Shortcuts on Monterey

As Monterey is about to be released formally, I decided to try the beta release candidate 12.0.1 on a spare computer to test compatibility and get some overall impressions of what it can do.

The new Shortcuts app including syncing of shortcuts to iOS seems very promising.

However most 3rd party apps which have shortcuts on iOS (including DT3) do not have shortcuts available on macOS Shortcuts.

Will there be DT3 shortcuts in the non-beta Monterey release coming on 10/25?

DEVONthink 3 doesn’t include support for Shortcuts, a future release might change this.

Why not? You have been so strong in supporting so many other forms of automation.

That said it seems many 3rd party apps also are not supporting macOS shortcuts. Is that just because it is new and they have not yet added the feature, or is there some technical issue which makes it a lot harder to support Shortcuts on macOS than on iOS?

Or is your thought that since you can run both Applescript and JXA from within Shortcuts, effectively DT3 does work with Shortcuts right now?

On iOS it’s the only option, on the Mac there are already many powerful options (smart rules, AppleScript, JXA, Automator, shell scripts etc.).

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There is a huge benefit to Shortcuts on the Mac however - for Apps which have both macOS and iOS versions, Shortcuts sync between iOS and macOS Monterey and this makes for an extremely nice integration of the two platforms.

Drafts for example has already implemented this and it really adds usefulness to both platforms.

This would be a killer feature to integrate DTTG with DT3.

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After fiddling around a bit with shortcuts on i*OS, I’m underwhelmed.

First off, the app is buggy as hell (crashes, impossible to position the actions where I want them).

Second, the actions provded by Apple are … let’s be diplomatic and say limited. Try a search in the map app (Apple’s, that is), e.g. for gas stations, and order the result by distance from your current location. BTW, even the “search in a radius of x kilometers” does not work).

Third, the documentation is virtually non-existent. It goes along the lines “if you’re OK with that, press OK”. Seriously? Apples does not provide any useful examples (at least I didn’t see any). And by “useful” I mean something beyond “play my favorite song” or “tell my s.o. when I’ll be home.”

Fourth, Apple’s support for its own apps is seriously lacking. Try doing anything with Pages except opening a document - zilch, nada, niente.

Fifth, AppleScript and JavaScript integration work only on macOS. Which makes writing portable shortcuts more difficult.

Since you mentioned Drafts: That one is programmable in JavaScript. You can do pretty much whatever you want with it on macOS and i*OS. It is certainly nice of them to add shortcuts, but I wouldn’t call it a “killer feature”.

Given the current situation of shortcuts (BTW, two of the four guys who invented that have left Apple by now – does that ring a bell?) I can understand if a company is reluctant to support it: The cost/benefit relation is quite unclear.

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Don’t forget that not everyone wants to learn scripting :slight_smile:

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I don’t :wink: Actually, I am using shortcuts and its predecessor since they appeared. Also, I tried using Automator which works along the same lines. And there were/are similar products on other platforms, that had some success (notably for BI applications). These are programs that are actually used in production, and they are supported by the companies building them, they come with documentation.

But: In order for shortcuts to be useful, it needs to be usable. It needs documentation. it needs to be stable. It needs serious examples. It does certainly not need all this terrible marketing blurb of Apple. As it stands, shortcuts is just another example for their botched approach to automation. Apple just does not take it seriously. They know that some people want automation, so they fake doing something. Its a bit like with Pages and Numbers: They know that people want spreadsheets and word processors. So they build something that works kind of. And lacks basic functions like automation (I mean something that “normal people’” can use, like VBA, not this confusing scripting stuff in Text Suite).

Same with shortcuts (apart from the fact that it does not even kind of work). It’s a showcase for a technology that might be good. If Apple were interested in it and would spend money on it and would employ people to make it usable.

I tried it out with a very simple task (in my opinion, at least): Find the gas stations around you, present them to the user sorted by distance, have the user select the one they want and give them the route to it. That requires 46 actions (including, BTW, a detour in JavaScript for the sorting step!). Seriously?

Perhaps I’m too stupid to get it, but if Apple Maps were scriptable (which it isn’t, because Apple doesn’t give a damn about automation), you could write that in about 20 lines of code. Regardless of the programming language.

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I would have agreed last year. But I must suspect they are turning it around if they now have added Shortcuts to macOS.

Yes I get the benefits of Applescript and JXA - indeed I continue my quest to master Javascript, for both automation and other projects. But as @pete31 says - not everyone wants to learn scripting. And there are also simple very simple integrations between apps which can be very useful and I could create in 5 minutes purely in Shortcuts but would take me a couple hours to do in Applescript or Javascript.

That said, it is nice that Shortcuts supports Applescript and JXA so there are ways to integrate DT3 with Shortcuts for now.

I pretty much agree with you on this: underwhelming and definitely buggy.

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Given Apple’s track record with something as important as PDFKit, I’d be inclined to suspect they’re going in the wrong direction and/or calling it “good enough”. Shortcuts on iOS is still cumbersome and near impossible to debug, and they supposedly “improved” it.

(And yes, I still love Apple but under Cook has often not gone in the best direction unless you’re a shareholder.)

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Another issue is that supporting another automation option on the Mac just means less time for each option. And having one powerful option is probably better than having multiple mediocre ones with the same limitations.

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After using Siri + Shortcuts on my iPhone for a year, I’m quite unimpressed with the macOS port of the Shortcuts app. And I can understand why the DEVONthink team is not very keen on adding a new data endpoint for it (yet).

However, I found a workaround: Using Shortcuts on macOS I’ve inserted the action “Run AppleScript” (or my preferred option “JavaScript for Mac automation”) to access my DEVONthink DB.

Maybe that’s an option for you as well

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Using Shortcuts on macOS I’ve inserted the action “Run AppleScript” (or my preferred option “JavaScript for Mac automation”) to access my DEVONthink DB.

That is our suggestion as well. :slight_smile:

Thank you @philippstr and @BLUEFROG

Could one of you give an example of how to pass parameters/data from Shortcuts to Applescript/JXA and vice versa using this technique? Or a link to somewhere that explains how to do it?

Run AppleScript/JavaScript is Mac-only. Which goes against the whole idea of having a unified automation framework.

In the case of JavaScript, I’d go with a JSON string. That should be a dictionary in shortcuts.

Unfortunately, this is also the major problem I have with the Shortcuts app - even though it’s available on macOS, it still has many device dependencies:

A few shortcut actions are only available on iOS, while others are only available on macOS.
Any action that interacts with an app will only work on devices that also have that app, e.g. health-data is only available on the iPhone, not on Mac.
Further, DEVONthink (macOS) and DEVONthink to go (iOS) are two different apps - even if both had the same shortcuts API, they would be incompatible because they are technically different Apps.

The only thing that works across all your devices (more or less reliable), are automations that only use Apple apps and system actions, like sending a text message, creating a reminder, reading your calendar entries, etc.

Drafts works fine with Shortcuts on both iOS and macOS

So does AnyBufffer

So does Paste

There are probably more such examples

DT3 and DTTG share X-Devonthink links which are already recognized on both apps - so it would be possible to create Shortcuts automation that works on both apps at least for basic functions.

Yeah, that’s true, but “Drafts” (and other compatible apps) provide a unified app on macOS and iOS, i.e., you install the app via Apples App Store on all devices. Every device will know “I need to use ‘Drafts’ for that shortcut action”.

However:

  • DEVONthink is not available in the Mac App Store.
  • DEVONthink To Go is a different app that’s only available on the iOS App Store.

Those are entirely different apps with different features/APIs and two different “application-signatures”:

Even if DT3 had a Shortcut integration, you could not use the DT3 shortcut on your iPhone.
Your iPhone would tell you, “Please install DEVONthink 3”. Your iPhone/Mac has no way of understanding that DT3 and DTTG are interchangeable apps.