use this shortcut to check Apple Music for the current song and display the track title & artist in the Menu Bar using One Thing.

If nothing is found, One Thing will display “No music playing…” for 2 seconds and then clear the applet so there’s no text.

Use this method in your own One Thing shortcuts to temporarily display text in the Menu Bar as needed.

Add preset to menu bar:

Pick from a list of pre-determined options to display in the Menu Bar.

Use this shortcut on your Mac along with One Thing as a way to pick from a pre-set list of common tasks or information you want to display in the Menu Bar.

In this simple example, I’ve included options for Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner. Other ideas might include putting your daily reoccuring to-dos, or picking from words of motivation you might want to show throughout your day.

Plus, the shortcut includes some scripting that allows for the menu options to be listed nicely capitalized, but then your choice is changed to lowercase before being placed in front of the action verb in the final step.

Show Today’s Current Thing:

Grabs a to-do from Things set for Today and displays it in the Menu Bar using One Thing.

I use this shortcut to take my current task from Things 3 and display its title in the Menu Bar so I don’t lose focus on my most-important thing to do at the moment.

As someone whose line of work is inherently cross-functional, it can be easy to get distracted with other opportunities throughout the day — this helps me realign on what I was doing before I got off-track.

Note: this requires the beta of Things 3 that supports new Shortcuts actions.

Show random Thing in Menu Bar:

Displays a random to-do that’s due today from Things in the Menu Bar.

Using One Thing for Mac and Things 3, this shortcut pulls all tasks that are scheduled with a Start Date for Today and picks a random item from the list to display in the Menu Bar.

This shortcut is particularly useful when you need to get to work but either aren’t sure what to prioritize or just want to get started on anything important.

Instead of taking on the mental load of picking what to do, let the computer decide for you based on what’s available right now.

Note: this requires the beta of Things 3 that supports new Shortcuts actions.

One Thing progress bar:

Sample shortcut showing how One Thing can be used to show progress.

This shortcut demonstrates how the app One Thing for Mac can be used to display useful information in the Menu Bar by passing data inside a repeating loop.

This shortcut was inspired by a conversation with Jason Snell over Mastodon, so I used an example idea where Jason might want to download recent blog posts as HTML and see how far along his downloader was progressing as it is running.

When the shortcut runs, the menu bar item for One Thing will update with 10% complete, 20% complete, 30%… etc.

Use this shortcut as inspiration for your own workflows that could use better visual feedback in the Menu Bar and have a similar repeating loop that takes a while to finish.

Quit One Thing:

Closes One Thing and stops showing its Menu Bar applet.

Use this shortcut to hide the One Thing app from the Menu Bar and close down your session.

When using One Thing’s actions to show progression in the Menu Bar, you could follow up by quitting the app after the process is finished.

One Thing bundle:

Mutli-tool for controlling One Thing in the Menu Bar of your Mac.

Use this bundle shortcut to access all the features of One Thing’s actions in Shortcuts from one menu.


Check out the folder of One Thing Menu Bar shortcuts on the Shortcuts Library.

Categories
How To Shortcuts Siri Shortcuts Tips & Tricks

How to copy meeting availability across multiple calendars using Shortcuts

Yesterday over on Six Colors, Jason Snell wrote about his difficulty helping a friend use the Calendar actions in Shortcuts to pull data from two separate calendars:

Lex wanted to use this shortcut to quickly generate a list of times where he’s available for meetings. This is a great use of automation—I wish I’d thought of it. Unfortunately, the shortcut only checks a single calendar, and Lex wanted his availability judged based on entries in two different calendars.

This thread caught my eye: both because I haven’t personally run into that issue, but also because I had actually thought of the automation.

Here’s my Copy my availability shortcut that I built all the way back when Shortcuts was Workflow, which has managed to live on in the Shortcuts Gallery today as the “Share Availability” shortcut.1

In the piece, Jason came up with a solution after Shortcuts couldn’t get all the data in one action:

Here was what worked: I duplicated the Find Calendar Events action, making two separate actions, one for each calendar. I placed the results of both actions in a variable, and used the variable for the rest of the script.

I’ve just updated my shortcut with this Add to Variable method too — which is infinitely better than the simple filter I’ve been using for “Calendar Is Not iCloud.”

Read the post on Six Colors and get the Copy my availability shortcut in the Meetings folder of the Shortcuts Library.


  1. The concept was inspired by coworkers at my marketing agency who had so many meetings that I never understood how they found free time to actually do their work (hint: they were extremely overworked and did it all after-hours). 
Categories
Membership Shortcuts

New beta shortcuts for members: Ivory for Mastodon

Hey members!

This morning I got access to the TestFlight for Ivory, a Mastodon client from the makers of Tweetbot, and immediately spent the whole morning putting together a set of shortcuts based on the Open Ivory action and all its possible parameters.

I’ve just added my folder of Ivory shortcuts—including the Ivorycuts bundle—in beta and will be releasing these in the free section of the Shortcuts Library (along with a review) when Ivory gets released!

Check out the shortcuts below – I wrote about 1,000 words across all the descriptions explaining how to use the shortcuts, why the features from Ivory in particular are interesting, plus how I’m using Mastodon compared to Twitter:

Categories
Shortcuts

New in the Shortcuts Library: Mastodon shortcuts

I’ve just added a new folder to the Shortcuts Library — my set of Mastodon shortcuts:

Mastocuts:

Presents a menu to open every section of Mastodon, plus convert profiles as needed.

Use this shortcut to access every section of Mastodon on your default instance.

Enter your domain, your handle, then choose from any option to pass your link and open to the corresponding page.

If a profile link is passed as input, using the Mastodon handle converter option to reformat it.

Categories
Shortcuts

New in the Shortcuts Library: Christmas shortcuts


I’ve just added a new folder to the Shortcuts Library — my set of Christmas shortcuts:

Open Apple Music Holiday

Opens the deep link to the Holiday section of Apple Music.

Use the shortcut to find Albums, playlists, and radio stations related to the Holidays on Apple Music.

This shortcut works great on iPad for finding your favorite playlists and saving them for later.

Categories
Shortcuts

How to export your full Revue newsletter archive using Shortcuts

With Twitter announcing the imminent shutdown of Revue, I wanted to share my method for creating a proper export of your full newsletter archive as HTML using Apple’s Shortcuts app.

Revue is currently offering an Export tool, however, it’s fairly limited for the average user — it provides a list of issues and their introductions… but all the links and tweets are shared in .JSON format.

That means all the data must be extracted in a complex manner if anyone wants to do something with the information — it’s not too practical unless you have the skills to patch it all together.

Instead, I’ve solved this problem with the Shortcuts app from Apple, which lets users automate daily tasks — one action in the app is Get Contents of URL, which lets users connect to web services like Revue that have an Application Programming Interface (API).

Categories
Membership Siri Shortcuts

New for members: Things beta shortcuts

Hey members, I’ve just published 11 new shortcuts from today’s stream featuring the new actions from the Things beta!I am super excited about this initial set of shortcuts and the updated actions that Things is bringing to their app soon — I’ve been looking forward to this level of support for many years.

Categories
Siri Shortcuts

New for members: all my Apple Watch faces

Hello folks!

I’m excited to launch a new set of downloads for the membership program: my Apple Watch faces!

I’ve been using the Apple Watch since the first model and, after seven years, have developed very specific methods of using my watch.

Combined with automatic switching with Focus Modes in iOS 16, I’ve designed a set of Watch faces for my various custom modes that get activated automatically and show contextual apps when I need them (and hide them when I don’t).

I’ve written up descriptions for each watch face that explains how I use everything, so check out the full page for all the details.

Categories
Siri Shortcuts

Upgrade #421: Summer of Automation

From Relay.FM:

Before the sun sets on the Summer of Fun, Jason has rounded up three Apple automation experts–Federico Viticci, Rosemary Orchard, and Matthew Cassinelli–to discuss the present and future of user automation on Apple’s platforms. Also, Myke and Jason debate the iOS 16 music scrubber.

Earlier this summer, I had the pleasure of being a guest on the Upgrade podcast on Relay.FM, speaking with host Jason Snell and fellow special guests Federico Viticci and Rosemary Orchard for a great discussion about Shortcuts.

Listen to the full show on Apple Podcasts or see the episode details on Relay.FM.

Categories
Shortcuts

Shortcuts shows too much personal information and that needs to change

I am writing this post because I am frustrated with the fact that Shortcuts shows personally identifiable information about me when live-streaming about the app, when Apple could easily change the interface to show the same information without exposing me and my girlfriend to personal safety problems.

To fix this Apple needs to overwrite personally-identifiable information in Shortcuts with generic placeholders that the user can understand from context, and they need to add the ability to remove Suggestions.

Every time you go into Shortcuts and try to pick a location, it will show your Home Address in the view — please just change this to say “Home” and do not input the address into the Location field, Home is plenty.

When you first open Shortcuts to a blank shortcut, in the bottom right there are often “Suggestions” based on your recent activity. However, there is no way to remove this information, meaning that recent contacts will always show up there and your friends & family have no choice but to have their names, images, and sometimes phone numbers appear on-screen. I’ve had Apple PR contacts of mine appear in this view when producing public content, for example.

Any suggested actions in the Shortcuts app should also be able to be removed — in my Reminders suggestions, the app is currently recommending that I make a shortcut with my most-recently added reminder, which includes information I do not want on-screen and cannot remove before trying to record my screen.

I originally sent this feedback to Apple on July 24, 2019 as FB6809181. It’s now been three years and I’m basically lucky this hasn’t been a bigger issue so far.

I really hope Apple takes this post to heart and adds these small but significant changes to the Shortcuts app in iOS 16.0 — I really don’t want this to become a much larger and much more personal issue by having my family’s privacy violated because I choose to share about this cool app I like to use.

Categories
Shortcuts

Here are 51 new actions for Shortcuts in the iOS 16 betas (so far)

In the first seed of the iOS 16 developer beta, the Shortcuts app has received 51 new actions that support interacting with Apple’s first-party apps and help take advantage of system features.

The actions provided work with Notes, Voice Memos, Mail, Safari, Shortcuts, Clock, Parked Cars, Image Backgrounds, Personal Hotspot, Files, PDFs, and Reminders, plus there’s an initial batch of bug fixes for actions and new Mac support for Safari Reader and Evernote actions.

This guide was compiled using a list provided by the Shortcuts team during Q&A sessions at WWDC, plus another post on Reddit and one of its comments, plus some of my own research using the developer betas.

I’ve sorted larger groups into sections, plus marked any actions with * do not currently work in the first developer beta.

Categories
Offsite Siri Shortcuts

How Apple Is Trying To Fix Siri With App Shortcuts

From my iMore column “How Apple Is Trying To Fix Siri With App Shortcuts”:

With App Shortcuts, everyday folks will automatically have folders of trigger phrases to use with Siri, meaning the work that app developers put into adding Shortcuts support can pay off much easier.
[…]
In many ways, it seems that Siri Shortcuts is Apple’s solution for their Siri problem, and App Shortcuts is an encouraging start. I am looking forward to seeing how people react to the “improved” Siri experience — I’m sure we’ll hear some opinions when the time comes.

Read the full story on iMore.com.

Categories
News Siri Shortcuts

Learn about App Shortcuts from Apple’s WWDC’22 developer sessions

At Apple’s worldwide developer conference during their State of the Union address1, Apple launched App Shortcuts and the AppIntents API, features designed for “zero setup” of shortcuts from third-party apps for use with Siri.

If you’re a developer looking to implement Shortcuts support in your app, Apple has now released all four sessions at WWDC ’22 covering what’s new in these Shortcuts APIs — here are the links:

  1. Dive into App Intents
  2. Implement App Shortcuts with App Intents
  3. Design App Shortcuts
  4. Meet Focus Filters
Categories
News Siri Shortcuts

Announcing the expanded Shortcuts Library with 600 shortcuts and 150 bundle shortcuts

I am incredibly excited to announce the relaunch of my Shortcuts Library in its expanded form, including over 600 custom shortcuts!

What’s new

The Shortcuts Library is updated from last year’s release, in which I consolidated my original larger library into 50+ shortcuts that each covered large areas of what’s possible with Shortcuts.

With the new release, I’m distributing 600 single shortcuts in the main library across 100 folder groups, plus I’ve developed a method to compile each folder into 150 bundle shortcuts made out of all the single shortcuts in that folder.