I had the pleasure of being a guest on episode 353 of the Clockwise podcast from Relay FM, joining Brianna Wu, Jason Snell, and Dan Moren for a 30-minute round table discussion of the week’s news.
We talked about Apple silicon and what it means for gaming as well as whether we’ll be buying the first round of Macs, our beta-installation strategies, and how to use Shortcuts for public good.
In my segment about Shortcuts, I asked everyone to come up with ways to use automations for some type of public benefit – as it turns out, pretty much every idea was already possible:
Shortcuts creator and designer Brad Siefert has created a dedicated website for people looking to discover various links and creators related to Siri Shortcuts – check out the new Shortcuts Directory.
The site includes collections links related to building, sharing, and learning more about how to use Shortcuts, including:
- Gallery sites
- Enthusiast creators
- Extension apps
- Paid training
- News & blogs
- Power tools
- History of the app
- International groups
My collection of shortcuts for my personal widget, which I’ve named the “LaunchPad.”
These include one shortcut from each of the major areas of work in my life.
Pulls records from an Airtable database with custom categories for my shortcuts and finds only those for YouTube, presents the titles in a list, then runs whichever shortcut is chosen.
I use this as a way to pick from my YouTube shortcuts and decide which one to use – I keep all of the information organized in Airtable and pull it here so the list is always up to date with my system of record.
Note to self
Takes voice input and saves it to Notes, along with the current time in case multiple dictations are made in the same day.
Designed for super quick access from the widget, leaving the sorting of where the information goes for later and focusing on saving input now.
Open Craft docs
Uses the “Open App” action to take my directly into Craft Docs, my “record of choice” app for storing and organizing information.
I keep this in my “Launchpad” folder of shortcuts so that every time I open the Shortcuts app, I can quickly get to my personal documentation tool and find the extensive notes I’ve taken on various subjects inside Craft Docs.
Open blog posts
Uses the Ulysses action for Open Group—set to the Last 7 Days section—to open to anything I’ve been writing this week.
I use this to kickstart writing for my blog. I may not choose to open Ulysses sometimes, but will see this shortcut and tap it quickly to take the first step towards actually writing.
Open User Group
Opens the deep link into the Slack #general channel for the Shortcuts User Group.
I use this to interact with the small group of Shortcuts users I’ve gathered together in a Slack community – we talk about how to use Siri Shortcuts and the related technology surrounding it. If you’d like to join, please feel free – come and say hello.
Uses the “Open App” action to open into Instapaper where I can read stories I’ve collected throughout the week.
This shortcut reminds me to actually use my “read later” collection, but is also a prompt to quickly dive back into stories I’ve curated for my podcast Smart Tech Today on TWiT ahead of recording.
Plan a stream
Uses MindNode’s “New MindMap” action set to “without specifying Content” to automatically open into MindNode with a blank document.
I use this shortcut to immediately create a new mind map for planning out livestreams, rather than finding MindNode and creating a new mind map manually – I can just ask Siri on my iPad and I’m immediately able to type.
Add device frames
Presents a menu where I can choose between opening PicSew, opening StitchPics, or using the Apple Frames shortcut to wrap any screenshots I’ve taken in assets for Apple’s corresponding products.
This is a quick-launcher for the various ways I can add “device frames” to my screenshots and made them look way nicer when shared online – I keep this in my “LaunchPad” folder at the top of the Shortcuts app so its always readily available.
For the month of May, my main public focus was publishing livestreams related to Shortcuts and my interests as a content creator.
I’ve long had a streaming setup and even covered most of iOS 13’s updates for Shortcuts in an hour-long stream last fall, but I’ve always wanted to stream more and never really did.
In these last 9 months since that stream, I’ve also seen a ton of new Shortcuts-related apps drop and for some reason I didn’t fully adopt them – I thought every one my shortcuts needed to be easily shareable, plus I was worried about depending on paid third-party apps that people would have to buy just to use my shortcuts.
But eventually, I realized I’d shot myself in the foot – these apps were necessary because of some shortcoming of Shortcuts in its current state, and by missing out on those apps I was handicapping myself in the process.
Once I started adopting the Shortcuts-related apps, my productivity skyrocketed and I realized I needed to learn these even more – enter livestreams with the developers themselves. Plus, I took the opportunity to stream with one novice user and another expert, both of which were great experiences.
Here’s the full list of videos:
On episode 30 of Smart Tech Today, I spent about 10 minutes describing a series of shortcuts I put together that take advantage of the accessibility actions found in the Shortcuts app ahead of today, May 21, which is Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD).
Accessibility features are incredibly important for modern technology to provide, making it possible for everyone to utilize their hardware & software regardless of their personal situation – you either have direct accessibility needs that require specific use of your technology, you’ll one day need them yourself, or you benefit from those features anyway (think Dark mode).
“The Workflow app was selected for an Apple Design Award in 2015 because of its outstanding use of iOS accessibility features, in particular an outstanding implementation for VoiceOver with clearly labeled items, thoughtful hints, and drag/drop announcements, making the app usable and quickly accessible to those who are blind or low-vision.”
In iOS 13, Apple went further and added a set of actions to Shortcuts for controlling Accessibility features, available to use inside the shortcut editor in Apps > Settings.
New shortcut: I’m washing my hands:
Sets a timer for 20 seconds so that you can wash your hands thoroughly without thinking about how long it takes.
Use this to help internalize how long it takes to wash your hands, especially amongst the Coronavirus concerns.
Matt Haughey, writing for his site A Whole Lotta Nothing:
As you might have guessed from a previous post, I’m not a fan of carrying keys and or even having to use them. When I moved to a new place, I knew I’d use the front door as my main point of entry (instead of a garage attached to a house), so I wanted to get it as automated as possible, where the front door unlocks as I approach it, and locks when I leave.
Matt started with an August Smart Lock and ended up getting NFC tags so that everyone in his family could tap in and out of the house. Be sure to check out the full article for all his photos of the setup too.
This bit is excellent – I’m definitely thinking about NFC “skins” instead of having white dots all over the place:
To make them blend in a bit more, I went to my local Lowe’s and bought a $5 roll of adhesive-backed shelf paper in a maple pattern that mostly matched my wood posts. I used a NFC tag as a template, traced it onto the paper, and cut out two holes, then pulled off the backing and stuck them over the tags. From a distance, you can barely tell they’re there since I put the NFC stickers over wood knots and they look like wood repair patches now.
I’ve joked before that Matt is my smart home spirit animal – he continues to fill that role well ?.
If you didn’t already know, my podcast Smart Tech Today comes with a video feed now – you can download a full video feed in Podcasts, or subscribe to the YouTube channel to get the episodes every week, or watch live on Twitch every Monday at 4pm PST.
While the show is designed as an audio podcast, our network This Week in Tech produces the video so anyone can watch too – I have lots of fun being on camera with Mikah.
Being a podcast that’s also “video capable,” I’ve always thought it’s a shame that it’s not easier to listen when you want to, or watch when you want to, with a way to switch between both on the fly.
If you’re on Overcast user, you’re in luck – I’ve solved the problem in one direction, taking Overcast’s “Share URL with timestamp” Siri Shortcut and combining it with YouTube’s timestamps feature to let you jump into the video feed at a moment’s notice.1