January is a distant memory, and we are hurtling into 2022. I have some great ideas for what I want to create and share this year, but this month hasn’t seen me release much in the way of new stuff, but several existing things have had some updates, so as usual, here’s my monthly recap of what I’ve been up to.

ThoughtAsylum

I had a few other jobs on this month as you’ll see below, so I didn’t manage to get in quite as much writing time as I would have liked. I put out just the one blog post this month. A blog post on Keyboard Maestro rich links, which if you read it, you will see is a little meta in relation to this post.

Podcasts

It has been a few years since I have had a mention on the Mac Power User’s podacst. I think the last time this happened, the delightful Katie Floyd was still one of the hosts. But, the fallow streak has been broken and in MPU episode 628 I actually got referred to a couple of times in the show!

Forums

Drafts

There have been quite a few interesting conversations this month over on the Drafts forum that I’ve been contributing to. The first was some help for some basic draft updating automation, which would probably be a nice little introduction for someone wanting to dip their toe into using JavaScript with Drafts.

The next on involved using Apple Shortcuts to send Drafts content to an Apple Note. This one was pretty straight forward, but highlights how it is best to set out full aims right at the start and to pay attention to what you have done rather than just what you think you did.

Another Shortcuts related request for appending to a draft based on title was a quick hit, and reminds me that, sometime soon, I really should publish more shortcuts for working with Drafts.

A request for help processing information copied from iBooks is a prime example of the sorts of open ended questions where asking specific clarification questions can help nail down a complete answer rather than an almost answer. A career in various IT support and consultancy roles is hard for me to leave when faced by a vague set of requirements. At some point I really should write a post about writing specifications for fora.

A thread on line manipulation lead to a simple solution, and a reminder about the use of octothorpes for identification of headings in Markdown.

One Drafts user had a request to create an action to populate the search field in Drafts for a title-based search. I took a different approach, instead creating an action that carried out the search using a temporary workspace, which I think is an even more efficient approach.

There was an interesting switcheroo recently, related to workspaces that impacted older workspaces. Something to watch out for if you are using workspaces from the directory and get an “Invalid Workspace” error on trying to import it.

Finally, I was also heavily involved in an action list user interface discussion. The original poster was looking to expand and collapse sections within a single action group in Drafts. I suggested an alternate approach that was visually cleaner, could be applied more flexibly, could be used more efficiently, and can be created with the existing Drafts features. It is based around a core principle that I have extolled since releasing my own sets of action groups for Drafts.

Automators

It was a less busy month for me over on the Automators forum.

I managed to give a little help to one automator who wanted to automate the saving of a crosshair screenshot to a specific folder with a little Keyboard Maestro macro.

I never imagined I’d end up recommending a ‘deely bopper’ as an automation solution, but in this automators topic I did just that. I also gave some advice about ADHD and automation too - the jury’s still out on what neuro-diverse behaviours I exhibit, but there’s a few diagnoses in my houehold for ADHD so I had a view that seemed to resonate.

Shortcuts is a common area for assistance, and I managed to pitch in on an iterative PDF download issue.

The Elgato Stream Deck is of course an automator favourite and I also made a few suggestions on debugging an issue one Stream Deck user was having.

Finally, I had a bit to say on some episode threads.

First of all we have episode 68, the one where I was the guest. After the recent mention on the Mac Power Users podcast, a problem with my ever popular Stream Deck Icon Generator shortcut was noted. The problem was that it was not running for people, but I had not used it for quite some time having already generated thousands of icons. In isolated testing, all of the seprate parts seemed to work. Weird, right? But it was this apparent lack of logic that brought me to the conclusion that the issue was in the automated migration process from Shortcuts - after all it used tp work just fine and all the bits work now. It had efectively trashed the shortcut in some way. My solution was to rebuild the shortcut from scratch. As I went, I took the opportunity to add some additional notifications in as previously it had been commented that there wasn’t any. That had been intentional at the time to enable it to get every bit of speed it could, but sometimes a bit of speed is worth sacrificing for a bit of feedback to the end user, and so I changed my mind for this particular scenario - though you can watch the files appearing in the Files app. I have a few more ideas for this shortcut, so I suspect I will revisit it in the fairly near future to update it yet again.

The second episode was the recent episode 95 about Keyboard Maestro where I set out quite a few things that people seemed to like around Keyboard Maestro as well as some other tools too. I also posted in this threa about something else which I’ll cover next.

Other

This past month I made an update to the Keyboard Maestro Shortcuts plugin that I created. An issue was reported to me on Twiter from a user where they were using accented characters in their shortcut names. If they ran the shortcut frmo the command line, it was fine, but if they tried it from Keyboard Maestro, it wasn’t. Given that is all it should have been doing behind the scenes, that seemed very strange behaviour. With a bit of investigation and the help of a hex editor, I was able to establish that for some reason, between Keyboard Maestro and the command line there was an interchange between single and double point unicode. This resulted in the name of a shortcut containing characters with diacritics did not match, but visibly they looked identical. I ended up resolving this one by introducing a command line tool to reverse the translation that was occurring. Any issue that needs a hex editor to track it down is a cool one in my book, and I was even more happy that I turned round the investigation to solution in less than an hour.

This month, I also put out a minor update to the Search Link Alfred workflow . Nothing major, just a little correction to one of my habitual copy and paste errors - one of the action subtitles was incorrect.

February was definitely a bug fix month as I also ended up putting out an update to the ThoughtAsylum Action Group for Drafts. I was not able to reproduce the issue that was reported independently by users through a number of channels, including the forum, but with some help from the Drafts developer Greg, it appeared to come down to a deprecation of the drafts5:// URL scheme identifier (only drafts:// now). I was using that to parse some additional information about action groups, so that makes sense, but I still don’t get why I couldn’t reproduce it as that would have made it pretty quick to debug for myself.

Upcoming

My new project is still ongoing, but unfortunately I am still not in a position to share any more about that just yet. Hopefully I’ll have the basics in place before too much longer. I have been automating some aspects around it and resolving some technical limitations this month, which should make a big difference to my efficiency down the line. But it feels like I’m spending a lot of time preparing and not doing. It isn’t procrastination, but I do need some good long uninterrupted chunks of time to progress it, and they are few and far between at the moment.

There are a few other totally unrelated, but fun and exciting things going on in parallel too, and I hope to reveal more about those too before too long. Sufficed to say that I seem to be a popular person of late in my little corner of the Internet.

Once again, thank you to everyone who has generously donated a coffee. I am slowly drinking my way through them on my still pre-dawn Saturday morning coffee shop trips, where I spend time working on the various things I share out to one and all. Stay safe, and I’ll be back again at the end of March.