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. 

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 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.