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Category: iPad (page 1 of 12)

iOS Meeting Templates Shortcut

When I meet with new clients, I typically take typewritten notes in the Drafts app on my iPad, using a template/checklist of topics I’ve created. In the past, I generated this checklist in Drafts via TextExpander, but I now trigger the template via a shortcut in iPadOS’s native Shortcuts app. I run the shortcut just before the meeting, and it automatically pulls the title of the meeting from my calendar, and puts that title at the start of a new note in Drafts. The shortcut inserts the date below the title, followed by my checklist/template.

I’m actually using three shortcuts to accomplish this, but they automatically run as one.1

Shortcut #1 – The “Launch” Shortcut

This first shortcut is the shortcut I run to start the whole process. It prompts me for the type of case my meeting will cover. Right now, I’ve only set up two case types, but I will be adding more in the future. The shortcut looks like this:
New Client shortcut screenshot

When run, this shortcut has a popup with two case types (“MVA” or “Misc”). I tap one, and my answer will determine which of two embedded shortcuts will run next as Shortcut #2 – either the “New MVA” shortcut or the “New Misc” shortcut (see below for these). Each of those two shortcuts creates a different template in Drafts.

Shortcut #2 – The Template Creation Shortcut

As mentioned, Shortcut #1 will run one of two “template creation” shortcuts, depending on the type of case I pick in the popup. So, for example, if I choose the “Misc” option when running Shortcut #1, it runs the following shortcut to fill out my template in a new Drafts note: 2
New Misc shortcut screenshot

This shortcut does three things:

  • The first step of the shortcut (i.e., the first block of the shortcut, above) runs Shortcut #3, spelled out below, to get the title of my next calendar event.
  • The second step of the shortcut contains the text I want to appear as my template in a new Drafts note. The first line of this step pulls the name of the calendar event from the block above it. The second line calculates the current date and time. The third line contains the text/template I want in my Drafts note. I haven’t expanded the second step in the screenshot, since this will be different for everyone.
  • The third step (i.e., block) of the shortcut creates the note in Drafts, containing all of the text from the preceding step.

Shortcut #3 – Get the Title of My Next Calendar Event

The final piece of the puzzle, as mentioned above, is triggered in the first step of Shortcut #2. That first step runs a shortcut (“Get title of next calendar event”) that pulls the title of my next calendar event from my work calendar. It looks like this:

Shortcut to get title of next calendar event

The End Product

The end product lets me tap the “New Client” shortcut (Shortcut #1, above) to start the process. I’m then prompted for the type of case. Depending on my selection, a Drafts note is created containing one of two templates. That note automatically contains the appointment title at the top, followed by the current date and time, followed by the template. This all happens within a second or two.

Downloads

Here are links to download all three shortcuts:

New Client shortcut (shortcut #1)

New Misc shortcut (shortcut #2)

Get Title of Next Calendar Event shortcut (shortcut #3)


  1. I’m using three shortcuts, instead of combining them into a single shortcut, so I can reuse/embed the shortcuts in other shortcuts. This is done within a shortcut by using the “Run Shortcut” action.

  2. The “New MVA” shortcut is identical, except for the text in the second step.


iPad Limitations With Reactive Work →

Riccardo Mori, at morrick.me:

The point that some iPad die‐hard fans seem to miss is that it’s not a matter of people not wanting to adapt to an iOS‐based workflow; it’s not a matter of people lacking mental agility to ditch their computers and switch to iPads for work. It’s that their work imposes different solutions, in the form of dedicated software, company‐issued computers, multitasking requirements (e.g. ability to monitor more than three applications simultaneously on a bigger screen), etc.

Although the “why I can or can’t use the iPad as my only computer” topic has been covered ad nauseam, and although Riccardo’s post focused on the portability and lightness aspect as a draw for iOS, the above quote is what struck me.

While I love the change of pace of working on my iPad when I can, it simply isn’t possibly when things are flying fast and furious at the office. And that has nothing to do with me not being familiar enough with iOS or iOS automation to bend the iPad to my will so I can react quickly. Instead, it has everything to do with the design decisions of the iPad concerning windowing and multi-tasking, as well as the limits of automation on iOS1.

I can’t instantly jump between apps on the iPad as quickly as I can on the Mac, or keep more than a couple windows on screen at once (three, if you count slide over). iOS automation isn’t to where it is on macOS yet, either. For example, with Keyboard Maestro on macOS, I can apply a brute force filter to entries in our firm’s case management system, using Keyboard Maestro’s ability to click on specified images. With the iPad, I have to do this clicking manually. The iPad method takes several seconds longer, and, for me, those seconds count.

For my type of work, the iPad is good when I know what I need to get done, and can control my work environment. When I have to be reactive, though, I need a system with windowed apps, and more advanced multi-tasking and automation (i.e., macOS).

I’m glad Ricardo framed this as “some” iPad users missing the point. I think most of the people in my online circle seem to understand that what works for them doesn’t work for everyone. I certainly understand that my way of doing things is specific to me, and that the iPad is a much better platform for some of you.

(But don’t get me started on the ergonomic and future health issues of working solely on an iPad or laptop.)


  1. This post isn’t meant as a suggestion that there’s something inherently wrong with those design decisions, or that Apple should change them – just that they hold me back in some situations.


Screenshooting on the iPad Using a Keyboard →

Dr. Drang:

As you probably remember, ⇧⌘3 on a Mac takes a screenshot of the whole screen and ⇧⌘4 turns the cursor into crosshairs so you can select a rectangular portion of the screen to capture.. On the iPad, ⇧⌘3 captures the whole screen, just like the Mac (and just like capturing with the top and volume up buttons). The ⇧⌘4 shortcut also captures the whole screen, but in a neat analogy to the Mac, it immediately puts you into editing mode so you can crop the capture down to a smaller size.

I use these keyboard shortcuts all the time on the Mac. Am I the only one who didn’t know they worked on the iPad, too, if you have a keyboard attached?


The Friction of an iPad for the Middle User →

Gabe Weatherhead at Macdrifter:

I don’t count bloggers and podcasters as normal iPad users. There’s a different kind of drive for these folks. Part of that drive is being able to write about their impressive accomplishments with an iPad. That will always take some of the sting out of losing hours trying to figure out how to upload a file to a website.

Gabe Weatherhead was writing about a post by Thomas Verschoren, who highlights some of the limitations of iOS. Weatherhead’s comment got me thinking about how iOS usually satisfies the needs of power users and basic users, but not those in the middle. Power users cook up workflows with tools like the Shortcuts app to overcome almost any hurdle, and casual users never run into those hurdles in the first place.

It’s the people in between who need to get over those hurdles, and don’t want to build a tool or workflow to do so. They just want something that works. The iPad won’t be a laptop replacement for those users until those gaps are filled.

Most users aren’t like us. They don’t want to have to build a workflow that, in their eyes, is a Rube Goldberg machine. Most of my automation workflows on the Mac are to speed up processes I can already perform without automation. Too many of my automation workflows on iOS are to perform tasks I couldn’t otherwise perform at all. 1


  1. Siri Shortcuts, not to be confused with the Shortcuts app, is the exception to this.


Using the Workflow App on My iPad to Control My Desk Phone

A simple change in scenery can do wonders for productivity. For me that sometimes means sitting in a recliner in the corner of my office, using my MacBook and my office phone headset to make and receive calls. That’s possible because my firm’s VOIP phone service, Mitel, offers a Mac app that lets me trigger outgoing calls on my office phone. As long as I have my MacBook and telephone headset with me, my actual telephone unit can be across the office.

This process doesn’t work if I want to use my iPad to initiate calls. The Mitel iOS app won’t trigger calls on another device, such as my office phone. Not to be deterred, I put together a workflow to accomplish this. It sounds much more complicated (and much slower) than it really is.

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