Gets sheets from a group in Ulysses, asks which one to use, then adds it into iA Writer via their URL scheme. Only accepts text, so you’ll have to move over any images.
I’ll be using this to move my iMore articles out of Ulysses and into iA Writer when I want to edit them, add images according to iMore’s file naming system, and prepare them for uploading to the web.
Ulysses doesn’t allow the actual filenames of images to be renamed, so I have to use iA Writer near the end. Ulysses does allow for adding titles to images, but I want the actual file itself renamed for SEO purposes – so I built this shortcut to move my pieces over.
While the Shortcuts app is primarily a touch-based system—where are you drag and drop actions around to create your scripts—there are a few keyboard shortcuts for iPad users that can speed up the experience of creating and managing their Siri Shortcuts.
Whether you’re opening the Gallery to view suggested shortcuts, searching for a shortcut in your list, or quickly controlling parts of the shortcuts editor, these simple keyboard shortcuts are worth learning.
Hopefully anyone building shortcuts checks out this piece for iMore and sees what’s possible in Shortcuts via the keyboard now. I try to use them as much as possible to help with ergonomics, plus it does speed tings up a bit.
Near the end, I also listed some keyboard shortcuts I’d like Shortcuts to adopt in the future. Full keyboard control of the app would be a massive boon to productivity, especially when these iPad screens sit propped up at such steep angles.
For users who’ve updated to the latest version of Adobe Lightroom for iOS, there is a special surprise waiting – a new dedicated Lightroom action for the Shortcuts app, Apple’s newest automation tool for building custom Siri Shortcuts.
This enables users to batch import photos to Lightroom, apply the built-in Presets, and otherwise act on your photos in the process of custom shortcuts in the Shortcuts app, opening up mobile photography to deeper automation potential.
Lightroom is the first native action from a third-party app added to Shortcuts since the days of Workflow, so hopefully this is a sign of more actions to come.
Some things to note:
RAW support is RAW-only, otherwise the RAW+JPG gets imported as a JPG
The action passes content through as output, so you can put Delete Photos right after and they’ll be removed from Photos too
Applying the Presets only takes advantage of the defaults, but hopefully this will change one day.
I’m super excited, because this was a big sticking point in The Verge’s review, and it’s hopefully the first of many Shortcuts actions.
Head over to my friend Shawn Blanc’s site for a good example shortcut – he selects photos and uses the Shortcuts action extension to add them, but what he doesn’t mention is this works great with drag & drop on iPad too.
You might’ve seen a few weekly recaps that I started up on this blog – in order to avoid as much weekend work as well as the monotony of similar posts, I’m combining those into this new monthly recap.
At the end of each month, I’ll be sharing things that I’ve published across the web, whether it be a post here, an article on The Sweet Setup or iMore, an appearance on a podcast, or anything else I might be up to.
I’m also sharing great work I find elsewhere (plus a few things of my own) in my new newsletter. I’ll be sharing it twice a month, but I’m not setting specific dates – once near the beginning and another near the end — so look for the first near the end of August!
Inside, I’ll be curating articles, tweets, videos, podcasts, and music, plus new shortcuts that I’m building. These shortcuts will be exclusive in the newsletter for 10 days, then I’ll be sharing them elsewhere online so everyone can get them even if they don’t want to sign up.
The main theme will be technology, but it won’t just be about Apple stuff – subjects will change over time but I’m also into topics like philosophy, data visualization, marketing, video games, and more, plus I want to expand as time goes on.
I also want to hear from you if you’re on the mailing list. Please reply if you have anything to say and I’ll read your emails (I may even feature some with responses in the future, if you’re open it).
Anyway, here’s what I wrote in July (and here’s the workflow/shortcut I used to generate this list):
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. ↩
If you’re like me, you may have been on iOS for years before you learned that when you select text and want to navigate the copy & paste menu, you don’t have to tap the arrows to navigate – you can just swipe to the next page.
Normally I’d select text, try to accurately hit the tiny little next arrow, and usually missed and paste something instead of closing the menu. But when I was at WWDC, I saw someone go to share a bit of text and he… just…swiped on the list of actions.1
For anyone who uses the Workflow action extension often and likes to run workflows on text using the text selection share menu, this is extremely handy. And for Drafts users, this also provides quicker access to the Dictate and Arrange actions available in that second page of the copy & paste menu.
This is a super small thing and may seem obvious, but if you don’t know about it, you might not ever really figure it out. Hope this helps – check out more of my new Tips & Tricks archives here and coming every Monday on my site.
I’ve… worked on iOS for years and he… just…swiped on the menu. ↩
This week I published four articles – three on my website and one for The Sweet Setup.
I started out the week with a Tips & Tricks post explaining the basics of cancelling tasks in Things. I didn’t discover this feature for a while after using things, so I figured a quick write-up on it couldn’t hurt anyone.
On Tuesday I posted a recap on what I’ve shared around Shortcuts and Siri so far. I talked a little bit about working at Workflow, shared about my iMore link and Vector appearance, and talked about future plans for Shortcuts posts here – looking forward to sharing more next week.
On Wednesday I also published an article explaining a handy workflow for adding movies to your watchlist in Letterboxd. I’d been meaning to take advantage of this film-tracking app and found this was helpful for getting lots of ideas in to save for later.
On Thursday, my article for The Sweet Setup went out covering “How to add individual time limits to Screen Time” since that feature is slightly buried too. If you’re on the iOS beta you can test this out now for limiting specific apps instead of the entire app category – I’m already finding it easier to avoid problem apps when I know they’re not available. I’ll be doing a deeper dive into Screen Time for the fall, which should be an interesting experiment and fun to research.
On Friday, I didn’t publish anything. Instead I was prepping more stories for The Sweet Setup, iMore, and a contributor post at a special publication I’m very excited about. Plus, I’m trying to get ahead of myself for this website so I can share my thoughts with you all regularly and not be rushing to finish each time.
I’ve been enjoying writing more and am already finding it easier to get into the flow & pump things out – turns out when you’ve been listening to podcasts for years and steeping yourself in the community for years, you build up a lot of material to write about.
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. ↩
As a writer who generally focuses on complicated processes for using technology, I can find it tempting to default to lazy language that over-simplifies for me, but tends to makes things confusing for new users. If something is difficult for everyone else and I describe it as “simple”, I’ve just lost many people who might’ve otherwise made it through.
For example, when I wrote the Workflow documentation, I took care to make sure I avoided assuming the directions given were as straightforward as possible and could always be understood by someone without any technical training (like me).
Using these words in an explainer context is now banned from all of my writing.
Nothing with iOS automation or the technical details of how something works is easy, simple, or clear – at some point, it was explained to you. Not everyone knows, you don’t “just” do something because there’s a verb for that action, and many complex things are rarely obvious how to use at first.
I want to avoid alienating anyone who reads my writing or wants to learn more about how to use technology – the goal is to empower, not educate from above.
If you see me using this language, don’t hesitate to call me out.