Dec 12, 2021 at 12:00
Welcome to Issue 25 of “What’s New in Shortcuts!”
This week there was tons of great ideas shared on Twitter, I got deep into Apple Watch (and JIRA?), and there’s a batch of new Shortcuts actions from indie apps – but first, some housekeeping.
In case you hadn’t noticed, this 25th issue marks the beginning of my new Sunday delivery schedule.
I wrote about this briefly on Twitter, but ahead of my work schedule changing in the new year and in an attempt to capture the full week of material from Monday-Sunday, I will now be sending this newsletter at the end of every week on Sundays.
(I’ll also be taking the week after next off for Christmas break, so there’ll be no issue on December 26).
In other news, my Shortcuts Catalog release is officially coming at the beginning of the new year, so thank you everyone for your patience in the meantime – I’m ready to get things rolling and help folks take their personal productivity into their own hands in 2022.
Until then, here’s what’s new in this week:
🆕 New from me
✅ Shortcuts experiments with agile project management
Earlier this week, I was looking through the Apps section of Shortcuts wondering what I hadn’t built for yet and I came across JIRA, the Atlassian-owned agile project management software that the team at Workflow used to manage the backlog of tasks.
JIRA actually has fairly good Shortcuts support, while led to this apparent cry-for-help tweet with a fairly humorous set of replies:
But, as what tends to happen on Twitter, the challenges in the replies actually prompted me to think through why I felt this way – and I realized it sprang from a long-term dissatisfaction with my project management system:
For me, task managers are fine for managing existing tasks on the front-end, but the back-end of actually managing complex projects was missing for me as a multi-disciplinary independent worker.
The Shortcuts Catalog and its Shortcuts Library, Action Directory, and
redacted unreleased features are ongoing software projects with a backlog of issues, tons of tiny features or bugs I’d like to change, and iterative release cycles – and all of that fits much better into a tool like JIRA.
Plus I’m in control of the process, I am not working with others (where I imagine most of the pain of JIRA lies), and the Shortcuts support actually makes a significant different to me.
Additionally, with JIRA for Mac being built with the same technology as the iOS app, the Shortcuts for Mac actions just work – and it might make this one of the most powerful project management apps on the Mac (for Shortcuts users) right out of the box:
JIRA lets you pull your data in, then update it in a variety of ways.
Out of the set of actions, I created two shortcuts so far – View an issue and Add an issue:
“View an issue” improves on the default Run JQL query to pull a list of unresolved issues assigned to you, asks you to choose from the list, and opens your choice – I added a list of projects inside the shortcut to choose from as well:
Asks you to pick a project name from JIRA, then asks you to choose from a list of unresolved issues assigned to you and opens it.
“Create an issue” prompts you to enter your task title, then to pick a project, then creates a new issue – it doesn’t open the issue intentionally, however, so that I can use this create multiple issues in a row. I’ve also assigned this to a keyboard shortcut on the Mac as well, so I only have to hit Control + Option + Command + I and I can immediately track new issues/bugs right away:
Asks you to enter a task, then adds it as an issue in a preselected JIRA project.
I’ll be creating more shortcuts for JIRA and playing around with JQL stuff (in as simple a form as I can keep it) for members, so check out the beginnings of the collection here. And obviously this won’t exactly apply to everyone, so I won’t be focusing on it entirely, but if you do have experience with agile management and/or currently use JIRA at work, please let me know and we can brainstorm together:
🎮 Automating how to choose your video game session
After my JIRA bender, I had to relax my brain a bit with some video games – but of course that didn’t stop me from trying to automate my favorite game, Apex Legends:
Apex Legends is a free-to-play hero shooter game where legendary competitors battle for glory, fame, and fortune on the fringes of the Frontier.
See, Apex Legends released a new map a month ago, and, while it’s lots of fun, I’ve gotten a bit bored of it being in the main Ranked rotation the entire time.
In the Public matches, the map rotates between the new one and older maps – but only every few hours. So, I found myself signing into the game, checking the map, and deciding whether I want to play depending on the current map (there is a new Halo game, after all).
Naturally, I thought to myself that there had to be a way to automate this 🙃. And, to my luck (!), there is – thanks to a website called ApexLegendsStatus.com.
This site (and group of developers) have generated a public API using data gathered from Respawn (the makers of Apex Legends) – all I had to do was sign up for an API key, look at their documentation, start making Get Contents of URL requests in Shortcuts, and use Jayson to dig around with/prettify the results.
With a little experimenting and pulling the right dictionary keys, I made the shortcut below – it calls their Map Rotation endpoint, gets the current map data, also gets the upcoming map, and displays it all using Show Result:
Calls an Apex Legends API to get the activate map in Public matches and gives you the current information.
Now, whenever I want to check the current map, I can run the shortcut from my Shortcuts widget or Apple Watch – but even better, I can actually ask Siri and she’ll read out my little answer:
Many API shortcuts work in all forms.
And even better than that, I can just ask her on the HomePod sitting next to my gaming setup – it’s quite slick:
Plus, Matt VanOrmer jumped on the thread and made this amazing addition that plays off the meme of “Where we droppin’, boys?” for battle royale games like Apex Legends.
While you’re waiting for a game to load, you can run the shortcut below and it’ll grab the current map, pick from a list of named locations on that map, and randomly choose a spot for your team to land once the game starts – Siri can now pick your drop for you:
Pulls the current map in rotation for Apex Legends, then picks a random spot to drop on the map for you from a dictionary of locations for that map.
I’ve yet to tap into the Player Stats and other info, but my main use case is nicely solved, and., thanks to Matt, another one I hadn’t even considered it solved now too – I’ll have to save the statistics for another day when I need a break from something else 🤓.
🧩 Apps with new actions
Just Timers is working on more complex actions for Shortcuts that let folks do more with intervals – I’ve been intrigued in this app more after hearing CGP Grey talk about how he uses it on Cortex, so this thread was verrry interesting:
Timery, the community favorite time-tracking app, has updated the Shortcuts actions to include parameters for adding specific times – as noted in the tweet, this means folks don’t have to use Adjust Date every time they want to change the time period, which is a great catch by the developer Joe Hribar and shows how he was paying attention to how folks used it:
Michael Tigas of Focused Work put out this update a few weeks ago that lets you block apps & website while focusing, all built into the Shortcuts actions for the app – definitely check it out ahead of any New Years Resolutions you might be setting 😉:
And finally, the folks at LaunchBar have also teased a native integration for Shortcuts – it’ll be great to see all the major Mac automations app with their own Shortcuts support added in:
💡 Good ideas from the community
To start, Alexander put together a great thread with 9 tips for using Shortcuts on the Mac – I definitely recommend you read the whole thing and download his shortcuts too:
Matthew Bischoff shared a great method for clearing out your screenshots every night at midnight – someone in the comments also shared an alternate that accounts for the filename and works well if you’re running it on past screenshots (anything not from the last day).
Nathan Amery has made an amazing shortcut that uses the Live Text feature on an image and saves the results to Spotlight, which lets it index them and become searchable – to be honest, Apple should make this a default function of Live Text as well:
Will Hains shared this shortcut he uses to help his kids fall asleep – Counting Sheep is a clever idea:
Charles Vestal has shared a shortcut that takes advantage of Toolbox Pro’s text recognition and translation to automatically convert a screenshot into your language:
Kev on Twitter has shared a shortcut to search Genius for the current song – and I love that he keeps it in a Home Screen stack of widgets too, because keeping up to 10 shortcuts in a Single stack is an underrated method of accessing your shortcuts quickly:
LaRosa Johnson has also saved my bacon—and that of ___—this week with a shortcut that takes all of the weird line breaks in anything scraped from Live Text and fixes it using Match Text & a regular expression:
He’s also made an updated version that fixes a bug, so grab the link from this tweet:
📲 Shortcuts Spotlight
⌚️ Using Shortcuts for Apple Watch more
Alongside my experience of relearning how to use Shortcuts in context of a Mac app and everything that’s now possible there, I’ve also been experimenting more with Shortcuts for Apple Watch – I want to use my shortcuts in the right place at the right time, and this device is always with me.
For starters, it can be hard to simply remember to use the app often – this mostly true of all Apple Watch apps, which are deprioritized below the Watch face to make room for quick-glance complications.
Shortcuts for Apple Watch works well in this context for triggering single shortcuts that fit with the theme of your Watch face – you can set a complication to show a Watch shortcut, which displays the glyph for that shortcut inside a mini Shortcuts icon:
Setting a single shortcut as a complication.
Tapping the shortcut complication will open a prompt to confirm running the shortcut – this is an added layer of protection against errant taps on your watch screen, so that you don’t accidentally run your shortcut all day long by hitting your wrist on things:
This dialog interrupts all of your Shortcuts for Apple Watch set as complications.
However, in practice, I personally don’t find significant use for a single shortcut complication, mostly because that extra tap gives it just a little bit too much friction. But, in my typical fashion, I also probably just have too many ideas for Watch shortcuts (or even multiple ideas with a single context) that I can’t narrow it down well enough to put just one on a Watch face.
Instead, I like to set the complication to just open Shortcuts for Apple Watch– scrolling through my list and tapping on a shortcut to run it right away is basically just as easy. Plus I have my full set of shortcuts available, organized by color and custom sections I’ve designed:
Shortcuts from each of my custom areas on the Apple Watch.
I like using the Siri face with Shortcuts in the top left instead of the Siri button, putting the Shortcuts complication in any of the single circular spots across my other faces, and even inside some of my more nice-looking faces:
Ways to use the Shortcuts complication to open the app.
Plus, I realized that the easiest way by far to use all my Watch shortcuts would be making a Watch face dedicated to Shortcuts – and what better way that the X-Large face?
One easy way to use Shortcuts for Apple Watch more often: https://t.co/xBLgIUkp8C
10:58 AM - 8 Dec 2021
I have really been enjoying making better use of Shortcuts on my Watch, and have been developing some new use cases as well – but that’s for another issue. 😇
If you’re a member, make sure to also check out my Shortcuts Library to see all of my current and past Apple Watch shortcuts out now – this category will also be updated alongside my Shortcuts Catalog release:
Membership category for shortcuts that work with Apple Watch – currently includes 66 shortcuts.
Otherwise, that’s all for this week!
Hope folks are staying warm and cozy this winter season – see you next Sunday 🤖
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Matthew Cassinelli @mattcassinelli
Learn about Apple's Shortcuts from a former team member and get new shortcuts every Friday.
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-"What's New in Shortcuts - Issue #25"