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Links

» Screenshots, Shortcuts, and Consulting

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.

Stocks, baby

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![1]

First apps

This week was the 10-year anniversary of the App Store, and so there was some good sharing around how the changes have impacted us since then.

Apple wrote a long piece, MacStories covered a huge swath of stories, interviews, and reflections, and people took to Twitter to share their first apps downloaded from the App Store.

I stayed on brand and tweeted my first apps alongside my first few shortcuts in the app.

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.

Coming soon

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.
  • Affinity Designer launched, then Adobe leaked Photoshop news: everyone was in a big iPad mood this week after Affinity launched a full vector design app and teased their upcoming publisher app too. I had some discussion about their business model which will be interesting to play out, especially as they’re staking a brand flag and Adobe coming hot on their heels with “full” Photoshop supposedly coming next year. As Federico put it well, it’s a bit surreal that iPad is getting tons of focus and love as the Mac community seems to be losing some faith.
  • 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 matthew.cassinelli@gmail.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.

Read the last recap from Week 27.


  1. Plus, my friend and my cousin told me they had read it first and only then realized it was my byline at the top. ☺  ↩
Categories
Apps Tips & Tricks

How to make a full-page screenshot of an app or website with StitchPics

With the sharing feature that was in Workflow not being available in Shortcuts1, many people are resorting to sharing screenshots to show people how their shortcuts work.

Oddly, this has had a great benefit for the fledgling community – shortcuts are very visual, and a bunch of hyperlinks links on Twitter might not have had the same effect as a good photoset2:

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.

StitchPics

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.

Tailor

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.

Get StitchPics on the App Store.

Click here to check out more Tips & Tricks posts

Links in this post


  1. I don’t know if it’s temporarily removed or gone for good, but boy am I hoping for the former not the latter. 
  2. Awesome work Ben! And also wow, almost 7,000 people liked a good automation joke (even if it’s mostly for the Harry Potter). 
  3. Plus you can add your own watermarks, change it to a custom size, cut off the top or bottom, leave blank spaces, or change the color of the fonts in the app. 
Categories
Links

» My piece on TechCrunch – and the Shortcuts app is here!

This week I shared a bit more off my site than on it, with only one post here, one on iMore, and another on (!) TechCrunch.

Swipe to share

First, I started the week with another Tips & Tricks post – “Swipe on the Copy & Paste menu in iOS to see more actions” – aimed at sharing a simple but helpful gesture.

In case you can’t tell from my crack headline writing, swiping on the popover that appears when you go to copy and paste menu makes it easier to access the Share button.

» My piece on TechCrunch – and the Shortcuts app is here!

I had fun making a simple GIF to show the interaction, and I think that went a long way in making the post useful for people – just reading about it is nice, but seeing it in action makes a difference.

This is mostly useful since I use that menu all the time with Workflow – now it’s going to be even handier to use with Shortcuts. It’s great to select text, share it into a shortcut, and act on it with the features like Make Rich Text From Markdown or Change Case.

Getting Started with Shortcuts

But the big fun came later in the week, when the beta for Shortcuts dropped and everyone started playing around what’s essentially Workflow 2.0[1].

All the new features were discovered right away:

Eventually, I was able to stop jumping up and down, sit down, and write up an introduction to the Shortcuts app for iMore[2] – this went into the very basics of installing the app, what happens to your old workflows if you used Workflow, and where to start looking for more ideas for custom shortcuts.

» My piece on TechCrunch – and the Shortcuts app is here!

I have lots of other pieces coming about Shortcuts on both iMore, The Sweet Setup, and here on my own website (plus some scheduled podcast appearances!).

But until then I’ve started a Twitter thread where I’m sharing some of the bigger concepts or examples of shortcuts I’ve made over time in one place. Click on it, scroll through, add it to your Twitter bookmarks when you’re done, and come back again later:

Guest post on TechCrunch

My most exciting piece came today, this Sunday afternoon, as a guest post on TechCrunch: “Apple’s Shortcuts will flip the switch on Siri’s potential.”

» My piece on TechCrunch – and the Shortcuts app is here!

In my piece, I talked about some of my vision for where I see Shortcuts taking Siri in the future. It’s not about the nitty gritty of building shortcuts, but instead about the end result of adding useful shortcuts into your routine with Siri – actually getting things done.

I’ve been reading TechCrunch for years and it’s one of the earliest technology website I remember devouring when I first got into the scene – I am extremely honored to see my name there after I was invited to write at WWDC.[3]

Links from the week

In case you noticed, I’m moving this weekly recap to Sunday instead.[4]

So Sundays it is – it doesn’t technically fit the calendar week as nicely for this to go out the day after, but also I can recap the entire week if I do happen to publish something else on Saturday.

Otherwise, here’s a few links from elsewhere around the web to check out – this week I’m focusing on Shortcuts because of the launch, but I’ll keep it to a wider range of topics in the future:

  • Automators #1: Automating Calendar Events: The Automators podcast from Relay.FM just launched their first episode on Friday and it dives into different ways to use your calendar. I’ve never subscribed to a podcast so fast – they have a great forum, they’re making blog posts and videos for each episode. I’m sure it will be a great resource for the Shortcuts app and a bunch of other types of automation for iOS, Mac, and the web too.
  • Initial observations of Shortcuts: Jordan Merrick has a good quick reaction to the new features Shortcuts gained over Workflow and how they affect usage. I agree that it’s slightly odd that the action groups are hidden within the search field – I hope people aren’t confused and think there’s a limited set of options.
  • First impressions of Shortcuts for iOS: Michael Rockwell put together a helpful rundown of the new changes Workflow users will see in Shortcuts and what’s different in the betas right now.

  • r/shortcuts: There’s a new subreddit for Shortcuts that popped up over the weekend – I joined as moderator to help with the transition from r/workflow, guide the community as best I can, and try to establish a positive tone for the submissions.[5]

Random things:

  • I’m trying to set up my cellular plan on my iPad Pro after my last one was stolen, but T-Mobile is being difficult and says “Your account is not set up for logging in.” What?! Anyone go through this and have suggestions?

  • I’m saving a bunch of my shortcuts as files and cleaning up my library – funny how the fact that sharing by link isn’t available is prompting me to do this now, when it would have been helpful to do all along.

  • I’m still hard at work on a few new projects, which are slow but steady. I’m getting super excited and hope to launch sometime soon!

Despite calling it a weekly newsletter and accepting names for the list months ago, I haven’t yet published a single issue.

I’m still taking sign-ups though and waiting for the right moment to launch it, so add your email here and you’ll get it in your inbox when the time comes.

Have a good week!

Read last week’s recap post.


  1. Workflow ended at 1.7.8 before we were acquired, and now Shortcuts begins at version 2.0  ↩
  2. Slightly different than my Siri Shortcuts: FAQ piece.  ↩
  3. I was waiting for a friend and just said hi to the person closest to me – it was Sarah Perez, and after we talked she grabbed the editor Matthew Panzarino, I mentioned I worked at Workflow, and he said I should write something up.  ↩
  4. That’s partially because that’s when my TechCrunch piece was going out, but also anyone who’s run a website probably knows it sucks to try and write on the first day of your weekend.  ↩
  5. I saw some people in the Workflow subreddit who could be too critical of new users or repeated questions, so I’m going to push things towards an air of openness and learning – this app is damn confusing and we’ll all be better off in the long run by lifting one another up.  ↩
Categories
Tips & Tricks

Swipe on the Copy & Paste menu in iOS to see more actions

If you’re like me, you may have been on iOS for years before you learned that when you select text and want to navigate the copy & paste menu, you don’t have to tap the arrows to navigate – you can just swipe to the next page.

Normally I’d select text, try to accurately hit the tiny little next arrow, and usually missed and paste something instead of closing the menu. But when I was at WWDC, I saw someone go to share a bit of text and he… just…swiped on the list of actions.1

Swipe on the Copy & Paste menu in iOS to see more actions

For anyone who uses the Workflow action extension often and likes to run workflows on text using the text selection share menu, this is extremely handy. And for Drafts users, this also provides quicker access to the Dictate and Arrange actions available in that second page of the copy & paste menu.

This is a super small thing and may seem obvious, but if you don’t know about it, you might not ever really figure it out. Hope this helps – check out more of my new Tips & Tricks archives here and coming every Monday on my site.


  1. I’ve… worked on iOS for years and he… justswiped on the menu. 
Categories
Links

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!

Read last week’s recap post.
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Categories
Shortcuts Apps

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 shortcut to help me get started tracking movies to watch.

Categories
Shortcuts

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.

Categories
Tips & Tricks

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. 
Categories
Shortcuts Apps

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.

Categories
Shortcuts Apps

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 Shortcuts. You can create shortcuts that clip the contents of your clipboard, share sheet & save it into your Copied lists for organization, and much more.