Rainbow Gesture 🌈 🎙

New episode of Supercomputer out:

Your hosts’ iPads have arrived! Matthew wants to change the way we think about the philosophy of Apple, and Alex is very concerned about folios big and small.

This week, Alex and I talked using tablets & their covers.

Plus, I tried to reflect on how the Apple community talks about the leaders of the company.

Listen to the show:

We’re in The Medium Place 🎙

Episode 11 of Supercomputer is now out – listen in if you’re curious about the new iPad Pros.

Alex talks about her concerns over USB-C, I tried to talk her down from the ledge, and we both ended up convincing ourselves to be excited about the new iPads.

Plus, we talked about the changes to Shortcuts 2.1 that I covered in my video earlier this week.

With this episode, we’re also making the switch to releasing on Fridays – we’re trying to guarantee the show is as good as possible, plus give us flexibility on recording days to account for any events as well as our schedule. New episodes every Friday – Supercomputer for the weekends!

Start prepping your daily routine plans for an upcoming episode, because we’ll be walking through those shortly – in the meantime, drop us any shortcuts requests in our submission form, we’ll be answering a few soon!

Get the episode:

P.S. Would anyone listen in Spotify or on YouTube? Let me know!

Look ahead at your day with “Agenda” 📹

Today I released my fifth YouTube video, focusing on building an agenda for the day and walking people through the process of building it.

This is a full-Siri shortcut, meaning it’ll work on iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, AirPods, HomePod, and CarPlay, with Siri speaking out the results to you:

It includes overdue and upcoming reminders, today’s calendar events, and contacts who have a birthday today – so many people say they only use Facebook for birthdays, so this could help you break that habit too.

In the video I demonstrate the use of Repeat With Each, Magic Variables, and Count/If actions to do some logic where I didn’t get quite the results I wanted.

As usual I’d love any feedback on the video – it’s slightly long, but there’s lots of good material to absorb. There was some fuzziness with my audio too, but I managed to get it listenable enough.

On to the next video – seems like Shortcuts 2.1 will be dropping alongside iOS 12.1 tomorrow!

Apple Shortcuts: The Bicycle for the Mind is Back, but it’s Electric 🔗

Stu Maschowitz of Prolost has put a fantastic piece out on the Shortcuts app:

“To me, whether Jobs intended it this way or not, the “bicycle for the mind” is the tool that empowers you to repurpose it for your specific needs, not just to consume things with it, or use it in the same way as everyone else.”

Later in the piece (emphasis mine):

“Job’s bicycle analogy was all about efficiency of locomotion. Without a bicycle, we’re highly inefficient animals at just getting around, but we can build tools, like bicycles, which put us at the top of the list.

But I also take from it that riding a bicycle is good for you. It makes you stronger. Buying a tool and using it is like driving a car — you’ll get to your destination, and efficiently, but you’ve done nothing to better yourself. Every day that car will take you exactly the same distance.

But each day you ride a bicycle, your legs get stronger. You get where you’re going, sure, but maybe more importantly, the more you ride, the farther you can go.

This is the way I look at the Jobs bicycle analogy: When you build your own tools, you make your mind stronger, and able to go farther the next day.

As I use Shortcuts more and more, I feel myself somewhere between driving a car made of apps built by other people and riding a bicycle of my own creation. I’m creating genuinely useful tools, and I’m pushing myself farther each day I ride[…]”

Stu’s piece is one of the best I’ve seen about the current state of Shortcuts, what it means to learn and use them regularly, and he also provides some really handy examples.

I highly suggest everyone train their Shortcuts muscles today, because you never know how it’ll help you out tomorrow being that much stronger at it.

Definitely check out the full piece (16 minutes) and get the shortcuts from his site too.

How to make a GIF on iOS: Shortcuts in under 3 minutes [Video]

On Friday, I published a shorter video demonstrating how to build a custom shortcut in the Shortcuts app in just under 3 minutes:

For the topic, I picked “how to make a GIF” because it’s not that easy on iOS, and everyone has a library full of bursts and Live Photos that are stuck in the camera roll.

With just a few actions, you can put together an animated loop of your bursts, Live Photos, or sets of photos, and easily share it with people.

Get the shortcut here if you want to make your own.

I could have made some improvements to the shortcut. Since I filmed this without a script, I didn’t add in Save to Photo Album at the end so that every GIF you made would be saved automatically – this is important because most people run shortcuts from the main library view, but you can only see the GIF in my version if you open the shortcut editor.1

I’m working on some new shorter videos, along with a longer main video each week – working out the process now, but I should be able to ramp up to get more videos out for all of you.

In the meantime, let me know if there’s anything particular you’d like to see from my channel2.

And, as always, linking to the video or retweeting it goes a long way – thank you to everyone who’s been supporting me so far.


  1. It also could have all been built using Find Photos to give you more control; getting into that level of detail, however, definitely takes more than 3 minutes, so I’ll have to work sharing the best examples with the least compromises. 
  2. People left more comments that I’m still a robot who doesn’t blink – even though I totally did once! It’s apparently difficult for me to blink naturally with a bright light in my face while trying to communicate the intricacies of this app on the fly. 

The Allegory of Dark Mode [Podcast]


On Thursday, Alex and I released our 9th episode of Supercomputer into the world. Titled “The Allegory of Dark Mode”, this episode follows up from our show two weeks ago on task managers.

After a short one-week break, we broke back into how we use our devices to get things done, plus went off a bit on how I use Twitter.

Near the end things got weirdly philosophical, which I’m totally okay with.

We talked about and shared a good number of shortcuts we use in the show notes, so if you’re not already subscribe to the show and add them as you listen along.

I also started a submission form for Shortcuts questions, so feel free to submit any places you’re getting stuck or shortcuts problems in the Airtable form any time!

Next week we’ll be talking about the home – HomePod, Apple TV, HomeKit, and more – looking forward to episode 10!

Listen to the show:
Website
iTunes
Overcast

My Top 10 Shortcuts, plus My First Guest Video

Last week, I published my third YouTube video. This one covered 10 great shortcuts that I’ve built over the years, with quick descriptions and demonstrations for each:1

Here they are in order:
1. $0.99 Rental of the Week
2. Flip Photo to IG
3. Log Water
4. Make Wifi QR Code
5. Copy Free Time or Copy Today’s Free Time
6. Search for Link
7. Spongebob
8. Set Bedtime From Sunrise2
9. BART Departures (or, just Ashby)
10. Now or Later Network (and modified Download File)

After I published, Rene Ritchie from iMore also reached out to me and asked for a short video clip with one of my tips on getting started with Shortcuts. Here’s what the full video turned out like:

I shot and put my part together for his video in just a few hours, which encouraged me to make shorter videos myself and demonstrated how tackling a specific single topic is much easier to produce.

For my own work, I’m still working through some process details – my own video was pretty long and difficult to make with so many parts, and an early version of it also just ended up not being very interesting to me. I also need to level my audio better still, plus nail down some of exactly how I am and should be using my cameras too.

I’ve also been developing criteria for which shortcuts I want to share, because, despite people wanting to see all 900 of mine, throwing them all online isn’t my goal – I want to teach people how to build their own, not just use my pre-built shortcuts.

Plus, I’ve completely shifted my schedule to allow for both video production AND writing – I fell off the map a bit getting my thoughts out here and on iMore/The Sweet Setup since starting to make videos.

So enjoy the shortcuts from the video, subscribe to my channel if you haven’t yet, and subscribe to my RSS feed to have these blog posts come directly to you too.


  1. Well, as quick as possible – it’s 17 minutes :) 
  2. Note: requires Shortcuts 2.1 beta – use Set Bedtime From Sunrise (Dark Sky) if you’re on Shortcuts 2.0. 

Everything Went Better Than Expected

I am incredibly amazed right now, because I launched my YouTube channel on Monday and my first video has gotten 20,000 views along with 2,304 subscribers as of publishing – last week I had 2.

Thank you so, so much if you shared my video over the past few days. I asked and you delivered, which really was heartwarming to see and it made a huge difference. Special thanks to Myke Hurley and Jason Snell for mentioning it on Upgrade, as well as Lory Gil for inviting me to link at the bottom of my iMore articles (which we’ve been updating with new information) – both helped a ton.

I’m still trying to get it linked elsewhere because I really do want as many people to learn as possible and help them avoid confusion, so I’m excited to see how it keeps growing over time.1

If you haven’t watched the video yet, here it is – don’t forget to subscribe 😇:

Now I’m hard at work on a second one – the Shortcuts app is out alongside iOS 12, and there’s lots of confusion on how the app works, what works in Siri and what doesn’t, and once you get past that, what to even build with it.

I’ve got a ton to cover and unfortunately I can’t cram it all into one video, so I’m going to work my way through it and give as many quick asides with those details as I can.

I’m also still writing articles and making a podcast, so if anybody with good video experience wants to help me skip over beginner’s mistakes2 or link to good resources, that would be amazing.

In the meantime, I’m answering as many comments on the video and DMs as I can while still getting shit done, but there’s lots of places elsewhere to look, starting first with Apple’s new Shortcuts User Guide.

But you should also buy David Spark’s Shortcuts Field Guide video series if you want to skip ahead to everything right away, read Federico’s review for a deep dive along with what’s new in iOS 12, and join some of the other healthy communities sprouting up. The subreddit seems to be growing nicely and searching on Twitter for icloud.com/shortcuts will show you a ton of examples, which is fantastic – keep up the good work everyone.

I can’t wait to see what you do with it.3


  1. The YouTube analytics are fun to explore too – people who came from external links stayed the longest on average, which I credit to all of you! 
  2. Mistakes like leaving autofocus continuous on, and having too loud of music with vocalization, and not leveling any of the audio properly, for example… 
  3. 😏 

The MacStories Review of iOS 12 (and Shortcuts)

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.

The review is also available as an eBook and audiobook for members of Club MacStories, their membership program that provides great newsletters with tons of Shortcuts ideas, links, and interviews. Members get the book free and the audiobook at 60% off, so now is better than ever to subscribe.

Now that Shortcuts is out I’m sure you won’t want to miss Federico’s work, so definitely consider joining if you have the means.

One of the major sections to look at is his coverage of Shortcuts, because he’s the OG in the space – I originally learned about Workflow because of Federico and his coverage is what brought me to work for the app, so at a certain point we all owe him for bringing a spotlight to this awesome technology.

His evangelism for the potential got all of us who knew about it excited and I’m sure influenced Apple’s decision to purchase our company, so, everyone go thank Federico!

Now excuse me while I keep reading because there’s no way I’ve read it at all just – will have to switch back and forth with Myke’s lovely voice filling my ears too as I do my own prep for the big day.

The Automators podcast: I did a Shortcuts deep dive!

I had the honor of being on Relay FM‘s great new show Automators this week. Hosted by David Sparks and Rosemary Orchard, the show dives deep into automation with Apple products and covers a whole range of apps and devices.

With iOS 12 launching on Monday, David and Rosemary had me on their show to talk all about Shortcuts and walk people through two of my custom shortcuts – Open Twitter Lists and Golden Hour.

Apparently, I completely forgot this was supposed to be a 30-minute show, because we straight up talked about these for an hour and a half.

These are more like workflows than Siri-based shortcuts, as the Twitter lists one doesn’t involve Siri at all – I primarily run it from the widget.

But Golden Hour can be triggered by Siri and run headless on devices like Apple Watch, AirPods, and CarPlay – I used it in my testing video of the HomePod too when I discovered when shortcuts started working on more devices:

The show mostly involved functional explanations of the shortcuts, so hopefully one day I’ll be back on Automators again to talk more about how I’m taking advantage of Siri, custom Shortcuts, and the new actions provided by other app developers besides Apple’s.

We also mentioned a shortcut for Apple Music Mixes that I wrote about for The Sweet Setup, but we avoided covering it again so check out the full post for all the details.

The episode should be a good listen – subscribe to the show, add the workflows/shortcuts from the show notes1 on their site or in your podcast app, and listen along as I explain both step-by-step.

Also, be sure to visit the Automators Talk forum where the community chats about all types of automation – definitely worth checking out.

If you’re coming here from Automators, feel free to follow my posts via RSS or subscribe to my twice-a-month newsletter, the first issue of which will be launching soon!

Thanks for listening, hope you enjoy it!


  1. Depending on when you read this, if Shortcuts isn’t yet available on the App Store the linked workflows for Workflow will still work.