After adding a few videos from YouTube to my Watch Later playlist this afternoon, I looked in the Apps section of the Shortcuts app for some Siri Shortcuts from the YouTube app.
I’ve found actions that open the Search and Subscriptions section of the app before, but I wanted to quickly jump into the Watch Later bit which is buried in the Library tab – alas, there was no shortcut.
However, I then realized that YouTube.com links often redirect into the app, and I might be able to use that deep link instead.
I navigated to the Watch Later tab in Safari on my iPad, copied the URL, and created a new shortcut with only the Open URLs action, and pasted the link in. To my delight, running the shortcut opened right into Watch Later, and I literally said “Oh hell yes” out loud.
Now it’ll be much easier to jump into videos I’ve saved at any moment, especially once I add this shortcut to my Home Screen.
This is a simple shortcut, but a reply to my tweet about it encapsulated some of my feeling about quick shortcuts like these:
“Better than digging” is 60% of what I have to say about Shortcuts.
Of course I personally think there’s more to Siri Shortcuts than that, running shortcuts as “better than digging” is a great starting point for finding value with the Shortcuts app.
Sometimes a shortcut only solves one seemingly small problem, but solving that very well can be just the right change to your workflow and help you quickly reach a goal when you’d otherwise not bother.
I have over 300 videos in my Watch later playlist because it’s simply not easy to access on the devices I use most, so this shortcut alone could change my entire relationship with YouTube – I look forward to using it regularly.
Matt Birchler on the Apple Watch’s latest operating system update:
watchOS continues to grow up, and each year it gets objectively better than the year previous. The team behind this product have done a fantastic job of maintaining its simplicity all while adding on genuinely useful features that don’t always feel like much at the time, but have added up to an improved platform in almost every way.
Matt does these reviews every year, and this one summarizes the changes nicely. Also, I’m totally using the list of available workouts as a reference for future Shortcuts posts.
In the latest app update on iOS, Audible now lets users actually buy audiobooks inside the app using existing credits.
According to a tweet from Chris Fralic of First Round (originally sourced by Joshua Topolosky of The Outline), the “Add to Library” button in Audible will show the message “You can now use credits without leaving the app!”:
Last fall, I made a simple video for YouTube but never posted it here on my website – it’s a quick tutorial on making GIFs using Shortcuts, where I start from scratch and finish with a usable shortcut:
I’d make some improvements to the shortcut now like adding a Quick Look at the end so users can view it when running from the My Shortcuts view and maybe adjusting the speed slightly.
Plus since then I’ve moved my desk, improved my audio editing skills, and don’t feel nearly as awkward.
Question for any readers: do you like this style of video? I haven’t done other top-down shots like this and want to know what people think – tweet me or send me an email with your thoughts and any other helpful feedback.
I hate always having to open my calendar app to find the phone number of the next meeting I need to call into. So a while back I built a shortcut to streamline the whole process, and it’s saved a bunch of time.
1. Open the information tab in Overcast of a podcast you wish to log to Airtable.
2.Select the text of the information tab from the podcast title down, grabbing as much of the episode description as you would like to be included in the notes field in Airtable. Press copy to put this text on the clipboard.
3. This shortcut is used as a sharesheet extension, so press the share button and select Shortcuts, then run the shortcut to log the podcast.”
This post is a great write-up from Julia explaining a way she’s saving podcast episodes to Airtable, plus pulling from that database to play one again at random.
She has little technique for grabbing information from Overcast on the clipboard before sharing the episode, and wrote up how she’s extracting the information from once it’s in the shortcut before sending it through Airtable’s API.
What I really wanted was for iOS to be a bit more intelligent. For example, it could realize that when I turn off my bedside light (which is a HomeKit-compatible Philips Hue bulb) I’m going to bed. And then, when I pick up my phone in the morning it could log that I’m awake, and store the resulting information in the Health app.
Alas, that functionality doesn’t exist. So I made it myself using a pair of Shortcuts.
While I was away at Disneyland, this great set of shortcuts snuck by me.
This is the exact approach I have so often – I think “why can’t my pocket computer do this?” and then Shortcuts lets me roll my own solution.
“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.
In case you can’t tell from my crack headline writing, swiping on the popover that appears when you go to copy and paste menu makes it easier to access the Share button.
I had fun making a simple GIF to show the interaction, and I think that went a long way in making the post useful for people – just reading about it is nice, but seeing it in action makes a difference.
This is mostly useful since I use that menu all the time with Workflow – now it’s going to be even handier to use with Shortcuts. It’s great to select text, share it into a shortcut, and act on it with the features like Make Rich Text From Markdown or Change Case.
Getting Started with Shortcuts
But the big fun came later in the week, when the beta for Shortcuts dropped and everyone started playing around what’s essentially Workflow 2.01.
All the new features were discovered right away:
More highlights from Shortcuts beta:
– Scriptable Do Not Disturb (!!) and other device settings
– Third-party URL schemes fully supported
– Show Result for Siri with Magic Variables
– New payment actions based on SiriKit pic.twitter.com/qwyiBFM7eb
Eventually, I was able to stop jumping up and down, sit down, and write up an introduction to the Shortcuts app for iMore2 – this went into the very basics of installing the app, what happens to your old workflows if you used Workflow, and where to start looking for more ideas for custom shortcuts.
I have lots of other pieces coming about Shortcuts on both iMore, The Sweet Setup, and here on my own website (plus some scheduled podcast appearances!).
But until then I’ve started a Twitter thread where I’m sharing some of the bigger concepts or examples of shortcuts I’ve made over time in one place. Click on it, scroll through, add it to your Twitter bookmarks when you’re done, and come back again later:
Friends, I am fully available to help with Shortcuts.
I’m not working full time so that I can do this for all of you. Do not ever hesitate to reach out, I would be happy to be drowning in requests.
My goal joining Workflow was to tell people about this – nothing has changed 📱
In my piece, I talked about some of my vision for where I see Shortcuts taking Siri in the future. It’s not about the nitty gritty of building shortcuts, but instead about the end result of adding useful shortcuts into your routine with Siri – actually getting things done.
I’ve been reading TechCrunch for years and it’s one of the earliest technology website I remember devouring when I first got into the scene – I am extremely honored to see my name there after I was invited to write at WWDC.3
Links from the week
In case you noticed, I’m moving this weekly recap to Sunday instead.4
So Sundays it is – it doesn’t technically fit the calendar week as nicely for this to go out the day after, but also I can recap the entire week if I do happen to publish something else on Saturday.
Otherwise, here’s a few links from elsewhere around the web to check out – this week I’m focusing on Shortcuts because of the launch, but I’ll keep it to a wider range of topics in the future:
Automators #1: Automating Calendar Events: The Automators podcast from Relay.FM just launched their first episode on Friday and it dives into different ways to use your calendar. I’ve never subscribed to a podcast so fast – they have a great forum, they’re making blog posts and videos for each episode. I’m sure it will be a great resource for the Shortcuts app and a bunch of other types of automation for iOS, Mac, and the web too.
Initial observations of Shortcuts: Jordan Merrick has a good quick reaction to the new features Shortcuts gained over Workflow and how they affect usage. I agree that it’s slightly odd that the action groups are hidden within the search field – I hope people aren’t confused and think there’s a limited set of options.
r/shortcuts: There’s a new subreddit for Shortcuts that popped up over the weekend – I joined as moderator to help with the transition from r/workflow, guide the community as best I can, and try to establish a positive tone for the submissions.5
I’m trying to set up my cellular plan on my iPad Pro after my last one was stolen, but T-Mobile is being difficult and says “Your account is not set up for logging in.” What?! Anyone go through this and have suggestions?
I’m saving a bunch of my shortcuts as files and cleaning up my library – funny how the fact that sharing by link isn’t available is prompting me to do this now, when it would have been helpful to do all along.
I’m still hard at work on a few new projects, which are slow but steady. I’m getting super excited and hope to launch sometime soon!
Despite calling it a weekly newsletter and accepting names for the list months ago, I haven’t yet published a single issue.
I’m still taking sign-ups though and waiting for the right moment to launch it, so add your email here and you’ll get it in your inbox when the time comes.
I was waiting for a friend and just said hi to the person closest to me – it was Sarah Perez, and after we talked she grabbed the editor Matthew Panzarino, I mentioned I worked at Workflow, and he said I should write something up. ↩
That’s partially because that’s when my TechCrunch piece was going out, but also anyone who’s run a website probably knows it sucks to try and write on the first day of your weekend. ↩
I saw some people in the Workflow subreddit who could be too critical of new users or repeated questions, so I’m going to push things towards an air of openness and learning – this app is damn confusing and we’ll all be better off in the long run by lifting one another up. ↩