Drafts 5.4: Siri Shortcuts, WordPress, and More

Me, writing for MacStories:

Drafts 5 was recently updated to version 5.4, which brings a host of new features. While there is support for iOS 12's Siri shortcuts and all that they have to offer, there are also other important features that have improved the app's capabilities significantly.

It’s a really great release. And I was thrilled to write it for MacStories. If you haven’t checked it out, head on over and read it there.

Taking Time With Todoist

I’ve been using Todoist for almost two years now. I started integrating it into my system for work-only purposes, and it has served me very well. I have to use a PC for work, so the cross-platform support was essential in this process; with the Outlook add-on, it has really elevated my work flow of task management.

But it never really clicked for me on iOS. I’m not sure what it was. Perhaps it was the un-iOS-like interactions or the swipe to complete. I knew that there were some nice automation possibilities through various apps like Drafts, Workflow, Slack, and others, but it again, it didn’t really grab my attention.

That was until the Drafts 5.3 update added Todoist support. In typical Drafts fashion, there is an action step and a script object, along with a handy integration guide for those that want to get a bit more familiar.

I’m not going to get too technical here, but it uses a particular portion of the API called “Quick Add”: the best thing about this portion of the API is that you can type just as you would in the quick add window of Todoist. But the best part of this is that I don’t have to leave Drafts to enter the tasks, there’s no back-and-forth dance via a URL scheme. Just sending the tasks on their way.

Say I’m in a meeting: I can not only take notes and send the tasks to Todoist, but if I have another random thought I can add via a prompt-only information. And all of this gets added via the Quick Add, so I can type in all the information that I need right away. For example, I can simply type “Call Barney Stinson Tuesday at 7pm #Personal @evening” and it will all get added, with the date being parsed and the proper #project and @label being assigned. I can also create single drafts that contain a task with some notes in the body of the draft, and send it to Todoist with options, which imports the project and labels automatically for selection via a tumbler.

Utilizing Workflow Shortcuts, I’ve even been able to take some repetitive tasks and automate them with Todoist. Every week, I run a meeting that can be attended by between 1 and 150 people (don’t ask). But I have to take meeting minutes for distribution. For a while, I tried just using pen and paper. Then I tried using digital paper on my iPad Pro with the Apple Pencil. When that didn’t work out the way I wanted, I decided that I would just start typing them out. So when I run the meeting, I present everything from my laptop and take notes on my iPad. At the end of the meeting, I can tap a single action that sends the [[title]] line along with the HTML-formatted text to create a PDF and save that PDF as an attachment to a task in Todoist with today’s date and the project assigned. This small but effective automation has saved me tens of minutes per week. And that adds up to a lot over time.

This whole idea of quickly entering tasks is really important. I’ve talked a lot about capture before. And now I have an even better capture ‣‣ action (in this case send) workflow with Todoist. I can also see a balance of work and home, which would have required two apps before. I still think having that split can be beneficial, but for what is going on in my life – both at work and at home – this singular solution is working out really well for me.

There are some things that still bother me: you can drag and move things around, but it’s not drag/drop like I would prefer. I’d like to drag tasks from the inbox onto a project. There isn’t a dark mode (yet) for when I’m tasking at night, nor are there alternative icons for the app; both of these are nice touches to have, and is something I hope they consider bringing quickly to the app. And the app itself doesn’t feel as whimsical as something like Things. But when it comes down to it, maybe I don’t need to have whimsy in a task manager, and that’s been holding me back in my tool-of-choice. I need something dependable, accessible, and manageable on a day-to-day basis.

Once I got past my own preconceived notions about using the app, it has been a phenomenal tool for me. I’ve even started sharing some projects with others via the built-in sharing options,1 and it’s helpful when setting up something new in collaboration with others. Even though it is a small change in what I’ve been doing in the past and I’ve replicated a lot of my actions from other task managers, having everything in front of me is working at this five minutes for me. This is, of course, all subject to change. But I don’t see it happening any time soon.

  1. This requires that both people have Todoist Premium. 

Drafts 5.1 Update

While I’m working on another large post, I wanted to put out at least a small bit about some of the added features in the 5.1 update of Drafts that has been released.

Tag Filter Improvements

I really love the addition of tags, and more importantly, workspaces. I did, however, have a couple of gripes about the features. My single gripe about filtering using tags from the review:

A nice addition to tagging not present in the app is an or function, which would expand the filtering to get drafts that are tagged with red or blue instead of red and blue as it is today, giving better functionality to the feature.

This has now been fixed. Whether in the tag drawer or within a workspace, you can specify “All” or “Any” for the tags. This distinguishes the behavior of the tags so that you can include the correct one(s) as you filter. For example, I have a GTD workspace. Previously, I’d have to rely on a single tag for this to work, and I settled on gtd. But now I can create new tags to not only add new drafts with similar tags, but I can also provide context within the workspace. I can have tasks, events, lists, calendars, etc. included in my GTD workspace simply by choosing “Any” for the tags.

Tag filtering has been improved

This added flexibility I wanted to see has been quickly added, which is already reaping dividends for my productivity. Now all I need is the ability to set a default action group for my workspace, and I’ll be all set.

Action Debugging Features

Action logging has been added to the action drawer. In the top right corner of the drawer, you’ll see a clock-like icon located in between the search and menu icons. This contains the log of every action run, rather than finding it in the draft information screen, which is on a per-draft basis. This not only provides a nice log, but provides quick access for when you’re de-bugging scripts. I’ve been doing a few large scripts as of late, and it has been saving me time along the way. You can also delete the logs as you go, if that’s your particular cup of tea.

In addition to the log, individual action steps can now be disabled in your actions by swiping on the step in the action editor. This is useful when you want to troubleshoot errors and check steps along the way. Another useful option for this is for when you are someone who likes to move around apps. For example, many of you know that I like to change up my task management app of choice. Rather than create all-new actions every time I switch, I can simply disable the URL block for GoodTask and add a new URL block for Things or OmniFocus or 2Do. I don’t need to clutter up my action drawer with similar actions that are based on a URL scheme any more. I’m going to need to refactor some of my actions, but I can already see how this is going to benefit me in so many ways. I’ve even done a packing list action for you already to show you how it works.

Event Action Step

You can now create calendar events by simply tapping on an action which brings up the default system card for event creation, as you would see in Calendar.app. There is a simple default action in the directory which creates a single event that takes the first line of your draft as a title, and the body of the draft as a note. You can select the rest of the parameters as you would in the calendar. when completed, you’re back in Drafts, ready to go.

I’ve already modified this to take a selection rather than a draft (I don’t usually use the note field in a calendar event entry), so that I can quickly add meetings or personal events from a larger note, rather than having to create a new draft when I want to create an event.

We’re a month into the new version of Drafts, and already there’s been some added features which were missing from the previous version, as well as some carefully considered features to help make life a bit easier for users. There are some other small features added, so be sure to read those in the release notes.

Drafts 5 Review

My review of Drafts is out. But it’s not here, not exactly anyway…

Drafts 5: The MacStories Review

I reached out to Federico a year ago and asked if he had anyone slated to write the review.1 I suggested to him that I would like to write it for MacStories, that I would be happy to do so. It wasn’t long before he responded “yes, let’s do this”.

It was an amazing experience. As the production of the review progressed, that feeling only increased. The entire Team at MacStories has been delightful to work with, and I couldn’t be happier than I am now with everything that has transpired over the past few months. It has been an honor to work with that team!

Writing while Greg was developing Drafts 5 through the beta process was a valuable insight into app development. It is rare to directly see the careful consideration an app developer makes when rolling out new features. Using the Slack channel as a sounding board, he would often listen to the suggestions being made; if he ever thought it was the wrong thing to do, he would state why instead of just “no”. I know he has more planned for the future, and I’ll be sure to follow-up when he does.

You can read the review at the link above. And if you aren’t a member of Club MacStories, you should sign up: there’s an ePub version of this as well.

Thanks again to Federico and the team at MacStories for giving me the opportunity to write for them, and for you the readers. This has been a labor of love for me, and I hope that shows through in the review.

Thanks to all of you for reading!

  1. I cannot believe that it has been a year.