It’s no secret that I love to travel – and I also love to be organized! Making a packing list is great fun, until you forget something so in this episode of Automators David and I decided to find as many ways as we could to solve the problem of creating a packing list. Naturally our techniques overlapped in a few places, but we still came up with a variety of solutions – which you can use to solve other problems too.


I’ve documented most of the Shortcuts in the show notes for this episode, but my Drafts action group (and accompanying Shortcut) need a little more space – so let’s dive in!

First of all, no matter how organised I might be I still need a task in my task management system to actually do the packing, so I kick off my process with a Shortcut, it looks through my calendar for all day events, I choose one of them, and then it creates a new Draft (tagged with packing) before adding a task to OmniFocus with the title “Pack”, a due date of the start date of the trip, and a link to my Draft in the note. You can download the Shortcut here: Create Packing List (Drafts & OF)

Now let’s look at my Drafts action group, this has 8 actions (I’ve expanded a little since recording).

Manage Template List
This gets you started with creating your basic lists if you don’t have them yet – you choose categories (it suggests Clothes, Toiletries, and Technology), and then set the emoji for each category before adding items to it.
If you already have a list you get 4 choices:

  • Add category – Asks you for the name of the category, an emoji to represent it, and items to add to it.
  • Update Emoji – Shows you all your categories and the emojis associated with them for editing.
  • Delete Category – Gives you a choice of categories to delete.
  • Manage Category Items – Allows you to add or remove items in a category as well as correct spelling.

None of these actions affect anything in any of your packing list – maybe someday I’ll get to it, but not yet.


  • To find emoji quickly use Emojipedia, it has a great search and you can copy the emoji with just a tap.
  • Add a πŸ”‹ emoji after anything that needs charging – I have a few actions to help you keep track of those.


Tag Packing List

This just adds the tag “packing” to your Draft so you can filter for these quickly.


Add Packing Items to List

This shows you a prompt with a list of your categories, you tap a category, deselect items within that category you do not wish to include (I assumed that you’ll likely want all items in a category), and the items are added to your list. After this it runs the action “Sort Packing Items” automatically.


Sort Packing Items

You might be wondering why I’m bothering to assign emoji to my categories – aside from “they’re cute”. It’s simple: Emoji are sortable. So everything with a πŸ‘– tag is grouped together. This way I can both visually identify items in a category, and the sort action (which is alphabetical) groups them together. All the items are in the task format in Drafts, this looks something like this:

- [ ] πŸ‘– Jeans
- [x] πŸ‘– TShirt
- [ ] πŸ›€ Shampoo

Tapping on one of the [ ] boxes checks it off ([x]) or unchecks it. The x is sorted below the space so unchecked items stay at the top.


Uncheck All

I like to reuse my packing list on the way home to make sure I don’t forget anything and that everything is charged, this unchecks everything, resets charging icons, and sorts the list again for me.


What should I charge?

Maybe I travel with too much tech, but I do travel with a lot and most of it needs charging – after all, what good is a battery pack that isn’t charged? Everything that needs charging has a πŸ”‹ icon at the end of it, this action grabs all of those items and shows them to me, selecting one replaces the battery with a πŸ”Œ emoji, so I can see it is ready.



For items that you add outside of your list you may wish to add the battery emoji, instead of hunting though your keyboard for it use this action. It will also replace the battery with a plug or vice versa.


Delete Item

This just deletes the current row in Drafts.


This all works with scripts in Drafts, I can’t guarantee it will work perfectly so I would love to hear your feedback!


To hear more about ways to create packing lists listen to Automators 33: Packing List Extravaganza. Thanks to our sponsors for this week’s episode: ExpressVPN and Daylite.

In this episode of Automators David and I got a chance to dive behind the scenes of ScreencastsOnline and into the Terminal app (not at the same time) with J.F. Brissette. David and J.F. met years ago at Macworld!

J.F. does editing and assembly for ScreencastsOnline β€” which means he spends a lot of time working with video and audio in ScreenFlow, and he has got his workflows down with automation. As he said β€œit needs to be automated if you’re going to use it as much as I do” which is something worth bearing in mind for any application you use heavily.

Keyboard Maestro is his tool of choice (as it is for many people), and he has many macros which he has found. The Clipboard History Switcher specifically makes it much easier to copy and paste elements around β€” also allowing you to create a palette of elements from your macros, something that applies to many kinds of work!

J.F. also uses Terminal a lot, for everything from opening apps to checking what day you were born on or what day your birthday will be on next!

open -a Safari
open -a "Keyboard Maestro"

These open apps β€” because Keyboard Maestro has a space in its name it needs to be wrapped in quotation marks. Note that capitalisation is optional, and you can use either single or double quotation marks β€” J.F. tends to use lowercase and single quotations, like this: open -a ‘keyboard maestro’.

cal 01 2021

This will show you a calendar for January 2021 – so you can quickly scan for β€œ11” and see that my birthday will be on a Monday!

We also had a look at regular expressions, which are a way to do search (and replace) with extra magic by defining very specific patterns. Shortcuts even supports regular expressions, both to “Replace Text” as well as with β€œMatch Text”, which can be followed by β€œGet Group from Matched Text.”

Thanks to our sponsors for this episode:

  • ExpressVPN: High-Speed, Secure & Anonymous VPN Service. Get 3 months free with a 1-year package.
  • Pushcut: Automation your way. Trigger iOS Shortcuts from anywhere. Try it free. P.S. If you haven’t listened to our members-only special yet you should – the camera and audio equipment were all monitored (and set up by) J.F.! Listen to

Automators 31: Making Your ScreenFlow Flow and More with J.F. Brissette.

Automators Artwork In episode 29 of Automators we got to talk to Adam Tow – creator of awesome automations. I met Adam at the Automators WWDC meetup this year and he demoed some of his wonderful shortcuts for me. I’ve seen them before and even tried them out, but once I saw Adam demoing them David and I knew we had to get him on the show to share how this all works!

Adam walked us through a few of his amazing automations:

  • MsgFiler: A way to file messages in Mail extremely quickly. I’ve been trying this since we recorded and I’m sold, I’ll admit I love using the keyboard and tend not to reach for the mouse unless I have to but this is a great utility!
  • Photo Magic: Adam has an amazing setup whereby photos taken on his DSLR end up automatically sent to him via iMessage, added to Photos, uploaded to Google Photos, oh, and the RAW photos are uploaded to Amazon too. Sounds crazy? There’s a bunch of very good reasons for this!
  • The Dark Dungeon Text Adventure: Did you know you can play a text adventure game in Shortcuts? Or have it translated into (almost) any language? Adam made it easy!

For more details you’ll have to listen to the show.

As a note, in the show I said I thought you could get a public link to a Dropbox folder through Shortcuts. You can get links to files, but for some reason links to folders no longer works – this is a shame, but we can hope that Dropbox offer this as a paramaterised Shortcut in iOS 13.

Thanks to our sponsor for this episode:

Episode 29: The Dark Dungeon with Adam Tow

In Automators 27 David and I did the thing we do best: ignore all the advice, install the betas, suffer for it, but in the end we got you the goods on Shortcuts in iOS 13 and what it’s really like!

One of the things we love in this new version of Shortcuts is the replacement of Get Variable with this new sentence format in each action.

Shortcut on iOS 12: Get calendar event, choose from list, get start time, get chosen event, get end time
Shortcut on iOS 12: Get calendar event, choose from list, get start time, get chosen event, get end time
iOS 13 version of the same shortcut
iOS 13 version of the same shortcut

I know in the episode I said I would do a video on this, but I think these screenshots explain it much better than a video would have! It’s now much easier to see what you’re working with – and that’s better for everyone from Shortcuts super nerds to people just poking around who find it installed on their devices after they update the OS in September.

I hope you enjoy listening to the episode – David and I are both running developer beta 3 now!

Episode 27: Shortcuts in iOS 13 – Diving into the Deep End!

One note: I said in the episode that I wasn’t able to run Shortcuts from notifications (e.g. with triggers like time) – beta 3 resolved this.

Thanks to our sponsors for this episode, Away and TextExpander from Smile.

In the latest episode of Automators, David and I dived into our home automation setups and went beyond “I can control it from my phone” to find out what things you can really automate, because that’s the kind of automation nerds we are!

I have personally been using Home 3 a lot to amp up my automations – this is what lets me specify the night time routine should only run if the kitchen light is on, and more. These things aren’t available in the Home app that comes baked into your iPhone, but this app makes them available and doesn’t require you to run anything else on a server somewhere to make it all work.

Listen to Automators 26: Getting Started With HomeKit

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