Tag: workflow wednesday

Send To Things 3 – Drafts 5 Action

I have been using Things 3 for a little while now as my main Task Manager, and I think this is sticking for me. I love being able to plan my days with their default sections, and the power it has in both organization and automation is something I cherish every time I use it.

One thing that I missed when I switched over the Things from Omnifocus 3 is the availability of project templates for Omnifocus. I had a ton of Taskpaper templates for common projects I would create. Things like podcast episodes, blog posts, and other regular projects were easy to create in Omnifocus with the tap of a button.

Things 3 didn’t have anything like that until they updated to version 3.4 allowing for x-callback-url schemes. This feature has been around for a bit now but I never got around to using it as a means to solve my problems with project templates. That is, until I came across the Drafts 5 action Send to Things.

What it is

Send to Things by user @eichtyler is something that solved my problems with project templates in Cultured Code’s task manager. It made my life easy to just write out my lists and then make it the way I wanted.

The way it works is by using a custom syntax to differentiate items in your list from to-do items to deadlines, headings, etc. so when you are finally ready to send it over to Things 3 it is formatted the way you want.

One tool I loved in addition to this actions was the Send to Things Syntax action by Tim Nahumck. This allows you to tap on the action to prompt a pop-up showing you all the syntax built into the Send to Things action. It came in handy a number of times for me as I was getting acclimated to writing out my projects correctly. Here’s what Nahumck’s action shows when you open it:

Here is the syntax for Send to Things:

# New Project
@ Existing Project
> Note
#tag
## Heading
:when date/time
!deadline
Todo
- checklist item

There are a number of items in here that I’d like to go over with this to help you to understand the power of what you can do with this action.

How it Works

Learning new syntax can be difficult and time consuming, but a large amount of these items are using Markdown syntax in a way where the script in this Drafts Action will parse out things based on the characters before it.

One impressive thing about this action is that depending on whether you want it in a project or just a list of items to your inbox you can differentiate that by whether or not you use a Project heading.

I have broken it down into these two scenarios to help understand the differences.

New Project

When you are wanting to either make a template or realize when making a list of actions to send to things that it is better off as a project all you need to do is make a Project header. This is just like a Heading in Markdown with a single “#” character followed by a space. Anything after that space is what the project name will be called. In this case I copied the template from the Drafts Action Directory so the project is called “Project 1.”

You may notice in the image that there is also a “Project 2” heading, which is exactly what you may think. If you use a new heading you are able to make another project and all the items below it will then be put in the second project as It is under the second heading.

If you want to add a note to the project that is a simple quote syntax in markdown with a “>” character followed by a space. As you can see in the template if you make a new line with the syntax that new line carries over to the notes in the Project.

When you want to use either a start date or a deadline the syntax on these aren’t just simple symbols. These are arguably the most deviant from traditional Markdown syntax, making it a little more difficult to understand.

If you want to use a start date, meaning that until this date your project will be in the Upcoming area, you use the syntax “:when” followed by a space. From there you can use natural language input such as “tomorrow” in this template, making it much easier to differentiate when these items are taking place over the date picker. You can also use things like “next Monday” as well when writing your dates.

The same goes for the deadline, only the syntax necessary to make that work is “!deadline” followed by a space. Just input what ever date you want after that and the deadline will carry over when you send it to Things 3.

Finally, if you want to add a task item you just need to make a new line and enter in the name of the task. There are no special characters or syntax necessary for task items. Which is the smart move as you can add syntax in later if you so choose, but the main point of this action is to quickly lay out the items you want to send to Things, and if you needed a special character or something to mark it as a task item your efficiency would drop dramatically. In this template you can see the task items named “Todo 1” “Todo 2” and so on.

Now that you have your projects all set and ready to go you can now send it to Things via the Drafts action. This is what you get when you use the default template on the Drafts Action for sending as a new project.

Items into Inbox

If you aren’t looking to make a new project, and instead just want to send something to Things Inbox to organize later it is even easier.

As you can see the syntax used is the same, the only addition is comments for to-do items. As you can see in the template, they are solely for organizing your thoughts when writing them and will be ignored when you send it to Things. It is a great way to put everything in your mind on to the screen and figure it out once your head is emptied and you have everything laid out. It is also great if you plan to keep this note as a template for future items.

You will also see the absence of Project headings, which brings a good point that you can actually combine these two templates and have the items above the first project heading go to the Inbox and the rest go to their respective Projects. Once you have everything in there that you want sent to Things you are ready to run the action. This is what you will see with the default template on the Drafts Action for inbox items.

Problems with it

One thing that I can not seem to get to work properly is the use of tags. I have tried existing tags and new tags in these templates but none of them seem to follow into Things. I am not sure if this is me doing something wrong or something that needs to change in the script. Either way, if you have a fix for this let me know either via email or on Twitter.

All in all this action has made things like projects, templates, and all around task management much easier for me. I love Things 3 and their addition to a Desktop-Class Productivity for iPad in version 3.6 has made inputting tasks easier than ever, but something about being able to input my task whilst writing in Drafts makes things really gel. I no longer have to switch modes, and instead just need to use this syntax in a new note and with a simple swipe and tap I can send it to Things 3 and continue with the work I was doing previous.

There is something to be said about not having to open a task management app every time you want to add something to it. It allows for you to stay focused on the task at hand and avoid being distracted with anything that may pop out at you in your task list.

This action allows for that and makes adding the important meta-data you want a cinch. Try this out today, and if you want something to help you remember the syntax get Nahumck’s supplementary action as well. Additionally you can read his review of Drafts 5 on MacStories as well if you aren’t sure what Drafts 5 is and what to learn more.

Give these actions a shot and see if this can solve any of your problems with task management in Things 3, I know It did for me. As always, if you have questions or problems feel free to contact me via email or mention me on Twitter.

Twitter Splitter

Twitter can be a great place for expressing yourself, but sometimes that 280 character limit is just not enough. When that happens, you can create what Twitter calls “threads.” In short, it is a way to string several tweets together and have them be connected for your followers to read.

Making them can be a bit difficult while you also process what it is you want to say, which is where the Twitter Splitter action comes in. Rosemary Orchard created this and added it to the Drafts 5 Action Directory. What it does is simple, but powerful for those tweets that need a little more room to breathe.

What it Does

The action is described very simply in the Drafts 5 Action Directory as:

[It] Splits the text into blocks of at most 275 characters (depending on the position of the space), which allows for indexing. You can optionally add indexing (1/5), or not depending on your preferences. The text is split with “===”.

From this, you now have your long block of text split into tweet-sized bites that you can then copy and paste into your Twitter app of choice.

How to Use it

The first step in this is to write up what you have to tweet about, which you can do easily with Drafts 5. Once that is done you are left with a blocked out piece of text and you are set get started on making it a tweet thread.

Before Splitter

When you are done with your text, it is time for Drafts and Twitter Splitter to do its thing. Slide over on the screen to show your action list and press the Twitter Splitter action.

Press Action

From there you will be asked to decide if you want an index or not. The Index in this action adds a number at the end of the tweet indicating what number tweet this is. For instance if you tweet out something that takes 3 tweets to publish its entirety the final tweet will have “3/“ at the end of the tweet.

Select Index

Once you make your selection you then will see your writing blocked out tweet by tweet separated with “===“

After Splitting (with Index)

Now all that is left is to add the tweets to your favorite Twitter app and you are all set!

 Thread Created in Official Twitter App

So now that you know how to create a thread with Drafts 5, you should be able to start tweeting away in no time! If you think there is a better way to make this work or want to share your version of this workflow let me know on Twitter.

Further Reading:

David’s Hyper Scheduling Workflow →

David Sparks has been experimenting with Hyper-Scheduling for quite some time now, it started on his podcast Free Agents and trickled into the new podcast he has with Rose Orchard called Automators. It’s no surprise he has now made it into a Workflow.

If you aren’t sure what Hyper-Scheduling is, it’s blocking out time in a calendar as a means to plan out your day. Instead of making a task list and working around that, you instead block out time for the important projects on that list and stick to a plan. The difference is that the when is in tandem with the what.

How it Works

David created a very nice video tutorial on how the Workflow is made, explaining all the different things you can put in each event, and so on.

You can download the Workflow here if you don’t want to make one yourself.

I am going to start giving Hyper-Scheduling a shot as I think it may help me keep on task more often and make things a little more structured. This Workflow is a good jumping off point for me, and I think it may be for you too if you have been wanting to try out Hyper-Scheduling yourself.

If you have any tweaks or changes you would make in this Workflow let me know on Twitter.

Link Post Workflow

With Tablet Habit now going daily, I have found myself wanting to post more link posts. Doing this on my Mac is easy with MarsEdit 4, but it isn’t as easy with iOS, until I created a workflow that is a hybrid between Evan Kline of 40Tech and Christopher Lawley at The Untitled Site.

What it Does

For those who aren’t familiar with link posts, it is a very handy way to post articles from elsewhere and add your own input after quoting a selection of the article. You can find an example of one I used recently to get an idea of what I am talking about.

How it Works

So with Workflow, you can use the Share Sheet as a means to run a Workflow and take things like a URL from Safari, your clipboard, and selected text into the workflow to use within it. All three of these examples are used with the Workflow I have created after taking a look at what both Evan and Christopher have done.

LinkPostWorkflow1

First, you need to find the post you want to link in Safari on your iPhone or iPad. From there you select the text you want to use in the post as a quote. With that text selected, open up the share sheet and run the Link Post Workflow.

Workflow Link Post Prompt

As the Workflow Opens up there will be two questions that it will ask you. The first question being what the publication is. In this case it is 40tech. After that it will ask for the author’s name, which is Evan Kline.

Once both the publication and the author is determined the workflow will then take the URL of the website you shared and the selected text you highlighted to make it into a Markdown ready post.

LinkPostWorkflow result

Once all of the text formatting is done a new Ulysses sheet will be made with the entire link post formatted and linked properly. All that is left now is to write your own response to the link post!

You can download the workflow here and make any changes you need to it. Happy posting!

See More Actions Without Tapping

Matthew Cassinelli:

If you’re like me, you may have been on iOS for years before you learned that when you select text and want to navigate the copy & paste menu, you don’t have to tap the arrows to navigate – you can just swipe to the next page.

Normally I’d select text, try to accurately hit the tiny little next arrow, and usually missed and paste something instead of closing the menu. But when I was at WWDC, I saw someone go to share a bit of text and he… just…swiped on the list of actions

 

After you select some text, have you ever tried to tap on that tiny little arrow on your phone to go to more options? I bet you’ve missed pressing it on more than one occasion. But thanks to Matthew Cassinelli your days of fumbling through the tiny text options are over

I have been on iOS for years and have never known about this little trick. It is almost as good as the precise cursor selection that iOS implemented not too long ago. It is like having the weights on your feet taken off before a run. Give it a try if you get a chance. One thing Matt recommends is to use it in Drafts and Workflow.

For anyone who uses the Workflow action extension often and likes to run workflows on text using the text selection share menu, this is extremely handy. And for Drafts users, this also provides quicker access to the Dictate and Arrange actions available in that second page of the copy & paste menu.

So if you haven’t already, give this neat trick a shot and let me know what you think on Twitter.

Cool Things You Can Do On Drafts 5

This week’s Workflow Wednesday is kind of an audible, but Drafts 5 was released today and I wanted to share some of the cool things you can do with it.
There are a slew of great reviews of this out there (like MacStories by nahumck, and Christopher Lawley’s video). So I am going to let those fantastic people share their reviews and thoughts on what the app has to offer while I show you some really cool things Drafts in their Drafts 5 directory.

Send List to Things

I recently hopped on the Things 3 bandwagon, and so far I am loving it. However, I am not a huge fan of not having native multiple task input support. Meaning I want to be able to add a ton of tasks without having to input them one by one. This is where Drafts comes in.

With this handy action you can make a list and each new line is seen as a new task. So if I have a ton of things on my mind I want out and captured in Things 3 I can do so with just a single swipe and tap!

Run Workflow

I have spent a ton of time in Workflow, and I love the things I have built. Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, Drafts has a handy action built in that you can simply have it run a previously built workflow. All you need to do is edit the action and put in the name of the Workflow. Make sure it is exactly the same, otherwise it will error out, this is one of those times where it is case-sensitive.

One workflow I have is to post Markdown text I’ve written as a WordPress article. So with a quick tap Drafts takes the work I have written and takes it to Workflow to send to my blog. Super handy for the quick linked-posts I do from time to time.

Micro.blog

I have spent more and more time on the up-and-coming IndieWeb social media service Micro.blog. It has become a safe-haven for me to turn to when I wanted to leave Facebook and spend less time on Twitter. I find the community great and it has functions to send out my posts in Micro.blog to Twitter so I can kill two birds with one stone.

Drafts makes it even easier for me. Now, I don’t even need to open the app to send out a quick post. I can just type it out and then send it through the action and the rest is taken care of. This is why I love Drafts, I can quickly send out a post, a tweet, or a message to someone, and then keep right on trucking with my work.

Event in Fantastical

I love Fantastical and their amazing natural language input they have, it makes adding calendar events fun again. But what is even easier is typing it out in Drafts and sending it to Fantastical 2 to sort out for me.

All I do is write something like “Coffee with Jim next Thursday at 9am /p” and it sends it to Fantastical with the name “Coffee with Jim” scheduled for next Thursday at 9am in my Personal calendar. Boom, event added. The “/p” portion is part of Fantastical syntax that takes the “/“ icon and a letter or two written out

Save to File as

Drafts 5 has cloud syncing and auto-saving feature with this app, but sometimes I want to keep a backup of the long posts I write in it, and plain text is my preferred method.

So, I have an action that takes the text I wrote in Drafts, it then prompts me to enter the file name I want. It defaults to a .txt but you can change the filetype to .md or .rtf if you so choose. For me .txt is fine so I leave it. From there it opens up the Files document picker and allows you to save it to any folder in iCloud, or other 3rd party cloud services you have turned on in the Files App, and save it. Now you have a backup of all your hard work!

Conclusion

Drafts 5 is an app I have tried out for testing purposes, but it has easily become one of my absolute favorite apps on iOS. It allows me to get things out of my head and send them out when I want to. I no longer spend my mental RAM trying to figure out what I want to do first, the n what to say.

Drafts makes the process a complete 180 from what it was. Instead of trying to find the app to use, then working on what I want to say, I now can work on getting my ideas and writing out of my head first then send it wherever it needs to. I just tap the app in my dock and dump what’s on my mind out of my head and it’s saved for later organization.

For me, this is how things should be when you have ideas and creativity: a frictionless workspace.

If you want to get Drafts 5, you can download it on the App Store. It is free, but if you want all the features you’ll have to go Pro. It is either $19.99 a year or 1.99 a month. For me, I am paying the $1.99 a month because it allows me to pay Greg more money then $19.99 a year. That is how much I love this app.

Post to WordPress on iOS – Workflow Wednesday

If you blog on iOS, sometimes you want to send a quick post to your WordPress site as soon as possible. The WordPress app on iOS has come a long way in recent years, but when you are just sending a quick post dealing with the app can be cumbersome. This is where my workflow comes in.

What it is

This workflow is quite simple on the surface. However, thanks to Workflow’s integration with WordPress, you can handle even the most advanced options on every post you share. Things like the slug, post format, tags, excerpt, etc. are all options with this workflow.

What it Does

The Workflow starts by asking you the title of the post, which is then saved for later use as a variable.

After that it asks if you have a featured image for the post. This is an option of yes or no. If you say yes, it then opens up the Photos app to select the photo you wish to be the featured image.

Finally comes the fun part. Posting a blog post on WordPress can be fairly easy, but this workflow also allows you to handle the minutia if you so choose.

Once you connect your WordPress site to Workflow you’re ready to start blogging your heart out!

Tweaks You Can Make

I have set this workflow to only ask for the categories and tags, but you can edit this workflow to ask you for more information if you want to have more control in each post you make. Simple go to the section you want to integrate with your workflow and tap the “Ask When Run” option. This will now ask you for an input every time you run the workflow.

I have also made this workflow with Rich Text in mind, if you prefer to write in Markdown you can add an action to convert rich text to Markdown if you would like. Everything I write is in Markdown, but I wanted to leave the option to you.

Also, if you prefer to select images in your iCloud or Dropbox folder instead of Photos, simple replace that action with a “Get File” action within Workflow.

You can download the workflow here. If you have any questions feel free to leave a comment below, or contact me.

Get App Icon – Workflow Wednesday

This is a new weekly segment I am doing called Workflow Wednesday. Every Wednesday I will be sharing workflows I have either made myself or found elsewhere that is worth sharing with you. If you haven’t tried out Workflow yet I highly suggest downloading it (it’s free).

What The Workflow Is

This week is how to get the app icons from an App Store URL. Meaning that you can share a link from the App Store and then run a workflow that will get the image of the app icon, and mask it to look like a home screen version of it. This is great if you are writing a blog post or want to use an app icon of something to share in a document or website.

How it Works

The masking part of this is a new addition to the latest Workflow update and it’s probably my favorite thing about Workflow image manipulation as of right now. It makes things very easy to conform image to match the style of app icons. You can also use the mask for other things like a rounded rectangle, an ellipse, or even your own custom image. I have not tested the custom image just yet but according to MacStories it can be done with some trial and error.

in my early tests with this feature, I had fun using random images from my photo library as masks and understanding how Workflow treated their brightness as a custom alpha mask. According to the app’s documentation, darker colors in the alpha mask become transparent and lighter colors remain opaque; the mask is also resized to match the dimensions of the source image if necessary.

How to Use It

Once you download the workflow it is simple to run it and save the image for later use.

Simply open the App Store and find the app you want to save the icon for and tap “Share App.”

From there tap the “Run Workflow” option in the share sheet. If you don’t see it you may need to check and see if you have it enabled. To do that scroll all the way to the right on the bottom section and tap “More” and make sure the Run Workflow option it switched on.

Finally, select the App Icon Workflow you just installed. For you it may be more towards the bottom depending how many workflows you have that are action extensions.

This workflow came in handy for me when I was working on getting the images for a new ebook I am working on. I took the apps I wanted to cover in this ebook and ran this workflow to make the app icons and then save them in a folder on my iCloud for later use in Pages.

All in all this may be a simple workflow but it has been getting a lot of mileage from me and I think if you ever want to grab an app icon this will do the job for you.

You can download the workflow here if you would like it.

If you have any requests for workflows for me to build feel free to contact me and let me know!

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