Craft Import Automation (MacSparky Labs)

I’m moving some data into Craft, and doing it manually was driving me crazy. So I made two different Shortcuts to automate it. One is really easy, but requires a few steps by you when you run it. The second option is fancier and more complex, but does everything automatically. Enjoy!…

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

OmniFocus Voice Control Tutorial with Sal Soghoian (MacSparky Labs)

This month’s Friends of Dave interview is a special one. Sal Soghian (formerly with Apple, now working with the Omni Group) spent an hour with me doing a walk-through on how to set up and start using the new Javascript-based voice automation in OmniFocus. Sal has, in essence, created an entirely new user interface for OmniFocus, letting you fully control the app with your voice. Moreover, you can add your own custom commands. In this video, I share my screen and Sal walks me through the entire setup process. Watch this video with the current version of OmniFocus installed on your Mac and you’ll be voice-controlling within the hour…

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

Using AppleScript to Announce Glanceable Information

Ernest Rudak (Twitter)(website), a blind Mac power user, wrote a really informative piece on using AppleScript to announce glanceable information. Of course, as someone who’s not visually impaired, there are a lot of things I take for granted or never really thought about, like getting information like time, day, or date with a quick glance on my iPhone. Ernest, with an interest in automation, Keyboard Maestro, and keyboard shortcuts, came up with a solution by writing an AppleScript. Have a go and read it for yourself to see what works for him. I agree with him that the best automations aren’t the ones filled with endless lines of code, but the “small utilities which smoothly fits in your everyday workflow.”

The Sad Demise of the Harmony Remote

Harmony Remote.JPG

Last week we got notice that Logitech will no longer be making the Harmony remote. I’ve heard from so many listeners and readers over the years who made the Harmony remote an essential piece of their home-automation infrastructure. I tried using one but found it just didn’t work with my brand of TV. Nevertheless, I could see the clear value it had.

It’s interesting that as we go deeper down this rabbit hole of Internet-of-Things, we’re losing a vital tool for many people. Maybe the answer going forward is for TVs to become more automation aware, but I suspect that is asking a lot in an already low-margin business.

If you have an existing Harmony remote, Logitech promises ongoing software updates, but I don’t expect that to last forever. I’d start looking for your Plan B.

The Idea of Shortcuts on the Mac

This week Jason Snell wrote an excellent article about the need for Apple to bring Shortcuts to the Mac. I’ve been thinking about that article a lot. My position on Apple bringing Shortcuts to the Mac has always been, “wait”. The reason being that automation is alive and well on the Mac. With a much more open platform and the existence of Apple events, AppleScript, Keyboard Maestro, Hazel, TextExpander, and the ability to run virtually any scripting language via the terminal, there is very little that I can not automate on my Mac.

The iPhone and iPad, however, are a much different story. Apple had no automation tools on its mobile platforms until Shortcuts came along. Shortcuts is, practically, the only way to automate on mobile and for years now there has been lots of low-hanging fruit on mobile that Shortcuts has yet to pick.

I wanted Apple to keep the Shortcuts team working exclusively on mobile so it could get better rather than spend its time moving Shortcuts over the Mac. However, Jason’s article has moved me on this. While my argument about waiting made sense a few years ago, nowadays we’ve got Apple Silicon Macs and Shortcuts on mobile is a lot more powerful than it used to be. Moreover, even with all the above-mentioned Mac automation tools, there is room under the tent for one more. If done right, we’d be able to pull Shortcuts actions into scripts and Keyboard Maestro and make those tools even more powerful.

So put me on team Mac Shortcuts. Let’s hope WWDC 2021 brings us Automators some new toys.

ThoughtAsylum Icon Generator

Stephen Millard has made an ingenious shortcut that solves the problem of generating icons. The particular itch that Stephen was trying to scratch was the development of icons for his Stream Deck. However, if you do any automation, you’re constantly bumping into places that you’d like to have icons. One of the things I particularly like about Stephen’s solution is the way it works with Apple’s SF Symbols, which I like.
Either way, if you want to render 10 or 10,000 icons this weekend, check this out.


For years now, many of us have had a standing “Yeah, but” for IFTTT. It’s an excellent service that reliably connects things on the Internet for simple automation. BUT, it has never embraced the complexity that you start looking for about 10 minutes after you first try the service. I’ve lamented the lack of conditional logic and triggers for multiple events so many times. I’ve stated on the blog and podcasts numerous times that if only they give me more complex tools, I’d gladly pay for the service. This week IFTTT called my bluff.

IFTTT Pro has now launched with all the features I’ve been pining for:

  • Multi-step Applets

  • Queries and conditional logic

  • Multiple actions

  • Faster Applet execution

If you buy in during the next four weeks, you can even set your own price. I’m now an official IFTTT Pro subscriber, and I’ve got time blocked to play with these new tools. Expect more on this to come, but if you are interested, I recommend subscribing in the next month to get it at a price that makes sense to you.

Significant Pushcut Updates

Puschcut Images

Automators take note. Pushcut has received several updates over the past few months, improving the ability to trigger automation on iOS in creative ways. The original idea behind the app was to give folks the ability to trigger iOS automation beyond those limits Apple provides with Siri Shortcuts. With Pushcut, you can use things like webhooks and iBeacon devices as automation triggers. This is pretty impressive. We interviewed Pushcut’s developer, Simon Leeb, on the Automators a few months ago.

Since that time, Pushcut has got even more interesting with the ability to set up an iOS device as a server, and most recently, integration with IFTTT. This could allow you to trigger a shortcut from Alexa or set a HomeKit scene from Google home.

I love how third-party developers keep pushing the iOS automation envelope by giving Shortcuts even more external tools. I’ll be updating the Shortcuts Field Guide with some video examples of Pushcut, but in the meantime, I encourage you to check it out.

AppleScript to Link to Apple Mail Message

I’ve always like the way OmniFocus can create links to Apple Mail messages when saving an email as a task. With help from listener Jacob (@evansio), I’ve now got a script that can do that anywhere via a text expander snippet. Here’s the AppleScript:

  Returns a link to the first selected Apple Mail message
tell application "Mail"
  set _msgs to selected messages of message viewer 0
  if (_msgs is not equal to missing value) then
    set _msg to first item of _msgs
    set _msgID to do shell script "/usr/bin/python -c 'import sys, urllib; print urllib.quote(sys.argv[1])' " & (message id of _msg)
    return "message://%3C" & (_msgID) & "%3E"
  end if
end tell

Here is that script embedded in a TextExpander Snippet. I’m using the abbreviation “elink”

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That’s it. Once you’ve installed it, just type “elink” in any app that can take a URL and you create a link to the currently selected email message. I use it all the time in Notes and Calendar note fields but it really works anywhere. Here’s a short explanatory video.

Masters of Automation on Upgrade Podcast

Last week I attended the first ever CMD-D: Masters of Automation conference in San Jose. At the end of the day, Jason Snell did a live on-stage podcast with all the speakers, including yours truly. 

The show went live this week in the Upgrade feed. I though it came out great and there is a lot of good information about where we stand with automation technologies with both Mac and iOS. The CMD-D portion starts about 30 minutes into the podcast but I recommend listening to the whole thing.