Welcome to Issue 52 of “What’s New in Shortcuts” – hope your October is going well!
This week we had a bit of a shake-up on the Shortcuts team, more bugs to be wary of, apps to check out, a few good threads to browse, new Macro photography shortcuts, and a quick guide to Birthdays – let’s dig in:
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🔀 Changes on the Shortcuts teams
On Monday, former Workflow cofounder Conrad Kramer announced he had left Apple and the Shortcuts team, taking time off after his four-year stint on the team:
some news: last Friday was my last day at Apple
what’s next for me? I don’t know! I’ll be taking some time to relax and figure things out
— Conrad Kramer (@conradev) October 4, 2021
I’ll admit my first reaction was concern, especially with the current buggy state of Shortcuts being so top of mind.
But, after a few minutes, I quickly remembered that I myself had left Apple years for a variety of reasons I’d assume someone like Conrad would leave, and he stuck through it for the four years since then.
In all likelihood, it was probably just time to move on to something new – Conrad saw Workflow from its creation through acquisition all the way to the upcoming release of Shortcuts for Mac.
If anything, he left it in great hands and I truly can’t wait to see what such a bright young mind will get into next – cheers Conrad, and thanks for all the shortcuts.
Plus, I felt better seeing Michael Gorbach also shared that he’s moving into a new role on the Shortcuts team, as this was just a transition moment for the department:
A personal update: I’ve taken a new and exciting job. I’ll be managing a small team of crazy talented folks within Apple’s Proactive intelligence group. We are working on Shortcuts and other features making your Apple devices more powerful and productive than ever.
— Michael Gorbach (@mgorbach) October 4, 2021
Check out the thread for more context, but he’s worked on tools like Automator and will be looking at Accessibility in particular as well – very cool:
I feel lucky and incredibly excited to get to build on the “bicycle for the mind” concept that I’ve been hooked on since I worked on Automator in 2007. Your devices are there to enable you to do incredible things. It’s an old idea, but it is alive and thriving on this team.
— Michael Gorbach (@mgorbach) October 4, 2021
Looking at what we’ve got with Shortcuts since the days of Workflow and where it could still go, I’m excited – the future of automation at Apple is still incredibly bright!
🐛 More bugs to look out for
Now, in order to get to that bright future, there still needs a bit of polish – and Federico Viticci has been sharing exactly where he’s not seeing that polish throughout the week:
Today in Shortcuts bugs:
Sometimes, what you type in the Shortcuts editor doesn’t get properly saved. In this case, I typed ‘German’, closed and reopened the action, and it had been saved as ‘Ger’.
This is iOS 15.1 beta 2. If you’re a Shortcuts creator, keep this in mind 😔 🤦♂️ pic.twitter.com/Rogiouue3x
— Federico Viticci (@viticci) October 4, 2021
Here in this video he also demoes one of the SwiftUI bugs that’s been plaguing parts of Shortcuts regularly – I feel for Federico, especially since he seems to be getting the brunt of issues with his larger shortcuts (thankfully mine seem to be a bit better this beta):
I’m afraid we’re in for a *long* season of Shortcuts bugs due to their SwiftUI rewrite in iOS 15. *If* these can get fixed before 16.
iOS 15.1 beta 3, still can’t reliably drag and drop an action.
Drag and drop…for an app based on dragging and dropping things around.
— Federico Viticci (@viticci) October 6, 2021
He’s even seen some bugs that really blew things up – and got in his way for his own newsletter too:
Spent about an hour working on a shortcut for @ClubMacStories Weekly, which is not working, so I can’t publish it tomorrow.
But hey at least I got this sick view in the Shortcuts library whenever I try to run it pic.twitter.com/OT0f0mFR93
— Federico Viticci (@viticci) October 7, 2021
While it may be too late for folks to avoid iOS 15, the iOS 15.1 public beta might be a better situation now if you have any mission critical shortcuts? It’s always a tradeoff – hopefully one we won’t have to make after 15.1 comes out in full:
Honestly – and it pains me to say this – if you depend on Shortcuts and reliable automations for your work, my advice is to not upgrade to iOS 15 for now. Stay on 14 until Apple figures this out. Hopefully, quickly.
— Federico Viticci (@viticci) October 6, 2021
One bug that I saw reported on Reddit is actually fixed in Beta 3 specifically – I noticed that Shortcuts’ Show Notification is now working properly and overrides any Focus modes, which is great:
📲 Apps with Shortcuts support
This week, we saw Shortcuts improvements from Dark Noise, betas for Omni Automation + Shortcuts, Signals’ Mac beta, and Simon Stovring’s custom Beoplay app:
Dark Noise has overcome some of the difficulties being an audio developer supporting shortcuts of the past few years and was finally able to make parameterized sounds that don’t require opening the app – plus a nice XL widget too:
Dark Noise 2.6 is out today with new iOS 15 features including big Shortcuts improvements and new Extra Large widgets for iPad 🥳
Get the full scoop here 👇https://t.co/40trCPZQdH
— Dark Noise (@DarkNoiseApp) October 5, 2021
Ken Case, founder of Omni (makers of OmniFocus), announced that his teams are taking beta testers for anyone who wants to try Omni Automation using Shortcuts:
For any automators who might be beta-testing macOS 12 Monterey: today we’ve published new public test builds of our apps which integrate Shortcuts with Omni Automation!
— Ken Case (@kcase) October 6, 2021
Signals for HomeKit released their initial beta for their Mac app – I’ve been tinkering around with the iOS app for Sound Recognition automations and I love this simple “flash my lights” functionality coming to the Mac too:
Signals for HomeKit on the Mac is available for beta testing now! Still the best way to communicate at home, without all the shouting, but now with support to trigger Signals and Shortcuts from HomeKit devices! If you’re running Monterey, check it out!https://t.co/gzNzWHuJhY pic.twitter.com/6rOz4s8LbN
— HomeMade Automation (@HomeMadeAuto) October 10, 2021
Simon Stovring, developer of apps like Scriptable and Data Jar, put together a proof-of-concept app for controlling his Beoplay turntable:
After getting a turntable I wanted a dead simple app to control the volume of my speaker. The manufacturer’s app is a bit too cumbersome to use when I just need to adjust the volume. So I made a tiny app for myself. I call it ‘Knob’. It has a single screen and Shortcuts actions. pic.twitter.com/9PLSIWEBUy
— Simon B. Støvring (@simonbs) October 2, 2021
🧵 Threads to check out
While looking for great articles each week, I tend to come across more & more folks sharing their Shortcuts ideas – this week, I came across four worth checking out real quick:
Twitter user Nazir has a Laundry Timer shortcut that uses a combination of Reminders, location, and HomeKit – check out the shortcut link in the tweet and the quote tweet for more explanation:
If you’re interested to try, follow the link below and add it to your Shortcuts app. You may need to modify a few things like:
• a HomeKit outlet for your washing machine
• a Reminders list to set the timer with
• your own location for weather
— Nazir (@ahmdnazrafq) October 8, 2021
Drake Thompson is an organizer who shared this Automation tip for folks who regularly need to message large groups of contacts at pre-set times – using a series of Time Automations makes what was probably a huge undertaking much simpler:
Fellow Organizers (especially RODs). If y’all have an iPhone don’t sleep on the Shortcuts app. I have set up automated report reminder text messages to my FO and reminders to my canvassers to clock in and out. Signal and WhatsApp both have hooks into Shortcuts too! pic.twitter.com/R76VEy5JjA
— Drake Thomsen 🏙 (@ThomsenDrake) October 2, 2021
Patrick Hermawan put together an entire Shortcuts-specific thread on ways to use Automations to get more out of Apple devices – check out the whole thing as I don’t want to spoil his good ideas:
🍎🤖MAKE APPLE WORK FOR YOU🤖🍎
Here’s some USEFUL automation in iOS that I use on a daily basis using Apple’s built-in Shortcuts app…
While it might not be 1:1 applicable, but most of these would also work for Samsung’s Bixby Routine
(a thread) pic.twitter.com/z7eeXYxp9P
— link kebayamerah in bio (@PatrickHermawan) October 8, 2021
Christopher has a thread on using low-code solutions as web designer, which includes tapping into Slack’s API when changing Focus modes:
(3/14) What we are building
Let’s use the new focus mode of Apples iOS 15 to update our availability in Slack to show our team wether we are currently working or not.
🚀 This helps your coworkers to see if you are available for pairing, currently coding or being not available. pic.twitter.com/f0shB3QUnO
— Christopher (@cap_b_b) October 6, 2021
🔄 Shortcuts of the Week
This week, I was impressed by the news coming out of the Halide team, who brought Macro mode to all modern iPhones:
Halide 2.5 is out now, and we did something *really crazy*: with the help of machine learning, we’re bringing macro photography to all iPhones with a Neural Engine — and augment the 13 Pro macro to microscopic levels.
Halide Macro Mode is here: https://t.co/eI5skoUo4w
— Sebastiaan de With (@sdw) October 6, 2021
The linked blog post goes into tons of detail (as is usual for the team), explaining how the feature works and how they brought it to phones beyond the new Pro line:
The iPhone 13 Pro features a new camera capable of focusing closer than ever before.Let’s take a tour of what this lens unlocks, some clever details you might miss in its implementation, why its “automatic” nature can catch you off guard, and much more. At the end, we have a special surprise for you — especially those not using an iPhone 13 Pro.
Inspired by their post, I took at their Shortcuts support and found they had one for Manual Mode, which is at least one tap away from Macro Mode:
Opens the Halide app to Manual Mode, after which the Macro button appears.
I also saw folks talking about how they’re planning on using Back Tap to activate Halide when needed:
Plus a clever strategy for using an App Automation—but instead of the Camera, using Measure, and then putting that in Control Center for quick access:
So you can do this in kind of a roundabout way. Add an app you don’t use to control center (like Measure). Then create an automation in Shortcuts: When I open Measure -> Open Halide.
— Colin (@radiocolin) October 7, 2021
I went ahead and put the rest of the Halide actions together into a folder of shortcuts, including the various modes and the ability to Review Photos in the app:
Collection of shortcuts for the Halide raw photography app.
Plus, just for fun, I included a shortcut for Spectre, the long exposure app from the same team:
Opens the Spectre app made by the folks from Halide to take a long exposure photo.
🔎 Shortcuts Spotlight
One of the underrated actions that arrived last year mid-cycle was the “Edit” options for Contacts, Calendar Events, and Reminders – these arrives in iOS 14.3 and brought a lot of additional power to Apple’s default apps by enabling “edit in place” instead of “create as new and delete the old” like many folks were doing before.
Sometimes it’s not always obvious when it’d be a great place to utilize these, however, and I got inspired by this equally nice feature that Mark Settle discovered – if you wish someone a happy birthday, Siri will suggest you add it to their contact card automatically:
Is *this* feature new in iOS 15?
Type “happy birthday” into iMessage, Siri offers to update the contact card to show the date of the birthday of the person you’re iMessaging.
It does that even if you just type the magic words – whether it’s the recipient’s birthday or not. pic.twitter.com/78yyrAC5n5
— Marc Blank-Settle (@MarcSettle) October 7, 2021
This is such a good idea, but it requires you to already have texted the person, plus only appears on their birthday itself (unless you just send the message randomly, but at that point the new data would be wrong).
Randy on Twitter asked if this information could be used with Shortcuts to send out daily texts – and that’s what sparked my idea:
@mattcassinelli could we use this data to create a short cut to send daily happy birthday texts?
— Randy Castle (@rcastle) October 7, 2021
Not only is that possible, as I mentioned below:
Definitely, can already do that – Find Contacts with a filter for Birthdays. I’ll put one together for my next newsletter 👌
— Matthew Cassinelli (@mattcassinelli) October 7, 2021
Here’s the shortcut for it – these steps could easily be used in a Morning Routine or just as part of a Time Automation set to go off every morning, letting you text anyone who’s birthday is today (nothing happens if there’s no one):
Checks for anyone whose birthday is today and starts a message to wish them a happy birthday.
Plus, I went ahead and put together a handful of other birthday-related shortcuts to go with it:
Just like with the Siri technique, I used the Edit Contact action to create this “Add a birthday” shortcut which makes it easy to pick anyone in your Contacts and choose a date to set as their birthday:
Choose a contact and insert their birthday.
Plus, I figured folks would want to know in advance if it was someone’s birthday so they could anticipate it, rather than only reacting the day-of:
Check for contacts whose birthdays are in the next 3 weeks and displays their name and the date.
Finally, if you know in advance, you might want to get them something! So this shortcut sets a reminder 10 days beforehand so you can them something:
Set a reminder 2 weeks before a selected contact’s birthday.
That’s it for this week – I’ll be back at my regularly-scheduled time next Friday!
If you have any requests for areas of Shortcuts I should cover more, apps you’d like me to make shortcuts for, or want to share your own pieces covering your automation work, please feel free to reply below and let me know – I always love hearing from readers.