Friday, April 2, 2021

The Mac Needs Shortcuts

Jason Snell:

The problem is that today, everything about user automation on Apple’s platforms is fractured. On the Mac, the technologies feel old-fashioned, adrift, and increasingly unsupported. On iOS, Shortcuts has some weaknesses and an every-app-for-itself mindset prevails. And between the two platforms there’s no connectivity at all.


As much as I like the impetus behind Automator—automation for the masses!—it died on the vine. Apps didn’t support it well, and Apple failed to provide a robust enough library of actions to make it work well on its own. If I ever thought Automator was okay, one glance at Shortcuts (or its predecessor, Workflow) would disabuse me of the notion. Still, I end up using Automator regularly because it allows me to integrate AppleScript and unix/shell scripting directly into the Finder.


It’s clear to me now: Apple needs to make Shortcuts available everywhere.


That’s a lot to ask, but since I’m on a roll, I’ll once again suggest that Apple needs to more explicitly support scripting languages on both platforms.


3 Comments RSS · Twitter

One question: Do enough people use Shortcuts on iOS for Apple to be enticed to port it to the Mac?

I'd personally like to see them double down on AppleScript. They could build a Shortcuts type GUI on top of it and many legacy Mac Apps would support it on day 1. They could even write a Swift or JavaScript transpiler into MacOS so people could write their scripts in a more popular language.

I despise Shortcuts so much. It is the poster child for all the ways iOS falls short after 14 years — impossibly cumbersome interface, weaker in capability than even Automator (never mind Keyboard Maestro, AppleScript and beyond), yet it gets bouquets because it purports to be a power user’s app on an operating system that’s hailed as the future but still a fraction as capable as a Mac was when the original iPhone debuted. Mac apps should be infecting iOS and making it better, not the other way around.

@billyok Fully agreed about the shortcuts interface. It's a dizzying mishmash of slide up panels with action sheets with inconsistent paradigms for search and contextual recommendations, served with a side of UI bugs and useless error state information.

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