In the post, Federico explains some tips he’s developed over the last six months working on the Mac that are super useful for Shortcuts users, especially if you’re coming from the iPad — things like changes with variables, how to use actions native to Mac from the Automator experience, and innovative ways to utilize AppleScript (that I’m definitely going to adopt myself and integrate into my own shortcuts).
Here’s the list of techniques:
Check Your Current Platform
Right-Click to Choose Variables
Get the Title of a Webpage
Get the Text Selection of a Webpage
Check If a Specific App Is Running
Pass Multiple Variables to AppleScript
Check the Frontmost App
Modifying a File with Quick Actions and Overwriting the Original Version
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.
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.
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.
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.
Also this technically works the iPhone, but almost nobody attaches a Bluetooth keyboard to their phone. ↩
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. ↩
Even though I've had the iPhone 7 Plus and iPhone X, I haven't nearly taken advantage of the 2x zoom lenses on both. I default to using the wider iPhone's lens since that's what I've always had before, plus years of training against using digital zooms makes it feel unnatural to zoom in with a phone.
Instead, I've been trying to switch to the 2x camera lens right away each time so I could get better use of it and see if there were any places I hadn't realized it would be helpful beyond Portrait Mode.
Here are a few spots the iPhones with the double lens hardware makes getting the right shot easier:
Taking pictures of tiny text: getting into tight spaces is easier when you zoom in, plus you don't lose quality – for example, taking a photo of the lid of my AirPods in order to capture the serial number (which inspired this post1).
Capturing documents: instead of leaning over and getting the phone up close to frame up the paper, zooming in and just pointing the phone down can help you get through a lot of pages without breaking your back
Getting shots that are out of your reach: if your arms are fully extended and you're trying to get a photo that's above your head or on top of something, the 2x lens can help you get that additional bit of perspective that you might otherwise miss. I've found it can be super handy to stick your arm up and get a zoomed in photo of what's just out of view.
Taking photos that match your eye's perspective: the default 28mm lens on the iPhone is much wider than the way you see things normally – the 2x zoom's 56mm lens is closer to the perspective we see ourselves (albeit more cropped in).
The wider lens can also distort vertical lines, especially if they're up close. Shooting with the longer lens also helps prevent as much warping, although you may need to stand further back. That being said, it doesn't work very well in low light.
Taking sample photos for a bigger shoot later: when I was preparing to make the photography for my HomePod review, I went around first with my iPhone X to scope out how I wanted my photos to look without needing to lug around my full camera.
The 2x lens more closely matched the "in your home" perspective I was trying to achieve, plus I could zoom in and out further to mimic the full range of my 12-60mm lens. I got sample shots so I could properly integrate the imagery into how I wrote the piece, then later did a proper photoshoot with lights and my camera to get the highest quality photography.
Some of these aren't particularly innovative ways to use a camera, but if you hadn't thought of one before it might be helpful2.
Many of the shots won't be up to par for crisp, clear focus or high quality levels of photography, but for quick memories and productive use cases it does the job well.
Next time you open up the camera app on an iPhone X/Plus, try switching to 2x and just looking through the viewfinder for a while – it may help you see things in a different way.
No, that's not the complete serial number of my AirPods. ↩︎
If you have any other suggestions, let me know on Twitter and I'll add them here & credit you. ↩︎