592: WWDC 2021 and the Future of Mac Automation


I think I’m even more excited about Shortcuts on the Mac after this than I was before.


This week, Stephen and David talk through the changes, and speak to Apple’s Vivek Bhardwaj about the new Shortcuts for Mac and what it means for traditional (and future) Mac automation.

First Relay interview with folks from Apple this WWDC (so far)?


Wow! Now that’s an endorsement!

Downloading now.


Craig Fed did short FaceTime calls with some not so prominent YouTube content creators.

Apple Managers hopping on Podcasts.

This is certainly a new Apple we’re dealing with here.

Got a transcript of the interview up here:


This is so awesome to hear - especially the AppleScript part! :heart:
Great interview @ismh and @MacSparky !

@MacSparky and @ismh, thanks so much for disrupting your normal schedules and hustling to get this episode out so soon after WWDC! Great discussion and interview, gave me lots of new insights into what’s coming and how I might be able to use it.

I’m thinking it’s time for me to buy MacSparky’s Shortcuts Field Guide and start learning it since it’s now coming to the Mac as well.



Oh! Very nice. And a great way to be able to reference things. Thanks for doing that (or having it done, whichever).

Great interview. I’m so glad they aren’t in a rush to kill off or deprecate anything. Obviously I wouldn’t invest a lot of time in learning/creating new Automator workflows now, but it sounds like everything else is around for the long term, which is great.


Just curious @ismh, what did you use to do the transcript?

“They never hit any of the barriers of the iPad”. “They don’t have those problems”. I don’t find that surprising. IMO, it’s possible David’s daughters will see the mouse, and even the keyboard, fade from widespread use in general computing. Our computers are evolving and perhaps Apple sees a different future for the iPad than we do.

In any event, I think David is correct. We need to quit trying to pound the iPad’s round peg into the Mac’s square hole.


Rev, then I manually went through and cleaned some stuff up.

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I think AppleScript and Shell scripting are very different from Automator in this case. Automator is a layer to harness those underlying technologies. ApplesScript and Shell are the underlying technologies. It’d be very difficult to get that out of macOS.


Yup. My UCLA sophomore doesn’t even want a keyboard for her iPad.


How do you think developers that already have AppleScript support will respond to Shortcuts? Will they transition the same capabilities they expose in AppleScript to shortcuts are just keep going down the AppleScript path?

Oh, definitely. I can’t imagine Apple would even try to get them out of macOS.

My concern was mostly that they weren’t going to make them accessible to Shortcuts because of some bizarre reason, or even just because “We want the experience to be the same on iOS, iPadOS, and macOS.”

I’m very glad that isn’t the direction that they went with Shortcuts on the Mac.

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I have already spoken with several Mac developers who are planning to adopt Shortcuts. I think they see it as something that’s easier to implement and and gets more users than AppleScript.

Also, Apple tends to give a marketing boost to people who adopt new technologies like this in the App Store.


So I played with the new Shortcuts briefly. Reasons it was brief:

  • I have only one Automator script. It only does one thing – opens a shell which launches a commandline (but Quartz) application. Opened with Shortcuts, it doesn’t work but throws an undecipherable error. I expect this will be fixed in a later beta.

  • It shows (via iCloud, somehow) the Shortcuts from my iPhone, including the samples. But none of these now or ever will work on the Mac. It also shows my converted Automation now Shortcut on my iPhone. It would never work there. There doesn’t seem to be a way to keep Shortcuts from propagating across all devices.

You guys have been (understandably) down on the notion that there are people using a multi-device/handoff-heavy/etc. workflow in the past as well as on this episode, but I’ve gotta say, I’m living that life and Universal Control is all the more exciting for it.

I’m a band teacher, and my MacBook is in my office which serves as my home base. When I’m teaching a class, I’m jumping between my iPhone and iPad hooked up to our speaker system with a Bluetooth receiver to run warmups and check my lesson plan (and sometimes pull up music) on my iPad. When I’m teaching student lessons, I’m using my iPad for even more music (with the excellent forScore app) and frequently using Tap Forms on my phone to figure out what class a student who forgot their lesson is in.

I’m checking and updating students’ scores in assessments during lessons on Numbers on the iPad, and updating my gradebook from the same Numbers spreadsheet when I can sit down at my Mac. Where I’m giving lessons changes, and sometimes I’m next to my Mac when I’m giving them, but not always, so the Numbers sheet is often open on my Mac while I might be editing it on the iPad 40 feet away with sync issues pretty rare.

And of course, I’m constantly throwing stuff into Drafts on iPhone, iPad, Mac, and my Watch.

Now with Universal Control, I’m hyped for even better things. Even in my office next to my Mac, because of the Apple Pencil (and in part due to the fact that, until I get a new MBP, my current one is too old for Handoff), there are things my iPad does better than my Mac, but the final product is usually on the Mac. If I have the final step open and ready to go on my Mac (say a Pages document I want to drag in something I was doing in a graphics/drawing app on my iPad), it’ll be even faster than it was with AirDrop.

On a totally different note (especially for anyone on the iPadOS beta), is there any way to toggle mute mode on an iPad based on a focus? I couldn’t find it in Shortcuts when I was searching a few weeks ago on iPadOS 14 which bummed me out and didn’t make a whole lot of sense. When focus comes out, I’d love to get emails on my iPad during times I currently have DND on, but not if I’m hearing chirping until after students are done for the day.


Also on Shortcuts for the Mac:

I can only imagine what teams like Pixelmator Pro, who have such excellent Automator actions already, are cooking up. I’m sure they’ll have some really neat stuff by the time of the Monterey public release.

My biggest hope, as Apple continues to really think about how people share Shortcuts, is that they’ll essentially make a way to write them in a text editor that’s smooth. The complaint I hear from so many programmers is that they can’t stand “drag and drop.” What I’m envisioning is a syntax that’s a bit more mature than AppleScript, but reads more like code instructions than simply an XML-type format for storing the ingredients of Shorcuts actions. I know what I’m describing is a tall order, but I think it would be good for everyone in the long run.