Automators 124: Image Automation

Fixing images and screenshots is boring and tedious. Why not hand that off to automation? Check out this episode of Automators to learn more.

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TextExpander Best Practices

I have often said that one of the easiest on-ramps to automation is text expansion. That’s one of the reasons why I’m such a fan of TextExpander. They’ve gone the extra mile with giving you automation tools in addition to text expansion. But it is easy to get overwhelmed when you’re attempting to develop a text automation system.

For example, for years, I use the semicolon as my trigger. “;workadd”, for example, would expand to my work address. But then I started doing a lot of work on the iPad, and I was using the software keyboard where the semicolon wasn’t so easy to access. So I switched over to using the letter ‘x’ for the same purpose. We all have these collections of tricks we develop as we do more text expansion.

Recently, Josh Centers created a list of best practices and published them over at the TextExpander website. I think they’re all good ideas and if you want to up your game with text expansion, this is worth reading.

Automating Reading Focus (MacSparky Labs)

This week I wrote about the importance of reading and how I automatically trigger a Focus Mode when I read digital books. This sparked a lot of interest from the MacSparky Labs members, so here’s a video on how I automated my reading focus…

This is a post for MacSparky Labs Level 3 (Early Access) and Level 2 (Backstage) Members only. Care to join? Or perhaps do you need to sign in?

Time Track with Timing (Sponsor)

I’ve talked and written extensively over the years about the utility of time tracking. Yet, many of us don’t track our time. And the reason is usually simple: it’s cumbersome and way too easy to forget.

This week’s sponsor, Timing, gives you the benefit of time tracking without the inconvenience. Timing is an app for your Mac that automatically tracks your time. You don’t need to push buttons. Timing just does its job. It’s smart, it’s beautiful, and it’s easy to use.

Just download and install Timing, and it’ll start recording how much time you spend on each app, document, and website you use.

And with the latest update, Timing will now import your iPhone and iPad usage from Screen Time as well! This means you’ll get the complete picture of how you spend your time across all your devices.

One of my favorite features is how Timing learns to associate certain activities on your Mac with specific projects. For instance, I track MacSparky Labs Admin time when I’m on the Memberful admin panel in Safari. So I set up a rule to assign time spent in the Memberful admin panel to that project and now Timing automatically makes makes the connection for me. But on the flip side, if Timing isn’t sure what I’m working on, I can manually set and adjust project assignments with a few clicks. This gives me solid, actionable data about how I’m spending my time.

If you’ve tried time-tracking before and gave up on it, try Timing. It does the work for you. I’ve even made some videos showing how the app works.

The Looming Threat of AI-Generated Voice

I read this post by John Gruber, and I couldn’t agree more about the shenanigans that will come from AI-generated deepfakes. The computers are so good at duplicating your voice at this point that a determined jackass could “produce” a tape of you saying anything. Conversely, an insolent jackass will deny an actual recording of him and claim it is a deepfake. Down is up. Up is down.

I don’t know that we’ll ever have “smoking gun” audio again. It’s just a question of time before that is true for video, too. The bad guys are certainly going to use this to further polarize us. Be warned.

Microsoft 365 Copilot

Last week Microsoft gave an impressive presentation demonstrating the incorporation of artificial intelligence into their productivity apps. You can have it summarize and analyze data in Excel, write better documents in Word, and even summarize email in Outlook.

Moreover, it had less of that wild west feel we are seeing in most of the artificial intelligence features added to existing apps. This was clearly thought out. It’s worth watching the presentation even if you don’t use Microsoft software.

I really think this is a step in the right direction. What I would ultimately like from artificial intelligence is for it to help me get my work done better and faster. So much of modern technology seems to get in the way of serious work, rather than assist it. If you’ve ever watched any of the Iron Man movies, Tony Stark always had Jarvis working in the background for him, handling little things so Tony could work on the big things. I want Jarvis.

Just think how much easier your life could be, if you had a digital assistant that could do things for you like: 

  • Manage calendars and schedule appointments
  • Send and respond to emails
  • Set reminders and alarms
  • Make reservations and appointments

Seeing these initial steps from Microsoft gives me hope that Jarvis may show up sooner than I thought.