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