automators

Automators 27: Shortcuts in iOS 13 — Diving into the Deep End!

In the latest episode of Automators, Rose and I throw caution to the wind and install iOS and iPadOS betas on everything. There are crashes and updates, all in the name of finding out just how impressive the new Shortcuts really is.

This episode of Automators is sponsored by:

  • Away: Thoughtful luggage for modern travel. Get $20 off a suitcase with promo code AUTOMATORS.

  • TextExpander, from Smile: Give your productivity a boost with TextExpander. Get 20% off your first year.

Automators 26: Getting Started with HomeKit

Check out the latest episode of Automators to learn more about how to get started with HomeKit, from building your system to real automations that actually make your life easier! And you don’t want to miss out on Rose versus the Leaf: Chapter Two.

This episode of Automators is sponsored by:

  • Timing: The automatic time-tracking app for macOS. Use this link to save 10% on your purchase.

  • Creative Next: The new podcast future-proofing creatives.

Automators 25: WWDC 2019 Automation Update

On the latest episode of Automators, Rose and I are on the ground at WWDC in San Jose to bring you up to speed on the new automation heading to iOS and iPadOS. We also recap WWDC, the Automator's meetup, and Rose describes how she lost a fight with a leaf.

This episode of Automators is sponsored by:

  • Timing: The automatic time tracking app for macOS. Use this link to save 10% on your purchase.

  • PDFpen 11, from Smile: Your ultimate PDF viewing and editing app for the Mac.

Automators 23: Diving into Drafts Automation with Tim "The Drafts Man" Nahumck

In the latest episode of Automators, Rosemary and I get Tim “The Drafts Man” Nahumck to talk about how he uses Drafts, sharing actions, tips and tricks.

This episode of Automators is sponsored by:

  • TextExpander, from Smile: Try the new release with the visual editor. Get 20% off your first year.

  • Luna Display: The only hardware solution that turns your iPad into a wireless display for your Mac. Use promo code AUTOMATORS at checkout for 10% off.

Automators 22: Text Expansion

The latest episode of the Automator's podcasts is now available for download. In this episode, we go back to basics and talk about text expansion. I joke in the episode that text expansion is a gateway drug or automation, but that's really kind of true. Just about anybody can do text expansion and as you start to get your mind around some of the more powerful text expansion tools, you're going to find a lot of ways to use it.

The thing I like about this episode is that we not only talk about the basics, but we move into the advanced. No matter what level of usage you are at with text expansion (or if you've never used it at all), I think this is a great episode to help you move the ball little further down the road toward getting your work done faster and more accurately.

Automators Assemble!

Rosemary and I aren’t looking to vanquish Thanos. Our endgame is to show you how automation can make your life so much easier. We just want to enhance your super powers. You don’t have to wear a cape, but there is an awesome Automators Assemble! hoodie and t-shirt now available at Cotton Bureau. You may not always be able to display your prowess as an automator, but you will definitely be able to show the world your keen fashion sense when you sport this hoodie or tee. Shop soon, though. They’re only available for a limited time.

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

In this episode of Automators, Rosemary and I interview the mysterious internet legend Dr. Drang. We talk about Python, Perl, and AppleScript and dive into regular expressions, Shortcuts, Drafts, and Keyboard Maestro. Then, we show how you can combine all of these in various different workflows!

This episode of Automators is sponsored by:

  • Luna Display: The only hardware solution that turns your iPad into a wireless display for your Mac. Use promo code AUTOMATORS at checkout for 10% off.

  • TextExpander, from Smile: Try the new release with the visual editor. Get 20% off your first year.

Automators 14: Automated Journaling

Get out your artistically crafted paper notebook and favorite fountain pen as we talk about journaling in Automators episode 14. Actually, forget that stuff. We are nerds so while the focus of this episode is journalling, it’s really about automating the process so you can get more efficient at your navel-gazing.

We start out talking about the idea of journaling and why automation can help. The first app we recommend is Day One.

Last year I bought a year subscription to Day One, and I'm digging it. We both approve of Day One’s automation tools with things like IFTTT along with several built-in features (like the activity feed) that ease the process of journal entry creation so you can focus on your precious words. Day One can integrate with third-party apps, like Instagram and Swarm.

Much Love for Day One

Day One is also friends with Siri Shortcuts, which opens you up to lots of potential automation, although I would like more. This leads to the discussion of automating Day One entries in a “prompt style” with a new journal entry generated out of Siri Shortcuts and used to create a Day One entry. I created a sample shortcut on a meditation journal. You can watch it in the Automators course at Learn.MacSparky or on YouTube.


Rosemary goes a step further by using Launch Center Pro to launch her Siri Shortcut to launch her journaling prompts. This lets her present different prompts on different days of the week. Clever. We’ve shared a link to Rose’s shortcut in the show notes.

I also explain audio transcription in Day One, that works much better than you think it would be.

If This Then That (IFTTT) can also create a Day One entry, pulling data from other web services. Think about that one for a moment. Simple things, like a Google Calendar event, can be enough to trigger a new Day One entry. Rose has a cool automation that helps her log and journal television consumption using automation between trakt.tv and Day One.

Another way to automate journal creation is through text automation. You could use tools like Drafts or Text Expander to give you prompts to easily create journal entries.

Other Options

We then talk about journaling solutions outside of Day One. Using third-party applications like Ulysses or even just a plain text file, you can use many of the above referenced prompt-based journal automation to create new entries. There can be some challenges with things like photos and other media, but it can work. I even at one point suggests using Pages, which would work better than you think if you want media in your journal.

Next, we discuss automating public journals with services like micro.blog.

Fancy Pens and Paper

Finally, we break out the pens and paper. Just because you have a fancy pen and paper, doesn’t mean you can’t bring some technology to the table. Use ScanBot or Scanner Pro to grab an image for a digital backup. If you like the idea of us a pen but not paper, there are some great iPad-based digital alternatives like GoodNotes and Notability.

It’s January and a great time to develop a journaling habit. Why don’t you use some automation to make it easier?





Automators 12: Holiday Automation

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The holidays are upon us, and the Automators are ready to automate with episode 12, Holiday Automation. We start with simple things like wallpaper and voice-in-a-can technologies.

Next, we get to holiday music. It’s great that you can automate music playback, but I want to go deeper with Siri Shortcuts and automation around my music. I have a white whale concerning HomePod destination for audio, but we all need holiday wishes … right? Rose has a cool holiday music Siri Shortcut.

Then we get into our favorite automation contraptions for automating holiday lights. I have a thing for making Christmas just happen using HomeKit Automation, and Rose tempts me by talking about homebridge. Open my front door, and the magic starts happening.

Then we get to the best ways to automate holiday cards. It’s harder than you think. Finally, we move into automating and collaborating on present lists, grabbing multiple browser tabs via automation, and turning my Christmas card into a nerd project.

It’s all there. Get Automating!

Automators 10: Web-Based Automation with Zapier

Today we release episode 10 of the Automators (Double Digits!), where venture into the brave new world of web automation. We start with grand-daddy, Zapier. We begin comparing and contrasting Zapier with other web automation services, like IFTTT and Microsoft Flow.

Did you know you can combine Zapier with Siri Shortcuts? We tell you how. 

Next Rose explains some of the Zapier recipes we use to automate the production of Automators. (Of course … we do that.)

This show is sponsored by TextExpander, which we both love very much.

Next I explain some basics about triggers and actions. We know this comes up often in automation, but Zapier has it’s own unique snowflake way of covering that, so we explain it. Eventually, we get to Zap organization, which makes Rose very happy.

I use Zapier a lot on the legal side. I use a lot of web services and Zapier lets me tie them together, particularly with client on-boarding. I explain my ongoing journey in that regard.

There are a few caveats, but we are both subscribers and Zapier believers.

Zapier makes you happier.

Want to see all the Automator production Zaps? Just download this PDF.

Automators 4 – First Looks at Siri Shortcuts

Today we released episode 4 of the Automators, focused on the new Siri Shortcuts app and related automated tools. It's still in beta, but it is really powerful. 
This show goes through the history of automation on iOS and looks at things like URL Schemes in depth before moving on to Workflow and why it's so powerful. Finally, we go through the beta implementation of Siri Shortcuts and look at where it improves on Siri Shortcuts and where it feels more like a step backward.

I believe Siri Shortcuts is going to open up automation for a lot of people that have never tried it before.

We'll be sharing lots of Siri Shortcuts once it ships so get on board now.

Also, haven't been reading the episode notes for the Automators episodes in your podcast player of choice, you really should.

 

Automators 3 with Sal Soghoian

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Between moving into the new home office and dealing with the wildfire last week (that ended up a lot closer to my house than I would have liked), I neglected to post about the latest episode of the Automators.

Episode 3 is our first episode featuring a guest, and there is no one better as a first Automators guest than Sal Soghoian. Formerly at Apple, Sal has been an advocate of Automation with Apple gear for years. In this episode, Sal walks us through how to create an AppleScript. Sal created a website for this episode so you can learn along with him while sitting at your Mac. Rose did a complete write-up of the show over at her website. This is a pretty remarkable experience for an audio podcast, and I'm proud to have been a small part of it.

Automators Ep. 2 – Email Automation

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The latest episode of the Automators is up. This episode focusses on automating email. Should all of your emails be special snowflakes? No. You should automate that email so you can spend your time making things you love instead of answering email. So what are the tools?

Automating Email on the Mac

TextExpander

TextExpander is one of the best ways to get started with automation, and it is particularly suited to email. While there are plenty of text expansion apps, TextExpander is the only one that allows you to code in keyboard control and scripting

For example, using TextExpander, I can make a snippet that I activate in the subject line of an email that will create the subject line, press the tab key (jumping the cursor to the body of the email), type in the recipient's name, and finally write the body of the email. This goes way beyond basic text expansion and is a great way to handle repetitive emails quickly.

For bonus points, when I'm sending out emails for customer support, I will often have the snippet grab the contents of my clipboard which may contain a customer name or a discount code.

I know this is basic automation, but it’s something that everybody should know how to do. You can download the TextExpander snippet for your own use.

Adding a bit of AppleScript, you can also automate insertion of the recipient's name. Here's the snippet group and below is the video.

 

Automator

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Automator is another vector toward automating email on your Mac. Automator includes a specific action to create and send an email. Unfortunately, you cannot insert variables for the recipient and other email fields. Instead, you either pre-populate in the script or you have it ask you when it runs. While this can be helpful, the way Workflow (and Siri shortcuts) let you populate these fields with automation generated text and contacts is the way to go. The below screenshot demonstrates the Automator actions available for email.

Click to enlarge.

Keyboard Maestro

Keyboard Maestro excels at email assembly and sending. Our best example of this is a Keyboard Maestro script that looks for the existence of a particular file. When Keyboard Maestro determines the file exists, Keyboard Maestro generates an email and attaches the file and then, if you're brave, sends the email for you.

Auto Sorting Email on the Mac

There are so many tools to sort your email. Apple Mail's built-in mail sorting rules are powerful. If you use Gmail, they have a lot of cloud-based rules to sort email for you.

If you use Apple Mail, check out Mail Act-On which lets you automatically file email.

AppleScript

AppleScript still has its use in email. I have an Apple Script I use (demonstrated above) that grabs the name of the email recipient from the email field and inserts it in the email. 

Automating Email on iOS

Often, automation for email on iOS comes down to the app you use. Rose uses Airmail and automates it often, as demonstrated by the below custom action screencast.

Dispatch is another good option for automating email. It automatically fills in the recipient name, it creates universal email links, and supports TextExpander. Drafts is another option for creating email. It’s a great app and allows you to write email without getting trapped in your inbox.

Workflow and Email

Workflow is one of the best tools for automating email on iOS. With Workflow you can truly create an iOS-based mail merge. Rose demonstrates this in a screencast. You can also download the Workflow and the Drafts action group.

Rose also mentioned a Workflow to automatically mail the most recent picture. Here it is.

Web-Based Automation

Google is the post child for powerful web-based email automation. There is almost no limit, so long as you are in the Google sandbox. Google's not the only option though. Microsoft also has web-based email automation. MPU sponsor SaneBox also supports the rest of us.

About the Automators

As you can see, our mission statement at Automators is that anybody can automate. I'm looking at you. If you like Mac Power Users, consider this show the other bookend. Listen to the show, download the samples, become a badass. Also please subscribe to the show, give it a review, and check out the Automators forum.

Automators Episode 1 - Calendar Automation

I'm so happy to see Automators #1 get released. The Automators is really a great experience for listeners. We talk through how to automate your life and share the downloadable scripts (and screencast a bunch of it) so you can take our work and use for yourself as a completed automation script or build upon it. Rose and I will take turns making the detailed post for each episode. Rose gets odd. I get even. So this time you'll find all of the details on Rose's post. Just to give you an idea, below are my screencasts for my Travel Time and Hyperscheduling  scripts. Finally, don't forget to check out the detailed show notes.