What’s new in Shortcuts on macOS?

Apple introduced Shortcuts for Macs running macOS Monterey at WWDC this year. The new desktop OS is expected to ship in fall.

Apple, WWDC, Mac, iOS, App, Shortcuts, Monterey

Apple introduced Shortcuts for Macs running macOS Monterey at WWDC 2021. The newest Mac operating system isn’t available yet, but here’s what you need to know about Shortcuts and how it may help you get things done once Monterey arrives.

How can I run a Shortcut on my Mac?

Apple has built in Shortcuts (as opposed to keyboard shortcuts) across the system. When you use your Mac, you’ll be able to run Shortcuts using the Menu bar icon, Spotlight, from within the Finder, through Siri, and using contextual menus. You can drag regularly used Shortcuts to your Dock to run them from there.

In an application of contextual machine learning, your Mac will make what it believes are relevant Shortcuts available in the lower right of the Finder menu when you select a file, document, or image. Finally, if you have a Mac with a TouchBar you’ll see icons for recommended Shortcuts appear there.

What kind of things can Shortcuts do?

During the WWDC keynote and in various reports since, we’ve learned a few ways in which Shortcuts can be applied:

  • You can create a Shortcut that will share selected files of images to a group thread in Messages.
  • Use Shortcuts to manage work windows — so when you have too many open applications you can ask Siri to sort it out for you.
  • Shortcuts are invaluable for batch editing images.
  • If you use smart lighting you may want to create a lighting setup for video conferencing calls, which can then be invoked with a Shortcut.
  • Create a Shortcut to open two frequently used apps alongside each other in Split Screen.
  • You can even create Shortcuts to share digital business cards.

Where can I create Shortcuts on a Mac?

The new Shortcuts app on your Mac provides you with a gallery of prebuilt shortcuts and an editor that lets you create your own. Pre-built shortcuts include such tasks as adding batches of reminders or turning text into audio, but you may need more specific automations.

The editor lets you create your own, stringing actions together from a menu of options. So, you can receive photos from a gallery you are exploring in Photos and turn them into GIFs or automatically crop and share those images, for example.

If you use an M1 Mac, shortcuts created on your iPhone and/or iPad will run on your Mac.

One more thing, the Shortcuts creation user interface looks much, much easier to navigate on the Mac, boosted by a much smarter Shortcuts editor; it suggests what might be relevant "Next Action Suggestions."

Do Shortcuts work across devices?

Where it makes sense, Shortcuts will work across your devices. You can create them on your Mac and send them for use on your iPhone, iPad or Apple Watch.

Can I share Shortcuts?

There’s lots of people making and sharing Shortcuts already online, and Apple has made it a little easier to do so. When Monterey ships this fall, it will be possible to share your Shortcuts by sharing a link. This will make it easy to share automations created for your enterprise with everyone.

You can also share Shortcuts privately, without iCloud.

What new actions are available with Shortcuts?

Apple has introduced an extensive number of new automation types and actions that will be made available with the new operating systems. These include sound recognition, the capacity to extract text from an image or PDF, run various scripts (including JavaScript, AppleScript and Shell script on Mac), or split PDFs, start screen savers and more.

What about Automator?

I’m a big fan of Automator, but it appears likely Apple intends to deprecate that feature over the years. For now, the Automator app is still available, and it is possible to convert your existing Automator workflows into Siri Shortcuts using a migration tool from Apple.

Essentially, the new automations Apple has introduced mean you can automate all kinds of routine tasks on your Mac, iPhone, or iPad and also that all the most popular Automator tasks are now also available in Shortcut

What about AppleScript?

You can build AppleScripts into shortcuts, allowing you to run some powerful automations.

What about developers?

Developers can take actions offered within their apps and make them available as Shortcuts. Apple has made extensive information regarding Shortcuts on Mac and improvements to the service across all its platforms available using the Developer app or through its developer website.

When will this be available?

You’ll be able to use Shortcuts on your Mac when Monterey ships. If you participate in Apple’s Public Beta Software Program, you may be able to trial these features before the final release, once that beta is made available. Developers will already be working with early versions of the OS.

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Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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