Shortcuts in Monterey Beta 5

Has Anything Actually Improved?

When last I talked about Shortcuts, there wasn’t much there. It seemed clear that the entire purpose of Shortcuts was for iOS Shortcuts and that the AppleScript and other functionality only exists as a path away from Automator. Shortcuts support in the OS was kind of meh at best, unsurprising given Apple. So has anything improved? Sort of.

Shortcuts is “Scriptable”

The quotes are deliberate, because this is the barest implementation one could have and still be technically scriptable. There’s one class in the suite, “shortcut” which has for properties a collection of identifers:

  • color
  • id
  • name
  • subtitle

and Action Count, which is the number of actions in the shortcut. All these are read-only values, so you can’t use this class to create a new empty shortcut. That’s fine, because there’s only one command, “run”, and that is all this dictionary is designed to do: let you run existing shortcuts via AppleScript/JXA/whatever. So it’s not “automation” in any useful sense. There’s one handy feature, the addition of the “Shortcuts Events” app, which is a helper app that lives in  /Applications/Shortcuts/Contents/Library/Helpers/Shortcuts Events, and if you target it within a tell block instead of Shortcuts, then you can run the shortcut without having to start Shortcuts.

I mean, that’s handy, right? But that’s the extent of the usefulness of this dictionary. You can get a list of existing shortcuts and run one of them.

w00t

Other Support

The support for Shortcuts in the OS and associated utilities is about what it was, and as uneven and uncoordinated as one would expect from Apple. For example, I can create an event on my Exchange Calendar in the “Add New Event” shortcut, or any calendar Calendars can see, (which is something you can’t do via AppleScript, and has been that way since iCal first supported Exchange. Can’t imagine why I am so cynical about Apple’s automation “commitment”), but you can’t do that for Contacts. Disk Utility has some basic shortcuts and no other way to automate it other than dumping into the shell environment, which bypasses Disk Utility entirely. FaceTime lets you call/FaceTime a contact in Contacts. That’s it. The Finder shortcuts are still so basic as to be not useful. You can’t just make a new file. You can’t make a new folder. I don’t know why Apple bothered with it if they’re going to limit it that much.

Mail has two shortcuts around measurements(??) but they both say “this requires an app but it may not be installed” Really Apple? Really. That’s good UI? How? All but one of Messages shortcuts involve iTunes for some reason, and the one actual messaging shortcut doesn’t even let you attach a file to a message. Again, why even bother? In an unsurprising limitation, Shortcuts shortcuts are every bit as limited as its “scripting” dictionary.

In what is a truly WAT moment, the macOS version of Shortcuts has a “Set Flashlight” shortcut. For Macs. Which, last I checked, don’t have flashlight functionality. But sure, Shortcuts main priority isn’t roundtripping shortcuts between macOS and i(Pad)OS. It’s not just that one. There’s a whole host of shortcuts that make no sense on a Mac, unless Apple plans on actually merging iPads and Macs. I know I often wish I could more easily manage my Voice & Data settings on my Mac.

Sigh.

Oh, and the UI in Shortcuts is kind of awful. Good luck finding the close control for a shortcut. It’s a wee tiny dark grey “x” that is almost invisible on a black background. Doesn’t even highlight when you mouse over it, which makes me wonder is there anyone over the age of 25 on the Shortcuts team? Heck, anyone over 19? Anyone with any form of vision acuity issues? Because that is a design that only works for young, perfect eyes. It wouldn’t be so bad if I could remove a shortcut from a workflow any other way. But I can’t.

Evidently, I need to get new iGlasses.

See what I did there?

There’s one Siri shortcut: to dismiss Siri. Why? Why is that a thing at all? System Preferences has no shortcuts, but shows up in the app list.

So no, there is nothing about Shortcuts on macOS to be even interested in, much less excited about. There’s nothing particularly useful about Shortcuts, unless you’re just into automation that doesn’t let you really automate anything.

Which describes, again how Apple views user-created automation. They don’t like it, they haven’t since the return of Jobs, and the only reason Shortcuts exists on macOS, based on what I’ve seen, is to have feature “parity” with iOS. I mean, I can set my Mac’s flashlight with it. So there’s that.