Hack your Mac

Macworld Staff
3 November, 2014
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Hack mac, mac, os x, macworld australiaSmart Mac users know that taking some time to figure out a faster way to do something pays off in the long run. That’s why they employ powerful tools such as AppleScript, Automator, Hazel, If This Then That, Keyboard Maestro, TextExpander and others – tools that let you automate tasks you perform frequently so that you can make them happen with single keystrokes (or other quick triggers) instead of running through all of the steps every time. We’re always looking for ways to save time, so we asked some of our colleagues and friends for their favourite timesaving tricks – the most useful, cleverest systems they’ve set up to automate everyday tasks. The quantity and quality of the replies were stunning. You’ll find our picks in the pages that follow. You might not use automation tools right now. But we’ll bet that, after seeing the kinds of problems they can solve, you’ll take the time to download these tools and set them up soon.

 

Manage files and folders

CLEAR THE DESKTOP 

TOOL: AUTOMATOR

I tend to litter my desktop with files throughout the day. To neaten things up, I created a simple Automator workflow that shuttles all of these loose files to a Desktop Moved folder that I established within my Documents folder. First I opened Automator and selected Calendar Alarm as the type of document. Then I added the following actions, in order: Get Specified Finder Items (adding my Desktop folder to its list), Get Folder Contents and Move Finder Items (specifying my Desktop Moved folder as the target). Finally, I set this alarm to go off every Sunday at 5 pm, so I can start my work week the next morning with a clean desktop.

Automator Calendar Alarm

Use this Automator Calendar Alarm to sweep files from your desktop regularly.

– Christopher Breen 

 

GET A SHARABLE PUBLIC DROPBOX LINK FOR A SELECTED FILE 

TOOL: KEYBOARD MAESTRO

When I need to share a file, I often do so by selecting it in the Finder, moving that file to my Dropbox’s Public folder and then obtaining the Dropbox link to the uploaded copy.

So I created a Keyboard Maestro macro to automate the process.

You can achieve a similar result with the Dropbox Mac app, but that procedure requires you to move the file into your Dropbox folder and then use the Dropbox menu-bar icon (or the Dropbox web interface) to obtain the link. Some other third-party utilities can collect Dropbox links as well, but I prefer the flexibility that Keyboard Maestro gives me to, say, chain multiple macros together – in just one quick step, for example, I could take a screenshot of the frontmost window and then automatically put that image in Dropbox.

The first step of my sharing-link macro selects the file by using the For Each action, specifying Path in the ‘For each’ drop-down, and adding the collection The Finder’s selection. Four actions follow that: Move (or Rename) File (opting to move the file %Variable%Path% over to the folder ~/Dropbox/Public); Filter Variable to obtain just the filename (selecting the Path variable from the ‘Filter variable’ drop- down and choosing Last Path Component for ‘with’); Set Clipboard to Text to copy the Dropbox path to the Clipboard (putting ‘Set’ to System Clipboard and ‘To’ to plain text and then entering the URL pointing to the public Dropbox folder, followed by %Variable%Path%); and, finally, Notification (with the title Dropbox link copied and the Message’ field set to the token %CurrentClipboard%).

Note that, for the third action, Set Clipboard to Text, you can obtain the base URL for your Dropbox’s Public folder by putting a file into your Public folder and then using either the Dropbox menu-bar icon or the web interface to grab a sharing link. Strip off the filename part at the end, and you can use the remainder of the URL in this macro.

Keyboard Maestro

Through Keyboard Maestro, you can move a file to Dropbox and get its sharing link.

– Matt Gemmell 

 

TAG FILES BY AGE 

TOOL: HAZEL

I use my desktop as my primary inbox. When I save a new file, it goes straight there. Then, at the end of the day, I review the desktop’s items, tagging and moving files as necessary. With Hazel, I made this task easier by colour-coding files according to how old they are. Specifically, I mark brand-new files with green tags.

When those files are two days old, I swap in an orange tag. After lingering one week on the desktop, files get a red tag. Any red items that sit for more than two weeks automatically move to an archive folder (which I revisit monthly), unless I’ve manually applied a blue ‘protect’ tag to a file.

To apply all this tagging, I created a series of Hazel rules based on the Last Modified date. The Green rule looks for files created that day and applies the green tag to them. The Orange rule looks for files tagged green that I haven’t modified within the past two days and tags those items orange. Red looks for orange- or green-tagged files unmodified in the past week and relabels them accordingly. And the Archive task looks for any file not coloured blue that has been sitting unmodified for more than two weeks.

Files by Age 1

If you tend to toss all of your files in one spot and need a way to organise them automatically, Hazel can help you apply colour coding to sort new and ageing files. 1. In such a system, you can start by applying a green label to brand new files. 2. Once two days pass without your modifying those green-tagged files, you can give the man orange label.

Files by Age 2

3. Files that spend a week sitting around receive a red label. 4. Finally, files that you haven’t touched in the past two weeks move to an archive folder – unless you’ve manually applied a blue label to protect them.

 

 

– Brett Terpstra 

 

Manage email

This IFTTT recipe saves Twitter links to articles you want to read.

EMAIL FAVOURITE TWEETS TO YOURSELF 

TOOL: IFTTT

As I scan my Twitter stream, I often see links to articles that I’d like to read but can’t delve into at the moment. Rather than saving them to Safari’s Reading List or to a service such as Readability, I prefer sending such tweets to my email inbox so that I can process their links later, when I have time. IFTTT lets me do so instantly – all I have to do is favourite a tweet.

First I activated the Email and Twitter channels in IFTTT. Then I set up the basic recipe: If Twitter, then email. In the action, I accepted the default subject line: Favorite tweet by @{{UserName}}. And for the body of the email message, I also accepted the default entry: {{TweetEmbedCode}}<br> via Twitter https://twitter.com/ {{UserName}}<br><br> {{CreatedAt}}.

Now, whenever I mark a tweet as a favourite, I receive an email message a few minutes afterward with the tweet in the body, including the link to the article I want to read. This arrangement also gives me a record of my favourite links, in case I want to revisit an article later.

– Kirk McElhearn 

 

HIDE REPLY-ALLS IN A SEPARATE MAILBOX 

TOOL: MAIL

As with every company, we here at the office deal with certain groups inside our organisation who believe that clicking Reply All is a proper response to any ‘Welcome, Bob!’ or ‘Great work, team!’ message that crosses the wire. Thankfully, such people tend to cluster within their own domain (something along the lines of ‘@wehavenoclue.com’).

So I created a simple Mail rule to handle their effusions. In the Inbox Rules section of the Rules tab in Mail’s preferences, I added a rule that looks for messages in which the From field contains their domain, and then performs the action Move Message and specifies a separate mailbox as the destination. I can then peruse that mailbox when my patience allows.

– Christopher Breen 

 

FILTER MESSAGES SENT TO A PARTICULAR ADDRESS 

iCloud

iCloud email rules apply to both iOS and OS X mailboxes.

TOOL: iCLOUD

I answer a lot of reader help emails addressed to the same account, an account that forwards the messages to my iCloud address. To keep those messages from cluttering up my iPhone, I set up a rule on iCloud. Server-side rules work on email before it reaches your various inboxes, so they apply to all of your devices.

Sign in to iCloud on the web. Click Mail, click the gear icon at the bottom left and choose Rules. Click Add a Rule. Set the first pop-up to ‘is addressed to’ and then enter an email address. (You may want to use ‘is from’, but ‘is addressed to’ is a fine choice for email from discussion lists.)

You can also indicate a specific term in the subject, to filter messages. In the Then section, choose Move to Folder and select the name of the folder on the iCloud server where you want the messages to go. Click Done to save and activate the rule.

– Kirk McElhearn 

 

FLAG EMAIL FROM SPECIFIC SENDERS 

Rules

A simple rule makes it easier to manage a batch of messages sent from specific domains.

TOOL: MAIL

I get lots of email from my colleagues and I’ve found it helpful to set those messages apart so that I can quickly spot urgent email. So I set up a rule in Mail to mark the messages and notify me when they arrive.

In Mail, I first chose File > Preferences and selected Rules. I then clicked New Rule and set If any of the following conditions are met to From contains, with the desired email domains. And on the messages that match those conditions, I set the rule to perform several actions: Move Message to mailbox Inbox; Set Color of text to Other (I chose an eye-catching purple); Stop evaluating rules (to prevent other rules from moving or altering the messages); and Send Notification.

– Kirk McElhearn 

 

REPLY TO EMAIL WITH A STANDARD GREETING 

Keyboard Maestro

With Keyboard Maestro, you can insert a tailored greeting for email replies.

TOOL: KEYBOARD MAESTRO

I reply to many email messages every day and I like to thank the sender by name for writing to me.

I created a Keyboard Maestro macro that I can trigger by typing the text string ‘hisender’. (Of course, you could use a hotkey or any other trigger that Keyboard Maestro supports.) In the ‘Will Execute the Following Actions’ section, I created a variable (sender_addr) and used the Insert Token drop-down to assign that variable to the sender of the frontmost message in Mail. I then added an action to search that variable for a regular expression: ^”?([^\s]+)(.*)$. That pattern captures the first chunk of text in the sender’s name and email address. The action saves the found text string into a new variable, sender_name.

Finally, I used the Insert Text by Pasting command to insert my greeting, with the sender’s name added: Hi %Variable%sender_name%,. That’s followed by Thanks for your message. %|%. I also place the text-insertion point after the greeting so that I can continue typing my reply.

– Matt Gemmell 

 

FORWARD EMAIL WITH SPECIAL FORMATTING

This Keyboard Maestro macro forwards a press release to a writer and customises the subject.

TOOL: KEYBOARD MAESTRO; MAIL

Dozens of times a day, I forward press releases to my colleagues; each message goes to a particular person based on the topic area. When I do so, I replace ‘Fwd:’ in the subject line with a standard prefix to make it easier for that person to filter these messages. It’s a simple but tedious task, so I created some Keyboard Maestro macros that perform all of the steps with a single keystroke.

For example, to forward an iOS- accessory press release to Joel Mathis, I made a specific macro. First, for the trigger, I chose Hot Key Trigger from the New Trigger pop-up menu and specified Cmd-Control-Option-Shift-I. Next, I created a series of actions: Press (‘type’ in Keyboard Maestro terminology) Cmd-Shift-F (Mail’s Forward Message shortcut); pause for half a second (to wait for the forwarded-message window to open); paste Joel’s email address as the text; pause for half a second (to wait for Mail’s autocomplete addressing feature to catch up); tab three times (to move the cursor to the Subject field); press the left-arrow key (to move the cursor to the beginning of the Subject field); press forward-delete three times (to remove ‘FWD’ from the beginning of the subject); paste ‘iOS accessories’ (to add that text to the beginning of the subject line); pause for half a second (to make sure Mail doesn’t fall behind); and press Cmd-Shift-D (Mail’s Send Message shortcut).

– Dan Frakes

 

EMAIL ENCRYPTED PDFS 

PDFs

Creating and mailing encrypted PDFs is a snap with an Automator workflow.

TOOL: AUTOMATOR

OS X’s support for Portable Document Format allows you to create PDFs without the help of third-party software. One of the quickest methods is to use the PDF menu in a standard Print dialogue box. And one of the handiest services in this menu is Mail PDF. Thanks to that option, you don’t have to first save a PDF on your hard drive and then attach it to an email message. However, while Mail PDF is convenient, it isn’t perfect, especially for PDFs holding sensitive data. So I turned to Automator and made a service that creates and then password-protects a PDF file before attaching it to an email.

Open Automator and select Print Plugin from the list of workflows. Drag over the Encrypt PDF Documents action. You don’t need to enter a password in the Password and Verify fields, but do check the Show this action when the workflow runs item under Options. (Alternatively, you can use a dummy password for now.) Next, drag over the New Mail Message action.

That done, save the workflow with a name such as Mail Encrypted PDF; that item will now appear as an option in the PDF menu at the bottom of the standard Print dialogue box. When you select it, you will see a prompt to enter a password for the PDF; if you entered a dummy password when you created the workflow, that dummy will be entered here by default. When the service is finished, the PDF file will embed as a secure document in a new email message.

– Topher Kessler 

 

Manage applications

OPEN WORK APPS WHEN CONNECTING TO THE OFFICE WI-FI 

TOOL: KEYBOARD MAESTRO

Some of my most productive time is in the early morning: I usually arrive at the office before everyone else and I get the most done in those hours, without interruption. Trouble is, I’m also easily distracted. When I sit down at my desk in the morning, it can be too tempting to open Twitter or some other shiny object on my Mac that will draw my attention away from the work at hand. To get focused, I use Keyboard Maestro.

Despite its name, Keyboard Maestro can do a lot more than merely trigger events in response to a keyboard shortcut. It can also respond to other triggers, such as connecting to a specific wireless network. So I created a Keyboard Maestro macro that detects when I’ve connected to the office Wi-Fi network and uses the Open a File, Folder, or Application action to launch BusyCal, Dragon Dictate, Mail and Omni-Focus. Also, through the Open a URL action, Keyboard Maestro opens Safari to a certain work-related website that I need to check every morning.

– David Sparks

 

AUTOMATICALLY HIDE APPS 

TOOL: DRAGTHING

I work with a lot of apps throughout the day and I keep them open at all times. This practice could lead to a lot of window clutter if it weren’t for DragThing. Within its General preference, I selected the Hide other applications when switching option. Now, when I click an icon in my DragThing app palette, the selected app comes to the fore and all other running apps vanish into the background.

DragThing

In DragThing, you can prevent multiple apps from becoming unwieldy.

– Christopher Breen 

 

Work with URLs

GET A URL AND TITLE IN MARKDOWN 

Keyboard Maestro3

Keyboard Maestro can copy the current webpage’s title and URL to the Clipboard in Markdown format, ready to paste.

TOOL: KEYBOARD MAESTRO

In much of my writing, I use Markdown syntax. I also frequently refer to articles on the web, which requires me to copy and paste the article’s title and its URL into the Markdown format, in this form: [Article Title](http://article-url-here).

That workflow used to mean two copy-and-paste trips from my browser to my text editor. But I now use a Keyboard Maestro macro that copies the current webpage’s title and URL and puts them on the Clipboard in the proper format.

In Keyboard Maestro, choose File > New Macro and enter a name (such as MarkdownURL). Choose Hot Key Trigger from the New Trigger pop-up menu. Press a key combination (I use Cmd-Control-U). Click New Action, and then double-click Set Clipboard to Text (found in the Clipboard category).

In the text field, enter [%SafariTitle%](%SafariURL%). (To do the same thing for Chrome, instead enter [%ChromeTitle%](%ChromeURL%).) Now switch to an open page in Safari and press the keystrokes you assigned. Switch over to your favourite text editor and paste – the result should be proper Markdown for that title and URL.

– Joe Kissell

 

QUICKLY COPY AND PASTE URLS 

TOOL: TEXT EXPANDER

When I’m writing a blog post or an email message, I typically want to refer to a URL that I just found in Chrome. I could switch to the browser, select and copy the URL, and then switch back to whatever application I’m writing in and paste it – or I could just type ‘,,curl’ in my document, which is my abbreviation for a TextExpander snippet I created. That snippet runs a simple AppleScript:

tell application “Google Chrome” to return URL of active tab of window 1

When triggered, the script grabs the URL for the active tab in Chrome and inserts it into whatever I’m writing.

For Safari, you can change the script to:

tell application “Safari” to return URL of current tab of window 1

In either case, when you’re setting up the snippet, select AppleScript from the Content drop-down at the top of the TextExpander window.

– Brett Terpstra 

 

Work with iTunes

SET TRACK NUMBERS FOR ALBUMS IN iTUNES 

Doug Adams’ iTunes script

Doug Adams’ iTunes script adds numbers to selected tracks.

TOOL: APPLESCRIPT

As a classical music reviewer, I get pre- release recordings, on CD and by download. Often these recordings aren’t tagged correctly; track numbers in particular tend to be inaccurate (or non-existent). For tracks to appear in the correct album order, their Track Number tags need to be correct. Fixing them manually is a pain, but AppleScript can help.

First, download Doug Adams’ Albumize Selection script and add it to your iTunes Scripts folder. (Adams provides installation instructions, if you need them.) Next, put the tracks you want to rearrange in a standard playlist. After making sure the leftmost column header is selected, simply drag and drop the tracks into the order you want. Now select the tracks and run the script. You can choose to set the album name, or you can set just the track numbers.

If you’re going to use this script frequently, you can set up a keyboard shortcut for it: In System Preferences, click Keyboard and then Shortcuts. Click App Shortcuts and click the Add (+) button.

Select iTunes from the Application menu, and type the exact name of the AppleScript. Set the shortcut you want to use and click OK.

– Kirk McElhearn 

 

IMPORT MUSIC FROM DROPBOX TO iTUNES 

TOOL: DROPBOX; HAZEL

A couple of bands I like have run Kickstarter projects to fund their albums, after which they’ve made songs available to backers via Dropbox. Initially, after following the download URL, I’d click ‘Save to My Dropbox’, which resulted in a bunch of MP3 files sitting at the top level of my Dropbox folder. Now, though, I use Hazel to look for such files, import them into iTunes and delete the originals from my adapt this technique for processing other media types too.)

In the Hazel pane of System Preferences, click the Add (+) button under Folders, navigate to your Dropbox folder, and click Open. With Dropbox selected on the left, click the Add (+) button under Rules. Give your rule a name (such as Add Music to iTunes). Set one condition: Kind is Music. Then add two actions: Import into iTunes (choosing whichever playlist you like) and Move to folder Trash. Click OK. From now on, shortly after new music files appear at the top level of your Dropbox folder, Hazel will add them to iTunes and delete the originals.

If you save songs to your Dropbox, this Hazel rule will add them to iTunes and delete the originals.

 

– Joe Kissell

 

Improve security

Hazel and IFTTT

Hazel and IFTTT, in combination with your iPhone, can trigger your Mac’s screensaver to start when you leave the immediate area.

LOCK YOUR MAC WHEN YOU LEAVE 

TOOL: APPLESCRIPT; DROPBOX; HAZEL; IFTTT

I have a job that’s security-sensitive, so I usually lock my Mac’s screen when I step away. Occasionally, though, I forget. As a backup, I have a screensaver, set to activate after 10 minutes, that requires a password to deactivate.

And by using my iPhone and several tools, I can trigger the screensaver to start up whenever I leave the immediate area.

You need an IFTTT account and the accompanying iPhone app. In the app, set a location-based trigger for whenever you exit an area. For the trigger’s consequence, tell IFTTT to create a text file in your Dropbox account. After you create the recipe, select it and click Edit. In the File Name field, name it as you wish; I chose lock_computer plus the default {{OccurredAt}} token, which adds the date and time.

Next I created a Hazel rule to watch the Dropbox folder in question (the default is /Dropbox/ifttt/ios location) for items matching two criteria: Name contains lock_computer and Date Created is in the last 1 hour. (The latter prevents accidental triggers when my Mac wakes from sleep.)

When Hazel finds such files, the rule moves the found file to the Trash and runs an AppleScript:

tell application “ScreenSaverEngine”
activate
end tell

With all that set up, the screensaver runs when I need it to do so.

– Katie Floyd

 

QUICKLY LOOK UP PASSWORDS 

TOOL: 1PASSWORD; LAUNCH CENTER PRO

1Password (agilebits. com) is my password manager of choice, but working with the iOS app can be time- consuming: To find a given password, I need to open the 1Password app, tap the search bar and then type out what I’m looking for. So I created a Launch Center Pro (contrast.co) action with a list of my frequently used logins. Now, when I want to look up a password for those particular services, I just tap a button in Launch Center Pro.

To create one of your own, open Launch Center Pro and tap the Edit icon at the upper right. Create a new action, tap Action Composer and (assuming that 1Password is installed on your device) tap Installed Apps and select 1Password. Launch Center Pro will display a list of supported 1Password actions; choose Search for Entry. Provide a name for the action, tap Entry, tap the first icon on the left in the extra keyboard row, and select List.

Here Launch Center Pro will allow you to create a list of login names to find in 1Password; you can give the list a name (say, Logins) and add as many logins as you want by inserting their names in the Title and Value fields of List Items (both are necessary). Set the Encode Output toggle to On. When you’re done creating the list, tap Done to save the action.

– Federico Vittici 

 

Handle other tasks

PASTE THE PREVIOUS CLIPBOARD CONTENTS 

TOOL: KEYBOARD MAESTRO

I often paste something and then immediately realise I wanted the previous contents of my Clipboard. To make a quick keyboard shortcut that will paste whatever was in the Clipboard just before the current thing, I set up a Keyboard Maestro macro.

Choose File > New Macro and enter a name (such as Paste Previous Clipboard). Choose Hot Key Trigger from the New Trigger pop-up menu. Press a key combination (I use Cmd-Control-V). Click New Action, and then double-click Set Clipboard to Past Clipboard (under the Clipboard category). Leave the Past Clipboard number set to 1. Next, double- click Type a Keystroke (under the Text category), click in the Simulate Keystroke field and press Cmd-V.

To use the macro, copy something to your Clipboard (such as with Cmd-C) and then copy something else. Press Cmd-Control-V (or your chosen shortcut) to paste the previous item. One side benefit of the way Keyboard Maestro handles the Clipboard: you can use this keyboard shortcut repeatedly to alternate between the last two items on your Clipboard.

– Joe Kissell

 

MOVE WINDOWS TO DEFAULT POSITIONS AND SIZES 

Moom keyboard

You can make Moom keyboard shortcuts for Safari (S), BBEdit (B) and Marked (M) window positions.

TOOL: MOOM

I have a few apps constantly running and I almost always want their windows to be in particular locations and in particular sizes. But sometimes I move or resize such windows temporarily, or the app or OS X does so without my asking. Rather than manually restoring the windows to my preferred configurations, I use Many Tricks’ Moom to set up keyboard shortcuts.

Open Moom’s preferences window and switch to the Custom screen. Create a new custom item by clicking the Add (+) button, choose Move & Zoom as the item type, and ‘draw’ your desired window size and placement on Moom’s representation of your screen. Next, click in the keyboard-shortcut field and press your desired single-key shortcut. From then on, whenever you want to restore, say, a Safari window to its preferred configuration, just bring up Moom’s keyboard-control bezel, and then press the key for Safari
(in my case, S). Moom lets you configure and switch between sets of window arrangements, too.

– Dan Frakes

 

PRINT ANY SELECTED TEXT 

TOOL: AUTOMATOR

One feature that Windows users enjoy is the ability to print any selection of text, be it on a webpage or in a word processing document. If you covet such a feature, you can replicate it in OS X with Automator.

Create a new Service workflow in Automator. Set the top item to Service receives selected text in any application. Drag the New Text File action over to your workflow. Select Same as input text from the File Format drop-down and then specify a filename such as tempFile.txt in the ‘Save as’ box. Choose a location for the document (such as your Downloads folder) and check the Replacing existing files option.

Next, drag the Print Finder Items action over to the workflow and choose Default Printer as the device to use. Finally, save your workflow with a name such as Print Selected Text.

Now you can select some text in almost any application, and then right-click it and choose the Print Selected Text service from the contextual menu. You can also assign the workflow a shortcut in the Keyboard pane of System Preferences. Simply select the Shortcuts tab, choose the Services section on the left, scroll down to the bottom of the services list, find your new service, and then enter your custom hotkey combo.

– Topher Kessler

 

TAKE AND RENAME A SCREENSHOT OF THE FRONTMOST WINDOW 

This sequence of Keyboard Maestro steps can help you capture a properly named screenshot of your frontmost window.

TOOL: KEYBOARD MAESTRO

I often take screenshots of windows on my Mac and then email them, send them via iMessage or upload them to share. OS X lets you take window-specific screenshots by pressing Cmd-Shift-4 and then the spacebar, but the resulting files have awkward names like ‘Screen Shot 2014-08-04 at 17.51.22.png’. So instead I use Keyboard Maestro to capture a shot of the frontmost window and then write the image to a file on my desktop, using a name that’s derived from the window’s title (I can change this name within the macro).

The first action is Screen Capture, with Capture the Front Window and to Default Clipboard specified in the drop-down menus. The next three steps assign the name of the frontmost window (%WindowName%1%) to a text variable (window_name), filter the variable to lowercase, and replace the spaces in it with dashes. The macro then prompts for user input to name the file, suggesting the suitably formatted window title that the preceding steps created, but allowing me to alter it. The last step writes the Default Clipboard’s contents to a file with the specified name, placing it on my desktop.

– Matt Gemmell

 

QUICKLY ACCESS YOUR LOGIN ITEMS LIST 

Want to go straight to the Login Items tab of Users & Groups? This macro will take you there.

TOOL: KEYBOARD MAESTRO

If I want to edit my Login Items list, I can always open System Preferences, click Users & Groups and click the Login Items tab. But I prefer using a Keyboard Maestro shortcut that takes me there.

Choose File > New Macro and enter a name (such as Open Login Items). Choose Hot Key Trigger from the New Trigger pop-up menu. Press a key combination (I use Cmd-Control-L). Click New Action, and double-click Open a System Preference Pane (under the Open category). Choose Users & Groups from the Open Preference Pane pop-up menu (if it isn’t already there).

Double-click the Pause Until action (under Control Flow). Choose Front Window Condition from the New Condition pop-up menu. Select System Preferences from the Front Application pop-up menu; if you don’t see it, look under Recent. (Leave everything else as is.) Double-click Press a Button (under Interface Control) and replace the ‘OK’ text with Login Items.

That’s it. Now, when you press your designated keyboard shortcut, the Login Items tab will open.

– Joe Kissell

 

AUTOMATE iOS TASKS WITH LAUNCH CENTER PRO

Launch Center ProOne of my favourite iOS apps is Launch Center Pro (contrast.co/launch-center-pro) because it brings some amount of automation to iOS. The app does so by allowing you to create actions – simple or complex tasks based on a particular app or system service (or combinations of those things).

The simplest action you can make merely launches an app, but many apps allow Launch Center Pro to control them more specifically, through formatted URLs. Launch Center Pro includes an Action Composer for creating common useful actions. The Action Composer provides thousands of actions for hundreds of apps.

But my favourite part of Launch Center Pro is that users can share every action they create, no matter how simple or complex, via launchcenterpro.com, using special URLs. Thanks to this feature, you don’t even have to be familiar with Launch Center Pro’s URL syntax or comfortable with the Action Composer, to populate the app with useful actions. Here are a few of my favourites – you can install any of them in Launch Center Pro by visiting the listed URL in Safari on your iOS device.

CONVERT TO PLAIN TEXT

This action changes formatted text on the Clipboard to plain text. You can then paste the text elsewhere.

CLEAN LINK

If you have the Clean Links app installed, this action takes a URL from the Clipboard, expands it (if it’s shortened) and strips it of tracking tokens and other superfluous text.

SEARCH 1PASSWORD

I’m a big fan of 1Password, and this action makes it easier to use by presenting a list of common online accounts. Tap one to search for that login in your 1Password app or tap Search to look for a different login.

GET DROPBOX FILE LINK

Love Dropbox but think sharing a file is a pain? This action lets you navigate your Dropbox to find your desired file; choose it, and Launch Center Pro puts the public URL to that file on the Clipboard for sharing.

PHOTO URL

This action goes a step farther than the previous one, as it allows you to choose any photo in the Photos app and then uploads that image file to your Dropbox account, placing the public URL to the photo on the Clipboard for sharing.

DOWNLOAD LINKED FILE TO DROPBOX 

If you’ve ever been frustrated by the inability to download a file to your iOS device, this action, combined with an appropriate IFTTT recipe, is the solution. Copy a file’s download URL to the Clipboard and then run this action, and the linked file automatically downloads to a folder of your choosing inside your Dropbox – where it’s available on all of your devices.

GIPHY GIFS

Do you like including animated GIFs in your texts and tweets? This multistep action first asks whether to search Giphy.com or browse your bookmarks on the site; it then asks if you want to copy the resulting link to the Clipboard, tweet it, iMessage it or email it. If you elect to search, the action prompts you for your search term. You then get a Giphy screen with a list of the resulting animated GIFs. Choose one and Launch Center Pro sends it to the appropriate app.

– Dan Frakes

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