Make your Mac dance after watching MacSparky’s Keyboard Maestro Field Guide

Yesterday, David Sparks released the Keyboard Maestro Field Guide, the seventh paid course offered through his Learn MacSparky site1. This 4-hour block of videos covers 76 different screencasts about Keyboard Maestro, the Mac automation application that provides significantly deep capabilities and makes them available to use across your Apple desktop or laptop.

As usual, David’s course is well-paced, insightful, and makes it easy to learn complex topics like Keyboard Maestro’s slightly esoteric design language.

I’ve been investing some time here and there in learning Keyboard Maestro for my own video and podcast production needs. But I got stuck along the way, and was only able to initially make some real progress by personally interviewing David’s cohost of the Automators podcast Rosemary Orchard on the subject of Keyboard Maestro on Twitch just a few weeks ago.

But afterwards, without someone helping me along the way, I faltered again, and didn’t dive deep enough to integrate it fully into my workflows. Thankfully, David’s Field Guide has been the perfect aide since then. This is a deep subject that requires lots of hand-holding, and I struggle to invest the time to figure it all out myself.

For this course I downloaded the convenient combined versions of each section of videos and set them up on Plex to be available on all my devices. Even just watching along so far, I’ve been able to do more in Keyboard Maestro than ever before – and without thinking too hard about, which is always a win in my book.

With David’s guide—as with any of his others—I trust I am getting the information I need, ready to go whenever I’m up for it, and at the end I’ll have a bunch of examples to use alongside my own ideas too.

There’s a free 18-minute intro that I suggest checking out, and you can read about what’s in the course in David’s blog post as well.

If you’re interested in speeding up your Mac and automating tasks similar to the way Siri Shortcuts can for your iPhone and iPad, then I suggest purchasing the course (along with Keyboard Maestro itself, if you haven’t yet).

It’s available at an introductory price of $24, normally $29, and once you’re done, as David subtitled the course on his site, you can surely make your Mac dance.

Get the Keyboard Maestro Field Guide.

Note: David has been kind enough to make me an affiliate for his courses online, which means I earn a small commission if you purchase through one of the links in this post. That being said, I genuinely do recommend all of his courses, like the fantastic Siri Shortcuts Field Guide, and would still continue to do so even without being part of his program.


  1. Plus five free guides! 

Reeder is back and better than ever (my new favorite RSS app)

Want to read this in iBooks? Get an ePub of this article here and use this shortcut to extract from the .zip.

iPad users who have been holding out hope for an update to Reeder for iOS can relax – a new version was released today with full support for all devices on all platforms and some interesting new features.

See, previously, Reeder 3 wasn’t updated for the new iPad Pro models – after 7 months without proper support in sight, many iOS power users like me sought out new RSS readers. And while apparently Reeder 3 had resolved layout issues a month ago, I had honestly already deleted it since it didn’t work on half my devices.

But that all changes today with the latest release of Reeder 4.

Reeder 4 for iPad Pro 12.9″ in both Light and Dark modes.

Available as a new purchase costing $4.99 on the App Store and $9.99 on the Mac App Store, bringing with it a refreshed design, some unique reading features, and a unified code base across iOS and Mac that will make it easier to update in the future.

I bought the app as soon as I heard about it this morning – here’s why I think my money was well-spent.

Table of contents

  • Why I like Reeder
    • The Many Views of Reeder
    • Styling
    • Customization and control
  • New features
    • Redesigned
    • Bionic Reading
    • Instapaper Tags
    • Read Later
  • Small changes
  • Keyboard shortcuts adjustments
  • Ideas for expansion
  • Conclusion

Continue reading “Reeder is back and better than ever (my new favorite RSS app)”

Apple News has a notification spam problem

Lately, I’ve been diving deeper into Apple News – thanks to the recent addition of Apple News+ magazines, along with the recently-added “Open In Apple News” share sheet extension, it’s been my go-to source for a quick news digest, some longer reads, and now feature stories as well.

Plus, I’ve been using my old iPad Mini 2 to consume the news as a more focused and intentional usage of my devices, almost only ever using it for News and Books.

About three weeks ago I read Digital Minimalism, but then hadn’t touched the iPad Mini since (I just read News on my other devices). But when I picked up the device again to read How To Bored over this last weekend, I was met with this on the screen:

Page after page of Apple News notifications, all from sources I barely actually read and who were attempting to grab my attention every 15-30 minutes – my Apple News account was spamming me.

I have almost all of these notifications turned off on my other devices, but this just goes to show how bad the problem can easily become if you don’t deliberately manage this single app.

Not a single notification shown on my screen required any amount of urgency, even when marked BREAKING, and Apple even recommended a “lifestyle” story about a porn website.

For someone trying to reclaim my attention and focus from places like Twitter, I am finding myself fighting against the very application that’s supposed to help.

I am extremely surprised that Apple has created such a “trusted” medium for news organizations to spam us all day long, even more than Facebook would ever dare with notifications (though, rest assured, they’ve tried).

I really hope Apple takes another look at the core experience of the News app and how/when services are able to send notifications, hopefully moving beyond a simple on/off switch per channel. Because if we are to trust this application on a daily basis, it can’t be one of the most spammy apps out there.

CalZones is the only scheduling app you need to plan across timezones

Developer David Smith has released a new app today called CalZones that is a combination calendar and timezone converter.

Available for $4.99 via the App Store for iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch, the app makes it as easy as possible to see what time it is where somebody else lives and arrange a meeting at the correct time across timezones and work schedules.

I’ve never found a calendar app that lets me have timezones presets visualized so easily, giving me the correct the information of what time it is across the world, and packing an impressive amount of utility into multiple small spaces.

Here’s how Calzone accomplishes all that. Continue reading “CalZones is the only scheduling app you need to plan across timezones”

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. 

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”. 

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. 

Writing about Workflow (and HomePod) on the Web

I’ve had the privilege to write for The Sweet Setup the last few months and now iMore, so I wanted to share some of the links here.

Primarily I’ve been writing about Workflow, trying to get some of the ideas in my head out and into the world so other people can take better of the app – especially now that it’s free. But I’m also dabbling in product reviews & photography, a new challenge that’s proving lots of fun and hard work.

Things for task management

I started writing about three workflows for Things templates, meant to act as quick ways to copy items into the task management app. They’re also good examples of using Split Text,

I followed it up with a deep dive into Things for iOS’s new URL scheme, which enables a huge set of automation capabilities for optimizing the capture and review processes for my productivity system. I tried to write about it in a way that people new to deep linking and automation might be able to learn as they go, partly echoing the way I wrote the documentation for Workflow.

HomePod in the house

After that I did my first product review, trying to capture the experience of what it’s like to own a HomePod and use it with Siri in the house. I also produced 30 photos for the review, taking way too much time but leaning into my other side business of product photography.

I really enjoyed taking the time to think about how the new product category fits into a consumer’s life, and I’m hoping HomePod gets better soon because I want to push it further. I’ve got a few articles in production about how I use HomePod beyond the practical parts of using the smart speaker, and I’m eagerly waiting for AirPlay 2.

How-To’s for Workflow

Since that I published two more articles for The Sweet Setup, starting by explaining how to set up your workflows to operate across both the widget and the share extension. I explained a bit about my “input check” method using the If action, which follows nicely into the second article about Using device details with Workflow.

In there I shared a cool Brightness by Battery workflow1 that dims your screen according to your power level, and a few others for tweaking your system settings programmatically. These are great for using with Run Workflow in the middle of other workflows, like little mid-automation widgets you can reuse across your different workflows.

Finally, today I published my first post for iMore detailing step-by-step instructions for 5 different workflows related to the Reminders app. I show you where to find the actions, explain how to place the actions & tweak the parameters to get it right, and include links to each of mine so you can get them yourself and follow along.

It’s interesting listing out steps this way, and the documentation probably could have used some similar formatting to make it easier to scan.

In that spirit, here are the articles mentioned above (links will open in a new window):

If you’d like to see me cover more or different topics, let me know on Twitter at @mattcassinelli and I’ll add it to my notes.


  1. I honestly may have gotten this idea from somewhere else, so if you know more don’t hesitate to let me know and I’ll credit the originator. 

Controlling your HomePod volume with iTunes and a simple Mac app

If you’ve picked up Apple’s HomePod in the past few weeks and tried to use iTunes on your Mac to Airplay something to the speaker, you probably got blasted with the music playing at full volume.

This occurs since HomePod uses iTunes’ in-app volume slider to adjust its levels rather than your Mac volume, and iTunes is usually at 100% because the hardware keys are used control my computer’s overall sound instead1. Plus, if I want to change the volume on HomePod after the music starts, I have to go into iTunes and drag the slider – you can’t turn it down that quickly.

Screenshot of iTunes Volume Control running in a Mac menu bar

To get around this, I installed a Mac app called iTunes Volume Control that’s available on GitHub. Created by Andrea Alberti, it’s an app that lives entirely in your menu bar and changes the Mac’s hardware volume keys to control iTunes instead. When it’s running, it can entirely take over mute, volume up, and volume down – or, you can set it so you have to hold a modifier key like Command before hitting the keys. I use the latter option, so I can control my Mac volume with the keys normally and then use ⌘ + or ⌘ – to adjust iTunes when I need to.

Once you’ve installed the app, you’ll find it’s much better experience playing music from iTunes with HomePod as your speaker. I set iTunes Volume Control to launch at login, so it’s basically always running when I use my computer and I never have to turn it on when I need it2. I’ll usually open iTunes, use ⌘ – to turn down the volume, then pick my song and AirPlay to my HomePod.

iTunes Volume Control also provides an option to change the step size for each press, so the volume can be changed in more specific intervals – you can set it go up 3% each time, for example, rather than the default 10% at a time. This gives you fine-grained control of the HomePod volume, right from your keyboard.3

I could see improving this setup using iTunes and AppleScript – you could set up a command to launch iTunes already set to 30% and set to AirPlay to the HomePod, avoiding the setup process each time I want to listen from my Mac on my HomePod. However, I have no experience there and that’s a project for another day.

The best part of this setup is that iTunes Volume Control is entirely free to download and use. Check out the documentation first, but use this link to get the app and start controlling your HomePod from your Mac.

SaveSave

SaveSave


  1. Instead of adjusting the levels in iTunes and on your Mac separately, it’s much more common to leave iTunes at 100% and change the volume on the whole computer instead. 
  2. I normally hide it in the menu bar using Bartender, so I can click on the Bartender icon to reveal it but keep it away from view otherwise. 
  3. I do the same thing with HomePod normally by using my Apple Watch. Once you change the source in Control Center on your iPhone to the HomePod, the Now Playing controls show up on Apple Watch and let you control the smart speaker from your wrist.