Publishing Using the Shortcuts App From Drafts

I do my writing ✍️ in Drafts and I want to do it all on the iPad. So I downloaded the shortcut I found. The Drafts app is text only so I have to get images and then do a markdown link to its url.

I sent the image in through the Transmit app and used the action I have on a keyboard set of actions to insert the markdown code. With the preview action it looks like it worked.

Blogging from Drafts

Wanted to see if I could upload images too with shortcuts.

This was sent to WordPress from Drafts app. Don’t know how to sent images from there. Maybe I have to send them in with another app first. Maybe Transmit or one of the other new apps I dowloaded to try the other day.

Got the image in through the WordPress app on the iPad. Have to work out now how to get it to accept the markdown and convert it.

The action in Drafts send it as a draft post and it has to be published in the WordPress app too.

Also noted the WordPress doesn’t use the Gutenberg blocks I have got used to in web WordPress.

Keyboard Maestro Automation

More automation on the Mac

Keyboard Maestro Automation is great and I do love a bit of automation on all of my computers. I can’t help but love all the stuff I can do on iOS using Shortcuts application. So when I get working on my Mac I want to do the same sort of thing. The application Automator has been around for a long time and you also have AppleScript. I haven’t got into either of these applications much and I find I much prefer to use Keyboard Maestro. It just seems to be more accessible and more reliable. So when I have a problem to solve I’ll go to Keyboard Maestro before I look anywhere else. Something which will be really nice is if we had the Shortcuts application for the Mac. Given its success on iOS and the move towards iOS applications being compiled for the Mac with what Apple are calling “Marzipan” I can see that happening in the future.

Finding a problem to solve

You have to choose what it is you want to automate. This can be easy and it can be hard. The problem is we are so busy we are doing what we need to do and not remembering there are automation possibilities. It’s like when you’re cutting down a tree with a blunt saw and you’re too busy mopping the sweat from your brow to use the saw sharpening tool you have in the bag. Sometimes I think it would be a good idea to have a Post-it note posted front and centre on the computer to remind you. The note would say something like “Can you automate that?” or “Are you doing a task of repetitively?” We have something like this built into TextExpander which lets you know if you are consistently typing in a specific word over and over. A little message pops up to ask you if you want to create a shortcut. So I thoroughly recommend you doing whatever it takes to give yourself a reminder every now and then to look at your workflow.

My latest Mac automation

First of all I had to notice there was a problem which needed to be solved. I like to work on my Apple computers as if they are one big system. I need to have access to words I’ve written on the iMac when I’m away from home and I only have my iPhone or iPad with me. Same with going the other way and anything which I did on the iPad or iPhone should be available immediately and easily on my Mac.

iCloud or Dropbox

I used to use Dropbox as the service to synchronise files across the whole system, iOS and OS X. At the moment I have a problem with Dropbox not working for me properly on my Mac and so writing I’ve done in Scrivener can’t be synchronised. I’ll have to get the connection with Dropbox fixed at some point in time. On the other hand, I do have a preference for using iCloud and any writing I do on the Mac in Ulysses or Drafts is immediately synchronised to all my computing devices.

Where to do dictation – Which app?

I like to write in Scrivener because it accepts the dictation from DragonDictate just perfectly. If I try to do the same in Ulysses it will throw up errors and complain after a while. So what I do is to write in Scrivener and send that text to where I can use it everywhere. When I start the day I like to do a journal entry into Day One. I write this journal entry in Scrivener and then I have a Keyboard Maestro automation which select all of the text, copies it to the clipboard, opens up Day One, inserts the password as it opens up the application, starts a new journal entry and pastes the clipboard contents. I have also set it to close the application Day One after a few seconds. This gives me a chance to make sure the post has been posted correctly. It’s also enough time to drag in a photo from Photos app if I wanted. All I have to do to get this automation started is to type in two characters – d1.

Scrivener to an iCloud synchronised app

So my plan was to do the same type of automation which takes my text from Scrivener and puts it into an application which synchronises through iCloud. My first thought was to send it to Ulysses. Ulysses is a fantastic writing application and I have used it to write, organise and compile complete books which I have for sale available on Amazon and the Apple bookstore. It uses iCloud for the synchronisation and it has never let me down. If Dropbox was working for me on my Mac – Scrivener Dropbox synchronisation doesn’t work great. You have to wait a short while for the synchronisation to do its thing when you open up the iOS version of the application. It is just a little niggling problem, but it has led me to find other ways to complete my writing workflow.

Drafts the Text Editor / Automator

Another option is to use the application Drafts as the receptacle for my dictation on the Mac. I have given it some testing and so far it seems fairly reliable. Even so, for the moment I still prefer to use Scrivener for my dictation. Drafts on the Mac is still in beta although that is due to change fairly soon. As soon as I have the full version of the application I will look again at my writing workflow on the Mac. I think Drafts could work well for me especially as I’m able to increase the size of the text. My old eyes prefer to have the text of bigger on the screen and make it easier to read. No need to have an extra step in the process, but for the moment….. Let’s automate. – Keyboard Maestro Automation

Creating a Keyboard Maestro Automation

There is a feature in Keyboard Maestro Automation which lets you record your actions, clicks and keyboard presses. So one way to create a new automation is to press record and see what you have at the end. If you’re using your mouse or Magic Trackpad the recording will record where you click on part of the screen. The problem comes round when you’re running the automation later. The application could be in a different part of the screen and the click to do something is not in the right place. It’s for this reason I prefer to use keyboard key combinations. So it’s a good idea to have a look through the menus and make note of the key combinations to operate the application. You can also get Keyboard Maestro to activate buttons in an app window. We all know the keyboard combinations for working with the clipboard whether we want to cut, copy or paste. You only have to work out if there are other keyboard combinations you need for your automation specific to the application.

Dragging and Dropping Actions

After you’ve created a new macro in Keyboard Maestro you can give your new macro a title. Then you can specify what your trigger is going to be and you have a lot of choices available. The one I wanted to use was a Typed String Trigger. It’s handy to use one of these because your fingers are already at the keyboard. Choose something you’re unlikely to use during ordinary typing such as d1, n1 or xxx or something similar. (Another possibility is to use a keyboard combination as a macro trigger.) Then start adding actions you want in your macro. You start this process by clicking on the green coloured round button with a + in it. This brings up a list of actions available.

Keyboard Maestro Automation

Finding Actions in Keyboard Maestro

Actions are grouped to help you find them and you can also do a search. There are three smart folders for actions – All Actions, Favourites and Third-Party Plug-Ins. After that there are a number of folders you can look into depending on whether you’re working with images, text, files, web and a range of others. There’s a reasonable number of actions available. You can even run other macros, execute AppleScript or JavaScript as well as control the flow of macro with programming type statements.
To help you get started it could be a good idea to run through what is you want to do manually. Then you’ll see easily what is you need to add to your macro to recreate it as an automation. Here’s a list of what I wanted to do with Keyboard Maestro Automation.

  • Select all text
  • Copy the selected text to the clipboard (or cut)
  • Open the application where I wanted to move the text to
  • Create a new document
  • Paste the clipboard contents
  • Cleanup the text
  • Add tags to the newly created document
  • Return to the application where I started – Scrivener

I needed to clean up the text because there was extra space in front of the ## at the beginning of the dictated text. I needed to do a find and replace to specifically remove that extra space. I experimented with doing this cleanup before copying it to the clipboard and also after pasting into the secondary application. I found it worked better after pasting. Sometimes you need to do some tweaking to get these macros to work. On a couple of occasions I’ve needed to add a pause of a couple of seconds to make sure the computer had time to complete the action. Keyboard Maestro is a super application for automating your day to day work on your Mac.

Keyboard Maestro Automation

Keep iterating and testing

When you have something which looks like it has all the steps, press the play button and give it a try. Or stop the editing process of the macro and go to the application where you want to use it. Test the macro and also the Typed String Trigger. If everything works as it should, give yourself a pat on the back and be happy. Sometimes you have to change something in the macro to make it work. Other times you can see how you could improve the macro and you’ll want to throw in more actions. It is fun to make these macros and satisfying when you have created a tool for yourself which saves you time with your repeating tasks in your workflow. Go and have fun making your macros. Let me know in the comments if you have made a good one. Let me know if you need help and I will do my best to point you in the right direction.

Text Manipulation with FoldingText App

I don’t know how I hadn’t seen this one before and it was just by chance I found this yesterday. I saw a message somewhere from somebody who’d said he had read my book about Good and Geeky writing and he mentioned FoldingText. Out of curiosity I went to the website and found a download link. I thought I’d give it a try and I there was a link for a trial version. There was another link which allowed me to download a paid for version, but it was free. So far, I am quite impressed. I normally do my writing dictation into Scrivener because it works out well with DragonDictate. Using the application FoldingText I’m finding the text appears on screen quicker. When I give commands to move the cursor around within the text it gets there quicker. This makes the whole process of dictation/writing to seem snappier and more efficient.

Useful tricks in FoldingText

Folding Up Sections Of Text

The first trick to mention is the fact you can fold the text, hence the name of the application. If you’re working in a long document you can choose to fold sections of the text out of the way. This is good for moving around within the document and also allowing you to focus in on what you’re working on. The application is a markdown editor and you get it to fold whatever is within a header level. You just have to use the keyboard combination of Command / and the text within that level folds away. Using the same keyboard combination again will toggle the text back out again. There is also a small icon at the end of the title for that section of text, it’s a rectangle with three small dots on it. You click on that and that will also unfold the text.

Focus on a Specific Section of Text

In the same vein as folding separate sections of text individually you can also choose to focus on the area you are working on. Use the keyboard shortcut Command Uand all of the other sections of text will fold leaving just the one you are working on in view. To focus out you use the keyboard shortcut Shift Command U.
There is an outline view which is a small section on the left-hand side of the window. In this area you’ll see a list of your headings in the document. If you’re working on a long document with lots of sections this is a good way to move around in between them.
It’s easy to remove individual folds by clicking on them, but you can also remove all folds by clicking on the small icon in the upper left-hand corner of the document. Of course you also have a keyboard shortcut to do Show All – Command Shift A.
There are a lot of keyboard shortcuts to learn. I don’t think it would take too long if you are constantly using this application to learn the ones you need and use most often. You’ll soon have them in your muscle memory.

Plugins for Extra Functionality

This text editor has a couple of features which are useful. Starting off with the folding and the focusing tricks as well as other niceties such as typewriter scrolling. You can also add a few plug-ins and some of them use a command mode to give you extra features. I’ve had a look at the Critic Markup which allows you to make changes such as additions, deletions, substitutions and comments. This would be good for using with an editor. Your editor would be able to use this markup to correct and make suggestions in your writing.

Lists and to do lists

As well as being able to do unordered lists by using the markdown syntax you can also create a To Do list. It’s really cool way you get nice little checkboxes you can click on. When you click on one of these checkboxes you get extra syntax at the end of the item. It uses /@done which also puts a strike through through the text. It wouldn’t take much to have a shortcut which will also put in a date. This could be done with the system text replacement or by using TextExpander.
Use the app as an outliner too. In the Organize menu you’ll see commands to increase level and decrease level. Also there are commands to move a whole branch up and down the document as well as to the left and right. This is useful if you are outlining a large document or working on a list with sub lists.

Viewing and Sharing Your Work

You can use this with the application Marked2 so you can see what the rendered text looks like. At the moment there isn’t a viewer within the app. You can also use Marked 2 for taking the text out in specific formats. I like that there is Share in the file menu giving me a quick and easy way to get the text into my favourite writing application Ulysses.

The Good and Geeky Verdict On Folding Text

I’m really impressed with the application and I like it. I could see me using it because I like speed with which the text goes into the application when I’m dictating. It’s a shame the application is missing a sister application in iOS. I like it when I can have synchronisation through iCloud as I get with Ulysses or with Drafts. I’m going to give it a couple of weeks to be the application I use for dictation and see how it goes.
It has some nice little tricks up its sleeve and version 2 is free. When version 3 finally comes out it will be an application to be paid for. This is what the application needs if it is going to survive in the world of applications. Apps get forgotten and go into a sunset mode if the developers don’t get paid for their work.

Shortcuts Tutorial – How To Create A Shortcut

Buy The Book – The Perfect Blog Post

To celebrate my birthday this year I’ve set up a FREE promotion of the book on Amazon which starts on the 15th of February and finishes on the 19th of February 2019.

If you get the book during this promotion could you do me a favour and leave a review. Thanks that would be lovely.

Takes time and energy to run an web site and write. I do it because I like doing it. How about showing your appreciation by buying one of the Good and Geeky books. I’d really appreciate it.On Amazon I have books ranging in price from 99 cents or pence up to €4.99. Thanks if you can do the equivalent of buying me a cup of tea, or coffee if you’re that way inclined. I appreciate whatever you can afford.

On Amazon I have books ranging in price from 99 cents or pence up to €4.99. Thanks if you can do the equivalent of buying me a cup of tea, or coffee if you’re that way inclined. I appreciate whatever you can afford.

When you’re making the perfect blog post there are a lot of moving parts. It would be easy to forget one or two pieces of the process as you go about putting it all together. I think it’s a good idea to have a list of all that needs to be done and to use it. In this video I show you how to use Shortcuts, the app from Apple to automate making your list in Reminders. Here is a shortcuts tutorial. It would also be possible to change this shortcut to send the list into something else like Omnifocus, things or one of the other GTD applications.
I like using this method of making the list because it allows me to choose which of my blogs I am working with. It lets me decide if I’m going to do the full Monty which includes audio and video. All I can just create a blog post using just text, text with audio or text with video.

Lists in Shortcuts


Shortcuts tutorial – Within this shortcut we used the list method of choosing from two items and created variables based upon the choice. I also used a menu to give me a set of four choices and the shortcut builds it all from there. We needed to add a couple of dates. It needed the date for today, tomorrow, the day after tomorrow and for one week. This allowed me to set the reminders with a due date. It’s possible then to look into reminders and see what is scheduled. This way you can plan out your day or even your week.


It’s quite satisfying to have a list of tasks to be completed and to see the list becoming smaller as you get the job done. The first part of this shortcut puts together the list with regard to the creation of the perfect blog post. The second part of the list adds three more reminders to cover extra social network posts to tell the world about your blog post.

Follow the Recipe


You can follow this recipe in this shortcuts tutorial for making a similar, more personalised version of the shortcut. Or you can download the pre-made shortcut to your iOS device, make minimal changes to fit your purpose.

Simple List Instead?


Shortcuts tutorial. If you don’t want an automated way of creating your list of tasks you can use something like Drafts. Use a simple list syntax instead. This gives you a very simple list to work with and no dates. There is also the notes application which you can create a list, but again you don’t get any due dates. The good thing about using this automated list creation as you see in this video is that it is free. You can download the Shortcuts app for free and reminders is already installed on your system. If you don’t mind paying for some software you might look at Omnifocus. I might make another version of this shortcut which sends the list into Omnifocus instead. I already have a Drafts action which takes a list and sends it into Omnifocus. The Shortcuts way of doing it is preferable. It allows you to choose which parts of the full list are relevant to the project you have in mind.

Buy The Book – The Perfect Blog Post
Free Promotion on Amazon 15th Feb until 19th Feb. Get it and Leave a review.

Artificial Intelligence and Automation of Life

That automated guy

There is that story going around about the mythical guy who automated everything with his job. He was a coder and went to extreme levels of automation. This even went to the point of an automated email message being sent to his wife if he was still hooked into his terminal at work at a certain time of the day. He added a made up excuse to go with it too. I suppose the message said something like he was going to be a little bit late for whatever reason. I hope the automation also included a countdown timer to kick him off his work computer and tell him to go home. The automation should also include a call to the mobility company so a car would be waiting for him to get into the train station or bus stop. Maybe he had a car which performed autonomous driving to the point of pulling up in front of the offices ready for him to jump in. The car would drive him home and send another more up-to-date email to say exactly what time he would be home. He did all of this to avoid work and do other stuff instead. Probably played computer games.

A robot thinking

That Guy…

He wrote a script that waits 17 seconds, then hacks into the coffee machine and orders it to start brewing a latte. The script tells the machine to wait another 24 seconds before pouring the latte into a cup, the exact time it takes to walk from the guy’s desk to the coffee machine.
And his coworkers didn’t even know the coffee machine was on the network and hackable.

If there wasn’t a significant other waiting for him at home there should be automation to have the house at the right temperature for his arrival. As the car arrives to your house a geolocation trigger would turn on all your lights ready for when you walk inside. The music system could be playing your favourite music. Or the television could be ready to go with a playlist of a movie or a TV series episode or two ready to go. There would be a food delivery ordered, or the food in the microwave would be cooked to perfection five minutes after his arrival back at the house. Enough time to change into something more comfortable and settle in. A certain amount of planning would have to go into this. He’d have to have the food ready in the microwave. He would have to give himself reminders before leaving for work to do that. Or he’d have a slow cooker which was possible to turn on at a specific time. If the time of return was difficult to nail down then you’d need to at least have a way of remote control for the cooker. Thank goodness for the internet of things. There will manual steps to make all of this happen for some time to come. Who knows for the future?

That Guy again

The guy wrote one script that sends a text message “late at work” to his wife and “automatically picks reasons” from a preset list of them, describes Narkoz. It sent this text anytime there was activity with his login on the company’s computer servers after 9 p.m.

https://www.businessinsider.com/programmer-debate-secretly-automating-their-jobs-2017-7?IR=T

How automated can you go?

If you want everything to be automated you would need to have a fairly structured life. Or you’d need an automation system in place which took into account the possibility of your changing your mind on things during the day. There are all sorts of things which can put a spoke into the works. Perhaps there is an accident on the road going home and the detour means you’re 15 or 20 minutes late. How will the automated cooking arrangements take into account any delays. Perhaps a friend or a member of family turns up unannounced. Will there be sufficient leeway in your automated system to allow for such eventualities?

Is the automation going to be deep automation which uses artificial intelligence or machine learning to do your bidding during the day in the most efficient way possible? Or can we only expect automation to take place where we use manual triggers to set things in motion. In this scenario we press a button or say a phrase to the voice activated assistant to get things into motion. Perhaps what we really need is to have a combination of levels of automation. Some aspects of our life could be the artificial intelligence reacting to actual triggers. Some of it could be where the machine learns you like to do a specific thing at a specific time. It has things put in place ready for you to do or to use. Another possibility would be for our computers to prompt us and ask us questions. “Hello computer user, at this time of day on a Friday you like to do this. Confirm by saying yes if you want to go ahead?”

Programming in random possibilities into our lives

We don’t want to turn into a robot ourselves. We don’t want to be a controlled by a strict timetable which doesn’t allow for serendipity. What about if we were to tell the automation to throw in the occasional curveball. Make life less boring. Our intelligent artificial assistant could helpfully suggest something out of the ordinary. It could go on the basis of getting us to do something we’ve never really considered. Or it could recommend something based on what other users of a similar type have chosen to do. He could be as simple as recommending a tasty dish to choose in a restaurant. It could be as drastic as coaxing us to go and do a parachute jump and get some exhilaration into our lives.

Connected lives and systems

There’s going to come a time when elements of automated personal transport will all talk to each other. You will jump into your car and say where you want to go to and the car will take you there. As the car drives along the road it will let other vehicles know of its presence so it can just slot in to the flow of traffic. As it gets to the junction just simply pull out and go on its merry way. The gap in the traffic where it was is closed up so the traffic is moving along the roadway in the most efficient way possible.

Alas, Poor Yorik…

In the same way that traffic worked, the interaction of people could be similar. Your personalised artificial assistant will keep you productive at work. It could also recommend downtime. This could be a gentle reminder to go and visit your old mum if you haven’t seen her for a while. In order to keep your mental health on track it might even suggest you’ve been working too hard. The system would tell you it’s time to go watch a movie or go and socialise. Perhaps it could even set up a blind date for you if you’re getting too wound up in life and you really need to go and get laid. Funny if the AI brings the two people together for the blind date and doesn’t let on what’s going on and you think it is just kismet.

Everybody is different with individual needs

There are some things about life which are universal. The need to feel a sense of belonging and being a part of a group. This is alongside other basics such as the need for shelter, warmth and food. Surely much of this could be automated and optimised. Optimised based upon the needs of the individual as well as optimisation for the external influences. Influences such as the ability of society and the earth to provide. It’s true to say algorithms are already influencing our lives. Mostly this is down to advertising and what is being offered to us by large corporations. Would you like one of these, your friends have shown interest or bought items such as this. Will you put in your order and buy one? We keep getting nudges to get us to do things.

The nanny state and legislation

What if the nanny state decides what’s best for you in terms of diet. Would you be happy to let machine learning and your personal artificial assistant decides your menu for the week. We already have chosen to use things like the Apple Watch which will recommend we’ve been sitting down for too long and it tells us to stand up. It gives us nudges and encouragement to do a minimum amount of exercise and burning of calories during the day. How how far could such a system go? Can we trust algorithms and technology to know what’s best for us? There could come a time when the rebels are the excessively fat people. There will always be the person who chooses to have the extra two or three donuts and chooses not to do any exercise either. Can an artificial intelligence cope with all the randomness of people? Will people just more and more annoyed at an overbearing machine learning system which supposedly has our best interests at heart. It kind of depends on who controls the controller. Or will the machine learn from the worst of humanity instead of the best of humanity.

How will the future look?

I’d like to be optimistic and expect technology to bring benefits to the lives of all humans around the world. Human society varies so much from the really bad to the really good. Will algorithms mash a wide rainbow of life and living into a boring grey uniformity? Let’s see what happens.

iOS Shortcuts App to make Calendar Events

End of the week Thinking about Automation

I’ve got a cup of tea in my hand and I’m wondering what I should do for the day. There is a little puzzle I would like to solve. This is an iOS or Mac automation problem. Each month I get an email in about the English-language films on in Platja d’Aro and I would like to have a way of automating taking the name of the film and the date and creating a calendar event. I’d like to do this with the Shortcuts application.

What would be good is if I could just send the text of the whole email to the beginning of the automation. Shortcuts would find the relevant information I want and take it to the end of the process. It will add the location information for the cinema and also add the travel time to the event. If it was just one film per month it may be a little bit easier. However, it has to find two film titles and dates in the text.

My first idea

My first idea was to select the name of the film and the date manually and copy it to the clipboard. I would then share that to a shortcut which will do the rest of the job.

It’s not even a big job to do this thing manually. I’m more interested in how to solve the problem and getting Shortcuts to do it with coding. I am prepared to find out if there’s a way to do it with JavaScript. Let’s first of all see if I can do it in a more simpler fashion before I get ankle-deep into code.

I was wondering if I could use Regular Expression to find matches for the text. The films always are on a Thursday and that word is the first word of a line of text in the email. Could be a way of getting my code to find the date in the email. It should also be possible to use regular expression to find text which is a date. More difficult to find titles because each month they vary and don’t stand out from the rest of the text in a meaningful way.

When I have this information the next trick will be to put it into a calendar. It’s possible to use the Add New Event calendar action, but I think I’m going to have more luck with using Fantastical and probably using the X-Callback URL encoding to get all of the details into the event I want to create. I’m sure it will take much trial and error to make this work. It’s amazing what you can accomplish though when you persevere.

I might also have a look at doing this automation on the Mac too. On the Mac I can use Keyboard Maestro. The good thing about using that application is I can get it to record my keystrokes as I make them. The automation then is the playback of that recording. It would be pretty good to have both ways of making this automation. Sometimes I’m sitting at my desk in front of my iMac when I see this email. Other times I’m with my iPad or my iPhone.

Banging your head against a brick wall

That’s what it feels like sometimes when you’re trying to work out how to do some coding. Especially when you are not a coder. To some extent I was doing quite well using Shortcuts on the iPad and iPhone. I could get the correct blocks necessary to make the shortcut kind of work. It seemed as though there were always just a little niggling problems to annoy me. I found Fantastical worked best when I had the title on the first line followed by the rest of information on subsequent lines. The problem came about with the information being presented with the date first, followed by the title. It then didn’t put all of the title into Fantastical. Getting more complicated by the minute.

This led me to find ways of automating getting the two parts of the data onto separate lines and in the right order. I looked at ways of doing this within the Shortcuts app. Then I tried to get that same job done in Drafts and I also ended up working out how to do it in Editorial. It got quite confusing going from one app to another trying to get the same thing done. Had to deal with different notation for the actions in each app. My preference was still to do everything within Shortcuts in order to make it as simple as possible. On the other hand, I was able to get Shortcuts to send data out to Editorial and to bring it back in again after it had been rearranged. Still not working right for me though.

A twist in the story

When I was trying to work this out I did try to use a date which was in the past. When I did this, Fantastical wanted to create the event in the following year. It makes sense because why would you want to create events for something which has already taken place. Even so, I did spend some time adding things into the code to try and stop that from happening. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t. Waste of time because I will really only do this with new emails containing dates in the near future.

I couldn’t work out why on some occasions it shows a completely different date to the text being given. Fantastical he supposed to be good at using plain language to extract the data to create events. What with the title having to be first, followed by the date and then I had to put in the proper address for the location, it’s clear Fantastical needs the data to be presented in a specific order. Had to throw things out of my automation and try again multiple times.

Appending to the clipboard

What I have found works efficiently is to grab the title which is supposed to be on the first line. That goes into the clipboard first. Then there is a shortcut I found and installed into Shortcuts which will take the date which I have selected and put it on a line after the title already placed in the clipboard. The actions within the shortcut I have been making takes the data and then adds the address for the cinema and throws it all into Fantastical. It works, but still is not as automatic as I would like it to be. Not the final solution as it was not automatic enough.

The road to success for my automation

I didn’t give up, but I did put the problem to one side for a day. Sometimes it’s good to do this to come back fresh and with new ideas. I went out for a drive around Barcelona hunting charging points for my electric car. In the evening time I relaxed and watched television, including the movie ‘Walk the Line’ which was a biopic based on the life story of Johnny Cash. I successfully put the automation problem I’d set for myself right to the back of my mind.

New day and new ideas

I found it was possible to throw in a big lump of text which included two lines which had my data into the beginning of the automation and extract just those two lines. I did this using Regular Expression. There is an action within Shortcuts which will match text and you to use a regular expression to get what you want. I had to do a bit of reading on a website which has all the information and tutorials on using Regex. To be honest it was quite complicated leading to a good bit of head scratching. In the end I was able to adjust one of the examples and try it out in an application called Expressions on my Mac. I had the text pasted into the search area of the application and I kept changing the regular expression until it selected everything I required. I got there in the end!

Working with the captured text

So now I had the text within the shortcut application but I still had the problem of getting the title of the movie in front of the date. If I didn’t do this the automation only put a couple of words into the title area for the event into Fantastical.

I found an action in Shortcuts which would split the text. The first option within this action I used was to split the two titles with dates into two lines. I didn’t need the word Thursday so I had the automation delete that word. I then split the text again using a custom search term. So this put the date on one line and the title on another line. I ended up with a list of four items.

I tried every which way I could think of to give each item in this list a variable. This would allowed me to put the two pairs of title and date together in the right order. Each time I tried the shortcut just kept getting confused. I was getting very confused myself at times. So I decided to try and split the automation into separate parts. This is a good plan because you can have a shortcut run other shortcuts. During my trials of ways to split up the text I found I could use the action ‘Get Item from the List’ to give me each of the four pieces of data. So I duplicated my shortcut so I had four of them. Each shortcut provided one of the four data points.

Bringing it all together in a controlling shortcut

So each shortcut gives me a piece of text. I started a new controller shortcut bringing in to film titles and two dates. This was easily done by running the shortcut for each data point to an action Get Text from Input and then setting a variable. I could then use each of these variables to put the text in the right order for adding an event into fantastical.

Number 3 of 4 shortcuts to parse the text for the controller Shortcut

My first attempt was to use X callback URL for sending the data to fantastical. I did it this way to add an address for the cinema to the calendar event. It didn’t work the way I wanted it to. It wanted me to confirm by tapping on the add button in fantastical for each movie.

So what did instead was to create a text output by combining three variables. Two of them from the shortcuts running in this controller shortcut and the other variable was the address of the cinema. This worked the way I wanted to work because there is a switch to turn off the editing within Fantastical. At the end of all this the shortcut runs perfectly without any extra input from me.

My shortcut automation in use

I use the email application Airmail 3. There is a small amount of automation available within this app. I created an action in Airmail which sends the content of the email to my newly created shortcut in the Shortcuts app. It all runs in the background and I don’t need to do anything else. We have a winner!

Social Media Grind

Sometimes social media is a bit of a grind

For the most part, I enjoy having time with my screens. I always like having something to read and I get that with Twitter and Facebook. I keep up-to-date with what’s happening in the world. I have the latest information on areas of interest I follow. I know what’s happening with all of the big stuff in world politics. I think it’s important not to be ignorant of basic world events. It doesn’t seem to be a good idea though, to be too well informed on all of the bad stuff going on. Following all the bad news too closely can be bad for your mental health. I often wish the news outlets of the world would spread more good information about what’s going on in the world rather than focusing on the awful. There could be more in the news about how technology is improving the world. However, a lot of the news seems to be about death and war. Sadly, too much airtime is given to religion and religious influence. That’s just the way that the BBC works, it seems.

Keeping up with the family news

One of the reasons we follow things in social media is to see what our families are getting up to. I like to hear what’s going on with my son George and his bicycle shop. I feel like I’m supporting him by commenting and sharing his posts about cycling. One of my nephews and his wife put up quite a few posts featuring their children. It’s great to see the kids growing up even though I haven’t met them in person yet. I’m not sure I agree with children being exposed too much on social media because they can’t give their permission. It is possible that the sharing can be kept within the family, so long as the parents of the children know how to restrict the permissions. I still think it’s better to have something more direct like a photo album, only shared directly with specific people and outside of social media. Something like a shared photo album in iCloud or Google photos is better than putting everything onto Facebook.

It’s never-ending – It just keeps coming

Sometimes you can feel like you are chained to social media. I like to keep an inbox zero with my email. When I open up the email application I delete, archive and even reply so the inbox is kept empty. If I don’t have time to deal with the contents of one of the emails directly I will snooze it until a moment when I’ll have time later. The email will pop back into the inbox and hopefully I will be able to deal with it when I next look at it. Sometimes snoozing an email is a chance ,to have second thoughts and leads me to make a decision to only ignore and delete.

Constant Stream of Junk

Same thing with Facebook. There is a constant stream of mostly junk. It seemed most of the rubbish is American information – sport and politics, of which I have no interest. If someone I’m connected to keeps putting stuff up like that, I just unfollow them. I don’t need to see whatever they think is important about some stupid American football game. I usually leave them as friends, but take their stream of consciousness out of my eyesight on the Facebook wall.

On Twitter I will unfollow people if I see too much rubbish I’m not interested in. If they are following me then sometimes what I will do instead, is to just mute or muffle their output so I don’t see it. I can always tap on the muted tweet and have a look to see something I might be interested in. It’s the fear of missing something that keeps me hooked and looking? There are some mornings when I can’t be bothered to look at the couple of hundred tweets since I last looked. I just tap the button at the top to get to the end and leave it at that. Sometimes it feels like that story in the TV series ‘Lost’ and the character had to keep watching a counter and press a button to stop the world from blowing up. He was imprisoned by this activity. Is social media becoming like this?

How to deal with this problem

In the latest version of the https://goodandgeeky.com/new-iphone-automate-ios-siri-shortcuts/Apple operating system for iOS devices there’s an option to limit your screen time. I don’t like the idea of cutting myself off from using my iPhone or iPad. On the other hand, I’m starting to think it would be a good idea to limit myself to having to one hour at some point in time during the day. Not a limit to access the whole of the phone but just a limit to social media. This would allow me to concentrate my efforts more on creating digital content rather than being a receiver of digital content. Instead of wasting time looking at videos on YouTube, reading tweets or posts on Facebook, I could be working on my next book, creating my latest podcast or making a video. I also consider spending time reading books as more worthwhile than reading short tweets et cetera. Even though it is still me consuming content, it is more valuable to me because I’m learning about writing as well as enjoying a story.

During my time off over the winter I could just simply say I have to begin creating at 9 o’clock in the morning. So even if I’ve been looking at social media before that while having breakfast or doing whatever at 9 o’clock I begin work. The idea would then be to disallow myself from looking at social media until I’ve finished my creativity for the day. Only when I’ve written a sufficient number of words for the day can I allow myself time to do non-important stuff.

For this to work I might have to turn off notifications coming in from my email application and the socials. It could be necessary for me to use the new system of regulating access to social media on my iOS devices. It’s possible for me to set specific times and also to limit the amount of time for this activity. I could create for myself a good habit. I would expect to give myself an opportunity to override my settings. It will be annoying to be locked out at a time when I have a good reason to be jumping into social media.

You have to have a good reason to restrict yourself

My reason for wanting to do this is to give me more time for being creative. It’s to stop me from wasting time going down a rabbit hole of looking at one video after another. Save myself from getting to a point in time two hours down the rabbit hole and feeling I’ve just wasted some valuable time. I don’t think it’s a good idea just to do this for the sake of it. Just because you have read somewhere that too much screen time is bad for you. If spending time on social media interacting with other people is what you like to do, then why not do it. It’s your life.

Setting up Screen Time

The first possibility is Downtime. This is to schedule a time away from the screen. I don’t want to do that. This is where you allow only certain apps and phone calls during a specific time period. The default setting is from 10 o’clock at night until 7 o’clock in the morning. I’m going to be asleep for most of this time so that’s not going to work for me. I could set a period during the daytime where I was only allowed to use productivity applications. That’s something I might try later.

The second possibility is app limits. I have set this one up to limit social networking to 2 hours per day. Two hours is probably too much. One hour would probably be better, but let’s try two hours first of all. There are other groups of applications you can also set. You could restrict the amount of time you spend on games, entertainment, creativity, education, reading or All Apps and Categories. It’s also possible to create combinations of these groups. So you could allow yourself one hour for games type applications and two hours for social network.

Another section within this Screen Time part of settings for your device lets you to choose apps which are always allowed. By default you get Messages and FaceTime included with the phone. Maps is also in the included list. I have added my password manager, Airmail, PlugShare, Waze, WhatsApp, TwistedWave, Anylist, Books, Day One, Drafts and few other applications which I don’t want to have any restrictions applied to. I could add more applications to this if at any time I’ve been told by the phone I can’t use a certain application due to the settings I’ve put in the Screen Time settings within iOS 12.

Best Apps for Journalling

Buy the Book and support Good and Geeky.

Bypassing the settings is possible by setting a Screen Time pass code. I don’t want to have to go into the settings to mess about with things just to be able to use an application. For this reason I’ve set up the pass code which will allow me to momentarily get past the blockage.

Content and privacy restrictions – This doesn’t really affect me in the slightest because I’m the only person who uses my phone. I won’t be switching this on because it’s not necessary. Within this area you can create your own restrictions to allowed applications, content restrictions, various privacy restrictions and decide if you want to allow changes to certain other settings. I see the iPhone as a totally personal device and I would never share my phone with anybody else. I find it weird and probably silly for these parents who allow their children to use their expensive personal mobile computer devices. Give them a toy to play with or buy them their own phone, but don’t give them yours to mess with.

Let’s see how we get on

So I set up these basic restrictions on my iPhone which will also look at how I’m using my iPad. I’m not sure if it includes what I’m doing with my Mac. Right now I’m wondering if it also includes what I do with my Apple watch. I’m guessing it could be a bit of an eye-opener to show me how much time I spend with my Apple personal computer devices. I don’t expect it to be a big surprise. I know already I spend a lot of time looking at the screens. It’s for this reason I thought it worthwhile spending so much money on buying the latest iPhone XS Max. It’ll be interesting to see if I can be more productive by limiting the amount of time I spend on social media.

Driving an Electric Vehicle

The joys of driving an electric vehicle

I’ve driven over 8000 km in my Nissan Leaf. I have enjoyed every single one of them. It’s been a voyage of discovery in a good and geeky way. I’ve been learning how to manage travelling long distances with regards to the charging. Lots of fun to be had, planning and driving my Nissan Leaf road trips. Most people, for most of the time, will not have any difficulty with charging an electric vehicle because it will be charged overnight at home. Generally, it’s not that often we tend to do the long trips where we have to use public chargers. In my own case, this will be true except having a new electric vehicle made me want to do more kilometres than I would normally. So far in one third of the year, I’ve driven about three-quarters of the distance I would clock up in one year. So this shows I love driving an electric vehicle and going long distances is no problem at all.

Driving an electric vehicle

Experimenting and learning how to charge

One of the things I’ve noticed is there are a number of different models and types of electric vehicle chargers. Not only that, there are lots of RFID cards, apps and ways to activate a charger. The other variable is finding the chargers. Finding the position of the chargers with applications such as PlugShare, NextCharge, ElectroMaps, PlugSurfing, ChargeMap, NewMotion as well as others specific to a network.

Tossa de Mar App

Usually the chargers don’t have any information about how to activate the charging point. When there is information, often it is quite basic. A bit of head scratching needed to work out what to do. So far the applications for finding charge points don’t include information about how to activate the charger. So I have been taking trips specifically to hunt for charge point to try them out. Or I have modified my journey so I could try out a different charger than I would have used otherwise.

On one of my latest journeys driving an electric vehicle, I went to Tossa de Mar with a plan to plug-in while walking around the town. First of all, the GPS sent me in a wrong direction. I think the address must have been incorrect in the PlugShare app. It wasn’t too difficult to go round a one-way system to get back to the correct route to the charger. I was pleased to see the charging point wasn’t occupied either by an ICE vehicle or another electric car. There was a place on the charge point to scan RFID cards. I tried all of the RFID cards I own and none of them worked. The next step was to use my phone to read the QR code on the charger. This took me to a website where I could register or sign in. When you register you get an email to let you know you’ve been successful. You then have to re-scan the QR code which takes you to a website which allows you to activate the charger. On this occasion that didn’t work. I did see on this website there was a link to download an app. So the next plan was to download the app and to log in using the password already set on the website. When this was done it was easy as pie to activate the charger and start downloading electrons. I’m a person who will persevere with this sort of activity, but I suspect other people would have given up. Other people might not have been in a position to give up, due to being more desperate for electricity for the battery. I can see where it would be extremely annoying having to go through all of the steps or to have to spend time ringing around to find out where the problem was. Depending on the time of the day it might not even have been possible to get help. It’s this sort of difficulty which could lead some people to dismiss the idea of getting an electric car altogether. I just see it as part of the fun.

Rosie on Charge

Other electric car charging fun

A few times lately I’ve tried to find chargers and to use them, finding them already occupied. It might have been a matter of seconds such as when somebody pulled in to the charger just in front of me. It could also have been car was there for some time, who knows for how long. You have to decide how long you’re going to wait and whether you’ll just go hunting for the next available charge point. Yesterday on a trip to Girona I drove past one charge point which had an older style Nissan Leaf charging. I went to the next charger and both of the Type 2 sockets were in use. With these slow chargers, I could expect a fair bit of waiting time for them to become free. I continued driving to the parking place where there is another rapid charger. When I pulled in, it was also being used. That could have been a 10-minute wait or it could have been 40 minutes. I wasn’t worried as I had plenty of juice in the battery and I planned to walk around the town. When I came back later there was a different car plugged in. We still had enough in the battery for driving all the way home, but I wanted to get in some free charging while out. So I headed back towards the first charger spotted earlier. It was available and so I plugged in to take advantage of the free electric vehicle charging. I still had one other option in the town, another rapid charger at a Nissan dealer. The only problem with the Nissan dealer chargers is often they are locked away behind a gate. This means you can only use them during opening hours. Not as good as the game plan you have with Tesla which has built up a proper public network. A public network which is available 24/7 and I believe Nissan should rethink its charger network policy.

It’s early days yet for electric cars in Spain

During the last two weeks, I’ve seen a couple of notices to let us know there are networks installing charge points around the country over the next 18 months. In the meantime, we are going to have to grin and bare it. There are some journeys you just couldn’t make with the Nissan Leaf, due to the combination of the vehicles range and the available infrastructure. For example, I would have to take a circuitous route to get to Madrid from where I live. Or I would have to make phone calls to information centres in towns on the way to ask for help. Maybe they’d be able to recommend a restaurant, a bar or undocumented available plug socket. As I said, it’s all part of the fun of driving an electric vehicle.

Charging an Electric vehicle

Happy to be doing my bit for the climate

One of my reasons for getting an electric car was for environmental concerns. I don’t need to be burning dinosaur juice and releasing carbon into the atmosphere. Electric cars are the future and I like to be at the forefront of technology. Of course, that’s true because I am good and geeky.

Electric transport equals easy driving

There are other advantages to owning the Nissan Leaf or other modern electric vehicle. The smoothness and the silence you get while driving an electric car is absolutely marvellous. The fantastic acceleration you have available at whatever speed you’re travelling is just brilliant. yet, I love the more relaxed driving experience I get because I’m happy to drive a little slower overall. It feels good to use use the energy of the battery as efficiently as possible. This is combined with up-to-date technology such as the Pro-Pilot Assist and Intelligent Cruise Control. It means I tend to arrive at my destination less tired than I would have been when driving an old-fashioned car. Due to the size of the battery and the range of the vehicle, I do have to stop more frequently on a long trip. This also means relaxed travelling. I’m happy to have proper rest and recuperation when I stop to charge the car. It isn’t really much longer than I would stop anyway. It’s just that the battery circumstances are such that you have to stop. You’re not tempted to keep on driving an electric vehicle when you should really be taking a break.

Driving an electric vehicle

 

New iPhone – Automate iOS Siri Shortcuts

It’s that time of year again – iPhone Xs Max

It’s a good time of year to be good and geeky we will get iOS Siri Shortcuts as well as new phones. Possibly an expensive time of year, but good all the same. Apple has just announced their new iPhone and you can’t help but want it. I work on the basis of having an iPhone for two years so that when I sell it there’s enough value left in it to donate some cash to the next iPhone. I sometimes wonder it might be a better idea now that the iPhone iterations are only small, to keep the phone for longer. The plan then would be to start saving for the next phone as soon as you have just bought the latest and greatest.

iOS Siri Shortcuts

Spread the cost for the next iPhone

The idea would be to decide your next phone will be in three/four years time and you make a guess at how much you’ll need to pay for it. This can be a little difficult given the steadily increasing prices of the new Apple iPhones. Who would have thought we would be prepared to pay between €1000 and €1500 for a new iPhone when buying the iPhone 7. So if I’m going to wait for 36 months for the next iPhone and I’m going to pay €1500 and I need to divide that total by 36. The plan would involve buying Apple gift cards each month to the value of between €40 and €45. If after two years there’s a new iPhone that comes out which is unmissable, at least you have a good lump of money to put towards it.

It’s not all about money – It’s software too.

At the same time as the new iPhone comes out we get the new operating system. We are now moving on to iOS 12 and some of the features only work in the iPhone X onwards. Some of the new features are just frippery. Some of the new features are worth having and inform ones decision to buy a new phone. One of the features I’m particularly looking forward to is the Siri Shortcuts application which is taking over from Workflow. This is going to make a huge difference with how we use our phones. All we have to do is to work out those things which we do over and over again and use Siri Shortcuts to automate the process. I think the operating system will also do machine learning and will give us clues as to things we might automate.

Learn More about making Shortcuts

Workflow siri shortcuts

The system should be able to look at things we do over and over and suggest – “Why not make a Siri shortcut to complete this action or set of actions.” Hopefully, after getting the suggestion we will only need to open the application and half the set up will be already done for us. To get the best from this we need to understand a little bit about how to make the Siri Shortcuts work for us.

It’s not that easy to learn how to use iOS Siri Shortcuts

There are some programming concepts to get your head around in Siri Shortcuts. Variables, IF statements, Dictionary values, and other flow controls. You don’t need these in the simple shortcuts you can make when you start using the app. On the other hand, Apple are trying to make it simpler by allowing us to load blocks of actions. You only have to drag the block into the shortcut and maybe fill in a couple of parameters. For some of these automations, the best way forward is to take a Shortcut someone has already made and pull it apart. Examine it to see what information the action needs to make it work. Maybe add extra bits or remove actions and not worry about breaking it. A process of trial and error will let you learn how it all works.

workflow

How to learn iOS automation

There are a few websites where you can see tutorials to help you learn the necessary skills for iOS Siri Shortcuts. Some do it with explanations and photos showing step-by-step of what needs to be done. A particularly good way to learn is to use video tutorials. At least you can watch them multiple times and pause the video when you need to follow along with some of the steps. Many of these tutorials are free to watch and learn from. You just need to be prepared to stick at it until it starts to make sense. Make a few simple shortcuts/workflows to get into the swing of it and work from there.

What can we get done using automation?

  • Remind me at work
    • Asks for input – what do you want to be reminded about
    • You put in the address of work
    • Add a Reminder – Asking for input again and you say how close you have to be to work to get the geo locating reminder.
  • Log Caffeine intake
    • Choosing from prompts you get to add data to the health app.
    • Choose the drink and the size – you have already inserted numbers for the caffeine for each option.
  • Plan Your Day – 3 main tasks
    • You answer 3 questions for the important tasks of the day. Can have default answers if you want.
    • The end of the automation is to share the results to where ever you want to. You might send to Day One journalling app or set it up as a Omnifocus project.
  • Send a message to your significant other to say you will arrive soon
    • Add a ‘Get Current Location’
    • Text block – What you want to say with the variable of Current Location
    • Send message block – Choose the names you want to send it too.

How to use these iOS Siri Shortcuts on your iOS devices

One way of using these automations is to open the workflow or Siri Shortcuts application.

  • Tap once on the tile for the shortcut and then press the run button which in the middle at the top. Tap once, is also the way to get into the automation/workflow if you want to edit it.
  • Do a double tap and it should start running.
  • You can start a shortcut working from the today widget.
  • Make your shortcut available on the Apple Watch.
  • Add the shortcut/workflow to your home screen.
  • Add the shortcuts/workflow to the Launch Center application.
  • Make the shortcut/workflow available as an Action Extension. This allows you to run it from share sheets inside other applications.
  • Have the automation activated by using Siri, as soon as we have iOS 12 and the Siri shortcuts app available.

Which of these options you use depends upon the way you use the workflow/Siri shortcut. It is possible to make more than one of these options available. All you have to do then is to remember you have the automations and to use them. I sometimes think that we only get to use a small percentage of what our powerful computers are able to do. Often because we forget to either set up or to use what we have already set up in terms of automation. Sometimes you have to be quite dedicated and particularly good and geeky to get the best from your technology. I am positive it is definitely worth doing with iOS Siri Shortcuts.

My favourite automations

I work in a campsite during the summertime and I need to know the reservations for places for the next week or so. I worked out a way to export this information from the computer. I then was able to get it into a spreadsheet on my iOS device. I copied all of this data into the clipboard. Next I used the application Editorial to automate bringing the data in so I could use it. I was able to convert the text from capitals into title case. I did a search and replace on some text which wasn’t required. I did a search and replace with some text turning it into emojis, this made it more visual for me. I was pleased to have a number of steps completed with just one quick text trigger.

I have my directions to home available to me on my home screen of the iPhone. It knows where I am using GPS and where my home is and suggests a route. this says me a number of button presses and is much quicker in operation.

We’ve got a number of Homekit devices in the house and some of the lights are operated using motion detectors. Some of the a devices I operate using Amazon Echo. For example I can turn everything off at night time a by just telling Alexa “night night”.

One of my favourite application is Drafts – This is a text entry application with automation built in. I can capture text and decide after capturing the idea or whatever the note is, what I’m going to do with it. I might send something to the social networks, add some more to it and send to my journalling application Day One. I might even set up a new sheet in Ulysses or Scrivener. I can even send stuff into one of my get things done applications, like Omnifocus or Due. Can’t wait to get my hands on iOS Siri Shortcuts.

%d bloggers like this: