It happened.

It started with [Larry the Cat](https://twitter.com/Number10cat) and now my mum acknowledges that Twitter can be a very entertaining place! Of course, if you mostly follow upstanding comedians and cat accounts that’s a logical result!





Watching the prime minister speak live today (live stream), he doesn’t even know how many press briefings he’s done this week of this sort? I mean, I know there’s a lot going on, but one a day, and it’s Thursday… You don’t even need two hands to count that!













You know when you have an idea that just won’t let you go? That’s what’s happening to me right now. Only it’s not an idea, it’s multiple ideas. I’ll be in the corner eating chocolate while I figure this out 🍫💡



I do love wrapping presents, so having things arrive which need to be wrapped is filling me with cheer! And chocolate, but that’s because I keep eating the Christmas chocolate supplies I put on my desk for my co-workers…














Me: "Hey Siri, play some music."
HomePod: "Alright, let’s kick things off with Save Me by Queen"
Me: "Good choice!"
HomePod: …
HomePod: …
HomePod: …
HomePod: …
HomePod: …
HomePod: 🎵An Eternal Flame 🎵

The Bangles are not Queen.


One runs into all sorts of issues when recording audio. The cars going past blaring music, the neighbour drilling into the wall to set up new shelving. I honestly never thought that “a child having a tantrum at the end of the street” would be an issue though – they’re audible!







Goals are hard..!

So some time ago I set myself a goal and I’ve been plugging away at it, getting closer and closer to the point where it looks like I’ve done something. Unfortunately today I realised I’ve been ignoring the voice in the back of my head which says “you need to cover this part too!”, well today I just had an honest look at it and it turns out… that voice was right. I now have an even longer task list!











Timery, the Toggl App, has landed!


David Sparks and I teased it on Automators back in episode 17, and now the app is here: Timery, the Toggl app we all wish Toggl had made! the

What’s impressive about this app, is that I rarely launch it, but I’m pretty sure my workflow would feel broken without it. Timery has excellent integrations with Shortcuts, letting me start and stop timers as part of my automations without thinking. Whenever I run Shortcuts to put myself into certain modes (such as podcasting, or writing for my blog), as well as launching the correct applications, I also start logging my time. I also build in checks to let me know how long I’ve already worked on projects today when I end my timers – this is a not so gentle nudge that if I want to achieve my goals, I should invest an appropriate amount of time in them!
Saved timers
The main screen in Timers is your saved timers which serve three purposes, letting you start tracking a project, with tags and a description if you so choose, with just a tap. These timers are also donated to Siri (and therefore Shortcuts), and also display how long you’ve worked on those timers today. I find this screen great for both a quick overview as well as starting timers.

Creating a project in Timery

The next screen is Time Entries where you can see log of your most recent time entries. There are swipe options for these entries allowing you to delete or edit them, as well as play button which lets you start a new time tracking entry with the same parameters.

Tagging your time

The developer behind Timery, Joe Hribar, has worked extremely hard to make sure this app rivals the Toggl app – it has all the core functionality covered, as well as genuinely excellent shortcuts support. This means there’s full support for Workspaces, the premium Toggl feature which lets you helps you carve up your life further with tags and projects belonging to Workspaces.
Timerys Shortcuts
The way I use Timery most, is through Shortcuts. I use Launch Center Pro and Pushcuts to send me notifications which I use to launch Shortcuts, and these shortcuts tell Timery to track my time for me. As all the saved timers can be used to both start timers as well as check the time logged so far on each of them this alone becomes helpful for tracking time. The Shortcuts support allows you to toggle “show when run” (this is the only setting on all donated shortcuts within the Shortcuts app right now) – this is used to show you the details of your time tracking, and it’s done in a minimalist way which makes sure I see the information I need and can dismiss the notification within a second or two at most.

As well as the saved timers in the app, you can also just start time tracking and add the details you want or need – which makes it easy to get going and then you can give it a title, project, or tags later before you finish (or after the fact with the Timery club).

Timery Club

The Timery app in its free state is excellent, but if you join the Timery Club, an optional in app subscription of $9.99/year, as well as supporting development of the app you get extra functionality:

  • Unlimited saved timers, the free version allows you to have 4 saved timers (which in my opinion is a generous number).
  • Edit all the elements of time entries from the last week as well as delete and duplicate them.
  • Add historical time entries.
  • Add, edit, and delete Toggl projects, tasks, and tags.
  • Show your tag names in the saved timers (otherwise the tag icon is displayed)
  • Custom themes, app icons, and dark mode. Dark mode can be toggled based on the screen brightness, sunrise, and sunset, or manually.

App icons and theme
If you have no interest in tracking your time then this app is not for you, but if you’re curious about it, or have been struggling with it – or even if you already track every second and want to make your life easier, I highly recommend downloading Timery. It has made it much easier for me to track my time, because it is very simple to use – and in my case, it builds right into my shortcuts that I already use to launch a significant number of actions.

Timery feels like a much better-designed app than the Toggl app, there’s more data on the screen, and I can choose what data goes on what screen – as well as the Shortcuts that should be donated (instead of doing the action and letting it show up and then having lots of unnecessary actions in my Shortcuts app. Plus the developer is active and open to feedback and suggestions for improvement!

Timery is available on the App Store today, it’s a free download with an optional in app purchase for the Timery Club which is $0.99/month or $9.99/year.








I’m so glad that one of my favourite apps is getting the financial support to make sure the developer can keep working on it! If you haven’t tried Drafts yet, I recommend you do – the free tier is extremely generous and it’s a solid application for iOS and macOS.

 






My Wishes for iOS 13

Apparently it’s the season where everyone speculates on what might be coming at WWDC, while I’m personally hoping for new iMacs on the hardware front, there’s a few things that I could see benefitting us on the software front, so just in case Craig’s reading – I’ve been on my best behaviour this year ;).

I should note that these are in no particular order, other than that it seemed logical at the time and in many cases this was the order things occurred to me.

Picture In Picture

I love Picture in Picture. More often than not on a plane you’ll see me using my iPad in split screen with Drafts and DevonThink or Dash on the other side of my screen, and picture in picture moving from corner to corner. The problem is I have to keep moving the picture so I can see the information I’m looking for. I would love it if it could take the bottom third of the screen when doing the big small app split, or a bottom quarter when doing a 50/50 split.

Better Downtime Controls

I love Downtime, but it’s turned off on my devices most of the time. This is because I have an irregular schedule – sometimes I get up at 3am to record Podcasts, and other times it’s just very early for flights (it doesn’t handle timezone changes too well either). I would love to be able to set multiple downtime modes, and assign them to different times of the day (layering on top of one another) – ban myself from accessing my work apps after work, and disable it for one day when I need to. I’d also love to be able to control it via the control center, Siri, and Shortcuts – turning on one of my Downtime modes. You can already customise which days you enable it on and for which times on those days – this is an excellent start, let’s take it up a notch.

More multi tasking

3 Apps at Once

I would love to be able to see 3 apps at once properly, now I don’t always need this – but for people with a 12.9″ iPad I can see this coming in handy, being able to see a PDF and Safari for reference, plus the document you’re writing. This might never make it to any other devices, and I could live with that (despite having a 11″ iPad Pro), but this would be great for those the times when you need it.

Two versions of the same app

Word is an application I don’t particularly enjoy using, but I get a fair number of documents in Word format, trying to compare those, or reference one and edit the other is an exercise in frustration. More and more apps are building their own version of split view, but if iOS could offer the framework to open multiple instances of the app at once, that would be a great help – sliding one over the other with slideover would be very useful. I presume iOS would prevent users from opening two instances of one document.

Shortcuts Updates

Now we’ve had Shortcuts for a good amount of time and I’ve had a good chance to play with it, there are still a few things I would wish for. These are mostly related to making things more Siriable – so I wouldn’t need to interact with the device physically after having triggered a shortcut via Siri.

Ask for Input

Ask for Input is a really powerful action, if this could be transformed into Siri reading the hint/question, and dictation working as the response that would be extremely useful – I would only expect this to happen when the Shortcut was run through Siri, and the dictation would have to figure out how to stop itself (perhaps just use the standard dictation action which ends on a pause/after a not too long a period of time?) – but this would allow many automations to become hands and eyes free. The problem with current approach is you must decide if you will run this shortcut via voice, or directly from Shortcuts/the widget and prefer to type. It would be very useful if this could be dynamic.

Full Screen Text Action

There are times when we use the Text action for much more than it was intended, and this can mean that we have virtual novels in there. The problem with the text box is that it never adapts to the contents, so you are limited to the few lines and whatever the width of your device allows. I would love to see a feature where if you tap into a text box it expands to fill the screen allowing you to edit to your heart’s content.

Choose from Menus & Lists through Voice

Everyone has been stuck in a phone tree at some point in their life, “Press 1 to talk to sales, press 2 to request a statement, press 3 if you hope to talk to a person sometime today” (no offence to sales, but they always seem to have about 500 more levels of phone tree inside of their options!). This isn’t perfect, but it’s familiar and it works. This goes back to running a Shortcut via Siri though, if there’s a menu or a list you have to tap to pick an option – being able to do that via voice in some way or another would be amazing. Being able to choose one of a number of options through voice would make running many of my existing shortcuts through Siri easier – and I would run them more on my HomePod.

Unset Variables

Sometimes you just need variables for a short amount of time. Magic variables are fabulous – but not always what you want (and especially if you’re restructuring things you had already made without magic variables – though that’s becoming less and less of an issue with time, you might not have used them). What I would like is an additional action to unset a variable – so after that is done it no longer shows up in the list of variables, and no longer has any content. This would mostly make life easier when reworking longer automations, and for people not used to Shortcuts yet. It would also let you immediately see below that action where the Variable has been used – assuming it turns red like magic variables do when you delete the action that creates them.

Define Your Own Function

You can run a Shortcut inside a Shortcut, which is then just like a function. I now have numerous Shortcuts in my library which are only ever run as a function – I would love to see the option to mark these as such, so they never show up in my share sheet, and perhaps allow me to filter quickly for these when I’m editing a “Run Shortcut” action.

Organisation

Speaking of filtering – please for the love of Clarus, let us organise our Shortcuts in some manner. Folders, tags, at this stage I don’t really care (probably folders, considering the poor treatment tags get in Files on iOS), but let me group and organise Shortcuts in a manner logical to me.

Mac Version

This is probably a way off, but if we could get Shortcuts on the Mac then I think a lot of people would be very excited. URL Schemes are already supported, and just the ability to edit these things on yet another one of your devices would be much appreciated. Automator’s limitations from the built in actions really show in comparison to Shortcuts, (e.g. the add Calendar Event action in Automator only lets you hard code dates/times natively, whereas Shortcuts allows you to type “next Tuesday at 9am” and will calculate the date for you).

More System Controls

There are many things people would love to control through Shortcuts, from VPN to which Airplay device music should play to. These would deepen the amazing integration that’s already there and I can’t see anyone being upset that you can control a VPN when you can already control the Wifi.

### Allow Donation of More Powerful Actions
iOS 12 made an impressive start by allowing app developers to donate (that’s really the term) Shortcuts to Siri, I hope to see iOS 13 take this up a notch.

Accept Input and Return Output

If the donated Shortcuts could accept input and return output instead of requiring us to work around things with the clipboard this would both make things more flexible for us as users, and preserve our clipboards too.

Editable Actions

Donated actions are “finished” items right now – you can’t edit them, this is fine if there is an equivalent way to create this action yourself, but what I’m personally finding is that a donated action is a great one, but I would like to use it as the base for something else quite often. Being able to specify which OmniFocus Perspective I’d like to open by typing the name, or choosing from a list would be a boon, and hopefully would also clear up some of the Send a message to Mum "I'm running 5 minutes late" littering my action list right now.


Shortcuts App Store

We have stickers, why not shortcuts? This would be a way for Apple to extend the gallery, whilst also giving people a vetted source of Shortcuts (assuming there is a Shortcuts review). I would think this would require some way to hide the actions in a Shortcut – perhaps a “Run Only” mode for these. I’m sure that the MacStories collection would become available in short order, and I would be happy to make Shortcuts and put them on the Shortcuts store too.

iMessage Shortcuts

iMessage apps may not have been as popular as Apple envisioned, but letting us program our own Shortcuts to use in iMessage with just a tap would make life easier for everything from sharing availability to rick rolling your friends.

watchOS

This is stolen from Twitter, but I would love to see this grid based dock in the next version of watchOS.





Automators 18: Terminal Automation with John Siracusa

On episode 18 of Automators David and I interviewed John Siracusa, web developer, Perl fan, and former reviewer of Mac OS X (as it was then) for Ars Technica. John was a wonderful guest on the show – we talked about what automation he does, and doesn’t do – as well as the how and the why! Like many of our listeners John is very much a Mac first user – I hope you enjoy the show!

Episode 18: Terminal Automation with John Siracusa














Review: Satechi 75W Dual Type-C PD Travel Charger

Everything is changing to USB C – great! But also, eek. That means it’s time for new chargers. Now, I’ll grant you, I’m a nerd and I love shopping for new chargers! But trying to find one I want, that charges the devices I want, which can be shipped to me (Austria uses Amazon Germany, and as many residents of Austria are aware, lots of things “Cannot be shipped to Austria” – for reasons unknown) is actually not that fun after 3 hours of trying to figure it all out.

My primary search criteria over the last few months has been “more than one USB C port”, this has been a challenge, to say the least. One of the things I decided I was willing to capitulate on early on was that it should also be able to charge my MacBook Pro. I love my 15″ device, but in hindsight maybe I should have gone 13″ – as then it just needs 60W of power. But as a friend said not long ago, when does the 15″ really need 87W of power? For intensive things yes, but for writing scripts, blog posts, even running MAMP as my virtual server? Not so much.

Then CES happened. As always, there were lots of shinies – some of which are weird and probably won’t be seen or heard from again. However, there were also the “ready to ship” things, including a new charger from Satechi.

This charger is the success to my previous Anker 5 port charger – one of those ports being a USB C PD port. The Satechi though, has 2 USB C ports, one 60W, one 18W (handily noted in very small font below the ports), and 2 USB A ports. So technically I’m losing a port – but as I always take a small single USB A port device with me for use in the airport I can manage if I really need 5 ports at once.

I’ve been putting the charger through its paces since I got it on Tuesday, and I’m impressed.

I’ve been using the 60W port for my MacBook Pro, it works, it’s a little slower than the 87W when the device is in use – but I can live with that. The 18W has been used for my iPad Pro and Nintendo Switch, it works great – they both charge quickly with no issues. The other two ports have an Apple Watch cable plugged in, and an Anker 3 in 1 cable (Micro USB, Lightning, USB C), the latter for charging my iPhone, AirPods, Bose headphones, and also for powering my Raspberry Pi Zero Portable development server.

Usually, chargers get warm when using them, it’s currently charging my MBP (which is asleep), this iPad which I’m writing the blog post on, my Apple Watch and my iPhone XS Max. If I touch the charger it’s slightly warm, that’s it. When I was using my MacBook Pro earlier today and charging my Bose headphones, and Nintendo Switch it got a little warmer, but still pleasant to touch.

One of the reasons why I wanted this charger is it takes a standard figure of 8 cable, and it’s 110V-240V. That means I can just swap the cable and use it at home in Europe, as well as here in the US (it wasn’t available for purchase in the EU and as I was on my way here it seemed like an opportune moment to get it!).

https://resources.rosemaryorchard.com/images/blog/review-satechi-75w-dual-type-c-pd-travel-charger/satechi-charger.jpeg)

What does it look like? Size wise, similar to my 87W MBP charger – it’s a little longer, but also shorter, thickness and weight wise they feel about the same. It’s space grey, and has one cable coming out of the back for power, and depending on what you want to charge, up to 4 out of the front – that means it can look a little messy but for the price of power I’ll take it! It does have a blue LED on the front, thankfully it’s quite dim and hasn’t disturbed my sleep over the last few nights. That being said, when I get home I’ll put some electrical tape over it – there’s nothing worse than a light when you’re trying to sleep and can’t – it may as well be the eye of Sauron!