Maybe you’re accidentally gripping the volume up button as you also press power to turn off your iPhone, or you’re pressing the Digital Crown and side button at the same time to pause an Apple Watch workout1 – either way, you probably don’t want most of the screenshots that are filling up your library.
With the Shortcuts app in the iOS 12 beta (or using Workflow if you’re not on the beta), you can set up a three-action script to get your latest screenshots, pick which ones to delete, and delete them all in one go.
Add the actions by searching in the action drawer or browsing through the Content Types categories, then dragging them into the following order:
Get Latest Screenshots
Choose From List
I’ve increased the number of screenshots to 30 so there’s a full screen to choose from, toggled Select All Initially, and set it up with a Siri command as well.
This shortcut is useful since you don’t have to sort out regular photos you want to keep, all the images are already selected by default so you only have to unselect the ones you want to save, and it will confirm the deletion in case you make a mistake.
If you use the Add To Siri function available in the shortcut’s settings, you can set up your own custom voice trigger and later ask Siri to “delete my screenshots” (for example) when you want to kick off this flow.
One thing to note: the shortcut won’t operate entirely in the Siri interface because it requires the menu UI and delete confirmation, so currently it’s expected behavior that using Siri will just open the app and run the shortcut.2
Additionally, you could switch up this shortcut for new purposes with a few tweaks – if you’re not using any of your screenshots anymore, just bump up the number further or run this a couple of times to clean them all out; or, maybe swap out the first two actions with Select Photos to pick from your entire library instead of choosing only from screenshots.
Apple assigns the trigger of pressing the buttons to both pause your Apple Watch workout and take a screenshot, so if you want to keep the screenshot function on you’ll have a library full of mid-workout screencaps. ↩
I hope this type of functionality can be displayed within Siri in the future so shortcuts can operate entirely without opening the app. Admittedly, however, that’d likely be a hard user interface to make look natural from within the Siri overlay. ↩
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
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.
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’scoverage from MacStories because he nailed all the details available so far.
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.
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 🙂
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.
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. 🤖
Self-shaming myself with “only” because I want to be sharing here much more often. ↩
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.
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.
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.
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.
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). ↩
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. ↩
I could have used this back when I was answering frequently asked questions as @WorkflowHQ on Twitter. ↩
(This post has been updated to refer to Shortcuts instead of Workflow, now that the app has been converted by Apple. All of these still work as quick shortcuts, but not everything operates fully from Siri.)
If you’re in the content creation business, time is of the essence. While you’re busy working on your craft and trying to put your work out into the world, the last thing you want to do is spend a lot of time on mundane tasks.
Here are 10 tools that YouTubers and other video creators can take advantage of using Shortcuts (titles are links):
Share links to my YouTube videos
It’s a pain to get links for YouTube videos from your channel and share them with people – this workflow makes it painless. Enter your channel URL, this grabs the feed links, and then choose from the list to copy the YouTube video link of your choice to the clipboard or share it with people.
Take a video and save it to an album
If you’re using your phone for content creation, you probably want to keep your footage organized. Using this, you can run the workflow to take a video and save it to a pre-chosen album in Photos. When you’re filming it’s only in video mode, so it’s not possible to swipe away on accident – you’ll always be shooting right away, and the footage will be stored right where you want it.
If you’re trying to keep track of new plans for future work, use this to add them right into your Notes, Things to-dos, Trello boards, OmniFocus tasks, Clear list, Todoist projects, or Bear notes right away (all the apps!). It works when you’re sharing something, when you have an idea on your clipboard, or when you just want to type.
If you end up sending the same types of emails to people, whether it be potential sponsors or just people you collaborate with, you can use this workflow to set up a list of contacts, quickly fill out the body, and send it off.
Speed Dial Contact
If you’re in communication with a lot of people but just want a quick shortcut to texting the people most important in your life, add their contact details and run this workflow to choose whether to open right into their thread in iMessage, start a FaceTime video, call them on FaceTime audio, call them regularly, or call them via Skype.
Write and Share
Sometimes you just need to get your thoughts down right away, and then figure out what to do with them later. This workflow lets you run it, start typing, then choose whether it should be a tweet, a text message, something for Notes, or belongs elsewhere. Another great alternative for this workflow is the app Drafts as well.
Play Playlist Immediately
If you’re in the zone, the last thing you want to do is peruse your music library for something to listen to while you’re working. Set up your favorite playlists ahead of time, then hit this workflow to start it right away.
Make a GIF
It’s still way too hard to make GIFs on iOS, but this workflow lets you take 5 photos quickly and stitches them together into a GIF. Then you get a preview where you can share it, then saves it to your library.
Get File and Share
If you’ve got documents organized in the Files app, you can run this workflow to open up the file picker and quickly AirDrop it to someone nearby, or if it’s in Dropbox copy a link that you can send to someone else. And otherwise, you can open up the Share sheet and send it off to another app that way.
Post photo to Instagram
This shortcut lets you choose between a few options on which photo to use, then opens it in Instagram. You can take a photo, pick from your library, or upload the last photo. You can choose whether to crop or not before you get into Instagram so it’ll be just the right size. You can type your caption in the prompt, choose from a list of your most common hashtags (and enter any new ones), and when you’re done it’ll be copied to your clipboard ready to paste into the comment field.
I’ve had the privilege to write for The Sweet Setup the last few months and now iMore, so I wanted to share some of the links here.
Primarily I’ve been writing about Workflow, trying to get some of the ideas in my head out and into the world so other people can take better of the app – especially now that it’s free. But I’m also dabbling in product reviews & photography, a new challenge that’s proving lots of fun and hard work.
Things for task management
I started writing about three workflows for Things templates, meant to act as quick ways to copy items into the task management app. They’re also good examples of using Split Text,
I followed it up with a deep dive into Things for iOS’s new URL scheme, which enables a huge set of automation capabilities for optimizing the capture and review processes for my productivity system. I tried to write about it in a way that people new to deep linking and automation might be able to learn as they go, partly echoing the way I wrote the documentation for Workflow.
HomePod in the house
After that I did my first product review, trying to capture the experience of what it’s like to own a HomePod and use it with Siri in the house. I also produced 30 photos for the review, taking way too much time but leaning into my other side business of product photography.
I really enjoyed taking the time to think about how the new product category fits into a consumer’s life, and I’m hoping HomePod gets better soon because I want to push it further. I’ve got a few articles in production about how I use HomePod beyond the practical parts of using the smart speaker, and I’m eagerly waiting for AirPlay 2.
In there I shared a cool Brightness by Battery workflow1 that dims your screen according to your power level, and a few others for tweaking your system settings programmatically. These are great for using with Run Workflow in the middle of other workflows, like little mid-automation widgets you can reuse across your different workflows.
Finally, today I published my first post for iMore detailing step-by-step instructions for 5 different workflows related to the Reminders app. I show you where to find the actions, explain how to place the actions & tweak the parameters to get it right, and include links to each of mine so you can get them yourself and follow along.
Reminders are helpful on their own, but Workflow takes things to the next level — here's how to use them in tandem! https://t.co/FVBzI2ULRz
I’ve been doing more research on iOS lately as my iPhone is the device I use the most, so capturing full web pages quickly saves me a lot of time. While I really like Apple Notes’ latest iterations, it’s not easy to clip websites there – so I adopted Bear for notes, which has support for Markdown, images, and a handy Get URL function.
Bear’s ability to download websites as a note is killer, but it’s usually easily available for most people via their Action Extension. Rather than limiting my access to the share sheet, I’ve been taking advantage of the Workflow action Get Bear Note From URL1 to save web pages from anywhere on iOS.
I use a workflow called Save Page to Bear either from the action extension, or by copying a link and running it from the app, the widget, Spotlight, or Launch Center Pro. I choose which way to start the workflow depending on the moment, so it’s designed to accept different types of inputs even if it’s started in a different spot2.
I usually add this flexibility to my workflows by counting whether there’s a Workflow Input to determine where it’s being run – using Count and If input is less than 1, then Get Clipboard otherwise Get Variable > Workflow Input.
If the workflow is run as an action extension, there will be content coming from the Workflow Input and will return a Count of 1, so Get Variable retrieves that input and passes it along. However, if it’s not run from the action extension there won’t be any input, so the Count would be 0 and the workflow then grabs your clipboard instead.
Workflow’s Content Engine will intelligently extract any links from the whichever content is output from the End If action, since the Create Bear Note from URL action is only set to accept URLs as input3. Bear will download the web page and its images into a note, then return to Workflow with the unique identifier for that Bear note.
The workflow places that unique ID into the template for Bear note links, then copies the new deep link to my note to the clipboard in case I want to save it elsewhere like in the notes of a Things task.
Now, if I want to grab a web page and save it to my notes, I can either:
Share a link from the extension
Copy a link and search for the workflow from Spotlight
Copy a link & run the workflow from the widget
Copy a link and run the workflow from Launch Center Pro
This action really just uses the Bear URL scheme for /grab-URL, which you can learn about here. ↩
Apple Watch workflows can’t display custom UI, so they’re usually uniquely designed to run on the watch instead of integrated like the rest. I bet I could devise a method for detecting whether it’s run from the watch and change behavior if so. ↩
Tap on the icon of any action in Workflow to see more details, like the description, what types of content it accepts and outputs, and any unique characteristics of the action or its parameters. ↩