Every year, it’s a staple in the Apple community to read Federico Vittici’s in-depth review of the latest version of iOS.
Federico has been running MacStories for years and always spends the summer drafting massive, book-length guides to the new changes that come to Apple’s iPhone and iPad software, quickly becoming the go-to place to pay attention when the new release drops.
This time, it’s very much the same, with Viticci publishing his entire review with 16 individual sections as pages (and 1 page for credits). Here’s the subhead introduction:
After years of unabated visual and functional changes, iOS 12 is Apple’s opportunity to regroup and reassess the foundation before the next big step – with one notable exception.
With the imminent release of the Shortcuts app for iOS, I’ve been hard at work creating new ways to share with everyone.
After Workflow was acquired by Apple, I took a contract position covering support while the process transitioned to Apple Support. I didn’t want to leave the Workflow community hanging without someone to help with problems, and in my time there helped thousands of people with their workflows – and read every tweet about us.
I had joined the small team to help people learn how to use this thing, and once I saw them continue to update it I took a leap of faith and left early before I learned too much about the plans.
Seeing Shortcuts at WWDC was awesome and a wonderful confirmation that this app is the future of automation on iOS.
Plus, while I was there, I met Alex Cox and she kept telling me to make a podcast about it all. When she said she’d host it with me, I immediately said yes, and Supercomputer was born.
When you’re trying to buy any of the latest 4K Disney films like Star Wars and the Marvel movies, you’ll quickly find they’re not available in iTunes. For some reason the partnership hasn’t shaken out properly, which I’m hoping changes soon, but for now if you buy one in iTunes Movies it will only be 1080p for $19.99.
You might think that Movies Anywhere would handle this, because it makes movies you’ve bought on iTunes, Prime Video, VUDU, Google Play, or Fandango Now available to watch on each of the other services. But, it’s not that easy.
All of these Disney movies are available in 1080p on iTunes for $19.99 and on VUDU the 4K version (called UHD on their site) costs $24.99. However, even if you’ve unlocked the HD version by buying it in iTunes, you can’t just split the difference and pay $5 to upgrade to 4K within VUDU.
Instead, you’re stuck buying a second version of the same movie for full price, like I had to do for The Last Jedi.
But, if you buy through VUDU first in 4K, you can watch it in full resolution using their own Apple TV app1 instead of iTunes.
Note: When you’re trying to Own the movie instead of Rent, make sure to hit the dropdown and select UHD for 4K instead of HDX for 1080p quality.
And if you want watch it on a smaller screen in HD or add it offline on one of your devices, the movie purchase will still automatically sync to your iTunes account via Movies Anywhere in the background.
I just bought Avengers: Infinity War on VUDU’s website, and when I opened it in the TV app moments later I could already hit Play and start watching.
For me, this is a pretty solid solution, because now I can watch the same thing on my TV or iPhone or iPad—in the best quality available for the device—without paying for it twice.
If you get the regular app and you have automatic downloads turned on for your Apple TV, the app should just appear once you’ve “purchased” it. ↩
You might’ve seen a few weekly recaps that I started up on this blog – in order to avoid as much weekend work as well as the monotony of similar posts, I’m combining those into this new monthly recap.
At the end of each month, I’ll be sharing things that I’ve published across the web, whether it be a post here, an article on The Sweet Setup or iMore, an appearance on a podcast, or anything else I might be up to.
I’m also sharing great work I find elsewhere (plus a few things of my own) in my new newsletter. I’ll be sharing it twice a month, but I’m not setting specific dates – once near the beginning and another near the end — so look for the first near the end of August!
Inside, I’ll be curating articles, tweets, videos, podcasts, and music, plus new shortcuts that I’m building. These shortcuts will be exclusive in the newsletter for 10 days, then I’ll be sharing them elsewhere online so everyone can get them even if they don’t want to sign up.
The main theme will be technology, but it won’t just be about Apple stuff – subjects will change over time but I’m also into topics like philosophy, data visualization, marketing, video games, and more, plus I want to expand as time goes on.
I also want to hear from you if you’re on the mailing list. Please reply if you have anything to say and I’ll read your emails (I may even feature some with responses in the future, if you’re open it).
Anyway, here’s what I wrote in July (and here’s the workflow/shortcut I used to generate this list):
The coffee shop below where I used to work, and where I first met the RelayFM team during RelayCon just weeks before I started at Workflow. (Source)
During week 29 of the year, I wrote one piece here and one for The Sweet Setup.
On Monday, I saw YouTuber Peter McKinnon1 tweeting about accidental screenshots and remembered my old workflow for cleaning them out of Photos, so I updated it for Shortcuts and shared it as the post “How to delete unplanned screenshots with Shortcuts”. I really enjoy the handiness of shortcuts like this that solve a small problem well, even though that’s only one of the many ways I use the app.
On Thursday, the first out of a batch of posts I wrote for The Sweet Setup was published – How to group smart accessories in the Home app – and the rest will be coming out across the next few Thursdays. I know a ton of quick tips around Apple devices beyond shortcuts too, so I’m sharing them there regularly as well here on my site (alongside tons more Shortcuts coverage too, that is).
As for the photo at the top of this post, I’m shooting an original photo each week to use as the header for these recaps. It’ll be an exercise in using my camera more and capturing random moments as stock-like photography, plus I want to push the overall visual quality of my blog.
Shortcuts tweets of the week
Trying something new this week – curating different tweets I’ve come across about Shortcuts, since seeing how other people use it will be most of the fun for me:
I can’t wait to get Siri Shortcuts so I can say “Hey Siri, this is a jam!” and have it added to my Running and Dance playlists at the same time, while putting it on repeat for the next 30 minutes.
— Marls Barkley (@m_rlons) July 16, 2018
Merlin Mann tweeted some useful Find My iPhone shortcuts:
I had a great back & forth with Jason Snell and Federico on Twitter after reading a post from his site and realizing it could be done with Shortcuts. I’m in the process of writing up how it works, but he updated his post with our joint solution2:
Here’s a selection of good links I came across this week – I’m a bit behind on my normal reading so there’s a few tweets in here that got me thinking as well:
Instapaper is going independent: I’m super happy to see Instapaper break out of Pinterest and get a renewed life under the Instant Paper company4. Let’s hope it continues to get pushed forward – I’ll have to write up my ideas and share them with the team.
Pretty sure this is new (and not documented yet), but in iOS 12 Safari you can use ⌘1…9 to navigate to tabs with an external iPad keyboard. You can also do ⌘⌃1/2 to open Bookmarks and Reading List, respectively ?
Farewell Serenity Caldwell, hello (again) Lory Gil!: Serenity Caldwell of iMore has made an awesome leap to Apple on the communications team. I’ll definitely miss hearing her on podcasts and wish I had more chances to work with her, but I’m positive Apple is better off with her on their team. I’m also super excited to work more with Lory Gil and keep up with the Shortcuts pieces I have been writing for iMore so far. Serenity was kind enough to give me a quick shoutout in her thread of goodbyes even though I’ve been with them for just a few months:
you can type -pinterest.com in the search and it will remove pinterest results, makes google images usable again
— taruan (@taruan_) July 20, 2018
Using your iPad as a digital contact sheet: My friend Drew Coffman came up with a clever way to add back physicality to your photography process when you’re doing it on the iPad – take a screenshot of your recent import and use Markup to draw on it like a contact sheet.
I don’t know about you, but I’m all down for building shortcuts together in public with anyone who wants help. Tweeting out the progression of shortcuts along the way is also a great demonstration of the process I go through building many shortcuts – it takes some trial and error to get it right. ↩︎
If you’re an iPhone X or Apple Watch user, you may have a bunch of screenshots you’ve unintentionally taken recently filling up your camera roll…
Maybe you’re accidentally gripping the volume up button as you also press power to turn off your iPhone, or you’re pressing the Digital Crown and side button at the same time to pause an Apple Watch workout1 – either way, you probably don’t want most of the screenshots that are filling up your library.
With the Shortcuts app if you’re not on the beta), you can set up a three-action script to get your latest screenshots, pick which ones to delete, and delete them all in one go.
This week I only had time to publish one post – here on my website.
Stitching pics with StitchPics
On Monday, I shared about creating all-in-one screenshots using StitchPics to combine multiple together. I’ll probably be using this app a ton, because it’s perfect for sharing Shortcuts in a highly visual way.
I hope Apple restores the ability to share by link as was possible in Workflow, but for now the limitation is actually helping me clean my library up and save anything I don’t need as .shortcuts files.
I also enjoyed some of the follow-up to my TechCrunch piece – because it happened on Sunday, many people saw it on Monday morning.
I was super pumped when I went to go copy the link and found my piece right at the top of their site – later I found out it was in the Stocks app too!
This was a somewhat tongue-in-cheek tweet, but I am fascinated to think another 10 years from now what it’ll be like to interact with Apple’s platform as something like Shortcuts becomes prevalent exactly 10 years in.
Otherwise I’ve been staying busy with consulting (only so much time before Shortcuts launches!), writing ahead for future posts, and continuing forward on my secret project.
I didn’t get a chance to share much about Shortcuts (though following my Twitter feed may not seem like it) so there’s more coming soon.
I’m also planning on sharing my Launch Center Pro setup soon since I’ve been recommending it to people as a trigger mechanism for shortcuts – just need to update it a bit first.
Links from the week
Bradley Chambers’ homescreen criticism: After tweeting about his special powers for criticizing his coworkers’ homescreen, a ton of people sent him theirs and he quoted them with advice. I sent mine in for fun and I’ve seen others changing things up since then – fun to take a look through his feed at others.
Austin Mann reviews the new MacBook Pro: Now that Apple pushed the MacBook Pro line into the space users have wanted, and seemingly addressed some dust issues, it seems like the MacBook Pro is a great buy again. I lost mine in a theft last year and don’t have the $7,000 to max one out, but I’m likely getting a laptop and monitor to replace my iMac when the time comes.
Throwbacks – the start of Workflow, and the REAL start of Workflow: now that the change from Workflow to Shortcuts is underway, there’s two great videos to watch. The first is the demo video that Ari gave after first building Workflow, quickly showing how to create a workflow in the app – this proof of concept wowed the community and lead to the first version of the app. But a much earlier video shows that Ari has been at this his whole life – he’s probably embarrassed, but there is a fantastic video of him as a 15-year-old talking about jailbreaking on the news. You can see the passion even at a young age, and today he’s even more able to execute on his vision. I jokingly tweeted about it, but I really am excited to see what he will build one day because I’m sure him (and the team) are just getting started.
Sock recommendations: I tweeted asking people about help finding a good pair of socks and got 10 replies – will have to buy some and report back.
If you’re an app developer and you’re integrating Shortcuts into your app, please send me a TestFlight invite at email@example.com and message me if you want specific feedback.
For larger integrations or consulting for your brand, I have some limited time available if you want to work together before the release of iOS 12.
But longer shortcuts with more than a handful of actions can’t fit onto one screen, so users have to resort to more creative options.
My recommendation is StitchPics, a simple but very functional app to combine photos that’s free with a $1.99 in-app purchase to add more than 8 images3.
Made by a Chinese developer, the app isn’t fully translated, the logo is somewhat inexplicably an L, and on iPad it only works in portrait orientation.
That being said, I’m definitely glad I bought it. That’s because, beyond basic auto-stitching, StitchPics has a fantastic pinch-based method of combing images that’s super reliable for getting things exactly right.
Here’s a quick example:
Once it takes a guess at how to put your images together, you can slide either image up or down behind the crossover point and collapse parts you want to be hidden.
Especially with longer shortcuts where you may need to take many screenshots, it makes aligning the different actions much easier.
StitchPics is also great for getting images of complete webpages on mobile – just take screenshots as you scroll and stitch them together in the app.
A popular alternative is Tailor, but historically I’ve found it is unreliable at parsing multiple screenshots from Workflow (and the same is true for Shortcuts). The actions just look too similar across many images and it doesn’t know how to handle it.
Tailor is also free (but with a watermark removable by in-app purchase) and should work fine for simpler shortcuts. However, it is only available for iPhone.
That’s why I’ve been using StitchPics – it ain’t pretty, but it gets the job done, and a bit better, on both my devices.