I just checked on my reservation for my hotel in Seattle next year, and rebooking saved me $375! Same hotel, same room type, same rewards (hotels.com – collecting free nights). Not bad for a Thursday home sick.

Are you signed up for tonight's @LearnOmniFocus live session with me? It's all about Automating OmniFocus 3 Using Siri Shortcuts: Basics. I have three copies of Build Your OmniFocus Workflow to give away as part of the session! There's still time to sign up: http://bit.ly/2PyAUGe

Coming soon: Automating OmniFocus 3 Using Siri Shortcuts

Everyone loves Automation, or at least what it can do for them – and I’m a big fan (you may have guessed!). I’ve teamed up with Tim Stringer to produce automation focused content for his site Learn OmniFocus.

This weekend Tim is offering 25% off annual membership, and on top of that he is donating 20% of the income from this to CARE Canada (get the details here – make sure to get the coupon code!).

In the first session Tim and I have planned I’m going to get you started with OmniFocus and Siri Shortcuts – triggering OmniFocus perspectives with your voice, and building simple Shortcuts. We already have a second session planned for January too where we’ll dive deeper into what Shortcuts can automate in OmniFocus for you.

There’s some other great sessions coming up too:

And my sessions are:

If you’re a member you get to attend these live – which means you can ask questions and get them answered, as well as getting the opportunity to chat with other people interested in productivity. On top of this you get to attend Learn OmniFocus office hours where you can sit down with Tim and a few others for a confidential discussion about your system and ways you want to improve it.

I hope to see you at some of these sessions!

I do love it when things work out exactly – like I had really it in detail! Anyway, flights to Seattle booked, and a packing list made – someone said January will be cold? ๐Ÿ˜‡โœˆ๏ธ

Today is a milestone day. My boyfriend asked Alexa to put something on the shopping list! (He has previously only used it for limited music commands to my knowledge.)

Gentleman on the tube was so insanely happy that I gave him my seat I wonder if this is something that doesn't happen regularly? He had a cane and definitely needed the seat more than I do!

I love TFL messages:

"Passengers at the end of the platform are advised to move to the center of the platform to make it easier to get on the train, yes – you lot! You're not listening and we will not hold the train for you to get on!"

Automators 10: Zapier

Episode 10 of Automators is all about Zapier. David and I both recently dove into Zapier plans and thought it would be a great topic for an episode – after all, we use it to automate Automators!

As such, this episode goes behind the scenes and gives you some great examples of how you can get started with Zapier, as well as the advantages of using an online service for automation and some comparison to IFTTT and Microsoft Flow.

I hope you enjoy the episode and look forward to hearing how you use Zapier and any questions you might have in the forums. You can get the full details of the blog post over on MacSparky’s blog.

Episode 10: Zapier

After a bumpy flight I have landed! And there's an unattended bag in our way, so we're just sitting here while security handle that. ๐Ÿ˜ณ๐Ÿ˜ฌ

There are some wonderful app developers out there – to the point where in some ways I enjoy providing bug reports (and I love giving feedback!) – because I know they really care.

"The train will be approximately 5-10 minutes late."

Somehow the approximately doesn't fill me with confidence, have they misplaced the train? Do I need to look for it?


When life goes crazy it goes really crazy! Anyway, 2/4 flights survived, just one more trip to the UK this weekend and then I'm grounded until next year, I think.

In hotel juice escapades, this hotel claims to have orange and apple juice. The only thing that in common with actual orange or apple juice is the colour. Orange tastes like acid and apple tastes like water… How do they manage that?

Automators 9: Scriptable with Simon B. Stรธvring

Episode 9 of Automators is all about Scriptable, a great app released for iOS 12 which allows you to control your device with JavaScript. We were fortunate enough to have the developer of Scriptable, Simon B. Stรธvring come on the podcast to tell us about the app and some of the things it can do.

I’m going to use this article to give you a quick overview of Scriptable – if I wanted to detail everything you’d probably end up reading a 10,000 word post and this is supposed to be a blog post to accompany a podcast! So, let’s get started.

Scriptable is a framework which lets you control your device by writing scripts – much like Shortcuts it doesn’t do anything itself directly, but instead it enables you to write code which can do anything from check if Slack is down by reading a webpage, to manipulate your contacts, read an API key from your keychain, and even more.

Scriptable includes several example scripts:

  • ASCIIwwdc: This gets the transcript for any WWDC video
  • Countdown to Midnight
  • Import Selected File to Bear
  • Is Slack Down?
  • Latest News on MacStories
  • Reminders Due Today
  • Vue JSON
  • Watchlist: Manages a list of films you’d like to watch, which you share to it from the IMDB app
  • What is shared: A script which shows you how to interpret the sharesheet from various apps on iOS
  • Comic in Siri

Inside the app there’s documentation which tells you what you can do directly with the device, this includes:

  • Alert
  • Calendar
  • Contacts
  • Device
  • Dictation
  • Document Picker
  • Mail
  • Message
  • Photos
  • Reminders
  • Safari

… and much more! All of these are on top of what is regularly available in JavaScript – just like Drafts, Scriptable uses ES6 JavaScript, this is the most recent version and you can find a very comprehensive guide, plus tutorials on the Mozilla Developer site. We also mentioned the CodeAcademy JavaScript course which is good place to start learning JavaScript.

Another app we mentioned during the show was Pythonista which is a powerful scripting app for iOS – as you might guess from the name it’s Python based rather than JavaScript.

Every Scriptable script can be added to Siri right from it’s settings page, this is also where you can add it to Launch Center Pro, copy the URL scheme, say what the script can accept as input, or specify the script should always run in the app – listen to the chapter at 17:59 to find out why you might need to do this!

Towards the end of the show Simon mentioned some of the things he was working on and while he couldn’t make any promises when we recorded, Scriptable has been updated today! The update includes, auto complete, interactive tables, the ability to evaluate JavaScript in a WebView, a new contacts bridge, and more.

Even if you don’t know JavaScript and have no intention of learning it I highly recommend you download the app and try the example scripts – and don’t forget to check out the Scriptable category in the forums for more example scripts too.

Thank you very much to Simon for coming on the show, and thank you to Omni Group – makers of OmniFocus – for sponsoring it!

Episode 9: Scriptable with Simon B. Stรธvring

Chapter List

01:37: Pythonista
02:08: The origin of Scriptable
03:41: Pre-Launch Jitters
08:06: Example Scripts
11:08: System Integration
12:30: Early Feedback on Scriptable
13:36: Scriptable vs Shortcuts
16:22: Rose’s Good Morning with Scriptable
17:51: Launch Center Pro
17:59: Always Run in Scriptable?
20:18: URL Schemes
21:36: Nerds will not be stopped!
22:24: What can Scriptable do?
28: Sponsor: OmniFocus
29:55: Learning JavaScript
33:51: What is JSON?
35:36: Comic in Siri Script
40:26: What’s next for Scriptable?
43:36: Find us

Automators 8: Automated Document Filing

Episode 8 of automators is all about filing documents automatically. We we said in the episode, one of the keys to success is good naming and structure – and I made a screencast which shows you how you can use Keyboard Maestro to rename files in a specific format that we need for our project slides at work – with incrementing numbers in the middle of the document name.

Episode 8: Document Filing

Home automation is great when you're freaked out by something, tap my iPhone and set my lights at 100%… and see that my handbag fell off the beanbag! ๐Ÿคฃ

"Hey Siri, remind me to cook garlic bread in 20 minutes"

Then I looked at my watch as the HomePod responded and reminder was already showing on the Siri watch face. That, ladies and gentlemen, is why I love this stuff.

"It looks like you're working out, do you want to track it?"
You'd think my Apple Watch would figure out this is my daily sprint for the tram. ๐Ÿคท๐Ÿปโ€โ™€๏ธ

Using TripIt with Siri Shortcuts

I was most pleasantly surprised today to see an update to the TripIt app which added support for Siri Shortcuts. They’ve kept it quite simple, with just two options: upcoming flight information, and upcoming travel plans.


The upcoming flight information is especially helpful telling you how long you have before your flight, and the flight number as well as the airline.


The upcoming travel plans works in much the same way providing useful details. There is a nice touch if you don’t have any upcoming travel plans though:


I’m very pleased to see apps that aren’t for nerds updating with this sort of thing – that’s what is needed to help Shortcuts become truly useful for everyone.

Drafts 5.4

){.image-right} Drafts 5.4 is here today, and while it feels like it was just yesterday when it was released Greg has found numerous ways to improve things! Here’s a quick overview of all the features added:

Shortcuts Support

Shortcuts Action in Drafts

With the release of Shortcuts and it replacing Workflow we’ve got a fair few actions to update – thankfully the Shortcuts actions work the same way as Workflow ones did, so you can easily replace them. If you have an older device which Shortcuts doesn’t support but Drafts does then you can keep using Workflow though. There’s documentation on running Shortcuts in Drafts too.


Boy this is getting confusing! In iOS 12 every app has the option of telling Siri what you’ve been doing (stored locally on your device for privacy and security reasons), and these can then be suggested to you. This also means we can use these in the Shortcuts app as part of a longer chain of things – or individually (best set up via Settings > Siri & Search to avoid cluttering your Shortcuts app with potentially hundreds of one action automations!), via Siri or through typing in the search. We can use these to capture the clipboard, launch dictation, or view a specific draft which is ideal for reference material. Inside of Drafts you can add specific Drafts to Siri, and to add a Workspace.

Separators in Action Groups

We can now add separators in action groups – these are what they sound like, little dividers which help you split up your actions. It’s a small visual indication, but a big help when you have a longer list of actions – or many which are similar.

Don’t Sleep While Working

As part of a script step you can now tell your device you don’t want it to autosleep using app.isIdleDisabled – I’ve built this into some of my blogging actions so when I start a new post my device remains awake but when I publish it goes back to normal ๐Ÿ™‚

Dropbox API

One thing Shortcuts no longer does is integration with Dropbox, thankfully Drafts has come to my rescue by adding the Dropbox API! Details in the Scripting Reference. Look for ready to use example actions, like “Create on Dropbox Paper” in the Action Directory. I’ve created several actions which save files in multiple formats to specific directories in Dropbox and copy the folder URL back to my clipboard which is great for when I’m working on things things I am sharing with others! This alone makes Drafts worth the subscription price for me ๐Ÿ™‚

WordPress Integration

I didn’t think anything would make me consider going back to WordPress, but this nearly did! Drafts now has native integration which is quite simply wonderful.

Google Drive Enhancements

You can now create fully styled documents and PDFs through the Upload option when combined with the HTML Preview actions – and much more. Text uploads also support appending or prepending, and you can also upload Markdown and HTML.


  • There’s a nice new light grey theme which I’m using for “bright sunlight” days.
  • You can easily copy the UUID or the text of a Draft to the clipboard through the โ“˜ button, as well as a link to a Draft.
  • There’s a lot of tweaks for better performance!

You can see the full, official, release notes here.

You can get Drafts 5 on the App Store.

Automators 6: Automating Shortcuts with Matthew Cassinelli

For episode 6 of automators we were very fortunate to have been joined by the wonderful Matthew Cassinelli. Matthew writes for The Sweet Setup and iMore, has also written for Tech Crunch, and is a Shortcuts genius – we went through two more complex Shortcuts in this episode to give you some ideas of your very own.

Episode 6: Automators 6: Automating Shortcuts with Matthew Cassinelli

MacSparky Learn: Siri Shortcuts Course

My friend David Sparks has been at it again – there’s a brand new video course all about Siri Shortcuts.


The course includes 40 videos which total over 3 hours of material to watch, and loads of Shortcuts you can download directly. The guide is available for $24 right now, but will be going up to $29 shortly after launch.

What I love about this course is it doesn’t matter if you don’t know anything about Siri Shortcuts or Workflow, or if you’re a grand master – you can still learn something.

You can sign up for the course over at David’s new learning website, and while you’re there you should pick up his free Workflow guide too – learn.macsparky.com.

Apple Keynote: September 2018

I, like many of you I’m sure, watched last night’s Keynote waiting to see what new products Apple will sell me. I went into the event thinking I wanted a new Apple Watch and that I wouldn’t upgrade my 256GB iPhone X, and thankfully for my bank account came out of the event the same!

The Apple Watch has several new features will encourage members of my family to upgrade as well as myself. I bought my grandmother an Apple Watch after she had a nasty fall a few years ago and shattered her hip – my thinking was the SOS function would be useful for her, but now I would very much appreciate it if she had the automatic fall detection too. The low heart rate detection and ECG feature will be very handy for my father has there are hereditary heart problems in his family, plus he complains that the screen is too small so more screen will definitely go down well there. I’m very pleased that all the watch bands I’ve collected so far will continue to fit as well – I do like to co-ordinate the straps with my outfit!

The iPhone updates look pretty nice too, though I’m most intrigued by the NFC update which will allow apps to be triggered through NFC – as Tim Chaten said to me on Twitter this seems like it could be a big win for automation:

Boarding is finally beginning. 4 hours after the scheduled departure time! My plane plan involves noise cancelling headphones and sleep ๐Ÿ˜ด ๐ŸŽง

Automators 4: First Look at Siri Shortcuts

Episode 4 of automators is all about Shortcuts and Siri Shortcuts. We discussed what’s possible now, what we’re excited about (and not so excited).

I did mention my automation I now use when boarding a plane – this is available over on Sharecuts.app which we didn’t get into this episode, but it’s a great place to share Shortcuts and let other people download them!

You can listen to episode 4 on Relay FM, and discuss it in our forums!

Smart home things are fabulous, until the internet stops working. (Actually they work over the local network too, but that will not help if you switch to LTE to get data!)

Workflow: Markdown To Nice PDF

Every so often I want to make a nice PDF from some text which is currently formatted in Markdown and I often do this by sharing the text to Workflow. Unfortunately by default when you make rich text from markdown in Workflow you end up with something like this:

Yes, that’s Times New Roman. Not a font I usually use by choice. Thankfully however it’s quite simple to fix this with my Workflow. This can be accomplished in a number of ways, I convert the rich text to HTML, replace the <body> tag with one containing a HTML inline style (<body style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">), make rich text from that HTML, and then make the PDF. The body in HTML is where all of your content is, so this will then apply to all of your text. If you just wanted to change the first level of headings, you could replace the <h1> tags instead.

This is how the whole Workflow runs:

  • Make Rich Text from Markdown
  • Make HTML from Rich Text
  • Replace Text, this is where I replace the body tag.
  • Make Rich Text from HTML
  • Make PDF, make sure that include margin is enabled otherwise the PDF looks funny.

Bonus: The PDF contains the text as well, so it’s searchable and also accessible. All you need to do is to add an action at the end of the Workflow to make it do what you want with it, you could quick look it, share it, open it in another application or save it somewhere you choose!

You can get the simplest workflow here: Markdown To Nice PDF

It would also be possible to link a style sheet, such as the [Pure CSS] one, by adding the css link to the <head> tag, the caveat of this is most pre-built CSS files work best when you add classes to sections (e.g. <table> would be <table class="pure-table">), which will require many more Replace Text actions if you want to account for all the possibilities.

If you want the Pure CSS version is also available.

Sunday, I'm finally starting to feel vaguely human again (one of those virus things), listening to some random Apple Music playlist and eating ice cream!

I ordered a salad I've had several times before and enjoyed. It's supposed to come with cherry tomatoes, but this time they substituted grapes? I'm confused.

My morning so far:
Server maintenance survived!
Finished a cool Drafts Action for someone (tasks to Things, note to Bear).
Had an idea for work, checked documentation and theoretically it will function as I thought!
Filed beta feedback for apps.
Filed beta feedback for iOS.

Today is going to be productive ๐Ÿค“

The stitches are out! Apparently just two to three more weeks of healing to go. I really thought my last wisdom tooth removal would be less complicated… ๐Ÿคท๐Ÿปโ€โ™€๏ธ

Saturday morning task 1: clear out my @OmniFocus inbox! Task 2: figure out how to prioritise the 8 billion things it seems like I need to do now ๐Ÿ˜›

Automators 2: Email Automation

Episode 2 of Automators is all about automating email. We all have email, and there are a lot of things you can do to automate it – from filters, to mail merges, and complete automation of sending emails.

We’ve made 3 screencasts for this episode which you can find over on the YouTube Channel, and you can discuss the episode in the forum too.

Sonos and Airplay 2: First Impressions

I bought a Sonos One back when it was released late last year, and it quickly became something I used without thinking about it too much. I got a Spotify subscription and liked that I could just switch my stream from my headphones to the Sonos from the Spotify app – in contrast to Apple and Google Music services which required navigating the Sonos app. I prefer Apple Music though – being able to put my headphones on and just press play is a surprisingly powerful factor, so I switched away from Spotify and back to Apple Music.

Airplay 2 has given me the ability to switch where the music is playing to easily once more though, I can switch from my AirPods to my Sonos, there’s a very slight pause waiting for the stream to switch – but this is technology, not magic! You can use any app to play the audio elsewhere, though some apps need to update to support Airplay 2 and those are noticeable with a longer pause from when you press a music control button – but I’m confident we’ll get an update for these apps.

I’m currently listening to podcasts on my Sonos and it’s good – easy, no fiddling, just play and select the audio output. I have a feeling this might cause me to purchase a few more!

Current status: freezing to death on the train. If the other air conditioned places I'll be this trip have learnt the same trick I'm going to have to go and buy a hoody. And thermals!

Smart me last night packed my contact lenses and my glasses so that if I woke up late I could just go to the airport. Silly me this morning did not remember this and spent 20 minutes hunting for my glasses and eventually put on my old prescription… Oops?

When you fill out everything for a radar, then go to screen record the issue and it suddenly stops happening… ๐Ÿคท๐Ÿปโ€โ™€๏ธ

Shortcuts Beta now open!

Earlier today a few little birdies told me about the Shortcuts beta being open to sign up for if you have a developer account. If I hadn’t already had one I might have been tempted to sign up for it just for this!

It seems Apple is sending out the invitations pretty quickly as mine has already arrived. I’m really looking forward to testing this and getting stuck in – iOS 12 has made some big promises regarding automation, I bet it will live up to them!

You can read more about the current beta over on MacStories.

Beta for Shortcuts requested!
(Developer account required, login in, Downloads, request!)
If you can bump me up the list I'll buy you a cookie. Heck, I'll bake you a batch of cookies! ๐Ÿคฃ

I never thought I'd say this, but I need a longer commute! I can get a lot done on a tram with a 10.5" iPad Pro, Smart Keyboard, and cellular data! ๐Ÿšƒ ๐Ÿค“

I may have fixed my microblogging..!

Edit: Yes! I did, turns out it wasn’t on my end, or Micro.Blog’s – it was a GitHub issue ๐Ÿคทโ€โ™€๏ธ

Continuing listening to yesterday's @_upgradefm and I bought the Zoom H4N Pro for exactly the reasons outlined. Use it in person, as a USB interface, or with my iPad! (Even for double ended recording ๐Ÿค“)