I often talk in these posts about how I didn’t feel like I had done much in a month, but as I summarise things, it turns out I did. Well, this month is definitely different. This month I have been very busy and I have been working on so many things and for so much time, I do suspect I need to spend a bit more time with my family in August. But, I think you will agree there’s some interesting output this month.

ThoughtAsylum

I managed to do a couple of updates to some of my popular and increasingly functional Alfred workflows this month.

First of all I realised that Bypass did not have support for the Alfred fallback search feature. A quick tweak to create v1.3.0 rectified that oversight, so if you want to have Shortcuts available to a fallback search, you can.

Secondly I updated in Conductor, my Alfred workflow for Keyboard Maestro, to v1.4.0. This update included options to copy a macro’s UUID and also to copy a Markdown link to run a macro (the text of the macro being the macro’s name). This latter feature was something I used a lot over the last month in something I was doing with Better Touch Tool as I’ll come on to below.

Podcasts

It’s been a while since I’ve noted any podcast mentions, but this month a few of my works made it into episode 106 of the Automators podcast, in the section about Shortcuts and Alfred.

I still maintain that my Bypass workflow for Alfred was the earliest publicly available Alfred workflow for Shortcuts (from those that tend to get mentioned in the same conversation at least), and does everything that Vitor’s workflow does (other than the “Short of the Week” action - which has nothing to do with Shortcuts) and more, and way more thanLukas' workflow and Egor’s workflow. But, take a look for yourself, and you decide what gives you the best range of functionality 😉

Forums

As usual, I spent a good chunk of time on the Drafts and Automators forums this month, doing what I could to help people out. The Automators forum was perhaps a little quieter than usual, but the Drafts forum was definitely in full swing, and there’s actually a lot more discussion going on behind the scenes over in the Drafts Slack channel as we are of course in full on beta season through to the next OS releases from Apple.

Drafts

  • There was an interesting query aboutweek numbering in ISO8601 format. First time I’d ever looked at the details of how the first week of the year is decided. It certainly wasn’t what I expected.

  • Anyone wanting to do things faster with Drafts might be interested in this discussion of slash commands.

  • If you want to specify the Markdown engine being used in a particular action, there are specific JavaScript options for each of them

  • If you develop your own scripted actions for Drafts, you might be interested in a query brought up in a discussion about creating a new draft in the current workspace - one about definition files.

  • You want a timestamp insertion action? Drafts has you covered with lots of options for generating timestamps

  • How do you create a draft from outside of the Drafts app on the Mac? I compiled a quick list to help another Drafts user.

  • The post on research Notes and maybe footnotes or linking didn’t seem to go anywhere, but I did try to put together something useful in terms of a response.

  • A query on the TA_sectionGetContentByHeading function from TADpoLe doesn’t return all three-state tasks unsurprisingly got my attention. I did a full walkthrough of the high-level approach for it and got a working example together. Turns out it was an issue at the user’s end. But, it is actually nice to get a suspected bug report every now and then. It lets me know that people are still using and getting value from TADpoLe.

  • Speaking of TADpoLe, a relatively new user to the forum asked some pretty deep questions on TADpoLe, Doctor Drafts, and about knowing if other people’s scripts are safe. This one is a pretty open and frank discussion about potential pitfalls, reputation and trust within the community, understanding actions & scripts, and some of the mid-level stuff on how TADpoLe works. I think this one is well worth a read as it does cover some very interesting ground with insights from a few forum members and Greg Pierce (the developer of Drafts), but you will need a little time to read it. Read-o-Meter has it set at a reading time of about 13 minutes.

  • After a four year hiatus, the query about automatically running action upon the creation of a new draft came back up. You still can’t but there was also a rephrasing of a question about scheduled runs. There’s a bit of confusion about platforms, but the long and short is if you have an always on Mac, then you can probably do something unattended. If you have an iPhone or iPad, then scheduled operations will likely require user interaction to trigger and run properly. If you want to just rely on your Apple Watch, then that just isn’t gonna fly right now.

  • Another post that was revived after fours year about appending with line breaks via the share extension. After a detailed breakdown of how things work, we got to the bottom of the issue of why it was not working for the user; the user had made a fairly common assumption among Mac users.

  • Unbelievably another fourth month dead topic was resurrected this past month. This time it was about integrating Drafts with the What3words API. After a bit of checking around it turns out W3W updated their API and require new API tokens to work with it, but the original action utilising the old API still works with the old API tokens. A word of warning though, I had to generate a new API token to help out on investigating this one and I subsequently ended up having several conversations with W3W support. They automatically create a ticket to support you with the API and dig into what you are doing with it. As someone who has used the service for years, was the first person to integrate it with Apple Shortcuts (I know because I spoke to them about it when I first did it), I was a bit miffed to get the third degree over something they really did not need to be doing for an existing long term user. If you end up creating an API token, beware of the auto-created ticket and pursuit of support. 😒

  • Want to remove duplicates lines in a list? I’ve got you covered.

  • A query over on the append to running lists with the “Add to list” action tip thread lead to a new action and some consolidation of lists. My understanding was that it did work in the end, but the user seemed to have some trouble that I never quite got to the bottom of or could see any reason for.

  • It is important for people to read answers to their questions before they assert things. There’s a classic example in this list item capitalisation discussion.

  • “How to add multiple tags with 1 line of script” was a challenge I couldn’t ignore. Turns out the topic poster actually wanted multiple lines of code, so i gave them that too with lots of comments; but there’s a solid one liner in there too that I think is pretty straight forward to understand given a basic JavaScript and Drafts scripting knowledge.

  • Do you want to change workspace on iOS? It turns out that there are quite a few options.

  • A topic started on how to use Drafts to append to a periodic note in Obsidian. Unfortunately the poster did not provide any details. There are a myriad of ways to name periodic notes and several ways to interact with them. The thread is left pending further details, but if you want a high-level view, I provided one in my response to the original question.

  • Interesting request to link Drafts and Notion via Make.com in real-time. Not exactly a practical request given some of the infrastructure requirements and the real-time aspect of the request - but there is a bit of discussion about the details and what is possible.

  • I didn’t really get this discussion on Drafts features. The user asked about a visual aid such as a mind map to relate features, then used a system environment diagram, (noting it could be represented as a mind map too (?!)). Greg then provided a graph that looks like it was built with mind node, which the original poster thought was a great start. honestly, I get that the feature set can be so big as to be too big for people to comprehend initially. Honestly, I’m a pretty deep user of Drafts and I still forget or overlook features. But, to do a graph (node) representation properly, I think you would have a lot of circular and bidirectional relationships. I would agree that there’s scope to make things more discoverable to folks, but I think there are better options.

  • One user wanted to place some text after a level 2 Markdown heading in a file in an Obsidian vault. After some clarification I gave what I think was a pretty solid solution; but as happens a lot, I haven’t found out if the solution actually works for the user.

  • Important changes are coming down the line in Drafts, and to move forward, some technology is going to get left behind - Minimum System Requirement Changes Coming Fall 2022.

Automators

  • Better Touch Tool’s new Elgato Stream Deck integration came up in the episode 106 topic. One listener wanted to understand a bit more about it in relation to TJ Luoma’s CalendarBuddy solution for the native Stream Deck setup. I ran through a few points that might be useful for people considering trying out the new Better Touch Tool option.

  • Do iOS Settings URL schemes still work?. Yep.

  • One user wanted a unique ID in Shortcuts for each device. Apple locked down getting to immutable unique IDs automatically some time ago. Too much potential for exfiltration. But, you can generate your own. I do something similar with TADpoLe’s Bear integration as there’s a unique token required on each device for the access.

  • Did you know that SwitchBot has an API?

  • Resurrecting another old thread (people should really start new ones and link back to old ones as a reference point when it is actually a distinctly different variant) a user wanted to do things with random images using Automator. Given I’d provided the solution on the previous topic and they were trying to modify that, I got involved in the discussion. Similarly they also started a directly related topic elsewhere, effectively then duplicating the topic and taking the discussions in multiple directions at once. There are multiple options presented, but I can’t tell if the original poster did get a solution that would work for them, in the exact way they wanted, using the exact tools they wanted. But there’s a lot of interesting discussion from people about different approaches and optimisations (if the user needs multiple images rather than just the one they started with requesting).

  • There’s a discussion about test replacement for inserting the date or date/time that offers up some Shortcuts-based solutions. However, I think the most interesting was for date stamps, and using a Mac to update text replacements on a scheduled basis.

  • I helped out one user who was having trouble with Automator and AppleScript.

  • One user had a Keyboard Maestro macro repetition issue. I offered some advice, and I even managed to reproduce and explain the issue in my own circumstances (which almost never happens), but as is often the case, we never did find out if it solved the user’s error.

  • In this topic, I share my view of when to use Hazel and when to use DEVONthink for automated filing.

  • If you’re trying to automate uploading images to Notion via their API, then you’re out of luck. Notion is against the practice, preferring you to have external image content. Sounds rather limiting to me for a one stop documentation solution 🙁

Other

I have spent quite a bit of time experimenting with the new Elgato StreamDeck support in Better Touch Tool this month. In fact, I’ve gone all in and rebuilt everything in Better Touch Tool (rather than going the plugin route), and even expanded my use a bit. I’m certainly not sold on it, but I can feel that there’s real potential there. It is most definitely a beta at the moment, and while there is power there’s certainly a lot of frustration and the usual rough edges for Better Touch Tool. Don’t get me wrong. I really like Better Touch Tool a lot. It gives me access to do things I would have no way to do otherwise. But the power has resulted in a poor interface and for the Stream Deck, much of that doesn’t yet behave itself properly … yet. But, for now, I’m all in and everything is working once it is set up.

While a work in progress, I also spent July revising my iPhone home screens, focus modes, and general set up. The home page has probably improved a bit in terms of apps I use more frequently have finally bubbled up to be on it, but focus modes are still a bit hit and miss. I’ve got some tailored home screens for specific focus modes based on things like location. I’ve got something close to what I want, but it isn’t quite there just yet.

Online though is where it has been at this month for me with a couple of updates that have taken a significant amount of my time, effort and focus.

The first is that I’ve rebuilt and expanded a bit of my professional website to incorporate some changes I’ve been meaning to do for a while now. It is effectively a CV/résumé site and while it was up to date and all, it wasn’t quite as comprehensive as I had intended.

What seemed like it was going to be a small amount of work one afternoon to add the next set of additions actually took me the best part of scrounged time across a few week nights, and most of a weekend. Getting things consistent and correct, and tracking down as much information as I could for it was a bit of a slog. I really should have looked a bit deeper into the volume of data I was going to be dealing with on this one.

The second update relates to a project I started at the beginning of the year and have eluded to a few times. I have now started a YouTube channel. The channel is similar in in tent to the sorts of things I write about, but is intended to be tutorial focused, and at least initially, the videos are based on micro-learning. Getting the information across quickly in just a few minutes.

During the process I have invested in new audio (and video - though you won’t see me just yet) hardware, new software, and spent a long time building up a few extra skills I didn’t really have before. It has been a lot of preparation, and again I imagined I’d have stuff ready by early Q2. Taking until mid-Q3 was rather a surprise and I have had a massive push on it this month.

One of the big successes though was that there is also a website to go with it - tutorials.thoughtasylum.com. It is built using Jekyll, and I was fortunate to find and start with a great theme, but I’ve made a number of customisations, and I’m pretty pleased with what was a pretty heavy few days of work to get it working and ready.

Upcoming

I have something else pretty big. Something that I have been working on for quite some time now. I’m not 100% on releasing it yet, if at all. But I am considering it, and if I am going to do it this year, I suspect I will do it quite soon.

I also have something really exciting I’m going to be preparing to do this month with some other folks, but that one’s top secret for now and will be something I’m sure I’ll be able to reveal later in the year.