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What's New in Shortcuts - Issue #28

Matthew Cassinelli
Matthew Cassinelli
Welcome to Issue 28 of “What’s New in Shortcuts” – this week we saw iOS 15.3 beta 2 and macOS 12.2 beta 2 come out, resulting in a slew of bug fixes coming out from the various feedback that the community sent in over the fall.
I specifically saw clipboard fixes on macOS, fixes for “Get My Shortcuts” on iOS, and a bunch of other quality-of-life improvements, which are extremely welcome – I’ll say this cautiously, but I think this next release could be properly stable for Shortcuts users still cautiously waiting.
It is quite encouraging to see some of the specific Feedback that I’ve filed now being addressed, and it does make sense that turnaround times from Apple may be more like from release-to-release rather than beta-to-beta.
And while that’s still honestly hard to stomach up to 8 weeks of a bug persisting, it does prove the investment in getting problems you’re specifically aware of fixed by submitting Feedback rather than hoping it gets addressed – something I banked on too much last year and will be tackling head-on this year if something gets in my way.
Beta changes aside, I was very pleased with the volume of ideas, stories, and discussion material I’m seeing this week. People seem rested up and ready to tackle their problems with automation this year, so there’s lot of Shortcuts goodness to dive into – plus a new set of shortcuts from yours truly:

🆕 New for the Catalog
This week I released a set of shortcuts for members that focus on YouTube Playlists, which I believe are an area of untapped potential for helping people curate their own series of videos and quickly access them:
The idea comes from way YouTube sorts playlists, either alphabetically from A-Z or by Recently Updated – I have built up a lot of playlists over the years in different categories and this sorting system meant I was constantly re-processing all the different playlists trying to find the right one.
I also spent about 2 months with my playlists renamed with prefix like “Video – Production” and “Health – Fitness” – but that ended up producing just as much mental overload every time I’d look at the list.
Instead, I came up with a shortcut that lets me take all the lists and sort them into subcategories inside a Dictionary action, storing all the data in one place and making it easy to update later, while also using that information in the rest of my Playlist shortcuts:
YouTube Playlist Dictionary – Matthew Cassinelli
Here’s what part of my dictionary looks like – I’ve got all my private Work and Personal playlist IDs inside, grouped into custom categories, plus the start of a new Creator list for other people’s playlist I might want to reference later too:
From there, I have one main “All playlists” shortcut that I keep in a Widget stack on the Home Screen and three “Work”, “Personal”, and “Creator” shortcuts that take the top-level categories I’ve curated inside the dictionary and turns them into dedicated shortcuts (for even quicker access):
Open my YouTube playlists – Matthew Cassinelli
There’s also a shortcut for accessing your full Library tab in Safari so that you can copy all of your YouTube playlist links and fill out your own dictionary:
Show YouTube library – Matthew Cassinelli
Plus, in testing, I also came across links shared from a video that was activately playing inside a playlist (which changed the URL), so this shortcut can scrape out the original playlist link as well:
Grab YouTube playlist ID – Matthew Cassinelli
The entire YouTube Playlist Dictionary and shortcuts are actually designed to work with the full playlist link, but also the playlist ID or the same video-in-playlist URLs, so it should work for most YouTube links you drop in there.
However, if you build out your dictionary using IDs like I did (just to keep it shorter and cleaner), you’ll also want this shortcut for recreating the original playlist links in case you want to share one:
Copy my YouTube playlist link – Matthew Cassinelli
I’ve really been enjoying grouping my YouTube playlists into Work/Personal as well as a dedicated Creator section for organizing various playlists from folks under the person instead of the playlist title, and overall it’s great to pick from all my Health playlists rather the first one I happened to see.
I hope you all enjoy getting more out of YouTube and their playlist systems with these shortcuts – I’d also love feedback if anybody has suggestions for improvements or additional techniques.
Get the folder of YouTube Playlist shortcuts.
💡 Ideas of the week
First, IGN shared this cool tip for playing the classic Prince of Persia game on your Apple Watch by loading the web browser version – in the replies, someone also took the subsequent URLs generated as you progress through the game and also made a shortcut that skips right to the last level:
IGN
If you have an Apple Watch and send https://t.co/22Yp8CbgYn to yourself in a message, you can open the javascript version of this 1989 classic and play it on your wrist. Credit @oklemenz https://t.co/Jlglzsxjrn
Phyllbo Baggins
@IGN @oklemenz Here’s a Siri shortcut that will take you to the last level with 6 hearts you can edit the url to whatever you want

https://t.co/OVzdyoIhgW
J.C. Fore shared this cool Sleep Rings shortcut that uses Charty for iOS to calculate and graph their running averages across the month – I am definitely not sharing my results though 😰:
J.C. Fore
Updated Sleep Rings (made with @chartyios) to include the running average for the month and fixed some bugs I found with the original shortcut! You can find the new release, here: https://t.co/bkli5rDd9N https://t.co/n4UNM3h84b
Kyle Turman shared a shortcut that helps with cleans off the tracking parameters from TikTok URLs so that the data can’t be associated with you – definitely a good idea for the TikTok collection I’m working on:
kyle turman?
the shortened URL that tiktok generates for a video contains loads of additional data that they use to track you.

so I made an iOS shortcut that expands, cleans, and copies url to the clipboard from the share sheet. enjoy! https://t.co/QNvVlTHKG7
I saw this tweet from Jemison Thorsby responding to a discussion on the Accidental Tech Podcast about autoswitching problems on AirPods with a clever solution for his daughter – these shortcuts turn off Bluetooth before opening his daughter’s favorite video apps, avoiding the potential switch while he’s trying to use his AirPods:
Jemison Thorsby
@atpfm I love autoswitching AirPods, but I often have the same issue as Casey when my daughter uses my iPad. So I made desktop shortcuts for her favorite apps which turn off Bluetooth and then launch the app. Problem solved! https://t.co/SXnCptuI8q
Edward Ferguson shared this clever shortcut for scraping the specific iPhone battery cycle count data out of the analytics reports provided by iOS – I’d love to create my own versions for analyzing Shortcuts crash reports someday:
Edward Ferguson
There is a great free shortcut to let you see your iPhone battery cycle count. Below is a video linked to show you how to access this information. 👇

Shortcut: https://t.co/tRGdPDjzo1 https://t.co/hwYvABGMLx
This Mac shortcut from Michelle Catherine Marcó kicks off a new Finder window—or switches to the active window—using AppleScript inside Shortcuts – this is a great example of solving macOS problems with the currently-available technology while Apple transitions to Shortcuts over the next few years:
Michelle Catherine Marcó 🌹🏳️‍🌈 she/they
I wanted a way of opening a macOS Finder window (or switching to an already open one) using a system-wide keyboard shortcut—similar to the Win + E shortcut on Windows.

It wasn’t easy, but I made it happen! All I needed was the Shortcuts app, and of all things, AppleScript. https://t.co/ujYl80Ed7q
The next two tweets are from Logan “@StinkyStinkFace” sharing his friend’s shortcut that wraps the following Terminal command for clearing out a developer’s collected data in Xcode in a keyboard shortcut and makes it easy to trigger regularly – there’s also a link in the thread about what this can be useful for if you’re not a developer:
Matt Waller
iOS devs, make your life a little easier today.

In the Terminal, if you enter:
alias blast="rm -rf ~/Library/Developer/Xcode/DerivedData"

Then in terminal you can type "blast" (or whatever you want to name it), and it'll delete DerivedData.

Have a great one!
Finally, Marcos Tanaka shared some teaser images of the Shortcuts actions for his upcoming Play app, which acts as a custom YouTube Watch Later queue – definitely intriguing 👀:
Marcos Tanaka
Adding Shortcuts support to Play on iOS, iPadOS and macOS. All of the app's actions and data will be accessible in Shortcuts. https://t.co/wA5KGLYFD5 https://t.co/OTmGLsyz7l
📰 Stories of the week
First up, Ronald Langeveld wrote up a good blog post on using Shortcuts to generate a “smart playlist” of 25 of the most-played songs in your collection – I don’t usually think to use the Order parameter for things like “Biggest Count,” so I may have to start experimenting with this more myself:
How to create smart playlists for Apple Music on your iPhone
MacStories has released an update to the update to Apple Frames thehis excellent shortcut for taking screenshots and wrapping them in the actual device images — bringing the version # to 2.1 as Federico adds support for the Series 7 watch, new MacBook Pros with notches, and more localization.
If you hadn’t gotten the 2.0 version, this update uses Apple’s newly-provided marketing versions of the frames, as well as moved the image framework from inside the shortcut to external files in iCloud Drive – as a result, it’s much smaller (and doesn’t cause potential sync issues) plus easier to update with fixes like this:
Apple Frames 2.1: Apple Watch Series 7 and 2021 MacBook Pro Support, New Update Flow, Plus Chinese and Czech Localization - MacStories
I literally said “Oh wow” when I read this article, because the idea is so good and so simple – the clever strategy of using “Add to Dock” and turning a shortcut into an .application file can be built on even further using Open At Login, allowing any shortcut to immediately kick off when you start up your Mac. Ankur Thakur basically just invented a whole new type of Mac shortcut, so I’ll be playing around with this concept in the future for sure:
How to automatically start playing music at startup on Mac
John Voorhees of MacStories also covered a new Alfred workflow that taps into Shortcuts for Mac’s command line utility and lets you trigger your shortcuts, plus even add inputs into them using Alfred’s interface.
This workflow works great if you have a relatively small number of shortcuts, but I did notice that in my experience with 2,000 shortcuts, the step that loads all the shortcuts each time took a long while to process – unfortunately I can’t make much use of this unless it’s somehow possible to search my library quicker:
Accessing Shortcuts for Mac with Alfred Workflows and Universal Actions
Finally, Federico also put together a shortcut that scrapes the results of his Wordle game and reproduces the results for sharing on Twitter in a more accessible format– the game seems fun, so I’m encouraged to see it being made more available to everyone too:
WordleBot: A Shortcut to Annotate Your Wordle Results with Scores
I also saw two similar Wordle shortcuts go out this week from developer Zach Knox and LookUp developer Vidit Bhargava – definitely a good idea when the default result from the web game isn’t friendly for folks using screen readers, and how each person approached solving the problem with shortcuts is interesting:
zmknox
I made a Shortcut which makes your Wordle squares more accessible by using different shapes like 🟡 and ✅: https://t.co/GE7jLNjEr3

Here’s mine for today:
Wordle 202 4/6

⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛
⬛⬛✅⬛⬛
⬛✅✅✅✅
✅✅✅✅✅
Vidit Bhargava
Inspired by https://t.co/DkE171UrBN, created a Shortcut to convert results into accessible text.

https://t.co/L4K4EAT2Ki
🗳 Feedback Corner
Paul tan suggested that iCloud Private Relay get its own action in Shortcuts to toggle it on/off – I think this makes a ton of sense and lines up with the type of Cellular options Apple has added recently, so I hope the team considers this:
Paul Tan
apple should add a icloud private relay on/off toggle somewhere more accessible, like in control centre or allow it to be controllable in shortcuts. i prefer to selectively turn it on to save battery. easier to use cloudflare warp for now bcos of the big on/off button in the app.
Meowski Catovitch shared about an experience I’ve also run into where Shortcuts on the Apple Watch returns a “Null” value when trying to allow access/grant permissions from an app:
Meowski Catovitch
Apple Watch still prompts for permission to access the Wake-On-LAN app every time I run my shortcuts to turn on the TV / PC, but it now actually says the name of the app when it asks, instead of "allow access to null", so that's progress.

Hoping they fix this bug fully one day.
Finally, this request actually strikes to the core of a big problem for Shortcuts’ future – many, many people have been using the app to create custom icons, but a certain point they’re doing it despite the slow & laborious process.
I hope Apple prioritizes two features: 1) the ability to easily change custom icons once they’ve been added to the Home Screen, and 2) the ability to batch any parts of the process or quickly access your custom icons – those two things which in my opinion would fix the majority of the problems, while keeping the feature part of the Shortcuts experience and not requiring Apple to fully allow for complete customization of app icons in a more native experience:
ً
@apple please let us change app icons without going through shortcuts or another app in the next update! let us be creative!
Shortcuts Spotlight
📝 Podcast Note shortcuts, now with native actions
Two weeks ago, Jason Snell published this piece on his site Six Colors writing about how he uses a Keyboard Maestro workflow to capture edit points while he’s recording his podcast – maybe someone coughed, talked over each other, or made a mistake.
That KM workflow was then triggered on his Stream Deck, letting him pick from a pre-built menu of options for what happened and it’d be written right into a text file for later:
I read this article and, me being me, immediately thought that “Oh this should be a shortcut.”
As I continued to scroll in my RSS, I saw that a few days later, on the same site, Dan Moren had also published his follow-up piece where he rebuilt the same workflow using Shortcuts.
Dan wrote his thought process as he initially started with an AppleScript that called Python, then switched to the Calculate Expression action to instead do the math manually – this avoids potential deprecation of Python on the Mac, plus Dan didn’t necessarily note that it also works on iOS now too:
As it just so happens, I’ve run into both of these exact problems myself and solved them in different ways – I built a similar “Timestamp marker” with Matt Galligan on a livestream a few years back, saving the current time into a Notes file and appending new markers as you go along:
Here’s the resulting shortcut (plus a few modifications I made after that stream):
Chapter marker
However I’d always felt that my version needed proper testing and more options, and Jason’s version has exactly that – marking points like a “digression” or “section break” is exactly what I want to note while recording my livestreams, so I’m definitely borrowing those for my next version.
Plus, I also wanted to share how you could solve the timestamp issue that Dan ran across using the Date Format action — this is documented in the Shortcuts User Guide, but I only really learned while literally working at Worfklow — that uses the Unicode standard for date formatting and allows you 100% customization of how your dates are displayed:
Custom date formats in Shortcuts on iPhone or iPad – Apple Support
Here’s the complete Unicode Standard page too, which is useful if you want to really get into the full customization options:
Unicode Locale Data Markup Language (LDML) Part 4: Dates
Here’s another example I found in the replies to the thread from Kevin van Haaren’s that uses the same functional of Format Date that’s found in all Date variables, which is the option for Date Format – you can see the HH:mm:ss in the screenshot below.
Kevin’s shortcut also cleverly uses the creation date of the file to make the timestamp calculations less complex:
Kevin van Haaren
@dmoren here's a cheat for getting a time stamp without the calculations. take the time between file creation & current time in seconds. Then add that many seconds to the start of the day. Output just the HH:mm:ss from that date. HH is 24 hour clock so it starts at 0. https://t.co/KGCVGQTe5i
Even using this full date formatting method isn’t the easiest, however, so I also wanted to note the Format Duration action provided by the time tracking app Timery – this makes it easier to actually convert those “total seconds” values to real timestamps/durations.
I’ve personally thanked the developer Joe Hribar for this in the past because the function is much easier and I don’t have to parse out each part of the hours/minutes/seconds step-by-step:
Instead, Timery works on both iOS and the Mac, so I can just use that action everywhere – while I could build it from scratch each time or extract this function into a subroutine inside another shortcut, I just don’t want to do and Joe’s already done it for me.
Here’s Timery’s website if you want to get that action too:
Timery for Toggl
I have my own version of the Date Format functionality packed into a shortcut too, but right now it exists inside my Text Formatter shortcut available for free now – however I’ll be releasing a specific folder that uses the same functionality inside that shortcut as separate shortcuts dedicated to the particular functions, so look for that in the upcoming release:
Text Formatter – Matthew Cassinelli
Further, just because I remembered it while writing this, I also have a similar shortcut that can act functionally the same way on a Zoom call using the Chat area.
My shortcut converts the saved transcript into timestamps at each point in the chat log, so you could just type “cough” in after someone coughs and use the transcript/new timestamps generated by Shortcuts to find the edit point and cut it out. Here’s the shortcut you can get as part of my membership:
Convert Zoom chat timestamps – Matthew Cassinelli
Until then, that’s all for this week! See you next Sunday 👋
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Matthew Cassinelli
Matthew Cassinelli @mattcassinelli

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