Once I lined the up to date Shortcuts app in my iOS and iPadOS 13 assessment earlier this 12 months, I argued how, because of parameters, Shortcuts actions offered by third-party apps may turn into native options of the Shortcuts app.
Along with his debut app Toolbox Professional, launched right now on the App Retailer, developer Alex Hay has taken this concept to its logical conclusion: Toolbox Professional is a brand new type of “headless” app – a utility whose sole objective is to enhance and prolong Apple’s Shortcuts app with over 50 new actions, offering a local implementation of functionalities that Apple hasn’t dropped at Shortcuts but. After having used Toolbox Professional for the previous couple of months, not solely is the app a intelligent concept nicely fitted to Shortcuts’ parameter framework, however it’s additionally vital for anybody who depends on Shortcuts each day.
Right here’s how I described parameters in September:
Parameters are the Shortcuts API I’ve lengthy argued Apple wanted to maneuver previous URL schemes: they’re variables that may go dynamic enter to an app by way of a shortcut; the app can carry out the chosen motion within the background (with out launching), and, not like in iOS 12, go again outcomes to the Shortcuts app or Siri. With parameters, app shortcuts are not mounted actions: they are often personalized by the consumer to carry out completely different instructions, permitting for higher flexibility than iOS 12’s Siri shortcuts and a safer mannequin than Shortcuts’ outdated x-callback-URL actions.
With parameters, third-party apps can carry their functionalities and content material into Shortcuts; they are often built-in with Shortcuts’ default actions and, even higher, they are often related to actions from different third-party apps by way of the editor as nicely. We’ve seen some terrific examples of this expertise over the previous few months: from Drafts’ textual content and workspace actions and Streaks’ deep integration with parameters to Reeder’s latest embrace of shortcuts to save lots of and retrieve articles, Apple has allowed builders to run free with their shortcut implementations. As somebody who, amongst different subjects, covers Shortcuts for a residing, it’s been an thrilling season by way of developer adoption and new potential use instances for the app.
In most apps, Shortcuts actions are seen as a pleasant plus to the core in-app expertise – one other sort of extension that, akin to widgets and share sheet actions, lets an app higher combine with the remainder of the system. Toolbox Professional is completely different: the app itself is merely a container of actions, which you should utilize within the Shortcuts app as a part of your customized shortcuts. You’ll solely open the Toolbox Professional app itself to learn documentation for every motion, obtain examples created by developer Alex Hay, and tweak just a few settings. For essentially the most half, you’ll be benefiting from Toolbox Professional’s distinctive options as actions within the Shortcuts app, thereby yielding a special type of expertise with the app – accessed not by way of its icon on the Residence display screen, however solely by way of actions in Shortcuts.
As I’ll showcase by way of a number of examples on this story, what makes Toolbox Professional particular isn’t simply its inclusion of extra esoteric superior options that stretch Shortcuts for automation veterans – it’s the truth that along with these energy consumer instruments, the app additionally gives intuitive, user-friendly actions for system options that Apple itself has but to combine with Shortcuts.
Toolbox Professional has deeper Reminders integration than Apple’s personal Reminders actions; the app provides actions to scan paperwork with iOS’ native doc scanner and carry out OCR on them utilizing Apple’s Pure Language framework; there are actions to play haptic suggestions, course of photographs with Core ML instruments, and even authenticate with Contact or Face ID. Toolbox Professional’s method is a great transfer: as Apple appears primarily targeted on fixing bugs within the Shortcuts app at this level within the iOS 13 cycle, a third-party app can present native actions for options customers have been anticipating, however which the corporate hasn’t applied but.
As at all times with my Shortcuts-related tales, I want to let precise examples converse for themselves. Under, you’ll discover 10 examples of Toolbox Professional-based shortcuts you’ll be able to obtain at no cost and discover within the MacStories Shortcuts Archive, every accompanied by a proof of the actions behind it. Moreover, I will probably be releasing 7 superior shortcuts solely for Membership MacStories members in Situation 200 of MacStories Weekly later this week. I’ve had plenty of enjoyable studying Toolbox Professional and constructing shortcuts for it over the previous few months, and plenty of of them have turn into a part of my iPhone and iPad Residence screens. Let’s dive in.
The Toolbox Professional App
At a excessive degree, Toolbox Professional’s actions behave in two alternative ways when executed from the Shortcuts app: most of them run inline inside the shortcut editor and go outcomes to the next actions; because of reminiscence constraints of iOS and iPadOS, others must launch Toolbox Professional to briefly carry out further processing earlier than reopening Shortcuts mechanically. In each instances, you by no means see any URL schemes and all actions will be configured with parameters contained in the Shortcuts app.
The distinction between actions that run in Shortcuts and those who launch Toolbox Professional are defined within the Toolbox Professional app, which acts as a compendium of types to grasp the aim of every motion with richer documentation than the quick descriptions offered within the Shortcuts app. In the principle Instruments web page, you’ll discover a checklist of each motion supplied by Toolbox Professional; you’ll be able to seek for an motion by title, or you’ll be able to faucet on one to open the total description, which exhibits useful labels that point out whether or not an motion is accessible at no cost, runs in Shortcuts or Toolbox Professional, and requires an Web connection. Toolbox Professional is free to obtain; to make use of its premium actions, you’ll must unlock a one-time $5.99 In-App Buy.
The outline pages in Toolbox Professional do a fairly good job explaining the performance of an motion, the enter it accepts, and the info it gives as output to different actions. I’ve usually discovered myself opening the Toolbox Professional app simply to learn the documentation and achieve extra readability on a particular motion’s objective and anticipated outcomes. For actions that require leaving Shortcuts to carry out further processing in Toolbox Professional, the app at all times explains that output knowledge will probably be written to the system clipboard, which suggests you’ll have to make use of ‘Watch for Return’ and ‘Get Clipboard’ steps in your shortcuts.
The very best facet of the Toolbox Professional app is its in depth gallery of instance shortcuts you’ll be able to obtain to begin benefiting from the app’s actions. Related shortcuts are embedded in every motion’s description, however it’s also possible to open a devoted Examples web page to search out all shortcuts created by developer Alex Hay, organized by class.
Hay has assembled a pleasant assortment of shortcuts that cowl a wide range of use instances for Toolbox Professional: whereas a few of them are, successfully, tutorials within the type of downloadable shortcuts that serve to show you how one can use sure actions (equivalent to checking on your gadget’s movement or designing wealthy menus), others are bona fide superior shortcuts that come bundled with the app at no cost. You’ll discover shortcuts to create new packing lists in Reminders, share a tune with hyperlinks to a number of streaming providers, write to and skim from NFC tags, and much extra. As a part of Apple’s stricter safety settings in iOS 13, all shortcuts have to be put in by way of iCloud.com hyperlinks, which is able to open instantly within the Shortcuts app and let you see all actions contained in a shortcut.
The Toolbox Professional app can be the place you’ll be capable to see and handle international variables that can be utilized by Toolbox Professional actions. International variables are one of many many examples of options which have lengthy been requested by Shortcuts customers, and which have been applied by Alex Hay in Toolbox Professional. Within the Shortcuts app, variables are momentary: their worth lasts so long as a shortcut is working; if you wish to persist knowledge between shortcuts and retailer, say, some textual content or a URL to reuse throughout completely different shortcuts at completely different deadlines, your finest probability is to depend on iCloud Drive paperwork as a workaround.
Toolbox Professional’s international variables present a sublime resolution to this downside: they will maintain any type of textual content knowledge in any format, they’re encrypted domestically utilizing the system’s keychain, they usually’re securely synced throughout units by way of your iCloud account. You’ll be able to create, replace, and delete international variables utilizing devoted actions within the Shortcuts app, however it’s also possible to preview and modify them from a standalone web page in Toolbox Professional.
Whereas Toolbox Professional’s international variables (and associated administration instruments) aren’t as superior as what will probably be potential in Simon Støvring’s upcoming Knowledge Jar utility (which I’ve additionally been testing), they supply a sooner, extra intuitive, safer resolution to storing knowledge than iCloud Drive paperwork, and I’ve been utilizing them to nice impact in a few of my extra superior shortcuts.
Toolbox Professional’s Utilities
Apart from international variables, there are a number of different quality-of-life enhancements offered by Toolbox Professional as Shortcuts actions. These are precisely the kinds of capabilities you’d anticipate Apple to construct into the Shortcuts app as pre-installed actions; as a substitute, they have been created by a third-party developer and built-in natively with Shortcuts because of parameters in iOS 13.
For a full checklist of the instruments and capabilities baked into Toolbox Professional, I like to recommend trying out this web page on the app’s web site. There are some highlights I need to level out right here although.
Toolbox Professional comes with some exceptional actions to take care of textual content and lists.1 With the ‘Trim Textual content’ and ‘Fast Match Textual content’ actions, developer Alex Hay has abstracted the complexity of standard expressions and constructed visible actions that allow you to take away characters in the beginning or finish of some textual content, discover textual content earlier than or after a selected string, and even isolate textual content situated between two strings. With out Toolbox Professional, you’d have to jot down regex to copy these capabilities; with Toolbox Professional’s actions, you simply must faucet just a few parameters and insert variables the place wanted.
Should you’re coping with a listing of things within the Shortcuts app and need to take away duplicates from it, your finest guess is to iterate over every merchandise within the checklist and add it to a variable if the variable doesn’t already include it. It’s an easy-enough routine operate, however it’s at all times a chore to place collectively. Toolbox Professional’s elegant resolution to the issue? A single ‘Take away Duplicates’ motion that may discover duplicate objects in any variable and go again a de-duplicated checklist.
However there’s extra: you’ll be able to kind lists, reverse their order, and even filter lists by selecting which objects to maintain or discard based mostly, as soon as once more, on parameters you configure visually. These are frequent ideas that each Shortcuts consumer has encountered sooner or later of their expertise with the app. As an alternative of cleverly working across the absence of those native capabilities in Shortcuts, Toolbox Professional provides you visible, self-contained actions that obtain the identical objective, waste much less code, and are extra readable because of parameters and Shortcuts’ new pure language editor.
Maybe one in every of Toolbox Professional’s most fascinating integrations is its inclusion of machine learning-based actions that use Apple’s Core ML and different frameworks to course of content material handed by Shortcuts. The ‘Acknowledge Objects in Picture’ motion, as an illustration, makes use of the MobileNet Core ML classifier to investigate the contents of a picture offline, on-device, in a pair seconds. By passing a photograph to this motion, which runs fully inside Shortcuts, you’ll be capable to get a listing of the objects acknowledged in a picture together with the classifier’s confidence degree. As with different customized knowledge sorts returned by Toolbox Professional, you’ll be able to faucet on the ‘Acknowledged Object’ variable to entry completely different properties for acknowledged objects.
Additionally working inside Shortcuts and based mostly on the Imaginative and prescient framework, the ‘Detect Faces’ motion tells you whether or not a photograph comprises a face or not. You’ll be able to even configure the motion to go a thumbnail picture displaying boundaries across the detected face:
In iOS 13, Apple launched new Imaginative and prescient APIs for picture saliency to generate warmth maps and establish the components of a picture most probably to attract consideration. With no programming required, Toolbox Professional comes with a single motion that allows you to get hold of such warmth maps for areas of consideration in addition to objects acknowledged by the machine studying framework in any picture:
Toolbox Professional’s machine studying instruments transcend picture evaluation: it’s also possible to extract textual content from photographs utilizing Imaginative and prescient’s built-in OCR framework by way of the ‘Get Textual content From Pictures’ motion. Attributable to reminiscence constraints, this is among the actions that has to launch Toolbox Professional and swap again to Shortcuts as soon as processing is accomplished a pair seconds later. You’ll be able to select between two choices: you’ll be able to set the motion to make use of a sooner, however much less correct OCR algorithm when scanning a picture for textual content, or you should utilize machine studying to right for potential language errors within the parsed textual content. Once more, “use machine studying” is lowered to a single On/Off swap with Toolbox Professional, which will be configured inside Shortcuts.
Past machine learning-powered actions and instruments to deal with textual content and lists of objects, Toolbox Professional provides a number of good, smaller integrations that may make your customized shortcuts smarter and shorter. On appropriate iPhone fashions, you should utilize a ‘Haptic Suggestions’ motion that performs a faucet of your selecting, equivalent to “error” or “success”; you’ll be able to verify whether or not darkish mode is enabled or audio is at present taking part in; you’ll be able to authenticate by way of Face ID or Contact ID to verify that you’re, certainly, working a shortcut; you’ll be able to create photographs (known as “stable mattes”), design wealthy menus with SF Symbols as glyphs, crop photographs manually (restoring a performance Apple faraway from Shortcuts), get particulars on the gadget you’re utilizing, and much extra. Once more, for an entire overview of all of the actions out there in Toolbox Professional, I like to recommend trying out the total checklist on the developer’s web site right here.
My Toolbox Professional Shortcuts
As you in all probability know since I began overlaying Workflow 5 years in the past, one of the best ways to grasp new Shortcuts options is to try precise shortcuts and see how they work. For this assessment, I’ve ready 10 Toolbox Professional-based shortcuts that you will discover under and obtain at no cost from the MacStories Shortcuts Archive, which now provides greater than 200 shortcuts.
The shortcuts I’ve created for MacStories cowl 4 main areas of curiosity for Toolbox Professional (Digital camera & OCR; the Preview software; Textual content Evaluation; Reminders integration) and mix built-in, Apple-made Shortcuts actions with enhancements offered by Toolbox Professional to unlock functionalities that wouldn’t be potential with Shortcuts alone.
On the finish of this part, you’ll additionally discover a preview of 7 unique shortcuts that will probably be launched for Membership MacStories members later this week.
Digital camera and OCR
Toolbox Professional sports activities in depth integration with the textual content recognition options of Apple’s Imaginative and prescient framework. Particularly, the app can carry out OCR on photographs to retrieve textual content (with two levels of velocity/accuracy) in addition to use the system’s doc scanner to scan paperwork.
The primary shortcut I put collectively, known as Doc OCR, enables you to carry out OCR on an present doc or picture by sending a file to Toolbox Professional. After selecting an possibility from a menu, you simply want to attend a pair seconds for OCR to complete and acknowledged textual content will probably be handed again to Shortcuts. On the finish, you’ll be able to determine whether or not you need to use the acknowledged textual content or run OCR once more.
Right here’s the Doc OCR shortcut in motion:
In my expertise, Apple’s OCR (lately seen in apps like Prizmo Go and GoodNotes) has been quick and ok for paperwork the place textual content was clearly legible towards a light-weight background. I’ve been utilizing this shortcut frequently to extract textual content from photographs.
There are some implementation particulars about this shortcut I’d like to focus on. Very like all the opposite Toolbox Professional shortcuts I’ve created to date, this shortcut makes use of wealthy menus to choose from a listing of a number of choices. Not like “conventional” lists, these menus characteristic a coloured glyph subsequent to the motion’s label, plus a subtitle – they usually also can include further knowledge in different hidden fields. Toolbox Professional enables you to design these menus with the Create Menu Merchandise motion, which comes with its personal icon generator that allows you to select from a set of default icons and colours, load a picture from a file or URL, or – and that is fairly spectacular – use any SF Symbols glyph title because the icon.2
Apart from their pleasing aesthetic and the liberty granted by SF Symbols, what’s nice about these menus is that they’re not a brand new concept (bear with me): developer Alex Hay has taken an present superior Shortcuts method (some would name it a workaround) and constructed an intuitive UI round it.
Below the hood, these menus are interpreted by Shortcuts as contact playing cards: not like with different kinds of lists, if you select from a listing of contacts in Shortcuts, you’ll be able to see profile footage and extra fields for every possibility. Creating wealthy menus with out Toolbox Professional is lower than splendid on condition that you might want to take care of the uncooked VCF syntax to create faux contact playing cards; with Toolbox Professional, you’ll be able to design menus visually by selecting any shade or glyph you need and embedding variables inside the menu merchandise because of parameters.
Apple ought to present a local resolution for constructing wealthy menus that doesn’t contain creating contact playing cards for non-contact objects; till that occurs although, Toolbox Professional’s actions to create menu objects and retrieve particulars about them are a very good abstraction of the workaround, and I take advantage of them so much.
Carry out OCR (Optical Character Recognition) on a doc. You’ll be able to import a doc from Information or a scanned picture from Images. Acknowledged textual content is copied to the clipboard and will be shared with app extensions. Toolbox Professional is required for this shortcut.
I’ve additionally been benefiting from Toolbox Professional’s textual content recognition actions in a pair different methods. I’ve a US Apple ID, so I ceaselessly use iTunes present playing cards to replenish funds in my account. The web site the place I purchase these present playing cards usually sends them as scanned copies of bodily playing cards, which suggests I’ve to manually transcribe the redemption code and open the App Retailer to redeem it. That’s no strategy to reside.
With my Scan iTunes Reward Card shortcut, you’ll be capable to take an image of an iTunes present card (or import it from the clipboard if you happen to’ve already copied it) and crop it in order that solely the redemption code is proven. The shortcut will do the remaining: it’ll run textual content recognition to show the code’s picture into precise textual content, affirm with you that the scanned code appears to be like proper, and open the App Retailer’s Redeem web page with the code already filled-in.
This shortcut is a pleasant instance of mixing native Shortcuts actions with Toolbox Professional-specific enhancements: the preliminary menu is a wealthy one designed with Toolbox Professional, however the Digital camera motion is a local Shortcuts performance; the handbook crop software (which was once out there in Workflow and was eliminated within the transition to Shortcuts final 12 months) is one other Toolbox Professional motion, which must open the app and pause Shortcuts till you’ve manually cropped a picture. As somebody who buys iTunes present playing cards on a weekly foundation, I respect the tiny little bit of friction this shortcut has faraway from the acquisition expertise because of Toolbox Professional’s actions.
Scan iTunes Reward Card
Scan an iTunes present card, extract its textual content, and open the App Retailer to redeem the related promo code. You’ll be able to import a picture of a present card from the clipboard or take a brand new image. Toolbox Professional is required for this shortcut.
Lastly, the doc scanner. First launched as a Notes characteristic, the doc scanner has been opened as much as all builders as a part of the Imaginative and prescient framework in iOS 13. Toolbox Professional integrates with the doc scanner by way of the Scan Doc motion, which is able to open Toolbox Professional in scanner mode – the identical scanner seen in Information and Notes – and go again a scanned picture to Shortcuts. Within the Scan Doc motion, parameters allow you to select whether or not you need to return a scanned .PNG picture or acknowledged textual content (by way of OCR) again to Shortcuts.
The shortcut I’ve constructed round this characteristic, known as Scan Doc, launches Toolbox Professional’s scanner and returns to Shortcuts as soon as I’ve efficiently scanned a picture. At that time, a wealthy menu lets me decide between sharing the scanned picture or performing further OCR on it so I can share the acknowledged textual content as a substitute.
It is a easy move of actions, however it accelerates the method of scanning paperwork significantly. I’ve added the shortcut to my Residence display screen utilizing the “doc scanner” icon Silvia designed for MacStories Shortcuts Icons; now, every time I have to scan a doc and share it, I can launch the shortcut instantly from the Residence display screen (with out having to seek out the scanner characteristic in Information or Notes) and share the ensuing file or textual content with any app I need. The doc scanner also needs to turn into a local Shortcuts motion sooner or later, however, within the meantime, this can do.
The best strategy to describe Toolbox Professional’s Preview software is the next: think about if Apple’s Fast Look motion may preview a number of variables of various sorts, equivalent to photographs and textual content, on the identical time, on the identical web page, with a local, responsive design that required no coding in anyway. That’s the gist of the Preview motion, a versatile software that allows you to preview the output of a shortcut as a single web page in Toolbox Professional.
There are two features that make the Preview motion distinctive and completely different from, say, creating your individual HTML output. First, it’s powered fully by SwiftUI (very similar to the remainder of Toolbox Professional itself). All types of components are displayed as native code: completely different ranges of textual content headlines are based mostly on San Francisco’s textual content kinds; picture recordsdata are rendered natively (no add to an online service crucial); you’ll be able to show URLs as wealthy hyperlinks, embed interactive maps (powered by MapKit), and even design native buttons. And since below the hood it’s all SwiftUI, you don’t want to consider supporting mild/darkish modes or scaling the design for bigger or smaller screens – all of it occurs by default; you simply have to put collectively the content material and feed it to the Preview motion in Shortcuts.
Second, the Preview software comes with primary styling choices that present a layer of abstraction on high of SwiftUI. The syntax is closely influenced by Markdown: you will have a number of ranges of headlines indicated by the ‘#’ signal, bullets for lists, horizontal dividers, subheadlines, and captions. Even native components like wealthy hyperlinks and embedded maps require no coding however are as a substitute inserted within the preview utilizing quick codes based mostly on easy markup. The syntax is documented within the Toolbox Professional app, and it’s very straightforward to get began.
I struggled to grasp what objective the Preview software may serve at first as in comparison with merely previewing content material in Shortcuts; with time, I’ve put collectively some examples that ought to offer you an concept of what’s potential and a framework to create your individual wealthy previews.
To reveal the power of styling textual content and embedding buttons with Toolbox Professional’s Preview motion, I rewrote my Tech Information shortcut: the alternate model, known as Customized RSS Reader, presents a listing of internet sites as a wealthy menu (be aware how I used particular SF Symbols and colours for every one) and will get the newest 10 articles for the chosen publication by way of RSS. Utilizing a mix of Textual content actions and variables, the shortcut assembles the content material to be previewed in Toolbox Professional with components such because the article’s title, revealed date and writer title, and excerpt. Below the hood, the customized syntax appears to be like like this:
And right here’s the shortcut in motion together with the customized preview:
As you’ll be able to see, the shortcut solely takes just a few seconds to assemble the content material for the preview, which is put collectively utilizing ‘Add to Variable’ actions that append textual content knowledge to a single ‘Article Preview’ variable. Because of the preview’s abstraction of SwiftUI, I didn’t have to jot down a single line of code to fashion textual content, make the web page responsive, or assist darkish mode – an method that falls squarely in keeping with Shortcuts’ fashionable automation ethos.
A couple of weeks in the past, I shared a shortcut to browse pictures taken with completely different lenses on iPhone 11 Professional. With Toolbox Professional, I used to be in a position to replace the iPhone 11 Lens Browser shortcut so it makes use of a richer preview web page as a substitute of a plain checklist. Toolbox Professional’s Preview motion is right for this sort of content material: the web page has a customized title (which modifications relying on the lens you’ve chosen) and exhibits full-resolution pictures together with particulars for the iPhone mannequin and lens used to seize a photograph. By inspecting every picture’s location metadata, I used to be even in a position to flip GPS coordinates into small, zoomable Maps embeds that present you the place every picture was taken.
And right here’s the up to date shortcut in motion:
iPhone 11 Lens Browser (Prolonged)
Filter your picture library by the lens used to seize a photograph. The shortcut is optimized for the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Professional, and it helps the vast, telephoto, and ultra-wide lenses. By default, the shortcut appears to be like on the final 50 pictures out of your library and opens a customized preview displaying metadata for every picture. Toolbox Professional is required for this shortcut.
Alongside the identical traces, I’ve created a shortcut that allows you to examine the metadata for any picture handed to the share sheet from Images. Known as Preview Picture Metadata, the shortcut takes any picture shared from the Images app, extracts metadata for it, and shows the end in a customized preview inside Toolbox Professional. It’s a pleasant strategy to double-check details about particular photographs, particularly since Apple’s Images app solely shows a subset of metadata.
As I’ll additional reveal in different (Membership-exclusive) examples under, Toolbox Professional’s customized Preview software is among the app’s most enjoyable options, with plenty of potential for attention-grabbing and surprising use instances.
The concept of having the ability to take any assortment of variables, for every kind of knowledge codecs, and translate them to native SwiftUI code with out truly writing a single line of it’s a remarkably intelligent one. I can already see how Alex Hay might proceed extending previews sooner or later: customers ought to be capable to assemble extra advanced layouts utilizing desk views; there needs to be extra alternative by way of buttons and labels; semantic colours and SF Symbols also needs to be represented with the power so as to add coloured components and glyphs all through the physique of a preview.
Proper now, all of those present SwiftUI components are lacking from Toolbox Professional’s Preview motion, and its efficiency could possibly be improved (it struggles a bit when previewing, say, 50 pictures directly), however it’s a stable begin, and it’s an awesome concept. Should you ever wished you might transcend Shortcuts’ primary Fast Look previews, don’t miss out on Toolbox Professional’s Preview motion.
Textual content Evaluation
I’ve created a single shortcut that takes benefit of Toolbox Professional’s Pure Language-based textual content evaluation actions. I contemplate it a proof of idea at this stage on condition that it takes longer to run than I’d like, however it’s an enchanting instance of mixing the Pure Language framework with Shortcuts and I wished to share it regardless.
Toolbox Professional bundles an motion known as ‘Get Element From Textual content’ which depends on sensible knowledge detectors and Pure Language to investigate a textual content string and extract completely different components from it. For instance, you’ll be able to go some textual content to this motion and retrieve the names of individuals or locations contained inside it; you may get the dominant language or sentiment of the general textual content; or you may get the names of organizations/subjects talked about within the textual content. The latter possibility gave me an concept.
Over the previous few weeks, developer Silvio Rizzi has been quietly updating Reeder, the favored RSS shopper, with unbelievable Shortcuts actions to save lots of articles to Reeder’s Learn Later account in addition to retrieve particulars from saved articles. I switched to Reeder as my RSS reader some time again, and I’m within the strategy of transferring from Safari Studying Listing to Reeder’s Learn Later characteristic, so I believed it’d be enjoyable to mix Reeder’s new actions with Toolbox Professional’s textual content evaluation.
Right here’s what I did: I created a shortcut that lets me select from a listing of corporations and subjects (equivalent to “Apple” or “PlayStation”) and finds articles matching the chosen subject in Reeder’s read-later queue. To carry out this evaluation (which takes just a few seconds to run), Shortcuts makes use of Reeder’s actions to get the total HTML content material of every article, converts it to plain textual content, feeds it to Toolbox Professional’s motion, and checks whether or not the article comprises the chosen subject. The shortcut presents a listing of matching articles on the finish and you may select one to reopen it.
I don’t anticipate to make use of this shortcut ceaselessly, however it showcases the pliability of Reeder’s new actions and, extra importantly, the potential of mixing iOS’ intelligence with Shortcuts in new and attention-grabbing methods. I plan on exploring this idea additional over the subsequent few months.
Articles by Subject
Filter articles saved in Reeder’s Learn Later account by subject. The shortcut depends on iOS’ Pure Language Processing framework to extract group names from textual content. You’ll be able to modify the checklist of subjects to incorporate those you favor. Toolbox Professional and Reeder are required for this shortcut.
I went all-in on Apple’s Reminders app following its glorious replace in iOS and iPadOS 13, however one factor I don’t like concerning the refreshed app is its Shortcuts integration. As I famous in my assessment, Reminders’ Shortcuts actions are the identical as they’ve been for a number of years at this level: not solely do they lack compatibility with main new options launched this 12 months (such because the URL area, picture attachments, and subtasks), however additionally they fail to assist primary operations equivalent to modifying present reminders, retrieving and creating Reminders lists, or marking particular person reminders as full.
Toolbox Professional options deeper integration with Reminders than Shortcuts to perform all of the duties talked about above with actions that run within the background, with out leaving the Shortcuts app. The flexibility to retrieve all my Reminders lists and modify particular person reminders has allowed me to create highly effective Reminders-based shortcuts that wouldn’t have been potential with Apple’s app alone, additional rising my utilization of Reminders as my main job supervisor.
First, I up to date my present New Reminder+ shortcut with an “prolonged” mode that brings up a wealthy checklist of all lists at present configured within the Reminders app. This checklist was created utilizing Toolbox Professional’s Create Menu Merchandise motion and Get Reminder Lists actions; every checklist is represented with its precise shade and a default SF Symbols glyph. Sadly, because of iOS limitations, Toolbox Professional can not fetch the actual glyph related to a listing in Reminders, however I can reside with out it.
This model of New Reminder+ achieves the identical objective as the unique (you’ll be able to create a number of reminders in a row with pure language dates), however it’s bought correct assist for all Reminders lists, which is a nicer expertise.
As soon as I found out how one can construct a wealthy menu for my Reminders lists, I took the thought one step additional and constructed a shortcut to do one thing I’ve lengthy wished to do with Shortcuts: batch rescheduling a number of reminders to a later date.
The primary model I created, known as Right this moment ReScheduler, fetches reminders due right now (together with overdue ones) and presents them in a listing. In a pleasant contact made potential by Toolbox Professional, every reminder’s icon options the colour of the checklist it belongs to. After selecting one or a number of reminders, the shortcut shows a listing of date presets to postpone the chosen objects with choices equivalent to “+1 day” or “+7 days”; if you need, there’s additionally a handbook possibility that can allow you to sort the precise date and time till which you’d wish to defer your reminders. When you’ve picked a date and time, the shortcut will modify every reminder within the Reminders database (with out leaving Shortcuts) and replace their due dates. On the finish of the shortcut, you’ll see an alert with a abstract of the reminders which have been up to date and their due date modifications.
I really like utilizing this shortcut as a result of I’m unhealthy at assembly my very own due dates for reminders but in addition don’t like seeing a number of overdue objects in Reminders’ Right this moment web page. With Right this moment ReScheduler, I can shortly postpone a number of duties directly in only a few seconds – it couldn’t be simpler:
Right this moment ReScheduler
Reschedule reminders due right now (or overdue) to a later date. You’ll be able to decide a number of reminders directly and alter their due date by selecting from some presets or typing a date manually. Toolbox Professional is required for this shortcut.
I additionally created an prolonged model of this shortcut, merely known as ReScheduler, which helps you to decide reminders from any Reminders lists (not simply those due right now) and reschedule them with just a few faucets. Should you’ve ever discovered your self having to push again all reminders belonging to a particular challenge by a few weeks, this shortcut’s for you:
As I’ll present within the subsequent part, I’ve constructed extra Reminders-based shortcuts for Membership MacStories members by benefiting from Toolbox Professional’s superior integration with Apple’s job supervisor. Toolbox Professional’s Reminders actions present a blueprint for Apple to observe in future Shortcuts releases: the power to fetch Reminders lists and edit present reminders needs to be constructed into Shortcuts with out requiring a third-party app. However as I’ve argued for many actions lined on this assessment, till it occurs, Toolbox Professional has this facet taken care of.
Membership MacStories Shortcuts
Along with the shortcuts revealed on this article, I’ve created 7 further superior shortcuts that will probably be launched solely for Membership MacStories members later this week in Situation 200 of MacStories Weekly. I’ll share the main points for every shortcut within the publication, however I’ve ready previews to point out you what they will do.
Apple eliminated the want checklist characteristic from the App Retailer just a few years in the past, and particularly since Apple Arcade launched, I’ve discovered myself lacking a simple strategy to maintain observe of apps and video games I need to obtain on my units. Constructed utilizing Toolbox Professional’s international variables and wealthy previews, my AppTracker shortcut enables you to keep your individual database of App Retailer apps you need to try sooner or later. You’ll be able to add apps with a companion shortcut known as Add to AppTracker, which runs contained in the App Retailer app however can be used with handbook search inside Shortcuts; within the customized preview, you’ll be able to see the title, icon, class, and value for every app together with buttons to take away the chosen app or view it on the App Retailer.
I’ve additionally created the same shortcut known as GameTracker that allows you to maintain observe of videogames you’re at present taking part in or that maybe you need to purchase. GameTracker makes use of Toolbox Professional’s native integration with the IGDB service database accessed by way of the Discover Video games motion to seek for videogames for any platform, from PlayStation and Xbox to Nintendo Swap, PC, and even iOS. I’ve created a companion utility that allows you to seek for video games and decide them from a menu, and there’s after all a customized preview that exhibits all tracked video games together with their covers and supported platforms. Sport knowledge is saved as a worldwide variable in iCloud by Toolbox Professional, so you’ll be able to entry the preview on all of your units no matter the place you initially added a sport from. Given the sheer quantity of nice videogames which might be popping out (Luigi’s Mansion 3! Dying Stranding! Pokémon!), I plan on utilizing this database rather a lot over the upcoming months.
In line with the theme of deeper Reminders integration, I’ve expanded on the thought of batch processing of a number of duties and created ReLister, a shortcut that allows you to transfer a number of reminders directly from one Reminders checklist to a different. You simply want to choose beginning and vacation spot lists and chosen reminders will probably be moved accordingly, with out altering different properties equivalent to due dates or notes.
How about merely giving up in your deadlines and eradicating due dates from a number of reminders directly altogether? With ReCleaner, you’ll be capable to decide a number of reminders and scrub the due date property off of them; they’ll keep within the unique checklist, however they’ll not have a due date connected. Downside “solved”.
Lastly, my favourite of the bunch: with my Agenda Preview shortcut, you’ll be capable to generate a personalised web page with an outline of all scheduled reminders and calendar occasions for the upcoming week.
Reminders and occasions are grouped below every day, and the shortcut can differentiate between upcoming reminders and overdue ones; within the Right this moment part on the high, you’ll additionally get climate circumstances and forecasts for the present day, plus a button to launch the Reminders app instantly.
As I famous above, all of those shortcuts, together with particulars on how they have been put collectively, will probably be launched for Membership MacStories members in Situation 200 of the MacStories Weekly publication later this week.
There’s no method round it: if you happen to’re a frequent Shortcuts consumer, Toolbox Professional needs to be an on the spot buy. Its assortment of actions completely complement Shortcuts and develop upon the app by offering efficient options to Apple’s limitations. With a roster of over 50 actions at launch and the inclusion of options equivalent to international variables and customized previews, Toolbox Professional is a must have for anybody who depends on Shortcuts and needs to construct much more highly effective, versatile automations.
However there’s extra to Toolbox Professional than its checklist of actions and integrations. Toolbox Professional is a brand new type of app – a companion utility designed particularly for Shortcuts, constructed across the identical precept: even essentially the most advanced actions will be lowered to a single visible, user-friendly step to empower as many customers as potential. And whether or not deliberately or not, Alex Hay’s app begets greater themes price contemplating for the way forward for Shortcuts.
After taking part in round with Toolbox Professional, I’ve to marvel if Apple will ever add new energy user-oriented options to Shortcuts now that the app has a wider enchantment and is pre-installed on tens of millions of units. I posed the identical query within the conclusion of the Shortcuts chapter of my iOS 13 assessment: Shortcuts obtained a unbelievable replace this 12 months, however Apple didn’t handle longstanding limitations of the editor for superior customers, nor did they ship actions designed for individuals who search extra programmer-y controls over the move and execution of their shortcuts. It’s high-quality if Apple believes that third-party apps equivalent to Toolbox Professional can swoop in and supply lacking actions for heavy customers, however there’s solely a lot builders can create with the present motion and parameter APIs. Ought to Apple open up the Shortcuts editor to exterior plugins, very similar to is feasible with some textual content editors? I doubt they may, however it’s an attention-grabbing thought.
Which brings me to my second takeaway: with apps like Toolbox Professional, Quickness, and the upcoming Knowledge Jar, we’re observing the rise of a tooling ecosystem constructed round Shortcuts by third-party builders because of parameters in iOS 13. This was a part of Apple’s objectives with the parameter framework all alongside, however it’s intriguing to see the expertise come to fruition with these meta-utilities that leverage parameters so as to add lacking functionalities again into Shortcuts.
Lastly, Toolbox Professional satisfied me that we should always keep watch over the potential of mixing Core ML and Imaginative and prescient with Shortcuts actions sooner or later. The concept of actions that analyze content material to supply outcomes you anticipate with out having to really program them or work together with them may yield a radical new method of making customized shortcuts. Toolbox Professional’s Imaginative and prescient and Core ML actions give us a primary glimpse of this idea, and I’m going to keep watch over this sooner or later.
With Toolbox Professional, developer Alex Hay realized the untapped potential of parameters as a method to increase Shortcuts itself. Toolbox Professional is a must have utility for all Shortcuts energy customers, an indication of larger issues to come back on this house, and probably the greatest app debuts of 2019.
- The place by “checklist” I don’t imply a bulleted or numbered textual content checklist, however a listing of objects. The idea of “checklist” is among the core tenets of the Shortcuts app: if you add one thing to a variable with the ‘Add to Variable’ motion, the variable is an ordered checklist of things; the results of a ‘Repeat’ block is a listing; if you use ‘Cut up Textual content’, the ensuing object is a listing of textual content objects. ↩︎
- I’ve been utilizing Apple’s personal SF Symbols Mac app to browse the whole glyph assortment and replica image names. ↩︎