What’s New in Shortcuts – Issue #059

Welcome to Issue 59 of “What’s New in Shortcuts” – it’s Thanksgiving week here in the U.S. and I’m thankful for having a great community of readers like you to share with 🙏

I really enjoy passing along the fun and joy that I get from building new shortcuts and seeing other share their stories about Shortcuts, so thank you for being here with me along the way.

I’m especially grateful for my members, whose direct support has allowed me to expand into more areas and dedicate ever more time to making the full Shortcuts Catalog – your membership has been a powerful presence in my life, particularly in the face of the last two years. And I’ve been extremely hard at work to expand the program – I can’t wait to share what’s in store 😊

Until then, I’ve got a great issue for you – including my guest spot on the AppleInsider podcast, some quick ideas to jot your brain over the weekend, a slew of MacStories links all about Shortcuts, and a deep dive from yours truly on the new Pushcut widget update:

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🎙 My guest spot on AppleInsider

Last week, Stephen Robles of AppleInsider was kind enough to have me on their podcast again to talk about Shortcuts for Mac and what this release means for the platform and the automation tool – we spent a good hour chatting through all the details (and having fun along the way):

In the show, I mentioned a ton of different shortcuts – here’s a link-dump of everything we covered:

I got super excited afterwards, because I love getting into it with someone who’s excited too – check out the episode on Apple Podcasts and let me know what you think:

‎AppleInsider Podcast: Shortcuts on macOS Monterey with Matthew Cassinelli on Apple Podcasts ‎AppleInsider Podcast: Shortcuts on macOS Monterey with Matthew Cassinelli on Apple Podcastspodcasts.apple.com

‎We interview Shortcuts expert Matthew Cassinelli and discuss Shortcuts on macOS, from current bugs and issues, to automating Shortcuts using third-party applications.

🔗 Quick links to check out

Jordan Morgan, iOS developer and author of “A Best-in-Class iOS App”, shared his shortcut for getting to work on Accessibility testing (the main subject of his current book) – this turns on Do Not Disturb, plays his Coding playlist, opens Xcode, and opens Accessibility Inspector as well:

I also came across this write-up from XDA-Developers explaining the basic features of Shortcuts for Mac – they walk you through all the different views of the app to help folks get started:

A complete guide to Shortcuts on macOS A complete guide to Shortcuts on macOSwww.xda-developers.com

This capable app has finally made it to the Mac. It doesn’t take long to grasp the logic behind building shortcuts, and we’ll be detailing everything below.

I also shared this simple shortcut to open back into the “Apple” community on Twitter, a new group using the Communities feature that Twitter is piloting – I figured it could be easy to forget to check in on a community, so this shortcut taken from the web link will put you right back into the special tab in the iOS app:

📰 Stories of the Week

The team at MacStories kept up the great streak of Shortcuts stories this holiday week with a string of pieces, first covering Pixelmator’s latest update (that includes Shortcuts support), followed with a big Shortcuts an issue that Federico (and the rest of the community) is concerned about, then a piece on an extremely handy Reading List exporter, and finally the team’s Shortcuts icon pack went on sale:

Continuing with their impressive set of macOS updates, Pixelmator Pro has added background removal, subject selection, and more new tools – but importantly, they work with Shortcuts (just like Adam spotted in last week’s issue):

Pixelmator Pro Updated with Background Removal, Subject Selection, and Select and Mask Tools - MacStories Pixelmator Pro Updated with Background Removal, Subject Selection, and Select and Mask Tools – MacStorieswww.macstories.net

Mac image editor Pixelmator Pro continues its streak of releasing machine learning-based tools that feel like magic, with a release that the Pixelmator team calls Abracadabra appropriately enough. The release of version 2.3 features tools to remove the background of an image, select just the subject of a photo, and a new Select and Mask

Federico also published a piece later this week that hits home for anyone diving deep into Shortcuts – eventually, you run into a situation where you want to use one of Apple’s apps, but it just isn’t supported in Shortcuts yet.

And after a few years inside Apple, I agree with Federico – this is a big omission from Apple and is also likely a root cause of slower adoption among third-party apps:

The Curious Case of Apple's Missing App Integrations for Shortcuts - MacStories The Curious Case of Apple’s Missing App Integrations for Shortcuts – MacStorieswww.macstories.net

In researching topics for the Automation Academy over the past few months, I’ve been digging into all the details of Apple’s built-in actions and comparing them against older versions of the Shortcuts app as well as third-party options offered by developers.

In doing this, I’ve realized something that has been bothering me for a while: there is a clear inconsistency between modern features in Apple apps and their associated Shortcuts actions.

Folks in the iOS community agree too – both Jason Snell and Dan Moren of Six Colors tweeted the article, expressing the same sentiment that Apple isn’t doing enough internally to provide deep Shortcuts support:

As a user, it’s clearly very confusing when Apple’s own apps add new features like Reminders Tags in iOS 15, but there’s no corresponding change to the Reminders actions to let the biggest power users actually take advantage of it – ultimately, those features go to waste for the people most likely to use them.

I hope Apple addresses this in a systematic way for the future – Apple’s own apps should be pushing the boundaries of what’s possible with Shortcuts, not lagging behind.

The second story from MacStories covers Federico’s new Reading List Exporter – he realized you could access the Bookmarks.plist on macOS, making it possible to scrape the data using Shortcuts and send it to another app.

As someone who’s long been a fan of Reading List as a front-end tool but found it lacking as a back-end tracking system, now I can have both – I am the kind of dork who sees this and says “holy smokes” 🤓.

Exporting Links from Safari Reading List via Shortcuts for Mac - MacStories Exporting Links from Safari Reading List via Shortcuts for Mac – MacStorieswww.macstories.net

A few weeks ago in the second lesson of the Automation Academy for Club MacStories+ and Club Premier members, I wrote about how I’ve been using Reminders as a read-later app in addition to traditional task management. The full details are in the story, but to sum up: using a combination of shortcuts based on

Finally, the folks at MacStories put out a discount on their Shortcuts Icons (and Perspective Icons for OmniFocus) – this is a set of custom-design icons inspired by the glyphs in Shortcuts that work well for custom Home Screen icons or, my favorite, Stream Deck icons.

I personally love the black-background options that can fade away with a pure-black wallpaper, but the varieties of colorful or white also work great:

MacStories Shortcuts Icons and Perspective Icons: 40% Off from Black Friday to Cyber Monday - MacStories MacStories Shortcuts Icons and Perspective Icons: 40% Off from Black Friday to Cyber Monday – MacStorieswww.macstories.net

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are upon us, and we’ve prepared something truly special to celebrate the occasion at MacStories: starting today through Monday, November 29, MacStories Shortcuts Icons and Perspective Icons are available at 40% off their regular price. To purchase MacStories Shortcuts Icons at $17.99 rather than the usual $29.99, click the ‘Buy’

🔎 Shortcuts Spotlight

Shortcuts Power User apps: Pushcut

Pushcut, the Shortcuts Automation tool for iPhone and iPad, has released a new update this week adding Widget support to the already-powerful Notifications, Triggers, and Automation Server capabilities:

‎Pushcut: Shortcuts Automation on the App Store ‎Pushcut: Shortcuts Automation on the App Storeapps.apple.com

Pushcut helps you kick off your automation when it matters. Create fine-tuned interactions for HomeKit, Shortcuts, and custom workflows through smart notifications and widgets combined with powerful automation actions.

With widgets, Pushcut users can design their own styles and layouts, then populate their widgets with any data pulled from Shortcuts, web automation tools like Zapier, and even data from sources like HomeKit using webhooks:

This all works alongside Pushcut’s own Notifications and Triggers systems that round out some missing features of Shortcuts – things like scheduling shortcuts easily and providing multiple actions to trigger from a single notification:

Pushcut ultimately give you three ways to update your widgets as well – you can both change one single widget to another widget setup, you can change the content of one (or more) of the widgets, and you can change the types of input inside that content.

There’s a lot of layers here, but with all of that, you can update the data, which setup is shown in a single widget, and if you have multiple, change all the widgets as well – here they demo one widget changing through the day to show contextually-relevant information:

Most of the “design” aspect of widgets works off of SwiftUI, Apple’s newest programming design language – this makes it possible for new users to create layouts according to common app design styles they’re already familiar with:

Content for a widget is passed in via Shortcuts as a List – that means you can place a variable in Pushcart’s action from other actions like List , Add to Variable, or a result that’s an array of items (Split Text, anything that “gets” data).

Due to the way widgets are built on iOS, these won’t work well for sub-10 minute intervals – processes like hourly or daily updates at midnight will provide a better experience, otherwise you may have to tap on the widget and open the app to refresh it.

The developers recommended using Time automations in Shortcuts for 12:00am, set up with Run Shortcut to trigger a separate “Midnight updater” shortcut – that shortcut can also use Run Shortcut and trigger multiple other shortcuts if you have different widgets that you want to update:

Using Zapier, the content is passed in as a “inputs” array – you’ll have to format the data to look something like this from their Reddit example guide:

{

"content": "Reddit Content",

"inputs": {

"input0" : "{{title}}",

"input1" : "{{ups}}",

"input2" : "{{downs}}",

"input3" : "{{num_comments}}"

}

}

Use Pushcut Widgets keep up to date on your favorite subreddit Use Pushcut Widgets keep up to date on your favorite subredditwww.pushcut.io

Automatically log arrival and exit time based on work location on a Google Spreadsheet.

Every widget is also shareable as JSON, which means it can be distributed in plain text and “installed” by adding it on your device.

The “Webhooks” feature works best with Home Automations – using “Convert to Shortcut” with those types of automations only allows for a limited subset of interface-less actions to trigger from a Home Hub like the Apple TV or HomePod, and therefore can’t run traditional shortcuts.

Due to that limitation, the Pushcut team has designed the whole app to be trigger-able using webhooks – these are custom URLs that you can point to in your Home Automations and, when the automation fires, sends the data to Pushcut directly via the web.

Shortcuts users can accomplish this with Get Contents of URL—one of the actions available for Home Automations—and paste in the URL provided by Pushcut – check out their Support guide for an example that logs your Door sensor to a Google Spreadsheet:

Use Pushcut Widgets to see the status of your automation accessories Use Pushcut Widgets to see the status of your automation accessorieswww.pushcut.io

Automatically log arrival and exit time based on work location on a Google Spreadsheet.

I think the best way to approach Pushcut widgets is to find a source of data that you’d like to see in a more dashboard-like fashion on your iOS devices, then design an overall workflow for the best way to get that data into Pushcut.

Zapier is a very good place to tie in any web services you might use, especially for work – I’m going to pull data from my Airtable system to show on my work Home Screen, for example.

If you’re into HomeKit and have sensors or data sources for your setup, try using Webhooks to send that information into Pushcut using Home Automations and “Convert to Shortcut.”

If you have iOS apps that provide information relevant to your life via Shortcuts—including the whole set of Apple’s default apps/actions—then you can use Shortcuts to update your widgets, either through Time Automations at set intervals, or via things like Focus automations, Home Screen widgets, Siri triggers, and the whole set of ways to run shortcuts.

And that doesn’t even include Pushcut’s main Notifications and Triggers features either – there’s almost endless possibilities for tying it all together.

For me personally, I’m enjoying designing my own widgets and having a variety of clever methods for updating the data in a way that’s accessible to me as a non-coder.

Previously, I’ve been jealous of folks who know JavaScript and can take advantage of tools like Scriptable to design their own widgets/workflows; for folks used to visual automation, Pushcut’s interface-driven approach and method of tapping into existing iOS and web automation tools to makes its functionality possible for folks like me.

That makes me happy to pay for the Pro Subscription – plus it’s supporting the growing team:

(If you didn’t already know Rodrigo Araujo of Charty and his brother Victor are working on Pushcut along with developer Simon Leeb):

I want to figure what exactly a full Pushcut setup means for myself in more detail, and to help folks see that process along the way – I’ll be having the developers of Pushcut on my stream in the next few weeks (after my Shortcuts Catalog launch) and will be recording the full setup exploration together:

I highly recommend people start to check out Pushcut and begin approaching the learning curve now – fitting it in to the existing understanding of Shortcuts takes some work, because in reality it’s expanding that model and what’s possible. One good place to start in particular is Pushcut’s full set of guides:

Pushcut - Widget Guides & Examples Pushcut – Widget Guides & Exampleswww.pushcut.io

Create beautiful widget contents.

So stay tuned, as I’ll make sure to announce the stream in advance here in the newsletter. You can also follow me on Twitch & YouTube now – plus, I’ll be making the archives available for members as well.

Until then, I hope folks had a great week – I had a nice relaxing Thanksgiving here in the U.S. and feel energized for the big month ahead…