The Talk Show

356: ‘An Unranted Rant’, With Rosemary Orchard


00:00:00   Rosemary Orchard, welcome to the talk show. I have been a fan of your work, written and

00:00:08   podcast for so long. I've been meaning to invite you on the show, and I'm so happy to have you here.

00:00:12   Rosemary Orchard Thank you. That is very flattering and slightly overwhelming.

00:00:16   I still remember the first time I met you at WWDC and I'm like, "Oh my gosh,

00:00:20   it's John. Like everyone, it's John." And everyone else is just like, "Yeah, hey dude,

00:00:24   how's it going?" And it's like, "Okay, nice guy then. Cool. Good. Yeah, thanks for having me.

00:00:28   I'm excited to be here." John "I think I've gotten so much better at that. I do remember meeting you.

00:00:32   I hope I was charming." Rosemary Yes. Yes, you're lovely.

00:00:34   John "I used to be in the early days of being recognized. I was catatonic. I didn't anticipate

00:00:43   it. I learned a lot from Merlin Mann about how to interact in such situations. I started observing

00:00:51   what he did. And he's so fantastic when people come up and they're like, "Hey, Merlin." And he's

00:00:56   amazing. And I just took notes on what he does. And it's been helpful ever since.

00:01:01   Before we get into the meat of the show, I have a personal rant I would like to get off my chest.

00:01:09   I'm curious. Now, I presume that you, I mean, it's almost more than a presumption. I'd be shocked if

00:01:16   this weren't true. But you are an avid user of all three of the major personal computing Apple

00:01:23   platforms, the iPhone, iPad, and Mac. Rosemary What's an iPad? Yeah, I use all of them a lot,

00:01:31   possibly more than I should. Maybe I should spend some less time looking at screens. But yeah,

00:01:36   I feel like I'm on all of them all day every day. John "Do you have an iPad Magic Keyboard?"

00:01:39   Rosemary I do. The 12.9 inch one has got the Magic Keyboard on it. Yeah, it's generally a

00:01:44   fairly good experience. John "Here's my gripe. I've got one that I bought new. I bought when it was,

00:01:51   when it first came out, which I think was like April 2020 for my 2018 11 inch iPad Pro,

00:01:58   which is still my personal iPad. The iPad for me is without question my third platform. Like if

00:02:06   I've mentioned this often, but if a weirdo criminal took me hostage, and said or took my

00:02:15   family hostage and said, you have to give up one of Apple's platforms. And otherwise, we're gonna

00:02:23   do something bad to your family. I would instantly I would just say iPad. Yeah, or if I got to say

00:02:29   Apple Watch, I guess I'd say that first, but I'm saying of the iPhone, iPad, Mac, iPad, I would

00:02:33   give up first. But I do use it a lot, right? It's my kitchen computer, because I can put it away

00:02:39   and make keeps the kitchen looking nice and neat. And then it's got a low small footprint. And then

00:02:44   it's upstairs, my office is on ground floor and our main living floor is the second floor.

00:02:50   And then it's a nice thing to have on a main living floor, right? If I need to check something,

00:02:56   or I want to write a longer email, then I would peck out with my thumbs, my iPad with the magic

00:03:01   keyboard is right there. Or if I have it disconnected the magic keyboard, I have a drawer

00:03:06   where I'm allowed to stash something like that. For a two year old $300 keyboard, the wear on mine

00:03:15   is extremely disappointing. I've noticed I don't know if it's rubber or what, but you know how it's

00:03:20   got like a coating like the outside? Yeah. And that same coating is between the keys too.

00:03:28   Yes. Yeah, it is. Yeah. And so like on the ERT keys on my keyboard, that sort of rubber coating

00:03:36   is all frayed between those keys. And it's no coincidence that those are three of the most

00:03:42   used keys at the very top in the English language. Yep. So it's not coincidence. But that's,

00:03:49   to me for $300 is very disappointing. Now here's where it becomes a fresh rant. Today,

00:03:57   before we recorded, I posted an item to my website. And I had a markdown error. It looked,

00:04:04   I wanted to link a couple of words to a person's name's Twitter account. And what I and a friend of

00:04:14   the show, John Siracusa was kind enough to be the first to text me and tell me that, what does he

00:04:20   call him? He doesn't call him Mark Down-O's. He calls them, he's got a funny name for my markdown

00:04:26   typos. But I like Mark Down-O's personally. I like Mark Down-O. What did he say? I got to look it up

00:04:32   now. Mark Down-er, he calls it. Right. That makes sense too. That's very John. Yeah, it is very John.

00:04:39   He calls him Mark Down-er's. And I can hear in, even when he texts me, I can hear his voice,

00:04:46   his sad disappointment in me that I have committed another Mark Down-er. I mean, you of all people,

00:04:52   like you should be perfect, shouldn't you? I should. Well, he told me when Mark Down-er first came out

00:04:57   way back when, and he writes Perl, and he saw how I implemented my version of Mark Down-er,

00:05:04   which is really just a series of regular expression substitutions.

00:05:07   Yep. And he was like, well, that's, you can't really write a parser that way. And I was like,

00:05:12   well, I didn't, I'm not calling it a parser. He, I think he does not use Mark Down-er. He writes,

00:05:18   he just still writes raw HTML. And I can hear his disappointment because this is why he writes HTML,

00:05:24   because he doesn't have Mark Down-er's. But anyway, the error was, what I wanted to write was

00:05:30   open square bracket, then the person's name, close square bracket, then a parenthesis, the URL,

00:05:38   close parenthesis, right? Standard Mark Down-er. Right. With the link in, right in the paragraph.

00:05:44   And what I was missing was the closing square bracket. Yeah. Yeah. That sneaky little one.

00:05:49   Now I'm going to reveal a secret here in public for the first time because of the subject of

00:05:54   today's show, automation. A little over a year ago. Well, actually, all right, Mark Down-er,

00:06:03   I started working on Mark Down-er in late 2003, and it became public in early 2004. But while I

00:06:10   was developing it, I started, once I got it to work, just enough minimum viable product for the

00:06:18   developer to use as a plugin and movable type, I had it installed in my instance of movable type

00:06:24   for Darren fireball. And I started writing my articles using it. And it's, in my opinion,

00:06:31   it was as it's essential to mark down success, because I spent, I don't know if it was

00:06:37   four months, four or five months before I even released the public beta,

00:06:41   where everything I posted to during fireball, I was actually using Mark Down and then forming

00:06:46   opinions of, ah, that's syntax that looks, that does not look bad, looks ugly, or that's cumbersome,

00:06:53   or that's missing or something. But then I'd make changes. And a lot of those changes were

00:07:00   backwards incompatible. And I'd have to go back a month and edit every article to change the syntax,

00:07:09   or two, then it got to two months, then it got to three months. And then I knew it was getting ready

00:07:13   for public beta when I stopped, there no longer were things like that. It was like, "Hey, this

00:07:18   feels pretty stable. Like, I'm not coming up with ideas." But then it didn't take long after it,

00:07:27   at that point, for me to still to start making mark downers.

00:07:32   Stephanie: I mean, it happens, right? Because you're not changing things anymore. Your brain's

00:07:38   like, "Yeah, yeah, I know what I'm doing." And so you stop watching what you're doing,

00:07:41   and the mistakes creep in.

00:07:42   Pete: Right. Well, and you know, mistakes happen, right? And it's the nature of Mark Down,

00:07:49   that like, okay, so if you're writing in a programming language, and it's one of those,

00:07:54   let's just say a simple example, many programming languages require you to put semicolons at the end

00:07:58   of every line. And if you forget to put a semicolon on a line, and then you try to run

00:08:05   your script or compile or program, the compiler will bark at you. And hopefully, with an error

00:08:14   that figures out that the problem is a missing semicolon on line 41.

00:08:20   Stephanie; Yes, hopefully. Or at least point you towards lines

00:08:25   41 or 42, and then you can maybe figure it out yourself. Markdown isn't compiled, it just,

00:08:32   maybe some implementations, I don't know, I've never encountered one that will literally refuse

00:08:38   to go forward if there's certain classes of errors, but it just makes its best guess as to what you

00:08:43   mean. And it goes through, and there's no concept of an error. HTML is similar, and that's what

00:08:50   Markdown really is. It's like a preprocessor for HTML. Yeah, makes perfect sense.

00:08:56   Right? If you forget to close a tag in HTML, and then you save the file, and you open it in

00:09:03   a web browser, the web browser does its best. Yeah, which sometimes is really not great.

00:09:08   Right. But sometimes you just end up with,

00:09:11   say you've used a pre-tag because you're writing a code block, you just end up with like pre-tag,

00:09:16   your code, pre-tag, like, but missing the closing triangular bracket, the greater than sign.

00:09:22   Right. Or something.

00:09:24   Right. Or speaking of pre-tags, to me, one of the, again, I don't mean to brag about it, but it's

00:09:30   kind of popular at this point, but one of the best things about Markdown is how easy it makes to write

00:09:36   pre-sections because you don't have to escape anything. Whatever's inside is just there. And

00:09:42   the whole, it used to be, for me, it was like the worst part of writing raw HTML is when you wanted

00:09:48   to show actual HTML source code in an HTML document. It was, ugh.

00:09:55   Yeah, yeah. And also, I love the fact that a lot of flavors of Markdown, after you've done those

00:10:00   first three backticks, you can just write the language, Python or YAML or whatever it is,

00:10:05   obviously YAML's another Markdown language, but, or is it called Markup language? It's yet another

00:10:10   one. That's the first part for sure. But yeah, I love the fact you can do that. And then you get

00:10:13   syntax highlighting, which is just a really nice feature.

00:10:17   Yes, a lovely feature in many Markdown implementations. So I'm talking like

00:10:21   at least midway through 2004, six months into Markdown being a public thing, it was,

00:10:28   it has been my reference spec, for lack of a better word, hasn't changed or at some point

00:10:35   in 2004 stabilized. And the Markdown that I personally used didn't get many additions

00:10:41   since then. But it didn't take long for me to think, you know what I need next is like a lint

00:10:45   script, something like a pre-flight script to look for common errors. Yes, yeah. And so very short,

00:10:53   17 years later, last year, I was feeling inspired early in the summer. And I wrote it. And

00:11:03   the breakthrough for me was, and part of what led me to procrastinate for literally close to

00:11:11   two decades was that I started thinking about it. And I started thinking that like any proper linter,

00:11:18   it should catch as many errors as possible. And that's a really daunting task. And my breakthrough

00:11:28   last year was to hell with that. I was so, I didn't write a proper Markdown parser 17 years ago,

00:11:35   when I made Markdown, I just did the thing, the easiest thing I could do to get it to work fast

00:11:41   enough for me to be satisfied with it. Why don't I just fix the mistakes I actually make? That's it.

00:11:47   And so I started keeping a list of every Markdown related error that I personally posted during

00:11:54   Fireball and wrote a separate script. It's not part of my Markdown PL. It's just a separate

00:11:59   script that tries to flag those errors. And then I wrote like an Apple script for Mars Edit,

00:12:07   which is what I used to post to during Fireball almost all the time.

00:12:12   So that instead of using Mars Edit to publish, I run a keyboard Mysore action. And the keyboard

00:12:21   Mysore action runs an Apple script. The Apple script gets the body of text from the current

00:12:26   Mars Edit document, passes it to my Lint script, which is actually written in Perl, of course,

00:12:32   because it's the only shell scripting language on my twisted regular expression, addled mind,

00:12:39   can really be productive with. If there's no errors or warnings, let's call them warnings,

00:12:45   then it just then the Apple script tells Mars Edit, go ahead and publish and show a little

00:12:51   notification, a temporary notification saying markdown lint thumbs up. Or I think it's actually

00:12:56   the green checkbox emoji. And then I know it published. And if there are errors, it tells

00:13:02   Mars Edit to it uses Apple script and it shows a simple display alert or display dialogue with a

00:13:09   list of the errors. You know, I tend to write my links in Markdown with the reference style,

00:13:14   as opposed to the inline links where I'll make a link and then it's like a foot and like a named

00:13:19   footnote. And then somewhere else in the document, you have to use that reference name, colon,

00:13:23   and then that's where the URL goes. And it'll say something like, let's say I'm linking to your name,

00:13:29   and I've made the link definition RO, because that's your initials, Rosemary Orchard. It'll

00:13:35   say link definition RO is used but not defined. And that's it. And it doesn't even tell me what

00:13:42   line number it is. I don't need it because I know that's enough for me to find it.

00:13:45   Yeah.

00:13:46   And fix it.

00:13:46   Yeah, that makes perfect sense. Yeah.

00:13:49   So here we are a year now. Now, here we are a year later, and I still haven't published it. I mean

00:13:57   to, but I think by coming public talking about it with you, this will inspire me to actually

00:14:02   publish it soon because it's, I think it's ready. I mean, I don't know how many other people will

00:14:06   find it useful, but they might. And I mean, I'm sure a lot of people will. Markdown, it's one of

00:14:11   those things that's very simple, which you would think makes it really easy. And the number of

00:14:14   people that manage to screw it up on a daily basis, because like, for example, your link,

00:14:19   okay, you're missing a square closing bracket. Well, you do that and you miss a square opening

00:14:23   bracket somewhere else. And whoa, some places are just going to look very strange.

00:14:27   Yeah, that, yeah. Well, that's one thing I know a lot of people do. A lot of people like using

00:14:33   Markdown editors that are like split view left and right. On the left, you're writing your Markdown,

00:14:39   and on the right, it's a live preview of Markdown processed, rendered into HTML. And I think one

00:14:47   reason that most of the world has gotten by for all this time and Markdown grows in popularity

00:14:52   without any kind of error checking or a rigid, you can't post if there's any known errors,

00:14:58   it'll block you or whatever, is that once you preview it, most of the errors are very obvious,

00:15:03   right? Yes. Yeah. Usually.

00:15:05   Yeah, usually. But you have to look at it. And I, of course, get lazy and don't do it.

00:15:10   But anyway, the reason this error didn't get flagged, I thought,

00:15:13   so I had a missing left bracket, right? Right.

00:15:19   But I posted that from my iPad in the kitchen while I was having coffee this morning.

00:15:23   And so I thought, huh, let me go check if my lint script catches that. But now when I post from my

00:15:29   iPad or my iPhone, I just go right through the web interface in my installation of movable type. So,

00:15:35   my lint script doesn't run. There's, I can't think of a way to do that. And I don't post from

00:15:40   either of those devices often enough that it's ever bothered me to even try.

00:15:45   So, I went down to my Mac, and lo and behold, it didn't get flagged. And I was like, huh,

00:15:51   yeah. So, I made a note in my list of other errors I should check for. So, it's on the list,

00:15:57   I'll add it. But I was like, I wonder why I never made that mistake before. It seems like something

00:16:01   I would have done before. And so, I fixed it, reposted it, it's up there now, it's fixed. It's

00:16:06   the one about the design your own iPhone, for anybody who's wondering which recent post of mine.

00:16:12   This episode won't air for a couple days. So, anybody listening to this episode, even when it's

00:16:16   fresh, it was a couple days ago. But it's a fun site at neil.fun, where you get to make your own

00:16:21   goofy iPhone in 3D. It's crazy. Anyway, I went back up to my iPad, and I'm still bothered. And

00:16:28   I should be furthering myself, throwing myself into my show notes for this episode with you.

00:16:33   And I'm like, I wonder why I never made that mistake before. And I'm still chatting

00:16:38   with Siracusa. And I thought, huh, I wonder, I tried to type like four closing square brackets.

00:16:46   Two of them showed up?

00:16:49   Yeah. And I was like, uh oh, delete, delete. And then I pounded on it like four times,

00:16:55   hit the key pretty hard, and all four showed up. But when I just sort of gently hit the left square

00:17:01   bracket, I got like a low, it seems...

00:17:04   So, we've got, we've got butterfly magic keyboards is what you're saying.

00:17:08   Are they?

00:17:09   The butterfly keyboard. I mean, I think they're scissors. I think they're actually scissors.

00:17:12   Yeah.

00:17:13   But this is the same problem that a lot of people have with the butterfly keyboards.

00:17:16   And I reckon it's that rubber flaking off between the keys. And it's just gone under

00:17:22   a square bracket key. And it's a little bit stuck. Like, you might have luck turning it upside down

00:17:27   and shaking it.

00:17:28   I know.

00:17:29   You might not.

00:17:30   I do think it does feel slightly stuck too. And not in that sickening way where like,

00:17:38   if you spilled anything other than water, any kind of like even lightly sugared or juice

00:17:45   under a keyboard, and you get that sticky, ah, you're screwed.

00:17:48   Yeah, that's horrible.

00:17:50   It feels slightly stuck, but not in a sticky way. If that makes sense, right?

00:17:54   Yeah. Like it's slightly like the resistance is increased when you press on it slightly.

00:17:59   Yeah. And it's worse when you hit it towards the top. And it seems like my weird style of typing.

00:18:05   I don't, I hardly use my pinky fingers when touch typing. I've got like a crazy, terrible,

00:18:13   no one should ever learn to type my way style of typing. I tend to hit those bracket keys

00:18:19   with my middle finger of my right hand. I just picked my hand up and move them over.

00:18:24   It just naturally goes towards the top of that key. Now, the other thing that's weird about

00:18:31   the 11 inch magic keyboard, and at least on the US layout, I don't do what kind of layout do you

00:18:37   use on your keyboards?

00:18:38   I'm using a British layout. So I've got the taller return key,

00:18:41   Right, right. Like sort of L shaped return key.

00:18:44   Yeah, yeah, yeah.

00:18:47   On the US magic keyboard, at least the left square bracket is a full size key on this is on the 11.

00:18:54   Yeah. And then you've got the really narrow one for the right side, right?

00:18:59   It's a half width key because the 11 inch magic keyboard is has to be a sort of slightly compressed

00:19:08   layout, which didn't make sense to me at first because the 11 inch MacBook Airs had a full size

00:19:14   keyboard. But then when you think about the aspect ratio of the screen, it makes sense, right?

00:19:19   Well, also the bezel on those things. You can compare the sizes. I've got a friend who's still

00:19:23   got 11 inch MacBook Air and like holding like one of the modern iPad Airs next to it. It's like,

00:19:28   wow, these have got the same screen size. Oh, dear.

00:19:31   Yeah, it's the old bezels. The further you go back in time, the more ridiculous the bezels look like,

00:19:38   like when you go back and look at the ones that were called PowerBooks,

00:19:41   they look like they're framed for a gallery. They do. They really do.

00:19:46   So number one, it's an un-ranted rant. I get out fewer of my things I want to post or even talk

00:19:54   about on podcasts. My list of things I want to complain about is always growing faster than my

00:20:01   ability to complain about them. Well, that's because your keyboard's against you.

00:20:07   But ever since 2020, when these came out, I've been bothered by the asymmetry of those two keys being

00:20:17   completely different sizes, right? Because they're clearly sibling keys, right? It's open bracket,

00:20:25   closed bracket. And the curly braces are the shift variants. So even when you shift, the shifted and

00:20:31   unshifted versions of those keys are the left and right versions. And so philosophically, they should

00:20:38   clearly be the same size. Right. And if you would think, right. And if you, if the designers of the

00:20:44   keyboard, I realized that if some of the keys have to be smaller than standard size to fit.

00:20:49   Yeah. I realized compromises have to be made, but clearly to me, I can't even see how it was more

00:20:55   than a minute of thought that the solution would be for both of those keys to be three-quarter size.

00:21:02   If you're saying we have room for one and a half keys for the brackets, well then make them both

00:21:09   three-quarters. Well, do you want to know the solution to your problem, John?

00:21:13   What's the solution? You need to use a British keyboard because the,

00:21:16   I've just checked on the Apple website and the 11 inch, the brackets are the same size there.

00:21:20   But like they've managed to get it symmetrical for the square and curly brackets that are on

00:21:24   the same key and also the nine and zero you'll be pleased to hear are also the same size.

00:21:29   They shrunk the tab key on that row a little bit on the course hero to make up for the fact that

00:21:34   they've got matching sets of brackets and size-wise, but they're all the same size.

00:21:39   So just get a British keyboard that solves all the problems.

00:21:42   I might make me happier. Well, but the last thing I'm going to do at this point in time in 2022 is

00:21:48   buy a new iPad keyboard. Cause that's the other conundrum I'm up against. So I guess I'll take

00:21:53   to it with an air canister after the show and see if that clears it up, but otherwise I might be in

00:21:59   trouble. So two thoughts came to me about the durability. That's number one is there's no excuse

00:22:04   for it, right? Like it's two year old keyboard that costs $300. The bracket key shouldn't break.

00:22:08   Right. But I can't help, but think that the one that broke from me is the half size one,

00:22:14   not the full size one. And presumably I've pressed both of those keys, almost the same number of

00:22:22   times. I can't imagine when would I use closing bracket when I haven't previously typed a square

00:22:28   bracket, right? Yeah. Not on those ones, like on the regular, you know, on your parentheses,

00:22:33   brackets, your round brackets, you could be typing colon and then closing round bracket for

00:22:37   a smiley face, but which also changes to emoji, but not on square brackets, really.

00:22:43   Right. The only thing I know about UK keyboards really is the L-shaped return key, which I find

00:22:49   charming to be like must have tradition for UK typists. No, I really do. I just think that's

00:22:55   such an interesting artifact of how in the world did that happen? I don't know.

00:23:01   Yeah. Yeah. It is very strange how both different and similar our keyboards are. And actually the

00:23:07   Apple British keyboard is closer to the US Apple keyboard than you would have between say windows

00:23:12   keyboards because the @ symbol doesn't move. So the @ symbol is on shift two for all Apple devices,

00:23:17   as far as I know, and windows and Linux. But in the UK and a chunk of Europe, the @ symbol is on

00:23:24   a shift. And then it's the quotation mark key, I believe. And then so yeah, the quotation marks and

00:23:32   the @ symbol are swapped on windows. I think it is. I'm like struggling to remember and I'm

00:23:36   looking at the keyword in front of me, which is not helping because I've got a key cron.

00:23:40   And of course that that has Mac key caps, even though I've changed the key caps to different

00:23:43   ones. I put the right key caps on there because I'm not a monster. I'm using a proper for my Mac

00:23:48   layout here. But yeah, it is very strange how we've ended up with such different layouts in some ways

00:23:54   and yet so similar in others. So I feel like well, and the other thing on the UK keyboard,

00:23:59   are the regular parentheses above the nine and zero? Yeah. Well, then I would guess that the

00:24:05   closing one gets hit more often because I think people type zeros more often than nines, like 100,

00:24:11   1000. On the other hand, all stores end their prices with 99. If you get shop managers, then

00:24:17   now, yeah, so they're probably close. They're probably relatively close, but I would guess

00:24:22   with the brackets, it's got to be really close. I don't think it's a coincidence that the one of

00:24:27   mine that seems to be failing is the half sized one. Right? Because it seems like if anyone is

00:24:34   going to have a structural problem, it would be the one that's smaller than Yeah, bigger. Yeah,

00:24:39   yeah, it's much more likely to get something stuck in there that's not able to get out as well,

00:24:43   I would say like that would be my assumption. Yeah, I'm just I'm trying to remember now what

00:24:47   the the US layout looks like. And oh, yeah, right. Because you've got the so what they've done is

00:24:54   they've matched the size of your pipe and backslash key, which we have next to the lower half of our

00:24:59   turnkey. Yeah. Oh, like, what? Why are those two matched in size people? Oh, no, I'm not I'm not

00:25:05   gonna be able to live with this now. I'm never buying a US keyboard again. Anyway. Well, the

00:25:09   other solution, of course, is to switch from an 11 inch to a 12.9 inch iPad. Yeah, yeah, I mean,

00:25:15   that is a very good solution. I 10 out of 10 approve of that. I love my 12.9 inch iPad.

00:25:20   Honestly, it's a great device. And especially when you're using a nice app for writing some markdown

00:25:25   and then being able to do proper split screen with two actual apps is very nice instead of like the

00:25:31   half iPhone preview on the right hand side. Well, my fingers are crossed because I don't want to get

00:25:36   a 12.9 inch iPad because I I'm a Mac user first. So when I travel, I do take my iPad, but why would

00:25:43   I want a 13 inch iPad along with a 13 inch MacBook Pro in the same bag? Second screen? Anyway,

00:25:50   fingers crossed that the next 11 inch iPad magic keyboard will have a rejiggered layout that

00:25:57   doesn't make to me. It'll consider decisions about which keys should be half size and which are full

00:26:05   size. Well, hopefully somebody at Apple who works on the magic keyboard is listening to this right

00:26:10   now and is just going to look at it and go wait, how did we do that? I'm just going to fix that in

00:26:14   the next run. Like it's fine. We still got time before we put them in boxes. We'll just swap some

00:26:17   of these keys over. Right. And before I leave the subject, I'll just say I am recording this

00:26:22   podcast on a 2014 MacBook Pro. That was for many years, my main machine. And even when I wasn't my

00:26:32   primary machine, cause I had an iMac 5k on my desk, I still used it very much. I have probably used

00:26:39   this. I almost certainly use this MacBook more than any Mac portable or Apple portable device

00:26:46   I've ever owned for more years, for more time. And obviously with lots and lots of typing

00:26:51   and the keyboard is still perfect. There's absolutely, there's not a single key that is

00:26:58   a little glitchy or, ah, you got to remember when I type whatever, you know, the E key that sometimes

00:27:03   it's goofy. And obviously with aluminum in between the keys, there's no wear and tear or anything

00:27:09   like that. No, the only Mac that I've had a problem with the keyboard was one with that

00:27:12   butterfly keyboard and it was the J key. So sometimes you type a J and you get none. Sometimes

00:27:18   you get one and sometimes you get two or three. And that was really annoying. Especially I was on

00:27:24   a project when I discovered this that had like three J's in the name. I don't even remember the

00:27:28   name of the project. I just remember that there were J's in the name and I couldn't type it on the

00:27:33   building keyboard half the time, like not without having to go back and correct it. So of course I

00:27:37   did the sensible thing and I automated it and added a snippet so I could just type. I think I went with

00:27:42   semi colon L K because that way I didn't have to touch the J. Yeah, J would be a problem for me for

00:27:46   some obvious reasons. I don't know. You just drop it from your name. You'll be fine. But it doesn't

00:27:52   matter. Even, you know, what's the least used letter? Z Q maybe? I don't know. It doesn't matter.

00:27:57   You're going to, you type all of them enough that you can't have them fail. And it's just ridiculous

00:28:01   because we keyboard should last spills aside something like that. Of course there's the water

00:28:07   damage it, but just through use, I don't know. It just seems bad for any company and certainly by

00:28:12   Apple standards. And again, $300 is a hefty price for a keyboard, right? I mean, there are a lot of

00:28:19   people out there in the world who use $300 laptops. The entire laptop is the $500 or something like

00:28:26   that. So 300 bucks just to get the keyboard part of using your iPad as a keyboard is a premium

00:28:32   price. I'm not saying it's too much, but it's not to be built to last is what I'm saying. Yeah.

00:28:38   Yeah. Like by the time you've got a 12, like a decent size iPad with a bit of storage on it,

00:28:43   maybe you've added the cellular when you're looking at the pros and then you've added that

00:28:47   magic keyboard, you're well over the price of some of the max, some of the entry-level max.

00:28:51   So it does feel like it needs to be built to last as long as a Mac.

00:28:55   Yeah, that's a very good way to put it. Where I were an iPad pro plus a magic keyboard is more

00:29:02   than a lot of the base MacBook air configuration. Yep. All right. Let me take a break here and thank

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00:31:03   All right. Now here's the reason I thought it was serendipitous to invite you on the show. Now

00:31:08   you've got a new edition of take control of shortcuts. That is out the second edition.

00:31:14   When did the first edition come out? Oh, now you're asking difficult questions. I didn't do

00:31:19   my homework on this. Nobody told me I, you could say a while ago. Yeah, it was definitely a while

00:31:25   ago. It was a couple of years ago. The first version came out and so I've been working on

00:31:29   it since then. I think it was like December, November, December, 2019 ish. Yeah. Okay. Yeah,

00:31:34   that sounds about right. I think this book, number one, I'm a huge fan of the whole take control

00:31:41   series. And you know, it's so funny now that I'm mid-career and I do this sort of thing. I've never

00:31:50   written a book, but I know so many of the authors of take control books. And I remember when I first

00:31:58   started learning computers, especially in college, right? Like high school, I was totally enthusiastic

00:32:04   and into it, but it was like, I didn't know you could go to the bookstore and buy computer books.

00:32:08   And even if I did back then, like in the late eighties, there were very few that were interesting

00:32:16   to me. And then in the nineties, when I got into it, buying O'Reilly books, they were expensive,

00:32:22   like really expensive, but they were also really great books. I remember I'd read a book by a

00:32:28   certain author like Danny Goodman. You remember, have you ever heard of him? He wrote like

00:32:32   the first great Apple script book. And then he wrote like an introductory book to this new thing

00:32:39   called HTML. And of course, and it's where I learned. And it's why like on daring fireball,

00:32:46   why I try always like when I'm citing a news article, not to just say the New York Times,

00:32:52   colon, and then here's a block quote, but such and such reporter, right? Reporting for the New

00:32:59   York Times because bylines matter. I mean that in news articles. And I think it's especially true

00:33:04   for books. And I just, there's a list of programming and computer book authors who I knew,

00:33:12   and I loved their books and found them very useful. And then would be more likely to buy

00:33:16   the next book that the same person wrote. And it never failed me. Whatever. It's such a privilege

00:33:21   for me now that I still consume books like this. But now I know the authors personally.

00:33:26   And it is one of my favorite privileges of the bizarre position I occupy in the Apple ecosystem.

00:33:34   So the Take Control series I love. Take Control of Shortcuts in particular, though, I think is such

00:33:42   a super useful book. Thank you. That was the aim behind it. When I was creating it, like a lot of

00:33:50   people kind of seen it and gone, Okay, well, that's something that's appeared on my iPhone home screen,

00:33:54   I don't care about it, delete, trying to actually make that connection from Hey, there's this funky

00:33:59   blue turquoise and pink icon to Hey, there's something really useful that you can do. And you

00:34:05   can make Siri better by using this. I think the value of books like this covering it will just

00:34:11   say shortcuts as the example from A to Z, where your book opens with what you would think an

00:34:20   introduction to shortcuts would entail. What is it? How do you run them? What's the basic idea?

00:34:26   How do you start getting your mind wrapped around it? And then continuing forward to examples,

00:34:32   then more complex examples. And then by the end, really fascinatingly complex examples that fit

00:34:39   within the context of a book, but I think that computer books, even though I said, I know people

00:34:47   who write them, I do think it's far, it's a far smaller industry today than it was 20 years ago.

00:34:54   Well, we have Stack Overflow now, right? And all of these other places where I don't have to sit

00:35:01   down and like scan through an index and try and like check in a glossary to figure out what

00:35:06   word that I'm thinking of might actually be the other word that I should be looking for this with,

00:35:11   and then go and look at an example and then prop it up on a book stand next to my machine and type

00:35:16   it all into a terminal of some kind and have it printed out on punch cards and then hope that I

00:35:21   don't drop them so that they fall out of order and so on. It is the world has become a much

00:35:25   more convenient place in a very good sense of there. You don't have to do as much work

00:35:33   necessarily to find the answer. And then of course, Apple goes and throws us a curve ball

00:35:36   by giving everything really difficult to Google names, pages, shortcuts, like all of these things,

00:35:42   like do not disturb, like, oh, come on, Apple, you could give this a unique name. But no,

00:35:48   they're trying to make it really simple. So it's the words that you would think of when you type

00:35:52   it into your search so that it comes up, which is great. But also, folks, have you heard of an alias,

00:35:58   right? You can give something to names so that we can find it under both.

00:36:01   And the one in particular, because I got more into shortcuts last year, when it came out for

00:36:09   Mac, for the obvious reason, like I said, Mac is and again, if we go back to my analogy about a

00:36:15   criminal syndicate, holding my family hostage and telling me I can only pick if they tighten the

00:36:20   grip and said, you can only pick one platform, I would pick the Mac because it's the one I work on.

00:36:27   And I would cry as I hand it over my iPhone and start Googling for what Android phone I should

00:36:34   switch to, I would be very upset. But it's the one I use for work. For fun, for more hours of the day,

00:36:43   it probably is the iPhone. But the Mac is where I work. And a lot of the stuff that one automates is

00:36:51   work-related. Not all, right? And you've got lots of examples in the book of like home automation

00:36:56   type stuff. But that problem you said about the Google ability of the word shortcuts is so much,

00:37:03   it's even worse with Mac. Because Mac shortcuts is all about keyboard shortcuts, right?

00:37:09   Yeah, yeah. And very occasionally, like somebody will be like, so how do I put a shortcut on my

00:37:14   desktop to open an application? Oh, you've just switched from Windows. Hi, welcome. This is not

00:37:19   how we do things over here. Welcome to the doc. It's so difficult. So difficult. Like even searching

00:37:25   on Apple's website sometimes doesn't get you the results that you're looking for. Their help section

00:37:30   for shortcuts is pretty great. But you have to find that. Otherwise, it's sending you down like

00:37:35   keyboard shortcuts for GarageBand. Right. And I know search engine optimization gets a bad name

00:37:42   as a racket of how do you cheat your way to the top of search results for a certain term.

00:37:50   But at the opposite end of the spectrum, when all you have no intention, like if you're Apple,

00:37:56   and you're creating a new technology, and all you want is for people, if they want to learn more

00:38:02   about it, to be able to learn more about it. You're not trying to trick DuckDuckGo and Google and Bing

00:38:08   into giving you higher results that you don't really deserve. Giving your thing a unique name

00:38:15   has still and probably always will have tremendous value. So for example, AppleScript, all one word.

00:38:23   If you type AppleScript something, you're going to get results about AppleScript something. They

00:38:29   may not solve your problem, but it's going to point you in the right direction, right, and give you a

00:38:33   chunk of a script that you can copy and paste and go stick together with a bunch of other things.

00:38:36   Right. Shortcuts is really difficult. It is not a bad name descriptive wise, right?

00:38:44   They are shortcuts. But you're exactly right, though. And my complaint that computer books have

00:38:52   declined in prominence, and therefore a lot of publishers have closed. I mean, it all makes

00:39:01   sense. I'm not arguing that it really could have turned out another way. I think you put your

00:39:07   finger exactly on probably the top two sites that have alleviated the need for books in a lot of

00:39:16   cases, Stack Overflow for sure, for programming or this type of thing, and Reddit. There is also

00:39:24   the problem of the bad form of SEO and content farms. These sites, it is sort of, this is why

00:39:35   we can't have nice things, right? The internet is amazing. And it really, it's unbelievable how much

00:39:43   of this information is out there, just freely accessible. And you could just search in a simple

00:39:48   little box without a complicated query language. You just type plain language and hit the return

00:39:54   key, however shaped your return key is, and you can find it. But for programming topics,

00:40:01   you know, and it's true for lots of commonly searched for things, health topics for sure,

00:40:06   but like programming topics, there are so many sites out there that are just there to get.

00:40:14   If your question is, how do you split standard in from standard out or standard error in a shell

00:40:22   script or something like that, you get these top results that are these sites. And they might have

00:40:28   the answer, but there is something so icky about the way they're written.

00:40:34   Yeah. Yeah. You know, if you get lucky when you're searching for things like that, you'll get

00:40:39   like Linode and DigitalOcean and some of the other folks who are doing like server hosting and so on,

00:40:44   who've written their own articles to take advantage of the fact that this is a space where

00:40:49   people need guides from a company they can trust. And those are pretty high up in the results, but

00:40:54   they're not as high up in the results as that place that basically scrapes Stack Overflow and

00:40:58   dumps it into a thing full of ads and highlights different keywords so that you click on it after

00:41:03   you clicked on the Stack Overflow one and it didn't answer your question thinking that it might.

00:41:07   Right. And it's a total game of whack-a-mole where those content forums are constantly trying to stay

00:41:14   atop paying people not to write like good articles, right? Like what you'd want, it would be like back

00:41:20   in the day, O'Reilly, which I said was a great publisher of books, but they had a great website

00:41:26   too where they would pay often the same authors who wrote their books to write articles. And

00:41:32   instead of doing what I think is clearly the right thing and finding really talented, enthusiastic

00:41:38   writers who have a natural pedagogical ability, they're natural born writers and teachers,

00:41:48   and they're good at explaining things. Oh, and then you read something from a good author and

00:41:53   you're like, "Oh, I get it now. That's a great way to put it. Now this thing that was confusing,

00:41:57   I get." Instead, the content farms aren't paying talented programmers or authors. They're paying

00:42:04   people to figure out how do we keep our thing about JavaScript printing to the console in the

00:42:14   top two of Google's results? Whether it's the— Yeah, they're looking for the minimum viable

00:42:19   product, right? Rather than the best possible solution. Right. And it's one of those weird ways

00:42:24   that—and this is not even getting into the complaints people have about Google with the

00:42:30   number of ads they put in their search results and preferencing their own internal content. Like when

00:42:37   you type in a restaurant name and they just show you their—instead of taking to the restaurant's

00:42:41   website as the number one hit, the top thing is their own card for it, which that's a separate

00:42:46   discussion. Just the parts of Google and all the other search engines like DuckDuckGo and Bing and

00:42:51   where they're just trying to surface the best results, it's gotten worse since like 15,

00:42:57   20 years ago. Because like 15, 20 years ago, the results were all from people's actual blogs,

00:43:08   right? Yeah. Or something like O'Reilly.net or O'Reillynet.com, whatever their website used to be.

00:43:15   But real things that were only published just to help readers and written for readers first,

00:43:20   not written for the search engine first. Yeah, definitely. I think the other thing that

00:43:24   we are perhaps struggling with is there is a trend towards video for explanation. And I know

00:43:33   a picture is worth a thousand words. And if I'm sending somebody a bug report, like if I'm on one

00:43:37   of the Omni group, they've got some betas running at the moment. And if I run into a bug on one of

00:43:42   those, I'm going to send their support a description of it, some screenshots and a video because then

00:43:46   they can see exactly where I've gone and what I've run into and what I was trying to do. And

00:43:50   was I holding it wrong? Or is it something that they need to work on their side? It's really

00:43:54   helpful. But I think the other problem that you have with video is it's not easily to get it into

00:44:00   the search rankings. Like if you go search for something on YouTube, you're going to find the

00:44:04   results that you're looking for. But also it goes out of date very quickly. And it's very difficult

00:44:09   to just update part of a video to be more modern. Like I've seen this with Home Assistant, there's a

00:44:17   lot of great creators out there. They've got a whole creative network actually that they recently

00:44:20   launched. And they're making videos. And they're great. They're really great videos, until something

00:44:26   significant changes in the UI a couple of months down the line, at which point all the videos

00:44:30   created before then kind of need a translation filter over the top of them. And the closest I've

00:44:35   seen to somebody updating videos and doing it well was actually Symphony, the PHP framework. They have

00:44:41   their own video platform for tutorials called Symphony casts. And what they have underneath is

00:44:46   they've got a transcript of every video with code blocks that you can copy. And if something's

00:44:51   changed, then they edit it in the transcript. And they add like a note that flashes up on screen of,

00:44:56   "Hey, this has changed in XYZ version. See below." And then you can scroll down, you can click on

00:45:02   that area of the transcript and they'll fast forward you to that point in the video or whatever,

00:45:05   they do a little drop in. But it's very difficult to update video. But video is incredibly popular

00:45:10   to the point where I was installing a new smart lock and the paper instructions were awful. I had

00:45:16   to watch the video. I had to watch the video like five or six times. If I'd had some actual, like,

00:45:21   I don't know, like rough drawings and some arrows on the drawings, then I would have been able to do

00:45:26   the entire thing about 60,000 times faster, I feel. But instead I was sitting there watching

00:45:30   a video on like a 50 inch television going, "Wait, what did they just do there? I need to be able to

00:45:35   zoom in. How do I zoom in on a 50 inch TV? Like, do I just have to go and sit like with my nose to

00:45:40   the TV, pressed against it?" Yeah, not an optimal experience in that particular case.

00:45:45   Yeah, I can't think of one off the top of my head, but I've had things like that too, where I've

00:45:50   bought a gadget and you open it, like, "All right, now how do I set this up?" And it's like,

00:45:54   "Here's how you set this up. This is the instruction packet. Point your phone at this QR code."

00:46:00   Yep, yep, yep. Like, if you're very lucky, tap your phone to the NFC tag.

00:46:04   Right. And then the QR code just takes you to a YouTube video where somebody from the company

00:46:09   explains what to do. But it's like, this seems like something that it should be like an IKEA product,

00:46:15   where there's like three little drawings and they tell you, "Oh, first drawing like this,

00:46:21   second drawing, third drawing. Okay, now you're done." And it's like, like, imagine putting

00:46:26   together a Lego kit where if instead of giving you the instructions, they're like, "Just watch

00:46:30   this video." It would drive you nuts. Yeah, and it's just very difficult as well, because if you

00:46:36   know that the answer is like on step three, then you have to know the timestamp in the video,

00:46:41   unless they've been good, unless the creator has been able to add timestamps. But yeah,

00:46:46   like it's really difficult. And when it goes out of date, it's just so sad, because it's like,

00:46:52   to update it is record a new video. And having done some video production, I can tell you,

00:46:56   it's not easy to just go record a new video. It can be quite difficult.

00:47:00   Right, because I am not Mr. Video, as everybody knows, but I've done it enough. Even like years

00:47:07   on my YouTube channel, I've only got like, almost everything on my YouTube channel are live versions

00:47:12   of the show from WWDC. But a couple years ago, when AirPods were new, I put a video out. I'll

00:47:18   put it in the show notes, I swear to God, how to take your AirPods out of the case, because

00:47:22   the natural way to do it is try to pinch them, but you can't, because they're sort of round.

00:47:26   And if you just sort of push them out from the middle towards the outside, they pop right out.

00:47:31   And it's, to me, it's better. That whole problem has gotten better with iPads. But anyway, I made

00:47:35   a little YouTube video just for fun. And it took me so long to shoot. And I know that people who

00:47:41   are professional YouTubers or even semi-professional and do it more regularly,

00:47:44   keep a setup ready to go. You've got lights and a table or you've got a staging area. You don't

00:47:50   have to create your studio however much your studio is in quotes. I get it that if you do it

00:47:57   regularly, you keep your studio set up. But if you're going to appear on the video, you know,

00:48:02   you want to get a shower and do your hair right and put a clean shirt on. It's a lot when,

00:48:09   especially if you just need to update 5% in the middle for this new thing in the OS or something

00:48:17   like that. I don't know how commonly known it is out there. I know amongst people who create stuff,

00:48:23   everybody knows, but like YouTube doesn't let you replace a video. So like, if you put out

00:48:31   an hour long video and then you find out that there's a name spelled wrong in the credits,

00:48:36   but the video has already been published. Your only option is to delete it and replace it with

00:48:43   a new video and it gets a new URL. So if you catch it right away, okay. But once you've got lots and

00:48:49   lots of views on it, you want to keep the views because keeping views is how you build your

00:48:54   reputation on YouTube. It's understandable why they do that, I guess, because what would happen

00:48:59   otherwise? I mean, you could think of all sorts of other nefarious ways this could go wrong,

00:49:04   but if you could just replace it willy-nilly, people could. Well, number one, there'd be a

00:49:09   whole industry of people looking for popular videos, like evergreen popular videos and

00:49:14   wanting to buy it and replace it with our spam. So I get why, but it's incredibly frustrating,

00:49:20   especially for me coming from the world where podcasts, I don't go back and fix,

00:49:24   but podcasts are ephemeral. But for all my writing, if I have a typo, I can fix it.

00:49:29   Or if it's a 10-year-old article about something in AppleScript,

00:49:33   but something changes in the syntax of the AppleScript, I could just go back to that 10-year-old

00:49:38   article and either just fix it, right? Just change it without a note or change it and add a note and

00:49:44   say, "Hey, I updated this in August of 2022 because this changed." Like that's built into the RSS

00:49:50   specification, the updated date. Like it's very common in so many places to have an updated at

00:49:57   date or modified on date. Files have got it in our protein system, but somehow yet not YouTube videos.

00:50:04   Right. So the videos is an interesting idea. I still feel the drive, even though I'm settled

00:50:10   in at Daring Fireball with my website and this talk show, I still have the drive to create new

00:50:17   stuff and have it be read and listened to. And it is still a thrill for me to do that. And so

00:50:24   I totally get why, you know, I remember when I was getting started having that drive, it just seems to

00:50:29   me that so many people who are getting started go to video first now. And I'm not quite sure if

00:50:35   that's just because being on TV was always the big deal, right? Like when I was a kid before the

00:50:41   internet, you know, if you asked a class of students, "What would you rather grow up to be?

00:50:47   Would you rather be on TV or would you rather have be the author of books?" Almost every kid was,

00:50:54   even me, I might've even as a kid raised my hand for the be on TV, right? It just seemed like that

00:50:59   was the thing. I got older and realized that's not what I wanted. So I don't know how much of it is

00:51:04   that. And I don't know how much of it is the fact that earning money through YouTube is definitely

00:51:13   possible and sustainable. Not easy, right? It's never easy, but it is real. Like that's part of

00:51:20   the tremendous success of YouTube is that they've got a system in place that is legitimate where

00:51:27   they're aggregating tremendous amounts of attention from viewers worldwide, getting advertisers

00:51:34   to pay real money to put their ads in front of those people. And the advertisers are getting

00:51:39   real results from those things. So it perpetrates itself in a healthy fashion. So I could see why

00:51:47   people are drawn to that. Whereas writing articles and making money from writing articles is really

00:51:54   tough. And I think only getting tougher, unfortunately. Yeah. Well, if you think about

00:52:01   somebody who wants to start their own website, like they're probably going to start with like

00:52:04   a free word space or a WordPress, sorry, or a blogger space, and maybe they'll upgrade and

00:52:10   actually pay to have their own domain. Or maybe they'll think, "No, why should I pay for anything

00:52:14   until I make money?" And spoiler, catch-22, you're not going to be trustworthy until you have your

00:52:19   own domain name. But you know, if you're not paying for a domain name until you make money,

00:52:23   then you're stuck. But the thing is, if you do that, even if you do everything right,

00:52:28   you're against everything else, which is going into the search results. Whereas if you start

00:52:34   on YouTube or TikTok or Instagram, then like people are already there searching for a particular

00:52:40   kind of thing. And so the algorithm is going to do a better job of funneling them towards stuff.

00:52:46   And especially if you've managed to get yourself into a playlist of some kind that's useful things

00:52:52   about this or that. I remember when I was studying computer science in Austria, I was struggling with

00:52:56   some of the mathematical terms just because the names, unsurprisingly, were foreign to me because

00:53:01   they were German. And so I had to like learn the concept in class and sort of vaguely understand it

00:53:06   and then go home, figure out what that concept was in English, and then relearn it. So I would

00:53:10   properly understand it. So I ended up following a lot of random mathematics and computer science

00:53:15   channels for that sort of logic stuff. But I found them all through playlists that other students have

00:53:20   put together, which we shared in class. And if you get onto something like that, then you know,

00:53:25   you get people coming to your channel, and then they click and find the other stuff. And

00:53:29   it happens relatively organically. But just going into the whole ocean of content as big as YouTube

00:53:36   is, it is, it's not that big. It's a lake compared to the whole of the internet, which has got all

00:53:42   the sharks and everything else in there with those people doing the bad SEO stuff.

00:53:46   Yeah. Yeah. And I guess too with like, I mean, I don't think there's many people competing with

00:53:50   your book with TikTok content on how to do things in shortcuts.

00:53:54   I mean, it went viral, right? The home screens, customized home screens,

00:53:57   so shortcuts went viral on TikTok.

00:53:59   Right. The customized home screens was, was humongous. I had David,

00:54:03   David Smith of Widget Smith. And various other famous on shortly after that. So yeah, that,

00:54:09   that was driver. I mean, but I don't, I'm not quite sure though, that it, that, that explained

00:54:16   to people how to do it. Like I think what the TikTok for that did, which was a genuine sensation

00:54:23   and for people who don't remember it, what it was at iOS 14, just a year ago, or was it two years

00:54:28   ago with iOS 13? I think it was two years ago when I was 14, because we're about to have the release

00:54:32   of 16. Oh yeah, that's right. That's right. Yeah. So I've, I was right. That it was two years ago

00:54:38   and got my version numbers mixed up, but there was like this TikTok that was like, Hey, look what you

00:54:42   can do because what you can do with shortcuts, I guess it's two key things that you can do is you

00:54:48   can have a shortcut that just opens a specific app. Like let's say Instagram, what does this

00:54:54   shortcut do? It launches Instagram. The other thing you can do is you can give the shortcut,

00:54:59   whatever icon you want, or I guess three things. You can have a shortcut, open an app and do

00:55:05   nothing else. You can give it a custom icon and you can add it to your home screen. And you can

00:55:11   give it a custom name as well, if you want. And a custom name, right? Custom icon and name. So

00:55:16   all of a sudden, let's say you're a neat Nick and the app library feature certainly makes this so

00:55:23   much easier to do, to just sort of have like even just one home screen of organized icons on your

00:55:30   iPhone. And then just put all your other apps that you do have installed over in the app library.

00:55:35   You could go through and with just going through like a dozen to 16 icons, do them one by one.

00:55:44   It's not that much work. Give each a custom icon. That's like from a theme pack, get a themed

00:55:50   wallpaper that goes with them. And then all of a sudden your iPhone home screen doesn't look like

00:55:55   an iPhone home screen. It looks like whatever it is, the thing that you're like Tron or Star Wars

00:56:01   or super cool. And a total throwback to like the classic days of Mac OS. Like when I was in

00:56:08   college in the nineties, everybody who was a Mac super nerd, like me at the time, we loved

00:56:15   customizing the icons. Oh, and that's when icon factory, I first grew to know them and they would

00:56:21   release like icon packs and they'd have like these alternate versions of all the popular apps. And

00:56:26   you could like customize all your popular apps with these custom icons that were drawn by awesome

00:56:31   artists. And it's like, so that took off, but I guess that the people who watch that TikTok and

00:56:38   wanted to do that with their phone then needed to somehow Google, well, how exactly do I do this

00:56:42   step-by-step? Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I think there were some like instruction videos, like in that

00:56:46   where people were like showing off various custom screens and then they did like, Hey,

00:56:50   so like you open this app and then you add this open app action and you select the app and then

00:56:55   you do the add to home screen. You select the image from the pack you've downloaded and stuff,

00:56:58   but it is quite a few steps for somebody to just figure out entirely by themselves. And yeah,

00:57:04   Googling it like, how do I add a shortcut to my home screen? I think I like, I haven't tested this,

00:57:10   but I'm 95 to 98% certain that will still be a Safari bookmark in most cases. Like that will be

00:57:16   the default result because that's, that's kind of what home screen shortcuts used to be. And now

00:57:22   they might be a progressive web app where it launches in its own little container. Wordle

00:57:26   did that, which was really cool, but it's not, it's, it's really difficult to just be able to

00:57:31   search and find out something about shortcuts because what is a shortcut anyway? Like it's a

00:57:36   really difficult concept to describe to somebody what is a shortcut and what is an action and why

00:57:41   does this app have actions, but this app doesn't. And well, Apple's helping developers fix that in

00:57:45   iOS 16 by making it a lot easier for them. Thank God. But you know, it is a very difficult concept

00:57:50   to just Google. And it's the same if you're trying to do something in pages. Like I love pages.

00:57:56   Don't get me wrong. The iWork suite at the very least, if you type pages iWork, you'll get a whole

00:58:01   bunch more results, which are way more on track. And a lot of sites are really good about putting

00:58:05   the word iWork in there when they're talking about pages, like pages, part of the iWork suite has

00:58:10   this feature and here's how you use it. But yeah. But yeah, you're right. Numbers is another one.

00:58:15   Yeah. Keynote on the other hand is the most Googleable of the names, right? That's because

00:58:24   even in the generic sense of the word keynote, Apple is very well known for its keynotes. It's,

00:58:31   it tends to lead you there. But yeah, so I, this is why I think books like yours

00:58:37   are still important. And the whole point of this whole discussion is to encourage people who are

00:58:45   listening to, to think back to how much you've learned in the past from good books. I mean it,

00:58:51   and I'm sure that most people who are using shortcuts do it the one search by at a time

00:58:58   way of getting into it. But I find that daunting and I know other people feel differently. There's

00:59:04   some people whose personality is such is that they've always hated books, right? I don't know,

00:59:09   to each their own. But to me, whenever I learned something new, I just have like a compulsive need

00:59:16   not to understand the entirety of the thing, not to have it all in my head, but to at least have

00:59:24   a general idea of the whole thing. Like what exactly, what's the basic idea with shortcuts

00:59:31   and what is the extent of what I can do? What are the sort of things I can expect to be able to do?

00:59:37   And that sort of fundamental high level overview is to me so much, there's never, there still is

00:59:49   never, nothing's been better invented than a well-written, well-organized book for that.

00:59:56   Whether it's, whether it's actually printed on paper or it's an ebook like the Take Control

01:00:03   series or a book that's on the web, but like a book length thing that has an order start to finish

01:00:11   and you can, yes, jump to the middle or search for just the one solution. But that sort of

01:00:16   understanding and to me, you accomplish that for shortcuts as well as I could imagine.

01:00:46   I didn't understand any of this. Where on earth would I need to start and how can I convey that to somebody? And why are variables important? And what is this? And why do I need to know that it's called a variable? Is that actually important? And trying to figure out all of that is really tricky. But I have to say being able to just pick up some of the other Take Control books and skim through them and see like the little side notes that they've got in there of like, oh, by the way, hey, there's this really cool thing that you can find if you right click on this and you press the option key.

01:01:16   And it's like, wow, didn't know that you could do that. That's amazing. Thanks. I keep forgetting to press the option key when I right click or option click on things. That's something that again, it's how do you search for this like hidden menu feature on the Mac? It's really difficult, but it's right there. But being able to like go through and use other examples as a place to get started has been really helpful.

01:01:37   So that's the first thing I want to encourage people listening is to just if you if shortcuts is one of these things that's been on your list of you could just feel it in your bones that maybe you should get more into a maybe you've tinkered a little Rosemary's book, you should get it and read it.

01:01:53   And it will fill in those gaps of what is the basic scope of what you think you can get done? What are the sort of things you can do in a way that you'll never get just by Googling for specific things from Stack Overflow or something like that.

01:02:10   And Apple does have pretty good documentation for shortcuts. It's not undocumented, but it's still it's like the difference between a dictionary and a book about how to write.

01:02:23   Yeah, like drunken whites, the elements of style or Zinzers a fantastic book.

01:02:30   I know the one you mean. It's on tip of my tongue. And there's a subreddit for tip of my tongue for anybody who's looking for something that they can't quite remember the name on

01:02:37   writing. Well, that's it. That's the one by Williams in sir, I can't believe that's a sign that I need to read it again. That is a book that I have read cover to cover at least twice. And now the fact that it wasn't on the tip of my tongue means I should read it again.

01:02:50   But it's the difference between Zinzers on writing well, which is fantastic. And a dictionary is just a reference. And to me, Apple's documentation is a reference and there should be a reference, right? It's not a complaint.

01:03:02   All right, we'll get further into it. But let me take a second break here. And speaking of starting your own website, let me tell you about Squarespace.

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01:05:09   So one of the things I'm wondering if you have thoughts on this, so it's going back to the name shortcuts. And in addition to the searchability, there's also the fluidity of writing about the things you make in shortcuts that are from shortcuts, which are shortcuts. Right?

01:05:31   Yeah, so when they change the name from shortcuts to workflow, I

01:05:35   suggested that I, sorry, from workflow to shortcuts, I suggested that you call anything that you created in the app a workflow, so that you would have shortcuts workflow or workflow in shortcuts. And that to me was just like a perfect way of like, let's avoid any confusion.

01:05:51   But instead, you have shortcuts, capital S, plural, the app, shortcuts, lowercase, plural, which are all of the things that you create in the shortcuts app. And then you have a shortcut, lowercase, singular, which is a single shortcut. And oh my god, it's confusing.

01:06:08   It is. It's confusing. And as the writer, you're the we're the ones who try to dance around it and rearrange sentences so that we can avoid writing capital shortcuts shortcut, create a new shortcuts shortcut. And then even as a podcaster, it ends up being a tongue twister. I kind of thought the same thing, which I want to come back to this point in a second. But shortcuts originally was a third party app called workflow, or was it workflows?

01:06:37   I forget now whether it was plural or not, but it would have been natural. I don't know what Apple was thinking. I could see why they might have wanted to change the name because now that they own the product, maybe they thought shortcuts was a better name for the whole platform.

01:06:51   But it would have been nice if they named them workflows. And that's what the things are called in Automator. When in Automator, you make a workflow. Yes. The long standing one, I mean, and literally going back to the early 90s is AppleScript. Or what do you make with AppleScripts? AppleScript scripts.

01:07:13   Yeah. Which isn't as awkward. In my opinion, we've gone even worse with shortcuts. But AppleScript scripts is has never just just somehow seems. I hate it.

01:07:27   Yes. Yeah, it is just so difficult. And it doesn't roll off the tongue. Right? There's something about a really good name that just it just works. Right? Like DeLorean. Okay. DeLorean just works. Okay. Everybody immediately thinks back to the future flux capacitor. But shortcuts, shortcut, or shortcut shortcuts actions. What the no, it just it does. It's staccato, right? Rather than legato. It just doesn't feel as nice.

01:07:55   Yeah, yeah. Yeah. And just racing.

01:07:58   Yeah. And so many. Yeah, there are some names that just worked. I would say a predominant number of famous scripting languages have names that just work. Perl, Ruby, Python. JavaScript has the same problem AppleScript has and has a second problem, which is that it's Java. Yeah, it sounds like it has something to do with Java. And the only thing it has to do with Java, the one and only thing JavaScript relates to Java, is that Java was very popular at the time.

01:08:27   Yeah, yeah, yeah, like that's literally it the number of times that I've seen people asking, like, hey, so how can I do this in Java space script? And I'm there going, hey, look, it looks like you're asking a question about scriptable. And I feel like Clippy when I do this, okay, the paperclip in Microsoft Word. But it's like, it's really important that you get rid of that space. I know that that seems completely and utterly illogical and irrelevant to you right now. But I promise you, if you delete that space, you're going to get much better search results than it would if you delete it.

01:08:56   And I think that's the only thing that's going to be a problem for you. And I think that's the only thing that's going to be a problem for you.

01:09:02   And I think that's the only thing that's going to be a problem for you.

01:09:05   And I think that's the only thing that's going to be a problem for you.

01:09:08   And I think that's the only thing that's going to be a problem for you.

01:09:11   And I think that's the only thing that's going to be a problem for you.

01:09:14   Well, I'm going to say that all credit for that and all correctly placed commas goes to Joe Kissel, the editor and one of the folks in charge over at Take Control, because he went through the book with a fine tooth comb looking for anything that sounded awkward or weird or didn't make any sense at all and really helped with that.

01:09:36   There's something to be said for having a really great editor and Joe has definitely served that role extremely well here. And it wouldn't have been possible to do this without him. So I'm glad his hard work paid off.

01:09:46   Which gets back to the value of a really well-written book from a good author with good editors.

01:09:55   That lack of distraction, even for those out there who've never really thought about the awkwardness of a shortcut's shortcut, the fact that somebody is there to avoid it means that while you're trying to learn something, you're not distracted by, "Hey, that looks weird."

01:10:10   Yeah, exactly. And the number of times I wrote something and then highlighted it with strike through and then wrote TK TK next to it, which is the two characters that you will find together in the English language. TK done twice is the old editor's trick.

01:10:29   Like, this is something that needs fixing. I just can't think of a better way to write this right now, so I'm just going to word vomit it somehow and then come back and fix it later because it needs a better way of doing it.

01:10:40   And sometimes to do the right thing, right, you have to do the wrong thing because once you've done the wrong thing, you'll see the right way to do it.

01:10:46   And other times it was like, I'm just going to give this to like three of my friends and just say, "Hey, can you think of any kind of better way maybe to get started writing this bit? Like, at all? Any suggestions? Throw a dart. If it sounds even vaguely better than what I've got, I'll start with it and see what I can do later."

01:11:04   We mentioned Apple's official shortcuts reference documentation, and as I just mentioned Automator, I made a note of it because I thought it was so perfectly said is in your book, you mention Automator when it gets to the point talking about shortcuts for Mac.

01:11:20   And hey, what should you be using? Automator or shortcuts if you want to automate this thing and it might, maybe it's only on the Mac that you want to do it or maybe like in both cases, both shortcuts and Automator can do things like run an Apple script or run a shell script,

01:11:37   which are things you can't do on iOS, but you can do them in shortcuts, but therefore only on shortcuts for Mac.

01:11:43   But should you use Automator instead? And you have a nice little aside in the book that just says, "Hey, Apple hasn't said Automator is definitely going away, but it sort of seems like that's the way the wind is blowing and that shortcuts is the future."

01:12:00   And if you really want to use Automator, use it. I'm paraphrasing here, not reading, but you know, shortcuts is probably a sure bet for a thing that's going to last.

01:12:09   A, that's to me exactly what I mean about like as a reader who wants to know about shortcuts, like that's in that context of, "Okay, I get it." It's not just that shortcuts is new, but it probably is the other one, the older Automator probably is going away.

01:12:26   So I should try to do it in shortcuts first, but it's also the sort of plain language that Apple is never going to use in their own documentation.

01:12:34   No, and they can't say something like that because until they've officially announced that something's going away, implying that something is going away is tantamount to saying, "It's dead."

01:12:45   And you know what happens when somebody comes out with, "It's dead, Jim." There's, there's troubles everywhere suddenly, or maybe not as the case may be, but you know, they can't explicitly say that something's going away without saying, "Hey, and this thing is a drop-in replacement for it or a replacement."

01:12:59   And it's difficult, it is, but shortcuts is so much easier to use than Automator in this case that, you know, I, I can't really think of a huge number of use cases where using Automator is going to be the better solution.

01:13:12   There are some actions that are only in Automator still for whatever reason, and I presume the shortcuts team has been working really hard to try and get those last outstanding ones over.

01:13:22   But Automator was able to do something as simple as a dynamic name and date and file name, so you'd have to go and update your Automator workflow every time you wanted to run it.

01:13:30   And of course shortcuts can ask for input, it can just input your current date, it can reformat things and so on on the fly, farm it out to another shortcut and get it back, send it through any number of other applications, either using shortcuts or AppleScript or ShellScript if you want, or JavaScript for automation if you're really into torturing yourself.

01:13:50   Please don't do that folks, it's there, but that doesn't mean you should use it.

01:13:53   But you know, there's a lot of more easy possibilities.

01:13:57   And let's face it, the Automator UI hasn't been updated in a really long time, and it's a real shame because I know some of the folks who worked on it and they worked really hard on it and they did a really great job.

01:14:07   But it just unfortunately seemed like it never really hit that critical mess that shortcuts has.

01:14:13   And honestly, some of the best actions for Automator were actually from Microsoft as part of the Office suite.

01:14:19   They had some really great ones, specifically like Microsoft Word, converting Word documents to PDFs and things like that.

01:14:25   That was all stuff that you could do with Automator.

01:14:28   And you couldn't do it once they took those actions away, but shortcuts can do that because it can make anything into a PDF pretty much.

01:14:36   Microsoft's always been very good about wanting to empower, for lack of a better word, power users who might want to do this, people who don't consider themselves programmers, or even if they are programmers, don't want to program a solution, just want to gin up something to automate this thing that they do over and over again.

01:15:00   Every couple of days I need to make a new invoice, and every time I make a new invoice I want it to fill in the date and this and that.

01:15:08   And doing that manually each time is A, a pain, and B, it's a possible source of a mistake where you forgot to put the date in and the date is just 1/1/1900 or something like that.

01:15:23   Microsoft's always been good at that, so I'm not surprised, but it is true that Automator somehow failed to capture a critical mass that even AppleScript did.

01:15:33   I feel like AppleScript's future is quite possibly permanent. I mean, as somebody who's been an enthusiastic AppleScript user since AppleScript debuted in System 7.1, I think, I don't know, maybe it was 7.5, but at some point in the System 7 era.

01:15:55   But in the early years of Mac OS X it felt like, "Oh man, there's no way that they're going to keep AppleScript around for long because it just wasn't the great fit for the Mac OS X Cocoa Next Foundation."

01:16:10   But then the AppleScript workflows, lowercase w, that are out there are so essential to so many people's needs and really can't be replaced by anything else.

01:16:20   Whereas I think that's the difference with Automator too, is it's easy to envision how shortcuts will soon be able to do everything Automator did, and therefore why not get rid of the old one?

01:16:32   Yeah, exactly. And it really does feel like, you know, when workflow first came out on the iPhone and the iPad, a lot of folks looked at it and said, "This is Automator for my iPhone."

01:16:43   This is really cool because they do look really similar. They've got blocks that you drag in, there's a line running between them, and you pass data between your blocks and it goes from the top to the bottom.

01:16:52   And now that we've got two of these things, both from Apple on our Mac, and one of them can import the workflows from the other.

01:17:02   Like that bit there really just underscores that shortcuts will replace Automator.

01:17:07   Right. And again, that aside is just the perfect sort of note. Your book is filled with notes like that, that just give people a little bit of context.

01:17:15   You can just read this book and get caught up on knowing the state of things like that. And now you've got this high-level view.

01:17:23   I think what you just mentioned, workflow debuting on iOS and iPad, God, I don't know how long, maybe like 10 years ago?

01:17:31   Yeah, it was a long time ago now.

01:17:33   It must have been at least seven or so years ago because I was studying for my computer science degree at the time when it was really starting to become more popular. It was out on the App Store then.

01:17:43   I'm going to admit something very cynical, and I am embarrassed to admit it because I think I should professionally have the opposite attitude.

01:17:51   But when it came out and I read about it and I took a look at it and I was like, "Ah, I get it," and I sort of got that first impression of, "Yeah, it's like Automator for iOS," right?

01:18:01   I just assumed that coming from a third party and knowing the technical restrictions of third-party apps on iOS, that this can't be that useful.

01:18:14   And that it sort of gets to the broader philosophical argument about iOS's restrictions being good for the typical non-technical users' protection and safety.

01:18:28   And it's why people like and love, love their iPhones and iPads more than they ever learned a computer, including the Mac, many people.

01:18:37   So most people, because they can't do anything to mess it up, right?

01:18:43   I cannot overstate to people who really believe that the iOS should be as open as the Mac to non-App Store apps and stuff like that.

01:18:54   Please don't let that happen.

01:18:55   I can't let my grandmother keep her iPad if that's the case.

01:18:59   I just can't emphasize enough how many times I know firsthand from people and talking to fellow nerds like me and you, but who have family members or a father-in-law or somebody who just used computers their whole life.

01:19:14   Maybe they were like an accountant or something like that.

01:19:17   Accounting got computerized as early as almost any profession because for obvious reasons.

01:19:22   Once the spreadsheets were invented, it was groundbreaking.

01:19:26   And once they had a computer that was working, just left it alone until the thing physically broke, right?

01:19:33   So many people like that, like somebody who works without any kind of IT help.

01:19:37   I'll go back to the accountant example, but just an accountant who works by themselves as a one-person operation, but had a computer that worked and they depended on it, obviously.

01:19:49   Hopefully backed it up somehow and did stuff like that, but more or less just left it alone and didn't want to install anything new or upgrade anything because they could mess it up.

01:19:59   And the way that you can't get into a situation like that with iOS is just phenomenal.

01:20:04   But the flip side is, if you are an enthusiast and you want to do things like we can do on the Mac and have been able to do, and Windows, the limits of iOS have always been and continue to this day to be very frustrating.

01:20:18   Yeah.

01:20:19   Yeah, that everything is inside of a sandbox and workflow works around this a lot and to an extent actually Surecut still does.

01:20:26   There's still some of those old actions in there using URL schemes.

01:20:29   So where it could read stuff out from iOS, like reading things out of your calendar and reminders, it was able to do that using the public APIs, which are the codes available to developers that they can put into their apps to read stuff out of it once it's done the pop-up to ask for permission.

01:20:43   They were able to do a lot of that for the Apple stuff, but how do you talk to drafts?

01:20:47   OmniFocus, things, all of those other apps.

01:20:50   Well, those apps all had these things called X callback URLs, and that's how they communicated.

01:20:55   And for other stuff, they just use web API.

01:20:57   So to publish a post on WordPress, it would talk to a WordPress API for your blog and things like that.

01:21:02   And it's really amazing that they were able to get all of these things together.

01:21:07   And I remember the outcry when Apple bought shortcuts and Google Maps disappeared.

01:21:12   And then people realized it was basically that every developer, every app that shortcuts or workflows it was then it integrated with pretty much just had to sign a disclaimer saying they weren't going to sue Apple for integrating with their app.

01:21:24   And Google just left it sitting in a pile somewhere pretty much.

01:21:28   So eventually that got sorted out and Google Maps is back.

01:21:31   But you know, people were outraged that Apple's stripping Google Maps out of workflow.

01:21:35   How dare they do this?

01:21:36   And it's like, no, they have to do things differently, but they were able to integrate with so many things so well because there were all of these different ways of accessing it.

01:21:46   And I know Ari and I think Conrad, part of the original workflow team, they were jailbreakers.

01:21:52   Like they worked on jailbreaking iOS devices.

01:21:55   And that kind of showed a bit in workflow of their solution of we'll find a way to do this.

01:22:00   Like we're going to find a way, like there's a crack somewhere and we're going to figure out how to use it so we can give people the control that they want.

01:22:06   And now they work at Apple.

01:22:07   That to me is really amazing going from jailbreaking devices to making your devices so much better in such a really cool way.

01:22:16   It reminds me of the line from the first Jurassic Park movie where they said that they bred all the dinosaurs to be all females so that there wouldn't be any reproduction out in the wild, but then they found eggs.

01:22:29   And how in the world is this possible?

01:22:31   And I think it's the Jeff Goldblum, Ian Malcolm character who says, "Life finds a way."

01:22:36   Or maybe it's the old guy.

01:22:37   Somebody says it, "Life finds a way."

01:22:39   But that's sort of what happened with inter-application communication on iOS where the Mac has had a rich, very rich, officially from Apple sanctioned way of doing inter-application communication where one app can talk to another through Apple events, which are the technology that AppleScript is the scripting language on top of.

01:23:03   And the gap that workflow and now shortcuts have grew to take advantage of is exactly what you said, that apps could register for their own custom URLs that they can handle.

01:23:15   And I don't think Apple was thinking of inter-application communication of going from drafts to things or from this to that.

01:23:25   It was just sort of a way to open.

01:23:27   I think that's what Apple was thinking was that it would just be a way for…

01:23:31   We'll just go back to drafts.

01:23:33   Just a way to open a specific draft and then you could get this drafts colon slash slash and an identifier for a particular note in drafts.

01:23:43   And then you could open it from anywhere.

01:23:44   You could keep it pasted somewhere and then you'd click it and it would just jump you right.

01:23:48   It was a way to let an app let you jump to content.

01:23:51   But developers thought, "Well, we could do these callback URLs where we'll go to you."

01:23:57   And it was all encoded as a URL. You had to be a programmer to decipher it, literally to decode it.

01:24:04   But then when you did, the app that got it could send you back to where you were.

01:24:09   It was funny though when you started using stuff like that because part of it is like…

01:24:14   And it shows that it was jury-rigged.

01:24:17   I don't think there's any better way to put it.

01:24:19   But it was the best we could do with true inter-application communication or a system that's designed for it.

01:24:29   If you're using app A and you want app A to send something to app B but you want to keep going with app A, you just trigger the action.

01:24:42   It goes. Maybe you get a notification or something that it succeeded or failed, but you don't leave.

01:24:49   But with the callback URLs, your actual iPhone would switch from app A to app B with the animation and the thing would happen.

01:24:59   And then the opposite would happen and you'd go back to that. You'd see it happening.

01:25:04   Almost like watching a phantom user doing it automatically for you on screen.

01:25:12   Yeah, it is very much like UI scripting to an extent where you have something that goes and presses this button, presses that button.

01:25:19   Of course, it was better than that where you would just say to the app, "Hey," and create this thing and do this action that you can do with the thing that you've just created, please.

01:25:28   And then put the output of that into whatever you're sending back, please.

01:25:32   And if you did enough of them in a row and you saved workflow to do that, your iPhone would just look like it was possessed for a good couple of minutes as it bounced from here to there to back again.

01:25:41   And then over here and did this thing and then it all flipped around and went upside down and back to front.

01:25:46   And at some point you'd eventually end up back where you started, assuming that nothing crashed along the way.

01:25:53   There used to be utilities for the classic Mac that did stuff like that.

01:25:58   I want to say that one of them was QuickKeys. QuickKeys was a real thing.

01:26:03   I'm not sure if QuickKeys was the one that did this, but that when you recorded what they called macros, it really was just like a phantom user playing your screen.

01:26:13   You'd see the mouse pointer actually move, menus would actually come down.

01:26:17   It was exactly like an invisible person was controlling your computer, but they could do it very fast.

01:26:24   And it was still useful, but you could tell it was sort of a hack.

01:26:29   This isn't the way it would be if it was built into the system.

01:26:33   So when Apple acquired Workflow, I realized as soon as they acquired it, well, I thought there's two possibilities.

01:26:39   I thought, A, either I vastly underestimated Workflow, and this is truly technology that is so amazing that Apple is actually going to build it into the system.

01:26:51   Or B, it was just an aqua hire.

01:26:55   They realized that the developers behind it were talented, but they wanted to hire them to do something else and weren't going to allow them to keep Workflow alive outside their work at Apple.

01:27:06   But it turns out it was A, and B. They did hire the team, and many of them are still there.

01:27:12   But the actual technology, it's not like, "Oh, we want you to remake Workflow, but we'll do it officially this time."

01:27:18   No, they actually – the roots of today's shortcuts is the third-party app Workflow.

01:27:23   Yeah, yeah. And I bet the developers who did that are both very happy that it's still there and also at times cursing their past selves for writing that bit of code.

01:27:32   "Why did you write that like that? What were you thinking?" Or at least that's what I do when I look at code.

01:27:36   "What idiot wrote this? Oh, that would be me." That's what happens all the time, isn't it?

01:27:41   As somebody who's truly an expert on it, though, do you think that those roots as a user of shortcuts and a creator of shortcuts still show that it wasn't?

01:27:49   Yeah. Yeah, absolutely.

01:27:52   Like, how so?

01:27:53   Well, to start with, it doesn't look that different.

01:27:57   Obviously, it's gone through iterations and changes, and everything got squared off and rounded off again, and the menu on iPad has moved from the left side to the right side and things like that.

01:28:06   But at its core, it's still your blocks with your actions in and variables that you put into that, and there's a line running from the top to the bottom.

01:28:15   And this is a great little trick that a lot of people don't know about. There's a line that runs along the center of your actions, connecting one to the next one, unless you don't use the data from the previous action into the next action, at which point the line disappears.

01:28:29   And then it starts again when you're taking data through, so that line is basically your flow of data, assuming that it's flowing from top to bottom, that's as complex as it gets.

01:28:38   But I think it's still there, and I mean, they've probably rewritten that bit a number of times, most recently with the change to SwiftUI, but it's very much still there.

01:28:47   And you can also tell if you look in the actions section, there are a number of apps whose actions haven't changed in a very long time, and those are the actions that were there when this was, you know, Workflow.

01:28:59   I remember talking to some developers when Apple took over shortcuts and trying to find out how they were going to update their actions.

01:29:06   And the answer was basically they had to open a support ticket with Apple and say, "Hey, I'm writing my own shortcut actions, can you remove the old ones, please, because I can't update those and they're pointing to an app that doesn't exist anymore."

01:29:18   But, you know, there's still some of those actions in the App Store. I think the tally from Agile Tortoise actually is still using the original actions.

01:29:26   I may be wrong about that, so I'm sorry to Agile Tortoise if I have got that wrong.

01:29:30   But, you know, WordPress, I'm pretty certain that action's not changed. The WordPress API does not change that fast, so there will be no reason for them to update it.

01:29:39   And there's got to be some other ones in there as well. And it's, some of them, it's just you wouldn't necessarily notice if they did update, but I think some of them are still the same as they always were.

01:29:49   And that is an interesting thing for an Apple product, especially today, but it's always been. Apple's never, and as years have gone on, have included fewer and fewer third-party stuff in a default.

01:30:02   Just take a new Apple product out of the Apple Store and unbox it, turn it on, and use it right there. How much third-party stuff is there? Almost none at this point.

01:30:14   But it used to be that they'd ship with a bunch of apps. They used to include apps from the Omni Group and before Safari, they included Internet Explorer built in, which is, in hindsight, it seems, "Wow, that was a long time ago when they were…"

01:30:30   And it was controversial when they switched from baking or including Netscape as the default browser to IE. But yeah, Shortcuts still has third-party app actions in the default list because back in the day when it was third-party, that was the only way to do it.

01:30:50   Because they could communicate by these callback URLs, but there was no way for an app like Drafts or things or whichever of the many apps that drew to embrace Workflow for them to broadcast, "Here's the things you can do."

01:31:10   So instead, Workflow built those things in, and now they're still there for backwards compatibility.

01:31:17   Yeah, exactly, because that was a problem that was had until relatively recently where you couldn't reuse a Shortcuts action. And things had this problem, for example, because they have things for iPhone, things for iPad, and things for Mac.

01:31:31   Well, that's three things, quite literally, which their name always amuses me. There are some great folks over there doing some wonderful work.

01:31:37   But it meant that their Shortcuts actions didn't match. So if you ran your Shortcut on your iPhone, then to run that exact same Shortcut on your iPad, you had to either add an if statement and say, "Hey, if this is an iPad, run the iPad action instead."

01:31:51   Or install the iPhone app on your iPad to have Shortcuts interact with it.

01:31:56   Unfortunately, they've now cleared that up and made that a lot easier. And that's part of the progress that they've gone down. And I'm sure the original Workflow team, you know, actually worked with some of these app developers. I'm sure some of them have had contact with each other way back in the past saying, "Hey, by the way, I'm just adding all these new URL scheme supports into my app. So feel free to include them in Workflow, please."

01:32:16   Pretty please. But now it's the other way around where it is. App developers add something in their app, and it's become a lot easier in iOS 16, which I'm really excited about.

01:32:25   And then Shortcuts just picks it up, which means the first time that somebody new opens the Shortcuts app, assuming that they've got some of their favorite apps that they use regularly installed, they will see, especially in iOS 16, at the bottom of that folders list, they'll see Shortcuts from your apps, which will be recommended Shortcuts from your apps using App Actions and everything from that.

01:32:46   And that to me is really like the point that we've all been looking for and hoping for, where you can take people who don't really know what they're doing, they don't know anything about programming, they don't know what Shortcuts is, they just know that, "Hey, this is the really like the this is the way that I can add a quick button that will just do exactly what I need into the home screen of my iPhone."

01:33:07   Or I can add it as a back tap through an accessibility shortcut, or I can talk to it with Siri, and it will just do the thing that I want, because it's been set up to do exactly that, which just makes your personal device actually personal.

01:33:21   And I think that's the thing that we really want.

01:33:24   Yep.

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01:35:57   So you talked about, I know your book only covers up to iOS 15, but also the current version of Mac OS.

01:36:04   But of course that's because the other operating systems aren't out yet. So anything else?

01:36:10   So the big new thing in shortcuts for iOS 16 is this sort of the way that third party apps can broadcast, for lack of a better term, their shortcuts, built-in shortcuts capabilities and shortcuts will pick them up.

01:36:24   I agree with you. That is so super welcoming for new users. It's great for anybody because it's convenient.

01:36:30   Even if you're a long-time shortcuts user, it's like, "Okay, here's the stuff I need. It's right here."

01:36:34   But if you're new, it's like you said, it's almost like now shortcuts when you first launch it looks more welcoming because it's like, "Yeah, here's these apps I use."

01:36:45   Oh, and the actions are descriptive. I could say, "Oh, I would like to be able to automate that."

01:36:51   Yeah. Even if they don't know necessarily that they're automating things, right? My parents have got shortcuts on their home screen. They don't really know what shortcuts is.

01:36:58   They don't really care about automating things, but they wanted a way that when they use their blood pressure monitor, they can just tap a button and log it into HealthKit.

01:37:06   And now they've got it thanks to shortcuts. And so having things like that pop up from apps that people actually use and want to use is really good.

01:37:16   And I think it's just a way of bringing things closer together and better knit.

01:37:23   Because the worst thing about Siri is like, "I'm sorry, here are some web search results," or whatever it is she actually says whenever she comes back with that because you said the thing that to you makes perfect sense.

01:37:33   And of course that means that it should do A, B, and C. But it didn't understand that because the app developer gave it a completely different name.

01:37:40   And that's what's in Siri.

01:37:41   Well, now you can set your own name so that whatever you think is the right way to say it, it doesn't matter whether or not that's what the app developer intended or whether that's the right way to do it.

01:37:50   That's the way that your brain works, and you can make your phone work the way your brain works instead of trying to make your brain work the way other people thought it should work.

01:37:58   Which, as we all know, there's a variety of neurotypical versus lots of neuroatypical ways out there.

01:38:04   But even just regional variations of the way that we talk about things is really important, and being able to actually have an experience that when you look at your phone, it's there for you.

01:38:15   Your iPad serves your needs. Your Mac, when you right-click on something in the Finder, shows you the actions that you need, not the ones that anybody else cares about, just the things that you need.

01:38:25   Having that actually makes your device so much better for you.

01:38:30   And you get to a point that I've tried to preach ever since I've been writing about automation stuff on Daring Fireball over the years, and getting to the sort of, to me, fearful years before Apple acquired Workflow and officially said, "We're going to bake this into the iOS,"

01:38:52   where iOS didn't have any automation at all, built from Apple in the system, right? And it was only the best we could do was the third-party thing, and Workflow was the best.

01:39:01   But it seemed from the outside that Apple had lost interest in automation, and the only stuff on the Mac was all aging, right?

01:39:10   AppleScript is a carryover from classic Mac OS, and like I said, it's almost a miracle that it's still here today and thriving in the way that it still is.

01:39:20   But I don't think anybody, when Mac OS X originally shipped in 2002, I think, 2001, 2002, what are the technologies from classic Mac OS that carried over into the first version of Mac OS X that will still be there 20 years later?

01:39:38   There would not have been many bets on AppleScript, but here we are.

01:39:41   And AppleScript hadn't gotten improved, and I guess the hope for people like me and you and your colleague David Sparks and everybody else who loves it was that Apple was going to come out with it.

01:39:52   The reason they hadn't been updating AppleScript was that they had something in the works, and it's, "Here's the new thing," and it's SwiftScript or whatever you wanted, whatever name it could have been.

01:40:01   And it's an all-new scripting system. I mean, we could still long for a new scripting system, honestly, but that's a separate conversation.

01:40:09   But the fact that Apple's most popular platform, arguably the most popular platform in the world, iOS, didn't have automation made it seem like Apple thought it wasn't.

01:40:21   And the thinking of, "Well, why wouldn't they want it?" and the idea would be the argument, and it's oft repeated, even by people who wish they would but who are cynical and say, "Yeah, of course they're not," because most people aren't going to use it.

01:40:34   And my argument against that has always been, "Yes, that is absolutely true." And in the earlier days of computing, like the HyperCard era and going back even further, like when you buy an Apple II in the '80s and you just turned it on, what did you get?

01:40:52   You got a prompt where you could just type basic programs. You could just start typing programs when you turn the computer on.

01:41:00   The idea back then that slowly faded away was that everybody, if given the right tools and the right approach to it, could be a programmer and would want to be a programmer to some extent.

01:41:12   And that's just not true. We know that now.

01:41:15   No, we really do. The number of people who are required to use a computer to do their job and then come out with the absolutely stellar line of, "I'm not a computer person," when you ask them to do something as simple as, "Have you tried turning it off and turning it back on again?" is astounding.

01:41:31   It's slightly terrifying because basically if they're saying, "Hey, I'm not a computer person," when they're asked to do something with the computer that's required for part of their job, they're basically saying, "I can't do my job." And that's just like, "Whoa, okay, I didn't realize that we were voicing personal thoughts like this today. I'll get you some chocolate to go with this. Do we need to have a sit down?"

01:41:48   But, you know, the number of people who just go, "No, I don't want to automate things," but people actually do. They just don't know it under the name that we're talking about it. And it's really difficult sometimes to put things in a way that other people understand because they're not looking for an automated solution.

01:42:03   What they want is that when they talk to Siri, instead of using reminders, it uses this app that they found that they've been using with their spouse because that's a great place to store groceries because it means that whenever they go to the grocery store, they actually end up with the things that they need instead of six bottles of ketchup and no peanut butter or whatever it is that their household problem is.

01:42:22   And they just want their device to actually be integrated into their lives. And that's, I think, why Shortcuts is called Shortcuts rather than Automator because it is about putting a shortcut where you're looking for the thing to the thing that you actually want.

01:42:37   And they started out on iOS with Siri Intents, right, so that you could add something to your preferred task manager using Siri, but that's always been kind of flaky. And I don't know why that is, but, you know, I've tried it with so many different apps and this is where you've got the problem of naming, right, because OmniFocus is a lovely unique name when Siri understands it.

01:42:57   Things is a bit confusing for Siri and Jew, it asks you when you want it to be done by, like, what's the deadline? It's like, no, I don't want a deadline. I just want you to, like I said, Tuesday at 9pm, please just do it.

01:43:09   But whatever it is, you know, Siri's always been a bit flaky on that. But by adding the Shortcuts support, then it really just puts things hopefully in the place where you're using it and where you can find something that when you say it makes sense for you and is understood by your device.

01:43:24   That is so true. I know we keep coming back to really good names, but that just that fail for other reasons. And I'm I've been a user of Dew, D-U-E, I think since like the original version, I just have a couple of weekly reminders in there like to take out the trash and when it's time at the beginning of the week to change my weekly sponsor.

01:43:45   Yeah, that I've been running in Dew for, I don't know, a dozen years. It is very confusing. In addition to Google search ability, yes, Siri confusion is natural, right? And especially you're talking about creating a reminder.

01:44:02   And of course, there's it just is, it just doesn't work.

01:44:18   Well done. Like, thanks computer. That's a new one for today. Like Siri mispronouncing things, honestly, it's one of my favorite things. I was driving back with my parents from France last weekend. And so of course, my parents, my dad in particular doesn't speak very good French at all. And so he has his Siri naturally set to English.

01:44:36   Okay, but you would think driving in France that Siri could I don't know use French Siri for the route the street names. No, no, no, there were some Oh my god, they're just

01:44:49   reading everything. Even something somebody who doesn't know French very well would at least try to pronounce the French way reading it just brutal, brutally as English.

01:44:59   Yeah, yeah. And I don't think I can even do it because I do speak French. And so I don't think I can even pronounce the things that way that Siri was doing it. But oh my gosh, that was terrible. But you know, it is very difficult. How do you explain to a computer how to sound things out? And there's the whole phonetic alphabet and so on. But then do you expect every app developer to know the phonetic alphabet to put that in somewhere so that they can do that? And then do you expect every user to know that Zapier rhymes with happier instead of being Zapier that rhymes with P?

01:45:28   I don't know, I'm making up words here. But you know, like knowing how to pronounce the name of the app is that's a really big barrier to entry. Because how many people have said a word wrong because they learned it by reading like I used to pronounce picturesque picturesque because if you look at it, that's what it is. And I learned it from reading a book. And it wasn't until ages later that my mom was like, Oh, you mean picturesque. Rosen, I'm like, Oh, no, that's a word I've been mispronouncing for a couple of years now. Whoops.

01:45:57   Rosemary, you're describing the entire bane of my decades long podcasting existence. And my parents are well spoken. It's just that I as an extremely avid reader encountered so many words that my parents, we just never weren't used and weren't used on the TV shows we watched. And so I just made up my own pronunciations. And they're all broken.

01:46:26   They're all burned into my brain.

01:46:28   Yep, yep. And it happens to everyone, right? But you look up an app on the App Store, and then you think, Oh, cool. I know how that's pronounced. Obviously, this is Instagram, Facebook, OneDrive. Okay, cool. And then you get some other ones like Achoo, which is a great app for the developer of Apollo that lets you view the HTML Safari on your iPhone. But for me, as a native English speaker, Achoo, like that's logical. I've seen Robin Hood Men in Tights. I know how this is pronounced. Non native speaker, good luck.

01:46:57   You know, and that's nothing against Chrissy. He's done a great job there. Like, you know, but Airbnb, like a number of times that I've had to explain to non native speakers of English, that T's and C's means terms and conditions, because they hear T's and C's on the advert. And they're thinking like T as in T E A, as in like the drink, or T as in T E E, the golf tee. Okay, and then C's. Okay, is it like C's as in like I see? Or is it C is in an ocean?

01:47:24   And there's just like, and then actually turns out something completely different, right? And it's very difficult to figure out how you pronounce these things. Like, is it Amex or Amex?

01:47:33   Mm hmm. Yeah, yep. That's a perfect example.

01:47:36   And both of them are right and both of them are wrong. I'm sure the folks at American Express have their own personal internal guidelines as to how this should be pronounced. And then every one of us will say it ever so slightly differently. And it's just really difficult to actually interact with your device in a way that especially if you're using your voice, and a lot of people like to use their voice.

01:47:53   To interact with their devices, it's a lot more common than a lot of us nerds would like to think. A lot of us nerds are very reticient when it comes to talking to our devices. And we think no, it's faster to type. I'm just going to do that because it'll be right. And we get around our devices pretty quickly. But I'm there sitting there with my parents in the evening, and my dad thinks of something and go and asks us and we go, Oh, I don't know. And he goes, Hey, Apple lady, what does this say? And she comes back with web results. And he's fine with that, to be clear, like he actually doesn't mind them at all. Because you know, he's a little bit more

01:48:03   going to do that because it'll be right. And we get around our devices pretty quickly.

01:48:08   But I'm there sitting there with my parents in the evening and my dad thinks of something

01:48:12   and asks us and we go, "Oh, I don't know." And he goes, "Hey, Apple lady, what does

01:48:17   this say?" And she comes back with web results and he's fine with that, to be clear. Like,

01:48:21   he actually doesn't mind them at all because she'll read out like the first sentence of

01:48:25   the first web result. And honestly, it seems like nine out of 10 times when he's actually

01:48:29   talking instead of like half not paying attention to what he's saying, that she gets it right

01:48:34   and gives him the answer that he's looking for. But she has to be able to understand

01:48:37   for that. And when you're using words that are difficult to pronounce or nobody knows

01:48:42   what the right pronunciation is, or the meaning isn't clear, and number of words that sound

01:48:48   the same and mean totally different things in English is stupidly large. Our language

01:48:52   is terrible. You know, I always personally think that English was the revenge on those

01:48:58   coming to invade Britain back in the day because we had Latin and then the Vikings came and

01:49:04   so we butchered some German in there and then the French came and we were like, "Oh no,

01:49:08   we're really going to mess with these guys. They love their language. We're really going

01:49:11   to butcher this." That's the result. But it means that communicating through voice is

01:49:15   incredibly difficult. And when my words go up at the end of a sentence, that's a question,

01:49:22   which to you and me is something that's very logical and easy to understand perhaps. But

01:49:27   to somebody who's not a native speaker of English, where that upwards intonation doesn't necessarily

01:49:32   mean a question, that's very difficult. And just because I've done an upwards intonation,

01:49:37   should Siri automatically attempt to interpret that as a question?

01:49:41   Yeah, that's a good one. Because I can hear it. I took high school Spanish for four years

01:49:45   and forgot 90% of it. I was terrible. I just do not have a mind that takes to learning

01:49:49   a second language. But I can tell when like a Spanish speaker or French speaker, Italian,

01:49:55   the Romance languages are asking a question because there's a lilt to it. But there's

01:49:59   a lot of languages where if I'm listening to someone in a movie or something speak the

01:50:05   language, I can't even tell when they're asking a question. It just isn't there, let alone

01:50:10   understand the words. I guess my main point though, and going back to that example with

01:50:14   your parents is that my pro, this is why even a company with as broad a reach as Apple making

01:50:23   computers that they really mean to be for everyone, and with iOS have truly achieved

01:50:31   it, right? It's the platform that longtime Apple people had always hoped that Apple would

01:50:36   have is the one that reaches the mass market, the actual computer for the rest of us. The

01:50:41   one that all these people who for years and years before iPhones, we'd say, "I swear

01:50:47   you should ditch that." And they'd gripe about their PC, "You should get a Mac." And

01:50:52   really, not like in a religious cult of Mac way, but just seriously, the problems you're

01:50:57   having, you don't have to reinstall the operating system every year on the Mac. You should just

01:51:01   get it. It'll just sit there and you could do the simple email and web and printing some

01:51:06   stuff when you need to print and it'll actually print. Don't. iOS is that platform and they

01:51:13   have this tremendous reach, but why should they still care about automation if most people

01:51:17   aren't going to use it? A, there's the, "Hey, more people should be using it if they would

01:51:23   just try it and your book is such a great way to do it." But then the secondary reason

01:51:28   that's downhill from that, one level down, is that even if most people don't create their

01:51:35   own shortcuts or Apple scripts or keyboard maestro macros or whatever, they can share

01:51:44   them with others and somebody can be the person who didn't create it, even if they could have,

01:51:51   but they didn't want to try. But like a small team of people, like if there's a rotating

01:51:57   crew of six people who collaborate on the podcast and there's some steps of the process

01:52:04   that can be automated. And that is, as everybody who makes podcasts know, there are definitely

01:52:09   some steps that can be automated. All it takes is for one of the people on the team to make

01:52:15   the custom automation that could be a shortcut and share it with the rest of the team and

01:52:22   everybody else can use it, even if they wouldn't have created it themselves. And they never,

01:52:27   like a team of six or of three or a team of one, right? I have so many automations for

01:52:32   myself, but if you're sharing it with just a small number of people, they can do that.

01:52:36   And then you can get on things like the Reddit or individual apps. Most popular third-party

01:52:43   apps have successful thriving user communities. Keyboard maestro certainly has a really good

01:52:50   one. And you can just hang out there and look for like the subject of a thread that catches

01:52:56   your eye. Like, Oh, that sounds like something I might use and click into it. And somebody

01:52:59   describes you, Hey, I would use that. And there it is for you to download and use. You

01:53:04   don't have to make it yourself, but if it had to be a full standalone app, you would

01:53:10   never make it. It would be too much work. Wouldn't be, wouldn't be worth the effort,

01:53:14   but through these automation technologies, shortcuts, keyboard maestro, which I can't

01:53:21   sing the praises of enough, but would require a whole nother show. These things have more

01:53:26   consumers of the macros or scripts or workflows or shortcuts, whatever you want to call the

01:53:32   output. There's more consumers of them. Whose lives are improved, whether it's for fun

01:53:40   or for work or whatever, then there are creators of them. That's, and I don't think that

01:53:46   will ever change. And that to me is the, it was like one of those like moments where it's

01:53:52   like, and you hear like this great music when Apple's confirmed that shortcuts was going

01:53:58   to be built into iOS, it was like, yes, this is going to get better every year. This is,

01:54:04   there's a future for this and it really is. As we wrap up any other new stuff in iOS 16

01:54:10   or macOS Ventura for shortcuts that's caught your attention?

01:54:13   I mean, the thing that caught my attention first was the fact that actually they sure

01:54:19   locked some shortcuts that people were doing specifically shortcuts, automations. I had

01:54:24   automations for every focus mode, which was customizing my background image and changing

01:54:30   my watch face. And you know what? It's built into the focus modes now in the settings.

01:54:34   And I am really glad because that means that Apple is realizing that, hey, people are doing

01:54:39   this stuff. Let's make it even easier for them. And that's not saying that, you know,

01:54:44   shortcuts, I want to show because it is pure far from it, but I'm really glad that they're

01:54:48   watching what people are doing with this, taking that information and then making it

01:54:52   available to everybody. Once they realize that this is stuff that people want to do,

01:54:57   because that means that they're actually watching shortcuts, right? That means that they're

01:55:00   looking at it and going, hey, this is not stuff that people are using. That's cool.

01:55:03   Okay. We'll put that into the main operating system. Like we'll just put it right there.

01:55:07   Thanks. Love it. And then they've taken that further and put more focus mode automations

01:55:11   in and put them inside shortcuts as well so that you can actually like change your tab

01:55:17   group in Safari through the focus mode that's activated, but you can also then change it

01:55:23   further. So if like me, you record more than one podcast as an example, and you have a

01:55:28   podcasting focus mode, when your podcasting focus mode starts, you can have a shortcut

01:55:32   automation that will go, hey, I'm going to check your calendar a second. Looks like you're

01:55:37   recording. Actually, you're on the talk show today talking to John Gruber. How wonderful.

01:55:41   So I'm going to put you into the guest sub version of your podcasting focus mode, which

01:55:45   means I'm going to activate this Safari to app group, and I'm going to change your background

01:55:49   to that instead of your standard podcasting one and so on. And that to me is really where

01:55:55   they're giving and taking like, and there's that beautiful symbiotic relationship of they're

01:56:00   seeing what people do and pulling that out. And then they're putting in more stuff to

01:56:03   see what other people do and building on it from there. And we're getting this lovely

01:56:07   snowball effect of where things are building on it. And it's really great that folks like

01:56:13   the team on the artwork stuff, they've added back in mail merge. And they've made mail

01:56:18   merge really great. Like there's proper support for like filling in from spreadsheets and

01:56:22   stuff like numbers and so on on iOS, so I can do this on my iPhone. And that is coming

01:56:28   back in. And I think a good chunk of why that's coming back is because of this vocal minority

01:56:34   who's got into shortcuts and automation and stuff and realized that actually that's what

01:56:38   they need. And that's great. And I'm just really excited by all of this and hoping that

01:56:44   we're going to get an automations tab on the Mac. I know that you can automate shortcuts

01:56:49   on the Mac in so many other ways, but it's not as user-friendly. And I think the big

01:56:54   advantage that shortcuts has is it's a pretty app. It doesn't look like something that when

01:57:00   you open it up, you're going to break your Mac with it. You probably could if you tried

01:57:06   hard enough, but the built-in security controls are going to try and stop you doing that. But

01:57:11   it does look nice and friendly. And I think adding an automations tab into that and maybe

01:57:15   at some point in the future, this honestly, Jon, is my biggest wish. The gallery inside

01:57:19   of shortcuts, let there be shortcuts developers. Like don't let us charge for it. I'm fine

01:57:25   with that. I'll quite happily make and submit stuff and have it go through a proper review

01:57:29   process for free. Like I don't mind doing that. I'm happy to do that, but I would love

01:57:34   to get way more shortcuts examples into the gallery because things like, hey, you have

01:57:39   a non-health kit blood pressure monitor and you want to be able to lock that stuff in

01:57:43   health. Well, that's a shortcut that a whole bunch of people could use and take advantage

01:57:48   of. And that would be great. And I've already built that. It's on my parents' iPhone home

01:57:51   screens in their health folders because that's where they find apps and that works. And I've

01:57:56   done the same thing for scales for other people and so on and so forth. All of those sorts

01:57:59   of things, they're really simple little shortcuts. But as you said, there's a lot of people out

01:58:03   there who won't create them. So if the gallery became even bigger, that's my hope for, I

01:58:08   don't know, maybe 16.1, 16.3, 4, whenever they do that big update mid-year, I would

01:58:14   love them to do that. I know that they'd have to have like an entire review team who hopefully

01:58:18   actually understand shortcuts. Unlike some of the folks at the app store review who currently

01:58:22   don't understand what a status bar application is. That's been a fun conversation back and

01:58:27   forth. Like no, it's a status bar application. When you close it, it's supposed to disappear.

01:58:31   We swear. No, it's not. But yes, if they could do that, and if they could add that back in,

01:58:35   that would be or add that in because it used to be that you could submit stuff to the gallery.

01:58:39   I think some of the things in the gallery actually might have been things I submitted

01:58:42   way back when this was workflow. But there's some stuff in there that's really great. And

01:58:47   some stuff in there, it's like, oh, this has been in here for a very long time. Like a

01:58:52   really long time. I remember this from way, way back when. And yeah, it just feels like

01:58:58   that area could do with some love so that more people would be able to discover more

01:59:02   useful things that are built into their phone that they can do.

01:59:06   Yeah, to sort of benefit downwind from the creations of others. And it's great. And it

01:59:12   really is a sign that it's not just a fringe group at Apple, who sort of snuck shortcuts

01:59:20   in but that the whole platforms team is serious about it, that they have the gallery in the

01:59:26   first place so that you can share these through the iCloud gallery to people and they can

01:59:33   install them. You can imagine on the Mac, this sounds ridiculous, because of course,

01:59:38   you could just doubt you just put them on your website and people could download them

01:59:40   and double click them and they'd go to the right place. But on iOS, that's a problem.

01:59:46   If you're just want to benefit from a shortcut written by somebody else, how do you reproduce

01:59:50   it? If you can't just download it or copy and paste it, you can't because it's not text,

01:59:57   it's not a scripting language. You can't just say, "Select this text on the webpage and

02:00:00   paste it into script editor," like you can with Apple script. So the gallery is great

02:00:04   that it exists, but there's probably a thousand ways it could be better. And even with stuff

02:00:10   like the editorial guidance, where they can say shortcut of the day and highlight really

02:00:15   interesting ones.

02:00:16   Yeah, like they've been doing a whole series on the Mac App Store of shortcuts things.

02:00:21   They've had Federico Vittucci, David Sparks, and so on. And yeah, I'm loving that they're

02:00:26   doing that. And I've talked to some of the folks at the editorial team at Apple in the

02:00:31   past and they're lovely folks working really hard. It's a much smaller team than folks

02:00:35   might think as well, but they're working really hard on doing that. But if there was perhaps

02:00:39   a way that they could get more stuff in there in a way that just automatically highlights

02:00:45   folks like Matthew Casanelli and Chris Lawley, who are out there making some really cool

02:00:49   and amazing things. And then it could just be, "And hey, this person, by the way, already

02:00:54   wrote the description for their shortcut as to what it does and how it works. And the

02:00:58   download button's right there." And you happen to have a headshot of them and a tiny three-line

02:01:03   bio that somebody wrote and they're just reusing until somebody says, "Hey, we should probably

02:01:07   update this again." You know, bam, you've got some free content that's just there. So

02:01:12   why not? I mean, unfortunately, some of the examples I'm thinking of that I'd love to

02:01:15   submit just wouldn't work on the Mac, which is a real shame. I really hope the health

02:01:19   app actually gets some love in that it gets onto your iPad and your Mac because, you know,

02:01:23   imagine being able to view your ECG stuff on your Mac with those lovely big screens.

02:01:27   I know that I can't log my heart data on my Mac. It doesn't have a heart reader built

02:01:33   into it. But, you know, it would be great if I could read that information and write

02:01:36   that information out with shortcuts.

02:01:37   Yeah, it's funny because the Mac is the Mac because the Mac is the most capable platform.

02:01:43   But it's funny that the Mac has also not had a weather app built in.

02:01:46   Yeah, yeah. And what are stocks again? Wait, those are coming?

02:01:50   I kind of get it. I know we're running towards the end. But one of the cool things if people

02:01:54   don't know that you can do, you mentioned it before, but that you can do, they call

02:01:58   them in shortcuts parlance automations. But like an automation could be triggered. There's

02:02:04   all sorts of neat ways, all sorts of things you could think of. But like one of them would

02:02:08   be to do something at three o'clock every weekday. The timer, you know, there are ways

02:02:13   to do that with computers forever going back to cron on Unix going back to like the 70s.

02:02:19   But they've often been complicated, you know, and you think, well, that shouldn't be hard.

02:02:24   You just tell your computer to do this thing at a certain type of day. But you get into

02:02:27   the nitty gritty details of how computers work.

02:02:30   That is time anyway. Are you using like cocoa time? Are you using epoch time?

02:02:34   Well, and what is the computer running? And even when sleep became a real thing, practically

02:02:43   useful thing for computers to put them to sleep instead of powering them down, how much

02:02:47   is it actually doing while it's sleeping other than the one thing it has to do is listen

02:02:53   to wake up? But can it actually keep time? Does it check the clock every minute, whatever?

02:02:58   But anyway, you can do that with shortcuts. And there's other ones too, that obvious things

02:03:04   that you think of with your phone, like when you leave your home, or when you come home,

02:03:09   or when you get to work or when you get somewhere. So you can do location based ones, any other

02:03:14   what are some of your other favorite triggers for an automation?

02:03:18   Obviously focus modes, alarms going off, however, is one of my favorites. There's a really great

02:03:23   app called signals for home kit. So when my alarm goes off in the morning, if I hit the

02:03:26   snooze button signals for home kit flashes the lights on the side of my bed. I call it

02:03:30   the evil alarm clock. It's my punishment for hitting snooze, like flash the lights as bright

02:03:35   like that blue white as possible, and then send them back to a slightly warmer white.

02:03:39   But that definitely helps wake me up. Of course, carplay is a great one. And I really wish

02:03:46   that some of the actions like locations could be automated because you can work around that

02:03:51   with a focus mode. So you can have a focus mode automatically activate at a specific location.

02:03:57   And then you can use the focus mode activating to run a shortcut that you can't just use

02:04:01   arriving at a location as a completely automated solution. And NFC tags, I love NFC tags, having

02:04:08   that built in, like I've stuck NFC tags on stuff like painkiller packaging, so that I

02:04:14   can then when I take if I've got a headache or something, I take a Tylenol, I can tap

02:04:18   my phone on it. And it will log that I have taken that at that time. So that then you

02:04:23   know, when I go to check it later, where I'm feeling slightly more with it, I can look

02:04:27   back and go, Oh, okay, I took this at that time, which is really useful, especially if

02:04:31   you're ill, that's a really neat trick.

02:04:33   So I'll tell you, a shortcut I made a while ago, is I have a post office box. And it's,

02:04:40   I put it off for years and years and years getting one. And it was great change, because

02:04:44   now all of a sudden, I can send an actual mailing address to anybody without I'm not

02:04:48   giving out my home address. And it is it's a great thing to do. I recommend it, especially

02:04:53   if it's something you can do that's in your neighborhood or on your way somewhere. But

02:04:56   then once you have a post office box, you know, you have to do you have to check it.

02:05:00   Yeah. And so I wrote a shortcut a while back now. And every time I checked my post office

02:05:06   box, I run the shortcut on my phone. And in my mind to make sure I do it as I will not

02:05:12   put my key in the post office box until I've run the shortcut. And then the shortcut just

02:05:17   says check the post office box, and then I open it. And then I have another one I can

02:05:22   run that just says, how long has it been since I checked the post office box? And surprise,

02:05:27   it often surprises me, I think I just checked the other day. And it'll say like 16 days.

02:05:31   And I'll be like, ah, now what I'm thinking, you're making me think if I put an NFC tag

02:05:37   in there, yeah, then I just have to bump my phone against it. And there's a couple of taps

02:05:42   and a swipe I could get rid of. I'm just wondering if the post office will be spooked when they

02:05:47   go in the back, you know, they go through the back of the post office box to put my

02:05:50   packages and mail in there. If they look and see an NFC tag, are they going to think what

02:05:55   the hell is that? Like it just looks like a sticker, right? Because a lot of them are

02:05:59   just like these white round flat stickers that you can put in there. The only thing

02:06:02   that you've got to watch out for, which I'm going to mention, because some folks will

02:06:05   be going, oh, that's a great idea is NFC tags don't do particularly well on metal, you'll

02:06:09   need to get a shielded one, but they're really easy to get on Amazon. They're really easy

02:06:13   to get. It's just make sure that you get one that you can put on metal because otherwise

02:06:17   you're going to be like, wait, why is what like it worked perfectly on the packaging

02:06:21   at home and it now doesn't work. Why doesn't it work? Oh, no. The answer is you need a

02:06:26   shielded one.

02:06:27   So that's just the first thing that came into my mind. But man, what a great idea that is.

02:06:31   Yeah, it really is. I mean, then what you can do, okay, because you're doing that, like,

02:06:36   and you have that date already, right? So take that, use Pushcut or use Widget Pack,

02:06:41   one of those, one of the great shortcuts integration apps, and have a home screen widget that updates

02:06:47   based on the date of the information. So I have a bunch of Widget Pack widgets and some

02:06:52   Pushcut widgets as well, which update on a regular basis, pulling data in from other

02:06:56   places. And some of my Widget Pack ones are basically like, hey, X number of days until

02:07:00   this thing or since you did that thing, whatever it is, and it just gives me a really, like,

02:07:05   nice little view in a stack of other things that just cycles in and out throughout the

02:07:10   day. So I've got Carrot Weather telling me, you know, whatever, you know, actually, it's

02:07:15   not so exciting now that there's a certain president missing. But you know, it's probably

02:07:20   for the best, let's be honest. But you know, it's usually insulting me in some way and

02:07:24   threatening my life, which I greatly appreciate. Thank you, Maker of Carrot. But you know,

02:07:28   having all that information just kind of like in your phone's home screen, cycling up and

02:07:33   in and out. And of course, then depending on my focus modes, I change home screens,

02:07:36   so I may or may not see that information. And if you have a focus mode trigger when

02:07:40   you leave the house, then you know, that information then pops up and you're like, oh, hey, it's

02:07:46   been two weeks since I checked my post office box. I'm just gonna go check that one now.

02:07:50   Long story short, Apple really has enthusiastically allowed us to turn our iOS devices into, you

02:07:58   know, customizable, automatable devices. Focus modes, you're opening up my ideas for ways

02:08:04   that I can do this. You've given me too many ideas. I've got work to do, Rosemary.

02:08:10   I'm sorry.

02:08:11   But yeah, that's fantastic. I will admit I wasn't going to mention it because I didn't

02:08:15   want to further digress. But I actually do have a widget that shows me how long it's

02:08:19   been since I checked the PO box that I made in Scriptable.

02:08:22   Yeah, another great solution for this.

02:08:25   Right, but maybe Pushkit or Widgetpack, neither of which I've tried, but now they're on

02:08:30   my list. I swear. You've also broken my sheet of paper here where I'm jotting down

02:08:36   things for the show notes with too many links. I'm going to miss some. I can no longer

02:08:40   promise that I'm going to make them.

02:08:41   That's all right. I put some of them in an Apple note for us, so I can send you that

02:08:44   later.

02:08:45   Oh my God. This has been an absolute blast.

02:08:47   Thank you.

02:08:48   Thank you.

02:08:49   Thank you for your time, and thank you for everything else you do. I'm going to give

02:08:50   some shout outs. So, number one, perhaps most applicable to today's discussion, you do

02:08:57   a regular podcast called Automators over on Relay FM with a friend of the show, David

02:09:04   Sparks, which is one of my favorite shows. You've also got Nested Folders, which is

02:09:11   another podcast that you do with Scotty… no, something Scotty.

02:09:16   Yeah, Scotty Jackson.

02:09:17   Scotty Jackson. All right. You are a host of iOS Today on This Week in Tech.

02:09:23   Yep.

02:09:24   Which, to me, is oddly named because it's once a week, and so it's iOS Today, but

02:09:30   only on Tuesdays.

02:09:31   Yes, it is, but it works out really well because we get enough time every week for some folks

02:09:36   who do watch live to actually think about it and send us their feedback, and then everyone

02:09:40   else is like, "Oh my gosh." It's usually Monday. Everyone watches it over the weekend,

02:09:43   and then Monday there's just, bam, avalanche of feedback for the show on Tuesday. So, it's

02:09:48   working out well.

02:09:49   Yeah. But anyway, and last but not least, of course, your homepage, which is a terrific

02:09:53   blog that I've been a long-time reader of, rosemaryorchard.com. And, of course, you've

02:09:58   got links to all of these shows at rosemaryorchard.com. So, if you want to find out more and listen

02:10:04   to these shows, and if you… I mean, we only touch the surface. Literally, if you think,

02:10:10   how can there be an entire podcast about automation stuff on Apple platforms? Seriously, they're

02:10:16   never going to run out of topics.

02:10:18   No, we're over 100 episodes now. There is no stopping us, basically. Freddie Mercury

02:10:22   said it best, "Don't stop me now." We're about to release episode 109 as we record

02:10:26   this episode. So, yeah, we've been going for long enough that we're not stopping.

02:10:31   Well, congrats. Anyway, thanks for that. Let me also thank our sponsors for the day we

02:10:36   had Indochino made for you. Remember the promo code, the talk show. Get yourself a custom-made

02:10:43   suit or a dress shirt. Squarespace, make your next move. Build your own website. Use the

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02:10:55   the cross-platform endpoint security solution for teams that value privacy and transparency.

02:11:01   Thank you, Rosemary.