Things, Logging Movies, & Screen Time

This week I published four articles – three on my website and one for The Sweet Setup.

I started out the week with a Tips & Tricks post explaining the basics of cancelling tasks in Things. I didn’t discover this feature for a while after using things, so I figured a quick write-up on it couldn’t hurt anyone.

On Tuesday I posted a recap on what I’ve shared around Shortcuts and Siri so far. I talked a little bit about working at Workflow, shared about my iMore link and Vector appearance, and talked about future plans for Shortcuts posts here – looking forward to sharing more next week.

On Wednesday I also published an article explaining a handy workflow for adding movies to your watchlist in Letterboxd. I’d been meaning to take advantage of this film-tracking app and found this was helpful for getting lots of ideas in to save for later.

On Thursday, my article for The Sweet Setup went out covering “How to add individual time limits to Screen Time” since that feature is slightly buried too. If you’re on the iOS beta you can test this out now for limiting specific apps instead of the entire app category – I’m already finding it easier to avoid problem apps when I know they’re not available. I’ll be doing a deeper dive into Screen Time for the fall, which should be an interesting experiment and fun to research.

On Friday, I didn’t publish anything. Instead I was prepping more stories for The Sweet Setup, iMore, and a contributor post at a special publication I’m very excited about. Plus, I’m trying to get ahead of myself for this website so I can share my thoughts with you all regularly and not be rushing to finish each time.

I’ve been enjoying writing more and am already finding it easier to get into the flow & pump things out – turns out when you’ve been listening to podcasts for years and steeping yourself in the community for years, you build up a lot of material to write about.

My biggest hurdle now is just doing the work. 💪

Hope you have a good weekend!

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Keeping a better film watchlist in Letterboxd

Lately, when I’m ready to sit down and enjoy something for the evening, I’ve struggled to find the right movie to watch.

It’s way too easy to quickly pick whatever’s available on Netflix, Hulu, or HBO, but really all you’re shown is what they’ve purchased movie rights for. The TV app and iTunes on Apple TV are somewhat helpful, but you can’t go very deep into the catalog of films available when you’re just browsing.

So I’ve been trying to use Letterboxd to keep track of movies and build up a better list to pick from when it’s time to watch. The iOS app is designed for finding films, saving them for later, and logging reviews, wrapped up in a mini social network.1

Letterboxd is nice enough for a dedicated app just for movies – the features you’d want here are different from a TV-tracking app like Couchy, which is more designed for keeping up (because you don’t usually review episodes).

Thankfully, Letterboxd added automation support last year along with the release of their iPad version. They have documentation for their URL scheme available, so I took a look and put together a workflow to help me get started tracking movies to watch.

I built Add to Letterboxd Watchlist, a workflow that takes a list of movie titles and opens them one-by-one in Letterboxd to their Add to Watchlist search page and back into Workflow to move on to the next.

With this workflow, you can save a list of movie titles separated onto new lines. You can add them in the prompt while the workflow is running, or by inputting them via the Action Extension or from the widget with the list of movies saved to your clipboard.

The way Letterboxd’s URL scheme works requires you confirm the result in its app each time (to make sure you’ve got the right movie), but then it kicks you back to Workflow temporarily. Here the next item is passed along the repeat loop, then you’re opened into Letterboxd for the next result.

Once you get to the end of your list and have iterative back & forth between Letterboxd and Workflow, I added a silly little prompt at the end to count the number of items successfully added and list the movies once more for good measure.

Ideally, an app like this would be able to accept a whole list of titles at once and iterate through the results from within the app. But for now, the URL scheme automation makes it possible to batch the results in one go – even though the app doesn’t officially support it.

This is just one example of how iOS automation can make a repetitive task much quicker, and in some cases even faster than you’d be able to do from a computer or on the web. I’m looking forward to collecting movie ideas a bit easier and having a great list to choose from too.2

If you want to see more of what I’ve written about iOS automation, check out my workflows category (I’ll be changing this to shortcuts soon enough) or subscribe to my blog posts via RSS.


Links for Letterboxd


  1. The only person I follow on there is Jonathan Poritsky, who is a self-professed member of #FilmTwitter. 
  2. I’ll be setting this workflow up as a custom shortcut to launch it with Siri too – I’ll just have to copy the list to my clipboard and say “Watchlist”. 

Shortcuts & Siri: I’m excited to see more

The best announcement at WWDC this June was Shortcuts, which will let you seamlessly interact with your apps with Siri, your iOS devices, and Apple accessories.

These quick actions will make using Apple devices much faster for everyone, plus the upcoming Shortcuts app will mark iOS opening up to true automation and sets the platform down a path full of potential.

I originally joined Workflow, the app and team that was acquired by Apple and is now becoming Shortcuts, because I believed in the power of getting things done on mobile devices and what it means to have the capability to do so in your own hands. I saw firsthand the benefits of having your own creations to use with you everywhere,and the accessibility for everyone to build those programs with the touch-based interaction.

I left and started working independently because I wanted to share my own experiences directly with people. I want to take time to help everyone understand how to take advantage of these types of tools in their own lives, work directly with app developers and companies to build integrate these properly, and share my own vision of what the world could look like with these technologies properly utilized.

Now that the public beta is available, people are starting to see what the basic custom voice and suggested shortcuts can do – I’ll be sharing my thoughts even more here and a few other places.

Coverage so far

Over on iMore, I wrote a piece shortly after WWDC called Siri Shortcuts: Everything You Need To Know that introduced people to the new features. I shared about how you’ll first experience shortcuts, how to set up custom voice commands to launch Siri actions now, and what the Shortcuts app will be in relation to Workflow.

I didn’t cover too much about the specific details of interacting with Siri intents-based shortcuts, so there’s more to come there.

Rene Ritchie also had me on his podcast VECTOR to talk about Shortcuts for my debut appearance on a podcast. In it, we talked about the potential of Siri, how Shortcuts will work, and I teased some thoughts that I’m going to write up in more detail this summer. I’m super thankful for Rene to have me on his show and give me a chance to share1.

I really enjoyed speaking to someone else about all my ideas – keep an eye out for more from me in this space.

Coming soon

I have so much more to say about Shortcuts that there’s so many places to start (is there anything you’d like to know?).

I suggest everyone on the betas try out the parts of Shortcuts that are available now in Siri Settings, and read up more with Federico’s coverage from MacStories because he nailed all the details available so far.

If you’re really curious, I suggest watching the Shortcuts developer sessions available on Apple’s website and in the WWDC app – Introduction to Siri Shortcuts, Building for Voice with Siri Shortcuts, and Siri Shortcuts on the Siri Watch will get you very far and reveal most of what’s possible for apps to do with the technology right now, and coming this fall.

Workflow is on the App Store

Now’s the time to dive into Workflow and get a sense of what’s coming with Shortcuts. I suggest you download the app, explore the Gallery, follow the community on Reddit, and check out more of MacStories’ archives to learn as much as possible about Workflow’s past.

I wrote the original Workflow documentation while I was on the team to try and clearly show people what’s possible with the app – I suggest reading through the archive available online. Apple has just recently updated the documentation URL to redirect to help.apple.com/workflow, so you can check out their new set of documentation there as well.

Getting ahead on Shortcuts is guaranteed to be worth it now, and if the potential expands more in the future you’ll be even further ahead.

If you’d like to keep up with my Shortcuts coverage, follow my posts here on MatthewCassinelli.com or via RSS, subscribe to my email newsletter, and follow me on Twitter.


  1. Sorry again I messed up my audio! 

How to cancel tasks in Things

In my first Tips and Tricks post for this site, I wanted to share how to cancel tasks or projects in Things if you haven’t yet learned how.1

In order to cancel a project, task, or checklist item in Things, tap and hold on the item’s checkbox. You’ll be presented with the options to “Mark as Completed” or “Mark as Cancelled” – if you cancel the item, it will be marked with an X instead of a checkmark.

These work for individual tasks, whole projects, or even checklist items. If you choose cancel on a project, you’ll also be prompted to choose whether to cancel or complete any subtasks that are remaining.

On both the iPad and Mac versions of things, there are keyboard shortcuts for you to mark tasks as complete or incomplete:

  • iPad2 & Mac: press Command + K (⌘K) to mark an item as complete, or Command + Option + K (⌥⌘K) to cancel a task, project, or checklist item.3
  • Mac-only: for compatibility purposes, the Mac version of Things also allows you to use Command + Period (⌘.) to mark something as done and Command + Option + Period (⌥⌘.) to mark something as cancelled. However, the team recommends using the K method everywhere for consistency across platforms.

Sometimes whatever you needed to do is indeed cancelled, sometimes you’re just not ever going to do it, or sometimes you might want to clear out an item with deleting it or incorrectly marking it as completed.

I usually choose to cancel everything I didn’t do, as I want to keep the Logbook section of my things database accurate and be useful for keeping track of what I’ve actually completed when I review it later on. If something was added in error or I never truly intended to incorporate that task into my life, I’ll delete it from Things.

Hope knowing these little details helps – in the future, I’ll be sharing Tips & Tricks posts every Monday. Until then, check out my workflows collection of posts so far.

Update: This post originally recommended the Command + . method on Mac, but the Cultured Code team replied to me on Twitter and recommended using Command + K on the Mac as a best practice.


Links for Things


  1. I saw someone ask the question of Cultured Code on Twitter this morning – it took trial and error to discover it myself too! 
  2. Also this technically works the iPhone, but almost nobody attaches a Bluetooth keyboard to their phone. 
  3. I currently have the Things beta for Mac and in version 3.6.1 they added support for cancelling tasks with the keyboard shortcut within checklist items, if you’re interested in using that on desktop as well. 

How I Lost My iPad

This last week, I published two posts – one post on The Sweet Setup and one on my website.

Over on The Sweet Setup, I shared “Losing my iPad Pro: what I missed (and love) about Apple’s tablet experience” where I talked about replacing my iPad after it was stolen and how it clarified the space in my experience the device fills for me:

The iPad has been my main computing device since the Pro line came out. Being without it for a few weeks has really highlighted why I prefer the iPad, and in many cases, has shown me how I can do more than on any other device.

Without an iPad, the joy of using a device doesn’t exist to the same extent. I still have an iMac, but since I lost the iPad and have had to use the iMac full-time again, I’m starting to feel the desktop’s limitations.

I had some good conversation on Twitter and a bit of discussion on Reddit – the conversation was positive, with many people sharing how they also prefer to use an iPad as their main device.

I’m seeing this more and more – it makes sense to me 🙂


 
On my website, I only shared one post this week1”Workflows and shortcuts for saving your clipboard to Copied”. In it, I wrote about 7 workflows I create for Copied, helping me utilize the clipboard manager beyond what’s already possible with their action extension:

To start taking advantage of Copied’s deeper features, I turned to the URL scheme and set up three workflows to show my clipboard, open a list, and add a clipping with a custom title.

Plus I made one specific workflow for saving Highlights out of Instapaper, and my favorite out of the bunch saves tweets into Copied so I can reference them for later projects.

At the end, there was two more example workflows – one for searching Copied, and another for grabbing a specific clipping from a list.

The tweet I shared had a screenshot of all seven workflows – see the piece to add them.

 
I was also thankful when I saw Federico Viticci linked to my Copied piece in the Interesting Links section of the weekly newsletter that members of Club MacStories receive. If you have the means and are interested in more about workflows & other great ways to use iOS, I suggest paying for the subscription and reading through the archives (here’s a sample from November).


 
Since this is my first weekly recap, I also wanted to share something from the week prior: I was grateful to appear on Rene Ritchie’s podcast VECTOR for episode 125 to talk about Siri, Shortcuts, and Workflow, marking one of my debut appearances on a podcast.

We had a great conversation and talked about what some of the changes coming in iOS 12 mean for workflows, getting things done, and some ways I could see Shortcuts being useful for everyone.

Unfortunately I screwed up the audio recording on my end and my microphone input didn’t get properly saved, so we had to default to the Skype call for my end. It doesn’t sound great, but hopefully the conversation topic made it still worth the time for listeners.

During the conversation, I also talked about my Log Water workflow – add it to your library if you want to try it out and examine it. I got really excessive with the logic and honestly confused myself many times while setting up the different messages that differ depending on how close you are to the daily goal, but it’s a fun look at the ways you can take a simple version of an automation and beef it up to be more dynamic.

I really enjoyed recording the episode and it gave me a lot of energy – I’m going to try this more often.


 
That’s it for this week.

I’ve spent an ungodly amount of time on Twitter (thanks for the data, Screen Time!) so I’ll be spending less time this next week refreshing my feed and more writing. That being said, it’s still worth following me there because I’m sharing there often too.

If you’re interested in receiving my upcoming newsletter, here’s the sign up form.

I’ll be publishing these recaps on Saturdays (unlike this time on Sunday) to play along with the calendar weeks – mostly because it’ll make my date workflows easier. 🤖


  1. Self-shaming myself with “only” because I want to be sharing here much more often. 

Saving your clipboard to Copied with Shortcuts

One type of apps that make the Mac more useful than iPad for many are clipboard managers.

Instead of copying & pasting one thing at a time, tools like Alfred, Pastebot, and Copied let Mac users copy lots of information in batches and then use it later (often with special formatting or inserting with keyboard shortcuts).

On iOS, the problem isn’t nearly as solved – since apps don’t have the same access to your clipboard at all times, they can’t capture everything you’re cutting & pasting on your iPhone or iPad.

However, Copied does provide a solution that works across the Apple device line, letting you save things to their database, sync it across iPhone, iPad, and Mac, and share it elsewhere.

And, with support for URL scheme actions on iOS, it’s possible to use Copied in conjunction with an app like Workflow. You can create shortcuts that clip the contents of your clipboard, share sheet & save it into your Copied lists for organization, and much more.

Getting your clippings in

While getting text into Copied is mainly done through the action extension, sometimes it can take too many taps to get my information in just the right place.

To start taking advantage of Copied’s deeper features, I turned to the URL scheme and set up three workflows to show my clipboard, open a list, and add a clipping with a custom title.

Show clipboard in Copied:
The first workflow I’ve built adds on to the base URL of copied:// that opens the app and includes clipboard at the end. When this is run or opened with a shortcut phrase, Copied will display your clipboard text in a new window and let you add a title or choose a group before saving it.

Open Copied list:
The second workflow lets you open into one of the custom lists you might’ve added to Copied in order to grab one of your clippings out of there.

Since this workflow includes a main List action where I include all my Copied list names, I also added a Combine Text and Save File action that creates a .txt file in iCloud Drive of the list names for use in other workflows.1

Editor’s note: Even if you don’t plan to use this often, add it with your list names and run it to save the List names to iCloud.

Save with title to Copied list:
The third workflow is designed to save something to Copied with a custom title and into one of my lists.

If there is a link included that will be added into the URL field separate from the clipped text too. Here I’ve grabbed the names of the Copied lists from iCloud, then use Choose From List to let you pick which one to save within.

Plus, at the beginning, you’ll see some logic that makes the workflow more dynamic. It uses Count and an If action to check whether something is present coming from the action extension’s that it can use – this allows it to work if run from the share sheet, or otherwise default to the clipboard if started from the Workflow app, the widget, or as a shortcut with Siri.

Clipping specific types of content

My original goal looking into the Copied URL scheme was finding a better way to clip tweets and blog posts I’ve come across for use in my own writing later, so the next two workflows were designed for just that.

Clip Highlight to Copied:

This workflow takes text that I’ve highlighted or left comments on within Instapaper, then takes the Markdown outputted by tapping Share All Notes at the bottom of a saved piece and saves the link, quote, and title of piece into one of my Copied lists.

This is specifically designed for the way Instapaper outputs its notes, with some relatively sloppy logic that strips out the parentheses and brackets to grab the results I want.

Ideally I would know how to create regular expressions and could extract just the text I want so this wouldn’t potentially break with any odd formatting, but I don’t yet know how – it’s in progress, but for now this does work how I want it to.

Clip tweet to Copied:

The second workflow I’ve built (shown above in three steps) extract a tweet’s text from a Twitter link and input the information into Copied, since clipping a tweet normally only saves the URL and not the tweet itself.

Here the workflow uses the Twitter API 2 and extracts the username, handle, and body of the tweet, then rearranges it all into a clipping title, copied tweet, and the URL into one of my lists.

This nicely formats the display name and Twitter handle as the title, too, so I can reference what I’ve saved much easier.

Getting clippings back out

Finally, I used the other actions available in the Copied URL scheme to retrieve clipping later.


Editor’s note: this image is photoshopped to show both workflows on the same iPad.

Search in Lists:
The Search in Lists workflow I’ve created lets you type in a query and see if you’ve already saved it in Copied.

Running this will put the clipboard or action extension input into a text body, let you type what you’re searching for, and then opens into that space in Copied and displays your clipping to act on as you please.

Grab Item from List:
For those of you who might set up Copied lists that they want to refer to over time, they can use something like Grab Item From List to retrieve clippings from a specific point inside of a list.

While this example workflow I’ve made lets you type in a number to get the item in that spot in the list, you could also tweak it slightly to always retrieve the same clipping too.

I can see this being useful for people who have canned replies saved in Copied – you could swap Ask For Input with a Dictionary action and set up multiple items where each Key is your the title from Copied for your canned reply and the value is its position in the list. That way, when the workflow is run you can pick from the options and grab the corresponding clipping.3

Clip away, friends

Overall, utilizing Copied’s URL scheme helps bring down the friction of adding clippings into the app, plus helps you get even more organized as you add to the database.

With the ability to set these up as custom voice Shortcuts to launch using Siri and the workflows being designed to accept input everywhere they are run, Copied’s usefulness can be extended further whenever you’re using it on iOS.

Now it can be easier to use Copied more on whichever device you prefer, with the ability to clip & save content smoothly on any Apple platform.

If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me on Twitter as @mattcassinelli.


Workflows in this post:

Links for Copied – a full-featured clipboard manager


  1. There’s also a Create Folder action at the top that creates /Lists/ in your Workflow folder in iCloud Drive, the only place where workflows can save to in the background (without opening the file picker). 
  2. I got the basis of the workflow from @brentacprime on Twitter, who also mentioned that he had found the workflow originally elsewhere online.

    This does a lot of the logic for accessing Twitter’s API and returning tweet text, so I mostly changed the way the text was arranged at the end and added in the Copied URL scheme logic. 

  3. I could have used this back when I was answering frequently asked questions as @WorkflowHQ on Twitter.