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.
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!
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.