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)”

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”

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. ☺ 

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”. 

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.

Coverage so far

Over on iMore, I wrote a piece shortly after WWDC called Siri Shortcuts: Everything You Need To Know that introduced people to the new features. I shared about how you’ll first experience shortcuts, how to set up custom voice commands to launch Siri actions now, and what the Shortcuts app will be in relation to Workflow.

I didn’t cover too much about the specific details of interacting with Siri intents-based shortcuts, so there’s more to come there.

Rene Ritchie also had me on his podcast VECTOR to talk about Shortcuts for my debut appearance on a podcast. In it, we talked about the potential of Siri, how Shortcuts will work, and I teased some thoughts that I’m going to write up in more detail this summer. I’m super thankful for Rene to have me on his show and give me a chance to share1.

I really enjoyed speaking to someone else about all my ideas – keep an eye out for more from me in this space.

Coming soon

I have so much more to say about Shortcuts that there’s so many places to start (is there anything you’d like to know?).

I suggest everyone on the betas try out the parts of Shortcuts that are available now in Siri Settings, and read up more with Federico’s coverage from MacStories because he nailed all the details available so far.

If you’re really curious, I suggest watching the Shortcuts developer sessions available on Apple’s website and in the WWDC app – Introduction to Siri Shortcuts, Building for Voice with Siri Shortcuts, and Siri Shortcuts on the Siri Watch will get you very far and reveal most of what’s possible for apps to do with the technology right now, and coming this fall.

Workflow is on the App Store

Now’s the time to dive into Workflow and get a sense of what’s coming with Shortcuts. I suggest you download the app, explore the Gallery, follow the community on Reddit, and check out more of MacStories’ archives to learn as much as possible about Workflow’s past.

I wrote the original Workflow documentation while I was on the team to try and clearly show people what’s possible with the app – I suggest reading through the archive available online. Apple has just recently updated the documentation URL to redirect to help.apple.com/workflow, so you can check out their new set of documentation there as well.

Getting ahead on Shortcuts is guaranteed to be worth it now, and if the potential expands more in the future you’ll be even further ahead.

If you’d like to keep up with my Shortcuts coverage, follow my posts here on MatthewCassinelli.com or via RSS, subscribe to my email newsletter, and follow me on Twitter.


  1. Sorry again I messed up my audio! 

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. 

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. 

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.