In episode 21 of Automators, David and I were joined by the lovely Dr Drang! You may have heard him on a few other podcasts, including Mac Power Users.

We dug into getting started with HyperCard and HyperTalk – back when those were available, these were created by Bill Atkinson – and there’s a story about him having to submit the number of lines of code he wrote when he was working on QuickDraw that made me smile!

Nowadays Dr Drang mostly using Python to program his automations – with a dose of AppleScript and Keyboard Maestro to get certain information.

Regular Expressions are something we talked about in depth, they’re hard to explain – let alone on a podcast, but as David said – they’re essentially a special language for searching. One thing I forgot to say on the podcast was that regular expressions can and do vary between languages – but the basic rules stay the same which makes things easier! If you want to get started with Regular Expressions then Regex 101 is a pretty good place to get started – you can input plenty of sample text and it highlights what you’ve matched as you go, as well as explaining your expressions and having the quick expressions area in the bottom right-hand corner.

Another thing we talked about are things you don’t necessarily want to complete to automate – such as sending invoice emails or creating the harsher reminder email to pay an overdue invoice. This is something well worth keeping in mind when creating automations – even if you can automate it the whole way through, it’s good to have some human intervention in some areas. And in some places, you can’t automate things – such as adding a repeat to a reminder, so you need to step in and do something.

Local weather is something lots of people want! And while Weather Underground has shut down you can still use Dark Sky’s API if you want to program your own solution, and for an “out of the box” solution you could use Netatmo and Carrot weather – I do both of these!

Drafts is one of my favourite applications ever and it was great to hear Drang break down his blogging workflow and how it makes use of the great automation features available to us in the app. The Drafts Action Directory is an excellent resource and all of the actions there can be installed whether or not you’re a pro user of the app.

Handling missing input in Shortcuts

One tip I talked about in regards to Shortcuts is checking if input is present – and I have a fairly standard setup I use to handle this:
* Count Items
* If equals zero
* Get photos/files – depending on what you want
* Else: get the input provided to the shortcut.

This means that when I run my shortcuts from the widget screen, Drafts, Launch Center Pro, or directly within Shortcuts, I don’t get confused when it doesn’t work.

It was excellent to have Dr. Drang on the show, and I hope you enjoy the episode!

Thank you to Luna Display and TextExpander for sponsoring this episode.

Listen to Automators 21: Invoicing, Writing, and Regular Expressions with Dr. Drang

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