Start work right with this one-click app and playlist launcher

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applescript
Writing this AppleScript is as easy as writing your shopping list.
Photo: David Ballew/Unsplash

Every morning when I sit at my Mac to start writing, I open the same apps and start the same iTunes playlist. This repetitive, tedious task is what computers are supposed to do for us, so I figured I’d make my Mac open up those apps, and start that music playing, all without me having to do anything.

That dream was quickly quashed — the Mac isn’t quite able to read my mind yet. So I settled for the next best thing: An AppleScript that I can leave in the Dock, and then click once to open everything. The best part is, it’s absurdly easy to make your own.

Toolbox Pro brings incredible new tricks to Shortcuts

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Toolbox pro
Who doesn’t love a good pro toolbox?
Photo: Susan Holt Simpson/Unsplash

Apple’s Shortcuts app is already a very powerful tool for automating stuff on your iPhone and iPad, and for creating your own push-button mini-apps. But what if it also could use the deep tools that Apple builds into iOS for app developers? What if Shortcuts could use Face ID, or analyze your photos using iOS’ crazy-powerful machine learning? Or if you could use the OCR to pull text out of photos, all inside Shortcuts?

Thats what Toolbox Pro does. It opens up many of Apple’s amazing under-the-hood technologies, and lets you use them just by dragging a new step into your Shortcuts workflows. Let’s see what it can do.

Check out iOS 13’s amazing NFC-triggered Shortcuts

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nfc shortcuts
These little NFC tags are discreet enough to stick anywhere.
Photo: Cult of Mac

Shortcuts has gotten so many amazing new tricks in iOS 13 that it’s going to take a while for us to cover them all. So, how about starting with the new NFC automations? This lets you tap your sleeping iPhone onto an NFC sticker or tag, and your iPhone will run a shortcut. This is pretty amazing, because you can walk around you home (or office), and just tap your iPhone onto objects to perform tasks: open apps, set timers, play music, dim the lights — in fact, you can do anything a regular shortcut can do.

Here are two great examples of using NFC shortcuts in iOS 13.

iOS 13’s NFC triggers bring Shortcuts to the real world

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With NFC shortcuts in iOS 13, this speaker could become a trigger to play your favorite podcast.
This speaker could become a trigger to play your favorite podcast.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

The iOS 13 Shortcuts app brings plenty of radical changes — automatic scheduled and location-based shortcuts, for example — but one super-neat new feature will make a world of difference. Now, if you have a compatible iPhone, you can combine NFC tags with Shortcuts. That is, you can run any shortcut just by tapping your iPhone onto an NFC sticker.

Seriously. Pretty wild, right? You could tap your iPhone onto a sticker atop a speaker in your kitchen, and it would start playing the radio, for instance. Let’s check out how NFC shortcuts will work.

Apple acquires Italian startup that specializes in backend automation

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stamplay
The Stamplay team.
Photo: Il Sol 24 Ore

Apple recently acquired a startup that could soon help the iPhone-maker deliver better backend tools to iOS and macOS developers.

Stamplay, an Italian startup that specialized in building a “low code workflow automation” platform, was reportedly purchased by Apple for about $5.6 million. The acquisition hasn’t been confirmed by Apple but there are some telltale signs that Stamplay’s tech has found a new home.

How to use Apple’s new Shortcuts app

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A shortcut.
A shortcut.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

Shortcuts is Apple’s new automation app for iOS 12. It integrates with Siri and lets you build all kinds of amazing automated workflows, from shutting your house down when you go to sleep, to downloading videos from YouTube and saving the them to iCloud.

Shortcuts is really just the new name for Workflow, an iOS automation app that Apple bought a year or so back. Let’s take a look at what Apple has put in Shortcuts.

Handy Shortcuts app launches alongside iOS 12

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Shortcuts app from iOS 12
Apple's new Shortcuts automation app has to be downloaded separately from iOS 12.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

The full version of iOS 12 is now available for everyone. One of its cool new features is Siri Shortcuts, but those who want to automate functions on their iPhone also need to download a separate application from the App Store.

The new utility lets people create scripts that collect several actions together, then launch them with a voice command. The idea is to let you automate actions that you perform regularly.

Add events to your iPhone calendar using natural language and Drafts

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Adding an calendar event with Drafts is as easy as writing it on paper.
Adding an calendar event with Drafts is as easy as writing it on paper.
Photo: Sludge G/Flickr CC

Do you hate adding new events to your iOS calendar? It’s a real pain, right? You have to click, and type, and turn one of these time and date dials, and type some more. On the Mac you can just hit ⌘-N to create a new event, and then type something like Dinner tomorrow at 19:00, and the Calendar app just works out what you mean, and adds the event.

On iOS, you have to do it manually, or try to coax Siri into doing it for you — neither of which is a pleasant experience. Why isn’t there a natural-language input for the iOS Calendar app? Well, if you’re using the awesome Drafts app, then there is.

How to add your own iOS 12 Siri Shortcuts right now

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Siri
Siri Shortcuts could become super powerful.
Photo: Apple

Siri Shortcuts are the iOS way to automate actions you do over and over. The WWDC 2018 keynote gave an examples of chaining together a bunch of these actions into one shortcut — order your favorite “coffee,” and give you directions to work, or switch on the lights at home one whole hour before you get there in order to, I don’t know, waste electricity? To trigger these little automations, you just tell Siri, using a pre-chosen keyword/name.

However, you don’t alway want to put together lots of steps. Sometimes you just want Siri to carry out a single action with a Shortcut. For instance, opening up your favorite news site in Safari, or sending a message to your spouse, or viewing your most recent photos. The good news is, you can do all of these right now, even without the fancy new Siri Shortcuts app.

Embrace automation with Workflow [50 Essential iOS Apps #13]

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Workflow app Webpage to PDF action
Workflow can make the most basic of tasks incredibly simple.
Photo: Ian Fuchs/Cult of Mac

50 Essential iOS Apps: Workflow appNot all tasks are simple or straightforward. Sometimes a task involve multiple complex or repetitive steps. Having the ability to use a “program” to do these tasks quickly and easily makes you more efficient. Unfortunately, we aren’t all programmers. Workflow for iOS makes performing complex or repetitive tasks a breeze, all without needing to know a programming language.