Stephen Hackett of 512 Pixels came up with a really sweet solution on how to quickly access your iTunes subscriptions. IT seems like a simple Shortcut once you get into it, but I think some of the best Siri Shortcuts are those that are so simple you wish you’d come up with it.
What this shortcut does is open a URL to Apple’s Subscription Page and from there iOS users automatically get sent to the iTunes Store app and it shows your subscriptions.
Again, a simple URL allows you to access something that would take several menus and taps to get access to otherwise. Which, to me, is a perfect example of what automation can do for you.
One of the biggest things I do when I make podcasts is write show notes. I do this on both my podcasts A Slab of Glass and Getting Caught Up. Writing show notes can be a tedious affair and difficult to search through the backlog of episodes, but with this shortcut it allows me to be able to search and find every single episode’s show notes in seconds.
What this Shortcut does is take a specific formatting I use when writing my show notes and makes those top 3 lines the name of a file, with some text formatting.
Format Used for Show Notes in Drafts 5
After I have my show notes written in Markdown format, my format of choice when writing, it is time to make the magic happen. It first gets the line count of the text I have shared to Siri Shortcuts. From there it saves it as a variable for the count.
Once done, the shortcut grabs the first line of text from the input, in this case it is the podcast name. From there, it saves the first line as a variable called “Podcast”. Now it is on to the next line, the episode number.
For me I like to write it as “Episode ##” so that it is clear for me to read, but I don’t want the word “Episode” in the name of the file when saving it. So to remove it I use a Find and Replace Text action to find “Episode ” and replace it with nothing, effectively deleting everything but the literal episode number.
Finally, it takes the 3rd line, which is the episode date. I format my dates the way I am most comfortable with (MM-dd-yyyy). However, I am using hyphens as a means to break up the three different areas of information, so to avoid using hyphens in the naming process of the date I find and replace hyphens to make them underscores. Now the formatting of the date is MM_dd_yyyy.
Now, with all these lines saved as variables, the shortcut takes the original input of the text (all show notes, including the top lines), and sets the name for it to be the three variables I have saved, all with hyphens between them. Which makes it look something like “A Slab of Glass-19-10_19_2018.” When equates to A Slab of Glass, Episode 19, released October 19th, 2018. From here I save the text as a .txt document in Dropbox for safe keeping and search-ability if I ever need it.
Once saved, if you open the .txt file you will see it has everything as it was when I wrote it, just with a name that is now searchable and easy to distinguish among other files when needed.
This shortcut is just something that shows the power of Siri Shortcuts when it comes to editing text and making it your friend in the world of automation.
I plan to add more to this later on. Things like saving the file in the podcast’s respective show notes folder in Dropbox, and adding the podcast episode title in it as well. For now though, this is something that allows me to be organized and never have to think about where I left those show notes again.
I have been using Things 3 for a little while now as my main Task Manager, and I think this is sticking for me. I love being able to plan my days with their default sections, and the power it has in both organization and automation is something I cherish every time I use it.
One thing that I missed when I switched over the Things from Omnifocus 3 is the availability of project templates for Omnifocus. I had a ton of Taskpaper templates for common projects I would create. Things like podcast episodes, blog posts, and other regular projects were easy to create in Omnifocus with the tap of a button.
Things 3 didn’t have anything like that until they updated to version 3.4 allowing for x-callback-url schemes. This feature has been around for a bit now but I never got around to using it as a means to solve my problems with project templates. That is, until I came across the Drafts 5 action Send to Things.
What it is
Send to Things by user @eichtyler is something that solved my problems with project templates in Cultured Code’s task manager. It made my life easy to just write out my lists and then make it the way I wanted.
The way it works is by using a custom syntax to differentiate items in your list from to-do items to deadlines, headings, etc. so when you are finally ready to send it over to Things 3 it is formatted the way you want.
One tool I loved in addition to this actions was the Send to Things Syntax action by Tim Nahumck. This allows you to tap on the action to prompt a pop-up showing you all the syntax built into the Send to Things action. It came in handy a number of times for me as I was getting acclimated to writing out my projects correctly. Here’s what Nahumck’s action shows when you open it:
Here is the syntax for Send to Things:
# New Project
@ Existing Project
- checklist item
There are a number of items in here that I’d like to go over with this to help you to understand the power of what you can do with this action.
How it Works
Learning new syntax can be difficult and time consuming, but a large amount of these items are using Markdown syntax in a way where the script in this Drafts Action will parse out things based on the characters before it.
One impressive thing about this action is that depending on whether you want it in a project or just a list of items to your inbox you can differentiate that by whether or not you use a Project heading.
I have broken it down into these two scenarios to help understand the differences.
When you are wanting to either make a template or realize when making a list of actions to send to things that it is better off as a project all you need to do is make a Project header. This is just like a Heading in Markdown with a single “#” character followed by a space. Anything after that space is what the project name will be called. In this case I copied the template from the Drafts Action Directory so the project is called “Project 1.”
You may notice in the image that there is also a “Project 2” heading, which is exactly what you may think. If you use a new heading you are able to make another project and all the items below it will then be put in the second project as It is under the second heading.
If you want to add a note to the project that is a simple quote syntax in markdown with a “>” character followed by a space. As you can see in the template if you make a new line with the syntax that new line carries over to the notes in the Project.
When you want to use either a start date or a deadline the syntax on these aren’t just simple symbols. These are arguably the most deviant from traditional Markdown syntax, making it a little more difficult to understand.
If you want to use a start date, meaning that until this date your project will be in the Upcoming area, you use the syntax “:when” followed by a space. From there you can use natural language input such as “tomorrow” in this template, making it much easier to differentiate when these items are taking place over the date picker. You can also use things like “next Monday” as well when writing your dates.
The same goes for the deadline, only the syntax necessary to make that work is “!deadline” followed by a space. Just input what ever date you want after that and the deadline will carry over when you send it to Things 3.
Finally, if you want to add a task item you just need to make a new line and enter in the name of the task. There are no special characters or syntax necessary for task items. Which is the smart move as you can add syntax in later if you so choose, but the main point of this action is to quickly lay out the items you want to send to Things, and if you needed a special character or something to mark it as a task item your efficiency would drop dramatically. In this template you can see the task items named “Todo 1” “Todo 2” and so on.
Now that you have your projects all set and ready to go you can now send it to Things via the Drafts action. This is what you get when you use the default template on the Drafts Action for sending as a new project.
Items into Inbox
If you aren’t looking to make a new project, and instead just want to send something to Things Inbox to organize later it is even easier.
As you can see the syntax used is the same, the only addition is comments for to-do items. As you can see in the template, they are solely for organizing your thoughts when writing them and will be ignored when you send it to Things. It is a great way to put everything in your mind on to the screen and figure it out once your head is emptied and you have everything laid out. It is also great if you plan to keep this note as a template for future items.
You will also see the absence of Project headings, which brings a good point that you can actually combine these two templates and have the items above the first project heading go to the Inbox and the rest go to their respective Projects. Once you have everything in there that you want sent to Things you are ready to run the action. This is what you will see with the default template on the Drafts Action for inbox items.
Problems with it
One thing that I can not seem to get to work properly is the use of tags. I have tried existing tags and new tags in these templates but none of them seem to follow into Things. I am not sure if this is me doing something wrong or something that needs to change in the script. Either way, if you have a fix for this let me know either via email or on Twitter.
All in all this action has made things like projects, templates, and all around task management much easier for me. I love Things 3 and their addition to a Desktop-Class Productivity for iPad in version 3.6 has made inputting tasks easier than ever, but something about being able to input my task whilst writing in Drafts makes things really gel. I no longer have to switch modes, and instead just need to use this syntax in a new note and with a simple swipe and tap I can send it to Things 3 and continue with the work I was doing previous.
There is something to be said about not having to open a task management app every time you want to add something to it. It allows for you to stay focused on the task at hand and avoid being distracted with anything that may pop out at you in your task list.
Give these actions a shot and see if this can solve any of your problems with task management in Things 3, I know It did for me. As always, if you have questions or problems feel free to contact me via email or mention me on Twitter.
Twitter can be a great place for expressing yourself, but sometimes that 280 character limit is just not enough. When that happens, you can create what Twitter calls “threads.” In short, it is a way to string several tweets together and have them be connected for your followers to read.
Making them can be a bit difficult while you also process what it is you want to say, which is where the Twitter Splitter action comes in. Rosemary Orchard created this and added it to the Drafts 5 Action Directory. What it does is simple, but powerful for those tweets that need a little more room to breathe.
What it Does
The action is described very simply in the Drafts 5 Action Directory as:
[It] Splits the text into blocks of at most 275 characters (depending on the position of the space), which allows for indexing. You can optionally add indexing (1/5), or not depending on your preferences. The text is split with “===”.
From this, you now have your long block of text split into tweet-sized bites that you can then copy and paste into your Twitter app of choice.
How to Use it
The first step in this is to write up what you have to tweet about, which you can do easily with Drafts 5. Once that is done you are left with a blocked out piece of text and you are set get started on making it a tweet thread.
When you are done with your text, it is time for Drafts and Twitter Splitter to do its thing. Slide over on the screen to show your action list and press the Twitter Splitter action.
From there you will be asked to decide if you want an index or not. The Index in this action adds a number at the end of the tweet indicating what number tweet this is. For instance if you tweet out something that takes 3 tweets to publish its entirety the final tweet will have “3/“ at the end of the tweet.
Once you make your selection you then will see your writing blocked out tweet by tweet separated with “===“
Now all that is left is to add the tweets to your favorite Twitter app and you are all set!
So now that you know how to create a thread with Drafts 5, you should be able to start tweeting away in no time! If you think there is a better way to make this work or want to share your version of this workflow let me know on Twitter.
David Sparks has been experimenting with Hyper-Scheduling for quite some time now, it started on his podcast Free Agents and trickled into the new podcast he has with Rose Orchard called Automators. It’s no surprise he has now made it into a Workflow.
If you aren’t sure what Hyper-Scheduling is, it’s blocking out time in a calendar as a means to plan out your day. Instead of making a task list and working around that, you instead block out time for the important projects on that list and stick to a plan. The difference is that the when is in tandem with the what.
How it Works
David created a very nice video tutorial on how the Workflow is made, explaining all the different things you can put in each event, and so on.
I am going to start giving Hyper-Scheduling a shot as I think it may help me keep on task more often and make things a little more structured. This Workflow is a good jumping off point for me, and I think it may be for you too if you have been wanting to try out Hyper-Scheduling yourself.