Tag Archive for ‘Shortcuts’

Action Button as Game Launcher

Game Launcher shortcut with Minecraft and Steam Link

Since receiving my iPhone 15 Pro this past fall, I have been racking my brain trying to figure out how to make the Action Button feel useful to me.

Up until recently, I’ve felt like it was a massive step backward when compared to the simple silence switch that the iPhone has featured since the original launched in 2007. The switch was nice because you could interact with it by feel. If you’re at a movie theater or some other live event and needed to make sure your phone wouldn’t randomly make noises, disturbing everyone else, you could check the switch with your iPhone still in your pocket.

This isn’t something that has ever worked for me with the Action Button. With it set to toggle Silent Mode, my experience usually goes something like this:

  • Press the Action Button.
  • Feel the haptic feedback.
  • Try and remember what that specific haptic feedback means.
  • Probably press the Action Button another one or two times so that you can feel the difference between the two types of haptic feedback.
  • Ultimately take your iPhone out of your pocket to make sure it’s set the way you wanted.

Despite my discovery of a useful Action Button shortcut, I still think that the above situation is such a mess that I’d rather just have the silencer switch back. But even if Apple decides to bring back the switch, I’m stuck with the Action Button for at least another year-and-a-half. I might as well make the most of it.

Game Launcher Example Shortcut

I’m now using the Action Button as a dedicated game launcher. But it doesn’t just display a menu, listing the games (and emulators) on my device, and launch the one I select. Instead, it always opens the game or emulator that I most recently played and I have the option to display a menu to launch something else.

I’m accomplishing this with Toolbox Pro, which offers Global Variable actions. Each time I launch a game or emulator using this shortcut, the name of that application will be saved to a Global Variable and the next time I run my game launcher, it will automatically launch the game saved in that variable.

As for the menu to launch something else, that will only display if I want it to. I’m accomplishing this by checking the device’s volume at the beginning of the shortcut and then checking it again two seconds after the Global Variable app is launched. If the volume is different upon that second check, the menu will display.

The way it works in practice is, I press the Action Button, the most recent game opens. If I’d like to play something else, I have a two second window to press either of the two volume buttons. If I do, I’ll get a menu that lists the other games and emulators on my device and I can choose one to launch.

Then, the next time I run the shortcut by pressing the Action Button, the most recently launched game/emulator will open first.

This setup does require you to update the shortcut whenever you add or remove a game from your device and the shortcut itself is going to be unique to you and the collection of games you play. But I’ve put together an example shortcut showing how it works, that you can adapt to your setup.

The example shortcut is just setup to open Minecraft and Steam Link because those are the only games that I have on my device that aren’t sideloaded through AltStore. But again, the method that I’m using can be adapted to launch any number of games on your device. You’ll just need to update the If action that checks the Global Variables and opens the initial app, as well as the Menu action that displays a list of and launches the other games.

I’m hoping the example shortcut will do the trick, but if you decide to set this up for yourself and run into any trouble, feel free to reach out and I’d be happy to help with all that I can.

Custom Actions in Control Center

Control Center Setup

A fully customizable Control Center has been on my iOS wishlist for years. Apple’s done a lot to head in that direction since first introducing the feature, but there’s a lot more that could be done. The ability to add your own shortcuts would be the biggest win. And while that isn’t something that’s directly supported, there is a workaround that I’ve recently started using on my iPhone and iPad.

There are two Control Center controls that are key here — Calculator and Voice Memos. Those simply launch the corresponding app and they happen to be two apps that I don’t use. But I can still use these to my advantage by pairing them with the Shortcut app’s automations feature.

I’ve setup an automation that will connect to my AirPods and use them as the audio output of my device. I could do this through the Now Playing section of Control Center, but that section is frequently displaying playback information from my Apple TV and I’d end up having to perform five taps to switch to my device’s controls and switch audio outputs — with the automation, it’s just a single tap.

Shortcuts Personal Automation

You can add Voice Memos or Calculator to Control Center (as long as the apps are installed) from within the Control Center section of the system’s Settings app. And to setup the automation, you can do the following:

  • Navigate to the Automation tab within Shortcuts.
  • Tap on the + button and select “Create Personal Automation”.
  • Scroll down and select the “App” automation type.
  • Make sure “Opened” is checked, select the Calculator or Voice Memos apps, and tap “Next”.
  • From there we’ll need to add the necessary actions. I’ve added “Select Playback Destination” and configured it for my AirPods and then added a “Go to Homescreen” action to exit the Voice Memos app.
  • Tap on “Next” and you’ll likely want to disable “Ask Before Running” on the next screen. This will configure the automation to simply run without having to prompt you first.
  • Tap on “Done” and enjoy the additional functionality in Control Center.

These instructions are for my AirPods automation, but you can add whatever actions you’d like to achieve the functionality you want in Control Center — switching between 5G and LTE is another useful idea that comes to mind.

I’d like to see Apple add a “Show in Control Center” option within each shortcut’s settings. This workaround gets the job done, but it is a bit of a hack. If Apple actually implemented it into the system, it would be a significantly slicker experience and would do a lot to promote automation on the platform.

Shortcuts and iOS Upgrades

Error in Shortcuts

Over the past few years, each major iOS upgrade has brought a world of trouble for me in the Shortcuts app. One of the primary reasons I was able to switch to iOS as my main platform in 2015 was because of Workflow/Shortcut’s ability to smooth out the rough edges.

But I need those shortcuts to be reliable. I don’t want to rebuild my shortcuts every single year because something changed that broke them. I don’t have that kind of time and it leaves me wondering whether I should even bother anymore — if Shortcuts isn’t reliable for me, why try to rely on it?

This time it’s the Post to WordPress action. It keeps throwing errors about a file not existing. But I’m not passing any files into the action, I’m just feeding text into it. I’ve tested every single variable that the action is touching with Quick Look and everything appears exactly as expected. But Post to WordPress keeps throwing errors anyway.

For now, I’m writing on my iPad and then publishing from my iPhone, which is still running iOS 14 where the shortcut works just fine. But long-term, I’m not sure what I’ll end up doing. I don’t want to keep fixing my shortcuts each year and because of the issue I’m having with it, I don’t even know what I could do to fix. But, it’s the smoothest and most streamlined publishing workflow I’ve ever had when it works. I don’t want to go back to writing in the WordPress editor or transition to publishing through Ulysses directly because it’s just a bit more clunky than I want to fuss with.

I’ve heard from some others after I vented my frustration on Mastodon, so I know I’m not the only one. What I’d like to see is Apple get their act together and improve backwards compatibility with shortcuts with iOS upgrades. But their recent track record hasn’t been too great in my eyes. Apple continues to make decisions that are so far off the mark from what I would prefer. I’m not particularly optimistic, to say the least.

Shortcuts for Mac: The Future Is Now ➝

In recent years, I’ve waited quite a while before updating my machines to the latest macOS — I’m still running Catalina on my work laptop.

But Shortcuts might force me to buck that trend. I’m very excited to see what automations I can implement to improve my day-to-day on the Mac.

➝ Source: macstories.net

Apple’s Head of Privacy Doubles Down on Anti-Sideloading Stance ➝

Lame.

I’ve never been fearful of installing malware on my Mac. Since I transitioned from Windows in 2006, my wife, her parents, her sister, and my sister have transitioned too. None of them run any anti-virus or anti-malware software and none of them have run into any issues beyond some questionable Chrome browser extensions.

Apple is clinging to this narrative that users will be in danger of installing nefarious software on their iPhone and that, somehow, the App Store prevents that. But it’s a lame excuse to retain power over the platform.

The App Store is filled with casino-like games that are designed to separate you from your money and applications that deceive users into allowing permissions that aren’t in their best interest. How exactly is this keeping users safe?

Meanwhile, on the Mac, they’ve made it so cumbersome to install unsigned applications, that even if a user inadvertently installed a nefarious app, they likely wouldn’t be able to launch it. These restrictions warrant their own criticisms for sure, but that’s a separate issue.

Think about Shortcuts — you can, today, add an untrusted shortcut to your device that you can give access to your contacts, your location, your health data, and the ability to perform actions like sending messages and a slew of other potentially dangerous things. Have you heard of anyone in your life that installed a malicious shortcut?

Apple only allows us to install shortcuts through iCloud links now, which also warrants some criticism. But if there was a nefarious shortcut in the wild, Apple could shut it down. Why can’t Apple add the ability to install only signed, side-loaded applications? This would give developers the ability to build applications that are outside of the App Store’s guidelines and let Apple retain their ability to shutdown a nefarious app to “protect” us.

The only one that stands to lose anything in this scenario is Apple and that’s why they’re doing everything they can to convince us that side-loading is inherently bad. But they’re wrong.

➝ Source: appleinsider.com

Shortcuts for Mac: The Future Is Now ➝

A great piece by John Voorhees on Shortcuts coming to the Mac, including some quotes by prominent developers sharing their thoughts.

➝ Source: macstories.net

Apple Shortcuts Is Great, but It Needs a Notification Toggle ➝

I can understand Apple wanting Shortcuts to display something when one is run — it’s good to be aware of what your system is doing. And I’m sure it would be awfully confusing if your iPhone was doing something unexpected and you didn’t know why. But I think the notifications that are shown by Shortcuts today is just too obtrusive.

Maybe we need a smaller icon in the status bar — something akin to Automator’s gear icon on macOS. The status bar is a bit crowded, but I think the system could temporarily replace one of those icons with a gear to indicate that a shortcut is running.

(Via MacStories.)

➝ Source: theverge.com

The Mac Needs Shortcuts ➝

Jason Snell:

It’s clear to me now: Apple needs to make Shortcuts available everywhere. It’s the logical successor to Automator, and already does more than Automator—and better, too. Apple should hide Automator away somewhere for a while for compatibility reasons, but otherwise embrace Shortcuts on the Mac.

Seriously. Shortcuts is the only automation tool that really clicked for me. I use Automator and Alfred on the Mac, but mostly with automations that someone else built. And the ones I have built are pretty basic.

➝ Source: sixcolors.com