field guides

Keyboard Maestro Script for Automating Contact Creation with Cardhop

Here’s a small Keyboard Maestro script that I use just about every day to create contacts on my Mac with Cardhop. The problem this is designed to solve is Basecamp project email addresses. Every new Basecamp project I create has a specialized (and nearly unreadable) email address attached. Any email I copy or forward to that address gets added to the project. Handy. Right?

But the process of creating a new contact card for each project is tedious, particularly with the Apple Contacts app that requires much clicking and typing. So I made this script that queries me for the project name and then grabs the magic email address from my clipboard to create a contact in the Basecamp Projects group in my contacts database. Cardhop’s quick entry system makes all the difference.

You can download the script here:

KM Script Download

And see the script in action in the below video. Note there is a discount code for the Keyboard Maestro Field Guide at the end of the video.

Also, here’s a screenshot of the script.

A Few Notes on Upcoming Field Guides

I’ve got some news on my upcoming plans for Field Guide releases. 

Shortcuts Field Guide, iOS 13 Edition 

Following WWDC this year, and after getting my hands on the new iOS and iPadOS beta installations, it was plain to see that Siri Shortcuts, now called “Shortcuts”, is a lot more than just a fresh coat of paint. The team at Apple fundamentally changed (and improved) Shortcuts so that this year we will be getting something way more powerful and useful than we had last year. Rose Orchard and I talk about this at length in the latest episode of the Automators.

This new version looks and acts differently than the previous version. It quickly became apparent that I cannot simply update to the existing Siri Shortcuts Field Guide, so I’m starting from scratch with a brand new Shortcuts Field Guide, iOS 13 Edition. It’s already in production and coming out great. I’m on track to release the new edition on iOS 13 launch day. It will be a separate purchase, but I will have a discount for folks who bought the prior edition of the Siri Shortcuts Field Guide. 

Photos Field Guide, Second Edition 

Like Shortcuts, Apple has also substantially improved Photos and photo management since I released the original Photos Field Guide, so I’m making an entirely new edition of the Photos Field Guide as well. Like Shortcuts, I’m doing the new Photos Field Guide entirely from scratch, and it will feature all the latest and greatest features. My outline is very ambitious in that I also hope to cover capturing photos and videos with your mobile devices in addition to managing and editing them. This one will ship after iOS 13 and Catalina are released, but not too long after. 

Help Me Make the Field Guides Better 

This is the first time I’ve pre-announced upcoming Field Guides. If you are interested in either of these titles and have topics you would like me to cover or questions you would like me to answer, now is your chance to become a part of the process. Send me a note. I can’t promise I will reply to every email, but I will definitely be reading all of them. I would love your help in making the next Field Guides even better.

Last Call for Introductory Pricing on Keyboard Maestro Field Guide

The response thus far has been pretty amazing for the Keyboard Maestro Field Guide. Thanks to everyone that purchased it. I really enjoyed making it and I’m happy it is resonating. I’m already hearing about some cool automations that customers have created and incorporated into their daily lives.

If you are thinking about buying the Keyboard Maestro Field Guide, now’s the time. The introductory price ends this weekend.

Announcing Learn.MacSparky

I am pleased to announce the launch of a new website for the distribution of all my video courses, learn.MacSparky.com. I am moving all of my video courses to that site and encourage you to check it out. There's plenty of free and paid material there to keep you busy.

First a Little History …

When I first started distributing videos, I did so with one large video file that you could download to your Mac. That worked okay for a while but it very quickly became evident that people wanted a streaming solution. Put simply, a lot of people watch these courses on their iPhones and iPads. That eventually led me over to Vimeo where I have been distributing my video courses for a few years. It was a service that allowed for streaming, but it was also entirely outside of my control. I received complaints from customers that didn't like the Vimeo marketing, where they would send them advertising materials for videos entirely unrelated to geeky MacSparky stuff, and furthermore, Vimeo never gave me a list of who bought my stuff. Put simply, I wanted to have a direct relationship with my customers.

I’ve been hard at work on this problem for several months, and today I'm announcing the new website, learn.MacSparky.com where you can get access to all of my video products. Having set up the website, I am also able to now distribute a lot of the videos that I create freely. I think it's better for you and better for me. I've summarized the current offerings below, and I hope you check them out. I'm thrilled to have made this move. Go sign up today and let me know what you think. Below is a list of the current video courses.

The Workflow Field Guide

I made this several years ago when workflow first was released. This has been a paid course since its original release, but now I am making it completely free. 

The Hazel Field Guide

Hazel is one of my favorite Mac utilities. It takes so much of the TM out of file management and let your Mac to a lot of your work for you, unassisted. To get the most out of Hazel, you do need a little help in this course is aimed at solving just that problem. This course already has many happy customers who are automating their way to fame and fortune.

60 Tips Vol. 1 and 60 Tips Vol. 2

There are two volumes of this book I wrote with my pal, Brett Terpstra. The video versions have all of the same materials as the books and can help you get better at using your Mac every day. Both volume 1 and volume 2 are available in the new learn.MacSparky.com website.

The Photos Field Guide

Apple photos is a powerful and all-in-one solution for managing, editing, and storing your photos. This video course walks you through how to set up your library, manage pictures, and make edits. This course also goes beyond explaining some common photo management utilities, backup strategies, and all the other bits you need to manage your photos and video properly.

The Drafts Field Guide

This recourse includes this series of videos I have been producing for The new version of the Drafts app, one of my favorite writing and automation tools (yes, it’s both) for iPhone and iPad.

The Bonus Sparky Field Guide

I often release short little videos for free relating to new workflows that I find or products that I like. A lot of these are on the MacSparky YouTube channel, but if that's not your thing, you can sign up for a course@learn.macsparky.com that will regularly update with the same content.

Automators Bonus Content

The Automators podcast comes with a lot of bonus content explaining how to create and run specific automation routines that Rose and I regularly discuss on the show. Again, we have a YouTube channel for that, but not everyone wants to spend time on YouTube. We are going to distribute all of the podcast supporting materials through this learning course in addition to the YouTube channel.

What About New Stuff?

 Now that I've built this learning website, I'm back in full swing in creating new content for it. In the next month, I will be releasing an all-new course on Siri Shortcuts to coincide with the release of iOS 12. The new course is coming out great, and I'm working on it every day.

Also, later this month, when the Omni Group releases OmniFocus 3 for the Mac (or shortly after that), I will be releasing a brand-new edition of the OmniFocus Field Guide. This new version is shot entirely from scratch and nearly done. There is a lot of new material about how to get better at using OmniFocus and how to manage your tasks in a way that makes sense. In addition to having a lot of new material about technically managing the software, this new version also has a lot of discussion about productivity and strategies to make your task system work for you instead of you working for it. The new OmniFocus Field Guide is still in production but coming out great, and I cannot wait to share it with you.

Transitioning from Vimeo

If you were a customer for any of the above courses on Vimeo, and you would like to transition your course to learn.MacSparky.com, sign up for the learn.MacSparky.com website and send me a copy of your receipt. I can then send you a code for your account. Please note that is a manual process and I'm sure the initial flood of requests is going to take a little bit of catching up.

I am so happy to share this news with you. It has taken a lot of work, but this new website is going to be great for everyone. If nothing else, I encourage you to sign up for some of the free courses to check things out.

Announcing the iPhone Field Guide

Today I'm pleased to announce my latest MacSparky Field Guide is available for purchase from the iBooks Store, The iPhone Field Guide.

I've been working on this book for a long time and I'm really happy with how it turned out. 

With the iPhone Field Guide, you'll learn to get the most from your iPhone with  this media-rich book that is sometimes user guide, sometimes opinionated app recommendations, and sometimes iPhone sensei. This book was built entirely in iBooks Author and includes all of the multimedia goodness including screenshots, photo galleries, and video screencasts all engineered to make you an iPhone power user. There are over 50 screencasts adding up to over two hours of video instruction, 450 pages, 44 chapters, and over 65,000 words to help you learn how to squeeze every bit of awesomeness from your iPhone.

The material is accessible to beginners and power users alike with a thoughtful, fun, and systematic approach to iPhone mastery. Moreover, this book is beautifully designed and a joy to read. This is the seventh book in the MacSparky Field Guide series.

The book looks great on the Mac and iPad but, because it is about the iPhone, there is a separate scrolling mode for the book making it fully consumable on your iPhone. The video screencasts are even formatted to display on your iPhone.

I'm offering the book at an introductory price of $20 but that is going to go up later so if you are interested, check it out now. I'm really proud of this book and I hope you dig it.

OmniFocus 3 and the Next OmniFocus VFG

The Omni Group has been hard at work on OmniFocus, version 3, for some time now. The new version is going to include a lot of new features, including tags, manual sorting, better notifications, and more. It's a big update, along with visual changes, and a bunch more.

I'm already setting up the OmniFocus Video Field Guide, version 3. It's going to release with (or shortly after) OmniFocus, version 3. It's a big project and it is going to be a new purchase. Anyone who buys the current version of the OmniFocus VFG in 2018 will get a free version of the new edition. Now let me get back to work on this outline ...

The OmniFocus Video Field Guide Gets Streaming and Closed Captions

When I first started distributing the video field guides, I wanted to make it as simple as possible. Customers pay and then download a video. It worked great originally but lately I've been getting emails from customers that just work on iPad and iPhone. For them, getting a 2GB video file onto their device is not trivial. 

For those customers, streaming the videos makes more sense than downloading. So I've been looking for a way to distribute the videos that lets customers stream, download, or both. Vimeo gives me that so new customers will now get the OmniFocus Video Field Guide through Vimeo where they can stream or download.

I'm pretty happy with this new distribution method. It gives customers more flexibility and allows me to update small portions without requiring everyone to download the entire video all over again.

Also, with the move I've also added closed captions to all of the chapters. So if you have trouble hearing or english is a second language, check the closed caption box while watching and you're all set. If you've already purchased the OmniFocus Video Field Guide and want a closed captioned copy, please drop me a note.

OmniFocus Video Field Guide Update Coming Sunday

I’ve been working the last few months on an update to the OmniFocus Video Field Guide. I’ve updated it for several new features and gone deep on the iOS Automation and URL linking. I'm making final edits and additions over the next few days and intend to publish it sometime Sunday (probably late). The update will be free for people that have already purchased the field guide. However, please note that for new buyers the price is going up to $19.99. So if you want to get in on the current $9.99 price, do so between now and Sunday afternoon when it goes up.

The Hazel Video Field Guide

I'm pleased to announce the release of my latest Video Field Guide. This one is all about Hazel. For years, Hazel has been one of the best kept secrets on the Mac. Using Hazel, anybody can automate large portions of their work. The thing I love about Hazel is the way it can turn mere mortals into automation gods. Anybody can do this. You don't need a lick of programming knowledge.

The Hazel Video Field Guide assumes that the viewer has no knowledge of Hazel and starts with the basics but by the end ramps up to advanced techniques including home automation via Hazel. One of the workflows, for instance, shows the viewer how to automatically lock their Mac when they leave their home or office using a combination of IFTTT, a simple AppleScript, and Hazel.

The Hazel Video Field Guide is a two-and-a-half hour video screencast with 35 separate chapter markers that teaches you everything you need to know about Hazel.  You can start the screencast without knowing a thing about it and by the end of the screencast you'll be using Hazel to automate everything from filing your bills to having your Mac play some of your favorite music as you arrive home. There is a lot you can do with Hazel and this screencast explains it all including:

1. MASTER OF DOCUMENTS

Hazel will manage your documents for you. Not only can Hazel help you name and file documents, it can also reach inside documents and look at their contents and then use that data in naming the file and putting it in the right place. Hazel is a document management beast and both more efficient and reliable than having a human manage electronic documents. Hazel is also an excellent copilot as you start tagging files. Some of the workflows in this Video Field guide explain how to automatically apply tags to categories of documents so you have the benefit of tagging without the work of creating them. 

2. TAMER OF FILES

Hazel can do a remarkable job of cleaning up after you on your Mac. Hazel can keep an eye on any folder on your Mac, including your downloads folder and your desktop, and keep things nice and tidy. Set your rules once and never have a messy computer again. 

3. MEDIA AUTOMATION

Sorting and filing your media is a pain in the neck. Hazel can take this burden on for you. Using Hazel, you can have your images automatically filed in the Photos application or you can have Hazel automatically sort and organize folders full of images by their date. You can even use a Hazel to automatically rename your images while you're organizing them. Hazel can also manager music for you. Hazel has the ability to automatically import new music into iTunes so you don't have to.

4. REMOTE CONTROL

Not many people realize what a powerful tool Hazel can be for automation. Hazel is always watching. It will jump into action with something as simple as a new text file being added to your hard drive. Moreover, once Hazel kicks in, it can do just about anything on your Mac. One section of this Video Field Guide demonstrates how you can use AppleScript and services like IFTTT to easily create automation scripts for your Mac. One of the sample Hazel workflows will automatically lock your Mac when you leave your house. Another will play your favorite music when you arrive home. Once you understand how these work, and I demonstrate every step, you can alter the scripts to make your Mac do just about anything you want at anytime you want.

5. Manage Your Trash and Smart App Deletion

Another common pain point for Mac owners is managing the trash. If you're not watching it, your Mac's trash can fill up your hard drive. Hazel takes care of this problem for you with the ability to automatically empty the trash after a set period of time or when the trash gets to a predefined size. The settings are easy and completely remove this problem from your life. Likewise, Hazel can also take care of deleting and restoring applications from your Mac. Hazel doesn't just delete the application but all those obscure resource files that are scattered over your drive.

INCREASE PRODUCTIVITY

Hazel does the tedious work so that you can do the important work. This lovingly crafted video is just shy of two-and-a-half hours. There are 35 chapter markers and the video covers every aspect of this super-powerful Mac application. Who doesn't want to wield super-powers over their technology?

Get the Hazel Video Field Guide today for $19.99.

Want a peek? Here's 30 minutes of the Hazel Video Field Guide.

MacSparky Fields Guides Now Available on iPhone

With the release of iOS 8.4, iBooks on the iPhone can now display iBooks Author rich media books like the MacSparky Field Guides. Hooray!

Often I receive emails from readers asking to read my books on the iPhone. Now you can. The books look great on the iPhone. Paperless, Email, Markdown, and 60 Tips all display in the alternative format (pictured). This allows you to also change the type size. Presentations displays in its original format, which looks great but doesn't allow you to change type size.

Either way, I'm thrilled to have millions of potential new customers. If you've already purchased the books, they'll load just fine on your iPhone today. If you've been waiting for them to become iPhone compatible, today is your lucky day. I'm already making changes to the next MacSparky Field Guide to make it even more iPhone friendly.

The Photos Video Field Guide

Late last year I started outlining a new MacSparky Field Guide on photo management. It was one sweet outline and I'd even started writing words. Then I got my hands on the Photos beta and realized that Photos did something pretty remarkable. Photos manages large photo libraries loads better than iPhoto ever did and the iCloud Photo Library works far better than I ever expected. I started revising the "photo management" outline until I realized this was no longer a comparison of competing photo management services and instead an in-depth manual for Photos.

At that point I scrapped the outline and instead produced a Video Field Guide explaining how to get the most from Photos. After a few months of work, here it is.

The Photos Video Field Guide is a 2.5 hour screencast that teaches you how to install and use Apple's Photos Application and sync all of your photos between your Mac, iPad, and iPhone using iCloud Photo Storage. Managing your photos with multiple devices has, over the years, come to feel like chasing a mythical white whale. Not anymore. Photos delivers the goods and this screencast teaches you how.

Topics Include:

1. INITIAL SETUP

While Photos attempts to make your initial setup simple and easy, there can be complications. What if you have more than one existing photo libraries? What if you've got folders of photographs sprinkled all over your hard drive? All of these can be imported into Photos but you've got to know the ropes. This video screencast shows you all tricks to run Photos on your Mac, iPad, and iPhone.

Photos also can use iCloud Photo Library to make sharing photos between your Mac, iPad, and iPhone easier than anyone ever thought possible. The Video Field Guide walks you through the initial iCloud setup, including advice on which cloud storage to use and how to get the initial upload of your photo library done with as little pain and suffering as possible.

2. PHOTO MANAGEMENT

Photos uses an intuitive organizational structure that lets you see your pictures grouped by years, collections, moments, and individual photos. This Video Field Guide shows you exactly how it works and sprinkles in several power tricks to make managing your library even easier. Once you've sorted that out, Photos also has options to create custom and smart albums, where the program seeks out photos for you pursuant to your instruction.

Photos also has specialized libraries that can identify the faces of your family and friends. You can even search you library so if someone says, "Hey! Quick! Find me that picture of Uncle Ralph from April 2007 wearing that ballerina tutu!", you can deliver the goods. This stuff sounds complicated. It's not. By the time you get to the end of this video, you'll be able to embarrass Uncle Ralph in no time flat.

3. PHOTO EDITING

Photos also has a surprisingly large toolset to make your photos better. You can do simple edits, like cropping and rotating, but you can also make complex adjustments to color and light. On the Mac there are even more tools including a histogram, sharpening, definition, noise reduction, vignette and level adjustments. If all of this sounds like greek to you now, that's okay. After watching the video it won't.

The video also explains Photos built in filters and how they can be an excellent jumping off point for making your photos look great. It also covers has the semi-magical "enhance" button. If that's not enough, there are workflows to get your photos out of the Photos app and into an external editor for further work on the Mac, iPad, and iPhone.

4. PHOTO SHARING

With the new Photos app, there are many ways to share your images with friends and family from something as simple as an email to full-blown shared iCloud albums. This section of the video covers all of the sharing options from the Mac and iOS. The Photos Video Field Guide also demonstrates how to make books, calendars, and cards from the Photos application on the Mac.

5. VIDEO

Believe it or not, Photos can manage your video files too. This section covers the best practices for managing video files in Photos and its limited editing capabilities.

6. BACKUP

No photo management system is complete without a thorough backup system. The Photos Video Field Guide concludes explaining backup strategies and techniques. This section also demonstrates how to export images from Photos for additional backup.

The screencast is two and a half hours and fully bookmarked. You can buy it now for $9.99.

Did you ask for a sample video? I thought so. Here you go.


New MacSparky Video Field Guide: Workflow

I've been spending a lot of time with the Workflow app (website) (App Store) as of late. Workflow is one of the most powerful apps available for the iPhone and iPad. Using Workflow, you can combine functions from different applications to make things happen on your iPhone and iPad wicked fast. Because it's so flexible, Workflow is difficult to get started with. That's where this new video field guide comes in.

The Workflow Video Field Guide starts with a few, easy workflows and builds upon them over the course of an hour to turn you into a Workflow pro. By the time you get to the end, you'll be able to roll your own workflows and change the way you work on your iPhone and iPad. 

Some of the workflows in the video include:

  • Build your own animated GIF and share it.
  • Automate notifications to family and friends when you're running late.
  • Send a message to your family so they know when to expect you home.
  • Get a Google Street View picture of the address of your next appointment.
  • Have your phone automatically give you the travel time and directions to your next appointment.
  • Share your location with friends and family with one tap.
  • Easily send screenshots to your Mac via AirDrop.
  • Automatically send photos from your phone to your Mac.
  • Have your iPhone show the location of your photos on a map.
  • Upload images to Dropbox.
  • Convert images to different file formats automatically.
  • Resize and send photos.
  • Blast photos out to multiple sharing services with one workflow.
  • Share your most played music.
  • Get walking directions to the nearest coffee or tea shop.
  • Have your iPhone or iPad look at your calendar for a given day and prepare a message displaying your availability.
  • Create custom iOS extensions
  • Save documents, websites, and other data directly to PDF
  • Create a custom workflow to take a picture of a receipt, give it a custom name, and save it to Dropbox.
  • Build your own tip calculator app. (Yup. Tip calculator.)
  • Set up a workflow to check your battery level, adjust your screen brightness, and send you a message.

Workflow has over 200 available actions that you can mix and match to make your iPhone and iPad dance for you. Don't you want to see that? This screencast is fully bookmarked, an hour long, and engineered to make you a Workflow master. You can download it for $9.99.

Did you say you'd like to see a sample? Then here you go.