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Exclusive: Shortcuts automation interview with Matthew Cassinelli

On a special episode of the AppleInsider Podcast, we interview Matthew Cassinelli, who worked on Siri Shortcuts after his Workflow app was acquired by Apple, and is now an independent creator teaching others how to create and use Shortcuts across Apple devices.

Matthew Cassinelli has a passion for automation on iPhone, iPad, and Mac. Early on he joined the popular Workflow app team which brought multi-step automations to the iPhone. Workflow was then acquired by Apple and he stayed on the team as it became Shortcuts.

After leaving Apple, Matthew became an independent creator specializing in teaching others how to create and use Shortcuts to automate their tasks, home, and more. With over 800 Shortcuts in his personal library, he shares some of his favorite automations and how users can get started.

We discuss building Shortcuts on iPad and the new version of iPadOS announced at WWDC. New actions and a redesign of the Shortcuts app makes it more intuitive and approachable for new users. Then we look forward to Shortcuts on macOS Monterey and what Matthew hopes to see in future updates.

If you have questions or comments on the show, tweet at @stephenrobles or email us here. Find us in your favorite podcast player by searching for “AppleInsider” and support the show by leaving a 5-Star rating and comment in Apple Podcasts.

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Shortcuts with Matthew Cassinelli – interview transcript

Stephen Robles: Hello and welcome to the AppleInsider Podcast. This is your host, Stephen Robles. And for this very special interview episode, I have a special guest with me, Matthew Cassinelli, you might see him as the Shortcuts guy on Twitter, and he’s also on various podcasts. He’s on the Twitter network as well, but Matthew Cassinelli, thanks so much for joining us.

Matthew Cassinelli: Thank you much for having me. It’s a pleasure to be here.

Stephen Robles: Yeah, man. And so first of all, you were actually on the original workflow app team and I was an early adopter. I love the workflow app. It felt like you guys were, had to have been breaking some rules to get that thing, to do what it did. I, I don’t know.

I mean, it stayed in the app store and it was a, you know, incredible enough that Apple actually bought it. But talk to me, how did you end up on the workflow team?

Matthew Cassinelli: Sure. I joined up a while after it had had started, so I feel like one of the luckiest people in and just how that all went down, because it wasn’t, I had no idea that we’d get acquired like nine months after I joined the team.

Um, but I first heard about Workflow through websites, like Mac Stories, and probably, I’m not sure if that’s how you heard of it too, but especially when Workflow ended up having the widget issue with Apple I feel like you’re sort of referencing where they did actually literally get kicked out of the store.

Ironically, there’s a video of that moment where the team was screen recording, how many followers they were getting on Twitter and you can literally see me follow them in the video. It’s actually pretty wild. It was like, we didn’t find that out until after we got acquired. And it was like, just looking back and they were like, what, “You can see Matthew’s name in here.”

I worked at another company and was basically looking for a new role and I was super into building workflows and I really liked it. Learned through the process of reading all of these articles, but I could tell it’s,I mean, even today, it’s still hard to learn.

Um, but at the time I wanted to join and help them build sort of documentation and social media presence to market the app. And then also the gallery of Shortcuts was what they were working on mostly at the time. So I built a lot of those that are actually still in there today, which is pretty exciting.

Yeah. Basically we were like putting together a lot of documentation and trying to explain how the app works and Apple essentially scooped up the company. And so at the time we like pushed out magic variables, like right before we got released. And so that was even something that I wish I had gotten more time to share and explain fully to people.

But yeah, since then, I mean, afterwards, I ended up, I didn’t really want to work at Apple. Ironically, even as somebody who’s always been super into Apple because I wanted to go join a startup, a small team, and like have a lot of impact without ton of overhead, I’d say. And then going into Apple is like layers of management and then like, I dunno, just the whole giant corporation thing. Wasn’t exactly what I wanted. And even at the time too, I do live in Berkeley. And so I’m like just out of the range where I could relocate to work at Apple. And so I pretty much would have to drive, I think almost two hours everyday. Or like they have the whole bus system, but it’s a commute.

I found out, this was right when the Switch came out, and I got the Switch and it made me car sick in the bus. And so I couldn’t, I couldn’t do anything on the bus. It was actually, yeah, not great. So that was kind of a bummer. But I ended up basically covering what was that workflow support for the time and basically eventually it transitioned into Apple Support, which I think is I have no idea how many people will call into Apple Support, but you can get help with your Shortcuts from them.

Stephen Robles: Really? Wow. Wow.

Matthew Cassinelli: Pretty sure if you’re at the level where you’re like building them and sharing them online, maybe they won’t be able to help as much, but there is technically a support there, which is funny.

Stephen Robles: Wow. That’s interesting. Now seeing kind of where Shortcuts has gone. Since that acquisition, do you ever feel like maybe you would have stayed at Apple or wish you would have?

Matthew Cassinelli: That’s an interesting question. Not necessarily. I mean, speaking, at least it’s post-pandemic here in California, just literally today they opened up stuff.

So maybe in the last year and a half, it would have been nice to be inside a larger company and not out on my own doing my own thing. Because that was, I’ll say not something that I expected and is sort of something you need to plan for it if you’re going to go solo, but I’m not sure. I think there’s definitely some parts where I would like to see more sort of in the gallery, because that was literally what I did.

I’m not sure I can’t speak to anything internal at Apple, but not just even from not even knowing any more at this point, it seems like one of those things where like, I would have been the person to do that at the company and then I don’t work there. So it hasn’t happened as much or something like that.

But even regardless, the stuff that they’ve built since then is absolutely amazing. And I do think it might’ve been hard to know about all that stuff and not be able to use it because I think that was sort of part of my decision not to work there was, I like to use this stuff a lot, but making it is a whole different story, especially if it’s in like a semi broken state or something like that.

And I’m really passionate about teaching people how to use it and taking advantage of the technology, not as much the set up part, which is, I don’t know, there’s probably downsides of not being there. And to some degree, I wish I could have made it better alongside the team. And the team also is amazing.

And if you’ve watched the developer sessions there, they’re just like delightful people. They have all these inside jokes about like soups and stuff like that. That’s hilarious. That’s probably my biggest regret is just not being able to work with some of the most intelligent people that I was blown away at, just hearing conversations, when we’d go get coffee, about how much they could just such iOS people. And even Iaka was mentioning on Twitter, how they had to become Mac people to develop Shortcuts for Mac. And so I am very fascinated. What that’s like for them?

Stephen Robles: Let me get the Shortcuts on Mac for sure.

So now you’re independent, you’re on your own, doing the teaching Shortcuts, sharing Shortcuts. You have a membership program where you kind of have more advanced Shortcuts. So very cool. I’m curious, what is so interesting or what makes you passionate about automation with things like Shortcuts that you would circle your whole thing around it? This is what you do, you know, it’s Shortcuts.

Matthew Cassinelli: For me, I was the non-engineer on the team. And so the rest of the team were developers and I could see what they are capable of. And I wasn’t capable of doing that. And also, I just don’t want to learn to code, but I want to program stuff. And so I think Shortcuts really hits that niche really well.

And it even so much to the point that while I was working there, they would explain to me that some of what I was doing basically was development, but just through the scripting interface instead. And so when you’re repeating with each that’s a four loop in programming, or I honestly still barely know because I’ve learned through Shortcuts purely.

I did some SQL early on. So that was sort of how I think I got into the linear programming where you have to like do one thing and then the next step, that’s not always super intuitive for me. It really allows the regular person to get into computers further than I think in the last, I mean, even since sort of the iPhone came out, it kind of, I don’t want to say dumbed it down.

But it didn’t let you peek under the hood as much and Shortcuts definitely lets you do that. And so I have gone under the hood and through every single part of the car and gone way too far. And it’s, I need some more like power user features over here, but still there’s tons of stuff. I have like too much material to even, I wish I was better at making videos because I can make sure it gets all day long, but turning it into a succinct YouTube video can be a challenge sometimes, but that’s why I do streams in the membership and all that.

Stephen Robles: Right. And that’s the thing too, is it can be intimidating as soon as you show someone a shortcut over five steps. You know, people will get a little averse, you know, this other law. There’s no way I could ever do that. What’s interesting with the MacOS version is I think there’s some thought that as people build Shortcuts on the Mac, it’ll actually take them even farther down the road of full-on programming and learning all those things.

So that’s an interesting point. So with those small Shortcuts, you know, if you were talking to someone who has not used the Shortcuts app, and you wanted to show them the power of Shortcuts for something that would apply to them that they might use even on a daily basis, what’s your like first step or which short could you show a person to get them excited about it?

Matthew Cassinelli: This was one of the. Perennial questions that is always so tough because it works with everything and it depends on who you are. I think the easiest thing that I like to do is say, show me your home screen, because then I can just pick almost guaranteed, one of those apps will have some Shortcuts support.

There’s really cool ways to use it or to interact with your other Apple devices. So like, if you do have a HomePod or an Apple TV or an Apple watch, you can do things like quickly cast your videos to the Apple TV, or even like open a specific app using that or you can have like your speakers set all throughout the house.

My market stuff is really good too. It is always, I think that’s. It’s a very interesting thing that I almost struggle every time because I have 900 examples but to give you the top five is like, that’s 1% of what it does. I personally, I manage my whole membership program by making these fancy web requests through an API to air tables, databases, and stuff like that.

So I go full on programming and making stuff that is essentially its own app environment. But then I have also one that just opens my Safari reading list because that’s hard to get to in the app. So there’s a whole blend of those kinds of things. One that I really like is it updates all of those weekly playlists that you get from Apple Music and adds them to a master playlist.

This is actually an automation that runs now. So, like I have a history of all of my favorites mixed for the last six months instead of just 10 songs from the last week. So that one’s, that one’s pretty fun.

Stephen Robles: That’s pretty sweet. One of my favorite ones is anyone who drives, which is usually most people I do the quick, there’s a quick shortcut of putting your home address.

Put in the step of find travel time from current location, and then auto-populate a text to your partner or significant other with your travel time home. And so I run that all the time. I commute a lot. And so I hit this shortcut and it says be home in 20 minutes and it texts to my wife and just that short automation, a lot of times is enough magic to show people what it can do. Just the ability to find your location, automated a text, send it to someone and something you would do often. And you can do it from anywhere. Whether you’re just picking up food from a restaurant or you’re coming home from work, you could just text the spouse, “I’m going to be home in however many minutes,” and it’s always useful and you can run it everywhere, your watch your phone, you know, so it was pretty cool.

Matthew Cassinelli: Yeah, totally. That’s a great one.

Stephen Robles: I will say there was one shortcut that I actually posted on TikTok, which have you ever experimented with TikTok or sharing stuff on there?

Matthew Cassinelli: I have, I’ve done two videos and I’m pretty sure I deleted the first one because I was embarrassed about it.

Stephen Robles: Okay. Okay. So on, TikTok, I posted a shortcut.

I was able to get it in the 60 seconds, but it was pulling from Unsplash. Which is a royalty free stock image website, and they have an API link and it can, every time you, if you use the right URL, every time you hit it, it’ll give you a different image and you can do a search query like for ocean and water or whatever.

And basically the shortcut pulled from Unsplash an image from whatever topic search they wanted. And instead it as their wallpaper, because one of the recent additions to Shortcuts is it can set your wallpaper. And if you turn the toggle off for the ask permission to do it, it’ll just change your wallpaper immediately.

And then I showed them that you can do it as the accessibility, like back tap and people freaked out, you know, that they can change their wallpaper every time they tap the back of their phone. And I think it went up to like 750,000 views and it was just wild that people were so interested in. So, you know, it’s funny.

I think it’s, especially, I think David Smith, I’m just called David Smith when he did the widget Smith. He didn’t realize just how much customization is a popular topic for people, whether it’s wallpaper or whatever. So I dunno. What has your, have you had any experiences like that just with aesthetic customizations?

Matthew Cassinelli: That’s what I was going to say is that one, um, I mean, all of the Shortcuts, home screen stuff was amazing to see. I, it was such a shame that it was just like slightly not as good as it could be. And then they fixed it a couple of weeks later. But with TikTok it was like, that was old news by that point.

And just like, if you did set it up, it really was a pain in the butt. I’ve done so much with home screens. It’s not okay. Um, I need to do simpler ones like that though, where it is just one shortcut, because I think that’s, what’s like teaching Shortcuts versus using Shortcuts is a whole, those are two totally different ballparks.

And so I think using it like the wallpaper ones are awesome. I have mine set to change five times a day. Like when I wake up, it’s like a slightly different color. And then goes throughout the day. Um, so that’s a, that’s a fancy one. The new focus contexts in iOS 15 and all across your devices are awesome because they can actually change your home screens also, which is something that I think is going to be amazing.

And those can be set up with shortcut automations to be set whenever you want. Um, they even actually have location triggers that do work automatically, which is otherwise not possible in Shortcuts. So you can have a I get to work. And then it’s my work home screens. And for me, with my work Shortcuts set up there on those home screens as well.

So, and it can just run whatever you need to get to switch into work mode. The shortcut is, uh, or the focus mode is, and automation trigger itself in addition to being automated when it turns on. So it’s yeah, it’s ridiculous. I have like 15 iPhone and iPad home screens set up, which is they only allow 16. And I’ve learned the hard way that if you go over the limit with widgets, it will just like blow up back to the front page.

And you can now rearrange pages, but you couldn’t before. Oh my God. I wasted so much time. Uh, it was like, I mean, I got to the point where it would just happen. I would just be like, all right. And just do it. Cause I’m just like, I have to, I have no choice. I can’t, if I get upset about it, I’m just way worse off then it’s just like, just deal with it, like part of the job, I guess.

Stephen Robles: Like you’re saying you put a lot of widgets on your home screens with Shortcuts. How do you find you most often run your Shortcuts, Siri, widgets, you know, do you use any on the watch? What do you think?

Matthew Cassinelli: That’s definitely almost one of the biggest challenges is I can think of and create more Shortcuts than I could realistically take advantage of most of the time.

But I think that’s why the focus stuff is I can tell is already going to make a big difference. Something about it is broken on my phone right now. So I can’t do the home screen changes, but on my iPad, it’s actually really sweet to be able to, I basically change to that specific context where I’ve, I’ve spent so much time just in Shortcuts itself, creating those categories too.

So like I have, when I’m working on my newsletter, I have all these Shortcuts set up for like every stage of the process and now when I go into newsletter mode, it’ll just show that. And the big thing is having widget stacks, because then you can just have one, like on my phone, it’s just the four Shortcuts that you can put 10 stacks on there.

So you can really have like 40 Shortcuts on one home screen, if you want which I end up doing, definitely. It’s been a balance. Before, every step was a shortcut and I had literally 1500 Shortcuts. Then I pretty much reverted completely to the opposite side and made one newsletter shortcut that had 15 options.

But then that also was just kind of like giant menus. It didn’t feel right either. So recently I’ve sort of settled into more of a balance where there are Shortcuts with menus, but each of them there’s still usually like four or so in a folder just because that’s what actually fits there. So I’ve done all this, all this mental work of how to even use Shortcuts.

I’ve been trying to like foster a community, more people who actually do talk about Shortcuts because in many ways we’re all doing the same stuff on our own. And especially now that it’s on the Mac, it’s worth discussing as basically a programming language, what are the best ways to approach this kind of stuff?

Because it’s how people are going to automate things on all about bolts devices in the future.

Stephen Robles: Right, right. So since you’ve been kind of all in, on Shortcuts for a while, you kind of have to be iPhone and iPad. Like that’s your probably main working devices, but overall, do you prefer working on the iPad as like your main deal?

Are you still more of a Mac guy? Do you try to balance it? What’s your split there?

Matthew Cassinelli: Yeah, I’d say I’ve gone pretty heavy into the iPad. And I’d say it’s the one that I enjoy the most and that I feel super comfortable on. Almost every app or service that I use generally has to either work through an API or have an iPad app in order to basically fit into my workflows in almost every way I’ve been iPad only, except for the fact that I make YouTube videos and live stream and do podcasts from a Mac. I’ve always, I’ve used a Mac the last five years, almost every day, but I also don’t. I can tell right now that it’s like weird for me to sit down and, and go to my Mac first, as opposed to my iPad, because I just feel so much more comfortable.

And because I think because of that customization, I’m going to do it on the Mac using some of the new stuff, but not in the same way where it is literally built into like switching home screens and widgets stuff, which I’ve grown really used to. Before I went to iPad, I was deep in the Mac. Like I came to the Apple world because of Mac power users.

So that’s definitely all been native, but it was hard for me to get into deep automation stuff there, partially, because to be honest, a lot of it isn’t super approachable. Either you are learning to program or there’s some like esoteric apps that are super amazing, but it is like just having Shortcuts taking up so much mental space is like to do that also is just kind of a split focus where in some ways it was kind of like, “Are Shortcuts going to come to the Mac eventually?” kind of that paid off, at least. Yeah.

Stephen Robles: It had to the same thing. Like I was never into Apple Script, you know, I didn’t really use those a lot and Automator, man. I would try to use that every once in a while, but even just to try to batch convert some PDFs to images or something, it just never felt user-friendly. It never felt like it worked how my brain worked at least. So I was, yeah, I never got into that. I was just hoping that Shortcuts come to the Mac and thankfully it has now.

Now did you get the M1 iPad Pro? Did you upgrade recently?

Matthew Cassinelli: I did, but I returned it only because I intentionally, it’s not as, like I could have absolutely made a clickbait video about it, but I bought the one that didn’t have cellular because I wanted to see what it was like. And I did not like it at all.

And partially because I didn’t realize how bad my internet was in certain spots in the house, because it had always just kicked over to cellular. And I never noticed I, so I knew that I was probably return that one because I also like wanting to use it and I do, I do think I’m going to upgrade. I kind of wanted to see what was going to happen at WWDC.

And it’s definitely, especially on YouTube, it’s like people were expecting Final Cut and Xcode and then we like, didn’t get it. And so it’s oh, it’s a terrible device. I have so many thoughts about the iPad that it sometimes the like current conversation about it. I’m like you guys have just totally missed everything else about it and why it’s great.

I don’t want to talk about other people because all I know is how I’ve used it and what I enjoy, but I totally, I also like really want Final Cut on the iPad because it would be amazing to edit the stuff and just be able to move back to the Mac if I have to and have that kind of cross platform workflow, and otherwise in pretty much every other way, I already do that kind of work. Like I said, I only use apps that do work on iPad and Mac most of the time. And so maybe that’s part of why I don’t make as many videos is because I’m on my iPad and it’s not as easy as it could be.

Stephen Robles: So I’m, I’m totally with you. I got the M1 iPad pro because editing podcasts, at least audio wise, is good on that with Ferrite. I would love to see a Final Cut on it and the conversation has been so split, you know, I feel like after the Keynote, there’s a group of people that are like, oh yeah, multitasking is great now. And I feel like I’m in bizarro world. Cause I’m like, it’s basically the same, it’s just, they have controls now for what we’re only gestures before. So, and then, so there’s that whole, that whole camp. And then there’s the other camp where it’s like, “Nothing changed. The iPad’s a failure.” And I was going to say, I get both sides, but actually don’t get the side that says multitasking is good now because it’s really the same.

For me, even, even if the functionality where maximum two apps at a time. Fine. You know, if that’s all we’re ever going to get is one thing, but there’s still the small pieces. Like I still use this as an example, cause it seems the most notorious, but to use an audio interface, like a USB microphone, just a USB plugged right into the iPad, let me use Skype and another app to record it at the same time and let that audio input be in both apps. And you still can’t do it with iPad OS15. And so even if they didn’t change, like the mechanism for multitasking, like split view and slide over, those other little things like inputs and things like that, it seems like just a big oversight.

So I don’t know. Does it doesn’t feel like bizarro world to you? I mean, it’s basically the same, right? Multitasking?

Matthew Cassinelli: I mean, I know what you mean specifically about the multitasking, picking up stuff from the home screen part is, is greatly improved. I agree that you can still do the same kind of gesture things. That was actually my most successful video by far was explaining the iPad gestures partially because I had a really good thumbnail where it was just like simple, but it was, I think, at least at the time, one of the most comprehensive ones that did explain some of those to even just like switching in between apps, doing the iPhone type gesture.

So many people just never think to do. And like also that you had to pick up an app and then like use your second finger to go to the home screen, pick up that one and then drop them in. So it’s like, you can totally do it. They didn’t overhaul it in terms of window management on iPad as philosophically, but in terms of UI controls, I think it makes a lot more sense.

I think even after making that video. Like Federico posted some sort of video where he moved a thing from split view into full screen by moving it to the top. And I was like, oh my God, I did not know you could do that. And like, that was a really nice one. So that, that was a good example of like, even I thought I knew everything about it.

And then there was like, not a couple of the one thing. Um, I haven’t actually tried it, but if you put a split view thing on the left side, which is not the normal side, and then you move the track pad to the right, you can like push it across the entire screen. That was like the one gesture that I figured out later that I was like, I need to make a follow up video.

Um, yeah, maybe I can send it to you or put it on Twitter or something. I do think it’s weird that you’re staring at the three dots all the time now, but some of the low hanging fruit stuff, I’m surprised. I think specifically the podcasting thing, I noticed it specifically in all the podcasts that I listened to used to complain about it more and they kind of stopped.

And I wonder if Apple knows that that’s something that people care about that much, even though. There’s a very interesting thing, quote unquote, everybody that I know knows that this needs some sort of feature, but then like, have we ever said that clearly? And like, in a way that’s just a request, not like this is absurd that it hasn’t been done or something like that.

Stephen Robles: I’ll make the official request now. Apple, if you are listening, allow us to use audio inputs in multiple apps at the same time. That’s all.

Matthew Cassinelli: I will say, you gotta file feedback too, because literally like their TA, like, I think that was what was very nice about working for a really intense app and all of these engineers and then also, basically I didn’t work at Apple most of the time. I didn’t like see in the engineering team, what they were doing all the time, but it was very helpful just to understand what it takes to make this stuff and how thoughtful the people at Apple are. Seeing them discuss one problem, one specific angle of one service.

I was like, wow, you really have thought through like every single angle and narrowed it down to those best ones or even just the priority system of like, yeah, that’s what I want to do. But it’s, it’s, uh, it was a P3 and now is a P2 in the next year, it’ll be like, that was some of the reasons I didn’t want to work there was some of this stuff would take three years to get done and maybe. Need a little bit more patience, but that’s one of the parts that’s nice about being free to, I can make a shortcut and share it with somebody immediately. I wouldn’t have to wait until every summer just to share new stuff.

Stephen Robles: Yeah, for sure.

Matthew Cassinelli: I think WWDC this year did sort of like help me re-contextualize what the iPad is. I think I’m going to need to sit with it more the summer, but I think I was kind of expecting in the same way that many people were, the iPad to kind of become a MacBook replacement in so far as like you could, like, you already probably can use it when you would need a laptop, as opposed to a desktop, if that’s clear, like I use a desktop and I don’t have a laptop at all, and I pretty much don’t need one because I have an iPad pro I think just having an iPad pro and no sort of other computer, probably most people can’t do that right now. And I think that also fits very neatly into like a content creator niche.

We would all love that. And that would really help, especially for travel or things like that. But 90% of other people don’t ever do anything like that. And so it does probably serve most of those needs really well. And then the last bit is I think something that maybe doesn’t go, or it goes unsaid a lot is almost everybody that I know that uses the iPad Pro full-time or, or whatever that means, uses Shortcuts. And know almost nobody that I see, talk about iPad, uses Shortcuts.

And so if you. You’re like, yeah, you’re right. I can’t really get some of my work done and I’m like, I can get worked on that I could never do before because of this automation tool. And so in many ways, that’s why Shortcuts for Mac is going to be really cool even for the iPad itself. Because now you can do quote unquote real work with, or where you choose to do your real work happens on the Mac, now you can automate with Shortcuts there.

You can also bring it to the iPad, which is probably going to be a better experience for a lot of just touching. And the same way that you do podcasts touching the content. I hate the terminology. It does sound a little weird, but

Stephen Robles: No, no, I get it.

Matthew Cassinelli: Just physically controlling your stuff is like editing a podcast or editing a video, it feels so awesome on the iPad and the same with Shortcuts. And it’s going to be really cool to see people adopt Shortcuts from America.

Stephen Robles: Absolutely.

Matthew Cassinelli: I’m like out of breath cause I’m so excited.

Stephen Robles: Excited about Shortcuts, then tell me, what are your top three or five? Well, how about this? How many Shortcuts do you have in your Shortcuts library? I’d be curious for you to actually look at the total.

Matthew Cassinelli: I have 855 right now. It’s almost easy. I have like a hundred folders. And so those are really areas where I do things with Shortcuts.

I have 10 folders for YouTube videos, for everything from prompting me to like listen to my script out loud so that I can hear the tone and the pacing of those things from grabbing my YouTube RSS feed and opening into like the comments section. So I can have a specific video and things like that.

Stephen Robles: That’s nice, is that on your public gallery on matthewcassinelli.com?

Matthew Cassinelli: Not yet, although, but he should go to matthewcassinelli.com/sirishortcuts. Shortcuts catalog is what I call the overall thing. The Shortcuts library is where I have, I don’t remember how many it’s up to now, but they’re all some of the simpler versions so I’m actually going to be adding a lot more soon again, it’ll, it’ll be nice in the hundreds realm, cause I’m just, I don’t know. I have so many, it’s kind of wild, but

Stephen Robles: I have 131. So not, not near you.

Matthew Cassinelli: That’s I think that’s what it says. Like nobody should. I’m a Shortcuts creator, and this is my job to make this stuff and to think of everything so you don’t have to. The theory is I want you to look at a hundred of them and grab 10 that made sense for you, but you can also maybe go see ones that you don’t necessarily need, but see how they’re built and stuff like that. It’s just like, what’s the Jurassic Park thing, “Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.”

So I don’t know. That’s not, that’s terrible.

Stephen Robles: Oh goodness, just, they didn’t wait long enough to find we’re butchering this. I’m sorry every Jurassic Park fan.

Matthew Cassinelli: That’s why I was just fully paraphrasing because I knew I was not going to get it right.

Stephen Robles: But yes, that’s a good, yes. Good quote.

Matthew Cassinelli: That’s pretty much what I’m doing.

Stephen Robles: So of those 800 something. Can you name maybe three to five that are kind of like your favorite? Maybe it’s, you’re most proud of having figured out how it worked and getting it to work or just one that you use all the time?

Matthew Cassinelli: Ones that I really like for HomePod are I have just one that’s called chain speaker, and it sets so that I can just pick from any of the HomePods that I have and, or Bluetooth or Apple TV things, and switch to that.

And AirPods and then back, cause that can kind of be a pain in the butt too. That also includes some that are set. This is, this a specific method is in order to group HomePods, you have to play music through the control home action, which is through HomeKit essentially. And it only lets you play a specific radio station or album or something like that.

But I have just played downstairs and it groups all my HomePods together really quickly, which is otherwise not possible currently. So I, I just find that really useful. And honestly, another feature requests for Apple. I don’t know why that’s not possible otherwise. Just directly in real time. That seems like the perfect use case for Shortcuts is it’s that always changes and so you want to be able to set it just depending on your context.

Stephen Robles: Do you also regret the death of HomePod as I do?

Matthew Cassinelli: HomePod menu’s still around. And so at least that got more people to have them that could run Shortcuts in my world. I also think nobody ever talked about that you could run Shortcuts from HomePod, like at all.

Stephen Robles: That’s true.

Matthew Cassinelli: That is always blew my mind that it’s like Shortcuts was just never, ever considered as part of Siri, even though it’s been that for the last three years, I will say it also kind of can suck sometimes. So like say that and then have get Apple to improve it as opposed to just like, it never was even mentioned, which I think is it has actually, I feel like is one of the reasons HomePod didn’t seem as good as because people never talked about this one feature of it that actually I could listen to my articles out loud on the HomePod, which is what I do.

But also I only ever listened at like 15%, because if I turn it louder, it’ll like rumble through my floor. So it’s, it’s definitely like overpowered, even though it’s awesome in those needs. At the time I wanted a HomePod mini and I had to pay $300 for this thing. So I get why it didn’t sell well.

Stephen Robles: I will say, back in the early Shortcuts days, there was an option in every shortcut where you could name the shortcut, you do the icon and color, and then you actually would program the Siri command that you would speak separately. And you’d be able to kind of hard code that into the Shortcuts. So, you know, when you say this, that’s what it does.

And there was some update. I don’t know if it was, iOS 13 or 14, but yeah, they changed it to where, whatever you title the short is the spoken command. And I feel like that was never made clear. Totally. And at least for me, there was a couple of weeks where I was like, how am I supposed to trigger these Shortcuts? I can’t program what to say.

And I don’t know. I forget where I saw it, maybe it was, I don’t know if you ever tweeted it or whatever, but you just say the name of the shortcut, but that, I don’t know. I guess I preferred where back when you can hard code kind of what you could say, but I feel like that that would have made a gap for some people where they wouldn’t, you know, at least seeing that option when you edit it a shortcut signal to you, that you program something to say, and now it’s kind of really not anywhere.

Matthew Cassinelli: Totally. They did address that in iOS 15. So I’m trying to look it now says underneath the name. I’m not going to say it, but blank Siri comma, the name of the shortcut right underneath where you type in the name. So there is something that they’ve really emphasized is the fact that is a trigger phrase for it. So that was something I totally agree that I have, again, I want to comment from personally nothing against the Shortcuts team, but that does feel like one of those things that I would have really cared about and like wanted to make sure when you’re transferring that people like understood what was happening.

And so I think that I would say that’s, that’s the kind of thing that I wish I had been there to like really pay attention to, as that was always my goal was just the person. I don’t care about the technology as much as the people who understand it. And so I think that’s going to be much better in this version is all of the names are clearly the trigger phrase for the thing.

I think if you add a shortcut from an app and don’t give it a name. You can actually give it a separate trigger phrase, but I think that’s like a weird edge case from the developer thing.

Stephen Robles: Cause I’m looking now because I have the beta on my iPad. So I have iPadOS 15 here and in the Shortcuts app, there is a kind of like a new settings icon.

And in the setup side, you can actually do import questions. And I do like that. I feel like that’s much clearer.

Matthew Cassinelli: Yeah, those were always there. It was just under a scroll. So you would never see it. There’s so many leg UI things the same with actually comments now will expand to show how much texts you have in there.

If I happen to like type something that was one line break below, you just wouldn’t ever know that there was words down there never see it.

Stephen Robles: You would never see it, right.

Matthew Cassinelli: I did notice the name field. You have to know that you can tap on it in order to change it. But yeah, it says there. Yeah, I noticed that it’s like a little tiny affordance that’s emphasizing the fact that you speak the name of it. One nice thing too, that I actually only just realized today the Mac app is, and I, I guess I assume this is for iOS too, with the share sheets. So there’s a whole redesigned share input section where you can basically have it speak back responses if you want, or also change a whole ask for input methodology.

So at the beginning of every single shortcut, I would say if there’s not an input, if this isn’t run from the share sheet, essentially, then instead, let me select a photo or something like that. And I would do that in every single shortcut. And you pretty much have to know to do that. You’d have to know essentially scripting at that point in order to just make a shortcut work in multiple places.

And so one of the changes now is if it’s not set up to automatically run something, it can just prompt you to ask for a photo or text at the right moment. And so some of the, um, just usability things are going to be a lot better this year. Like suggesting new actions for you at each step that otherwise you’d just have to kind of know, or intuit.

It can just like, be like, oh, you should, if you have a list of things, maybe you should choose from the list and narrow it down to just the one you want. Yeah, that stuff was going to be a lot better.

Stephen Robles: So you had your HomePod shortcut that you really like, what’s one other that you just either use it every day or you just, you couldn’t live without it or really do your work without it?

Matthew Cassinelli: That last part is the perfect angle for one that’s my log caffeine shortcut, because it helps me do my work. I could mention the other one I like, I do a whole meta thing where I scrape Shortcuts itself and the, and the API that they have are Shortcuts to post all of mine to my website. And I’ll share that later, but my log caffeine one, I have a whole set for different types of coffee, cup sizes, or espresso, or like soda or something like that.

And then it logs the caffeine and then calculates. I’m pretty sure I need a better essentially algorithm for it, but, um, it just like calculates how much I’ve had so far during the day, so that I can tell if I’m over-caffeinated or not, and keep track of it over time too.

Stephen Robles: There’s no such thing as over-caffeinated, Matthew don’t fall don’t believe the lie.

Matthew Cassinelli: All the time. Honestly, I drink Blue Bottle, which is from the Bay Area and it is so strong that if I have two cups, I will literally have to lay down because I’m so caffeinated.

Stephen Robles: On our, on our HomeKit Insider podcast me and Andrew, we started talking about the uKeg where you can brew your own cold brew at home with nitro. That stuff’s amazing. I hit that up pretty often, but anyway, yeah, I don’t need a lot of caffeine short can I just know I have a lot. That’s that’s cool.

Matthew Cassinelli: I was like a log water, one. That’s like a brother to it or whatever that it’s like, what’s half of your body, which is also needs a better algorithm, but I that’s.

I need to use that one more. Cause I do not drink enough water and I have too much coffee.

Stephen Robles: Yes. And the coffee is the opposite of water as far as hydration. So I do it. Yeah. I knew that. So with the macOS Shortcuts and that’s very exciting. What are some other functions or integrations that you hope Apple will add in the future, both for our Shortcuts on iOS and on the Mac?

Matthew Cassinelli: I think they need to add Shortcuts for every single app that they offer. And they also need to send the session that they just created about making good Shortcuts to those other teams. Because I do think that’s another interesting thing is like Apple is very cross-functional and so there’s a context team and a calendar team or whatever.

There’s not a person on those teams. I mean, maybe there is, but like dedicated to Shortcuts or like the Shortcuts team doesn’t go make it for them. And I think an interesting thing, even just with Shortcuts itself is like they had to fully develop the APIs that the developer is going to use in addition to their own internal developers, to be able to utilize that stuff.

They obviously had early access, but at least it just working well, needs to be functional. And so I think like Numbers and Keynote. They have very basic, like you can add to certain rows and the Numbers team has actually added, has been, I think one of the only teams that’s improved the Shortcuts that existed in Workflow.

So like, I think that’s why I am a little surprised that it’s been almost three years now. I think over 50% or 75% of the actions, artists from Workflow were from the public APIs that the team could build, which they did an amazing job of taking advantage of literally every single thing that was possible.

But I do think that Apple needs to lead by example, as much as they’re providing documentation for developers to do it, I need to see really good pages options in order for other document apps, to have examples to learn from themselves too. And just for pure functionality. Adding Numbers support means that every, like an everyday person could automate their spreadsheets and run their whole business, using a couple of Shortcuts.

And instead I do have to go to the web for a lot of stuff that doesn’t have shortcut support yet that I think I really hope that session, I think it’s like designing great actions for Shortcuts. They very clearly are like, you need to get data, you need to have a thing that’s just the file itself. You need to be able to post it.

So they like lay out the types of Shortcuts that developers should make. And I’m even thinking about like, actually meeting with developers themselves and talking with them about their Shortcuts ahead of time, just because I want to help people regular people. I want to take advantage of it myself and I want their users to be able to use it all because it’s like at this point all we’re waiting on is for apps or Apple to add more actions.

And then the second, I mean, we got like 40 new actions this year and I just added 50 new Shortcuts because of that. So like the sky’s the limit, as soon as any app integrates with this, and now we can get Mac apps, it’s going to be really cool. I’m excited.

Stephen Robles: Yeah. Well, very cool. Well, Matthew, thanks so much for joining us.

Where should people go? We’ll put links to matthewcassinelli.com of course. And your Twitter. You’re a great follow there. Anything else you’d like to point people to?

Matthew Cassinelli: I have a YouTube channel. It’s youtube.com/matthewcassinelli. I’m trying to get more consistent with uploads, but I also run my membership program through my website.

It’s matthewcassinelli.com/membership. And so through that, I basically do regular live streams where I’m building new API Shortcuts. I just did a bunch for Notion, or I also have a Shortcuts user group that I am now, I’ll say it here now, as I’m moving it from Slack to Discord, which we were on Discord originally, but now we’re going back because that will make it a lot easier to actually just interact casually.

I moved here right before the pandemic. And so Discord, wasn’t really stable then. And now it’s like the community thing is the thing. Yes. But I, I want to, I want to stream with people through that and just inside the group and just kind of interact with people more and talk. And then I’m probably going to add a forum on top to have like web searchable answers for specific questions and stuff like that.

But yeah, it’s tons of fun. There’s so many people doing shortcut stuff, it’s huge on Reddit. And so I’m trying to just like talk with all y’all more because I want to help. You should come on and we should build some short guys together. I’m totally. Yeah. I just want to help people build it because I think you got to see it to understand it really and see someone who’s just like, like throwing them together. Cause then once you see that it’s possible and that you can get further. I think it’s like, oh, now I can really take advantage, like Shortcuts for Mac. I think also is like, okay, now it’s time to take it seriously. Maybe you just didn’t care about the iPad before and your phone, you don’t do it for work, but there’s a lot of awesome stuff and you’ll be able to use it personally, too.

Stephen Robles: So. Very cool. We’ll put links to all of that. Your YouTube channel and website is in show notes. Listeners, check out Matthew Cassinelli. Matthew, thanks again for joining.

Matthew Cassinelli: Yes, thank you for having me. It was a pleasure.

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