iOS

RSS to Text in Shortcuts

Sometimes Shortcuts makes me scratch my head in bewilderment at how convoluted dealing with different data types can be. If you ever pull in an RSS feed to parse, you’ll know what I mean.

I’m writing a shortcut for Ronnie Lutes to easily publish episodes of The Liner Project. Why he needs a shortcut to do this is another topic, but primarily it’s because we’re hosting his site in a static site generated by Hugo. In order for him to get an episode added, uploaded, and scheduled for publication without having to deal with an annoying checklist of tasks that all have to be done in exactly the right way each time, an automation is perfect.

In order to present as few information-gathering dialogs and text boxes to Ronnie as possible, the shortcut tries to figure out everything it needs to about the episode being published, including things like season and episode number. A lot …

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Diffable

It’s amazing the caliber of people who just randomly pop into your Twitter life sometimes. I posted about the lack of text diff tools on iOS a couple days ago, and the very next day Jacob Sam-La Rose very kindly gave me a tip that took me in a direction I didn’t expect: JavaScript and web views.

It turns out that Jacob is the author of a very handy Diff action for Drafts that uses this very trick to let people compare a draft in current form to a previously saved version. It’s really cool use of a web preview and it’s something I would have used many times in Drafts had I realized it existed.

Drafts Diff action by Jacob Sam-La Rose

As Jacob mentioned to me, the JavaScript Diff Algorithm written by John Resig is easily applied to any JavaScript parser such as Scriptable, which also allows for easy file selection for choosing two …

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The Brilliance of Ulysses for Blogging

When I started the Hugo-based incarnation of this website, I wrote all posts for the site in iA Writer. It’s a very clean and focused Markdown text editor suited well for blogging with Hugo or other platforms that take Markdown and convert it to HTML.

Then I accidentally discovered a secret about Ulysses.

When you export a sheet to Markdown text from Ulysses, you get a text file of plain text with all your Markdown formatting. But when you attach images to that same sheet and export it as Markdown, it gives you a zip file with your Markdown document and all attached images. Furthermore, if you put the images in the text of the document, Ulysses lets you add image metadata which it then puts into the Markdown image tags that it creates.

Ulysses image attachments and metadata

The above image shows what it looks like when I attach an image to the sheet (attachment seen in the right attachments pane) and drag it into the document and …

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What the Diff?

Based on my luck at finding a good text diff tool on iOS, doing text diff must be the most difficult task in the universe. Is that was diff stands for? Difficult?1

There once was an amazing iPad app called Kaleidoscope that was beautiful and did an outstanding job of comparing text files, but its makers stopped updating it long ago and now it isn’t even on the App Store anymore.

Kaleidoscope for iPad was both powerful and beautiful.

Clearly this means I’m finally going to have to learn how to write iOS apps like I’ve been saying I was going to since 2008 and make my own text diff app.

This could cost me a few years of life I don’t have.


  1. Sorry. That’s a very difficult joke. ↩︎

Breaking the Shortcuts

iOS 14 beta is remarkably stable and performant, but running betas always carries a risk that a subsequent beta version will break something important to you. iOS 14 dev beta 2 (and public beta 1) broke some fundamental actions in Shortcuts – Split Text, Combine Text, and Change Case.

Because I have several shortcuts that do a lot of text parsing, not least of which are my blog post and podcast episode publishing shortcuts and helper shortcuts, I noticed this immediately. It didn’t take much troubleshooting and testing to realize that these three actions now return nothing regardless of input. They’re just completely broken.

The good news is (also thanks to changes made to Shortcuts for iOS 14) it’s very easy to create a folder for iOS 14 beta specific versions of your shortcuts, make copies to that folder, and then fix them. Folder …

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