Appearance: Automators Episode 73

In my second appearance on Automators (part of the Relay FM network),1 I’m back to talk with David Sparks and Rosemary Orchard once again about Drafts. We dive in on some of the new stuff from version 26 which introduced custom themes and syntaxes. We also touch on a few other updates from the first version to now as well. I hope you enjoy it.

There were a couple of things in the episode that I wanted to follow-up on here, including the homework assignment David gave me. I’m thrilled that the time spent with David and Rosemary gave me the idea, which made me reconsider some things with my personal journaling and changed how I’m doing it going forward.

Theme Switching with Workspaces

Ever since I’ve used workspaces + action groups to create what I called modules, I’ve used a script actions to switch between them. Originally, I set each workspace, action group, and keyboard row individually; once the action and keyboard group options were added to the workspace manager, I simplified the actions. I keep the single action in every one of my action groups which I use in the keyboard row to use on the iPhone for quick access to switch. Where I use this switching method a lot is on my iPad, using a hardware keyboard. All of my modules are brought up with keyboard shortcuts, assigned to ⌘2 - 9; both ⌘1 and ⌘9 are reserved by Drafts for the draft and action list show/hide, respectively.

With the addition of themes, I’ve now modified the modules I have to include themes that I want to use in those different contexts. I’m sure I’ll update this more over time. I primarily use dark mode, so that’s what I currently have in there. But you could also modify the scripts to include light themes as well. Here’s my Modules action group as it stands today for you to play with and make your own. You’ll need to change the theme names in each of the module actions, else you might get an error.

I haven’t quite yet cracked the switching of syntaxes based on themes. I have, however, leveraged Matt Gemmell’s previous Switch Syntax action and created my own which provides a list of all the installed syntaxes. It’s not automated, but it does the job when I need it. I’m sure Rosemary is working on something even more clever…

Automated Journaling

On the show, we talked about some of the automations I’ve used (in most cases, continued to use) frequently. One of my journal shortcuts saves the text of the journal as a PDF for future reading. That’s when David brought up a great suggestion: using a Shortcuts automation at a specific time to automatically save the journal at night so I don’t have to do it manually.

It took a few modifications to my original shortcut, but I have the automatic saving of journal entries figured out. The Journal • Save shortcut searches my Journal workspace for today’s journal entry, gets the content of the draft, creates an entry title (formatted Journal Entry yyyy-MM-dd), creates a nicely-formatted PDF, and saves the PDF version to /iCloud Drive/Shortcuts/Journal/.2 I manually move these once a week during my weekly review for now, until the Shortcuts team actually gives me that built in feature.3 This action can be used with Shortcuts automation; if you choose to run the automation without asking, it will run automatically in the background. I have mine set to run at 11:00 pm every day, and in my testing since we recorded, it’s been working fantastically.

This then lead me to change the way I’ve been journaling, so that I can just automate the creation of the journal entry and never miss a day. The old way of starting my journal is answering a couple of questions: did I wear my watch to sleep to get data out of AutoSleep – a feature that is broken due to an iOS 14.5 bug  – and how did I feel when I woke up. Here’s a secret: I’m not sure I sleep all that well generally, I never use the quantifiable data in any meaningful way, and I don’t know that I need a reminder of how shitty all that can be and make me feel. If I want a pretty chart or other meaningful insights, I’d be better off going into AutoSleep or the Health app to get it. Weighing the importance of sleep tracking vs daily journaling, having a journal entry for every day that is just automatically there just makes more sense. Using the Journal • Start shortcut in conjunction with another Shortcuts automation which runs at 6:00am, and automatically starts a journal entry for me without any interaction on my part.4

I’ve been running this for the week, and it’s been really great so far. Removing the friction of interacting every time I want to start and save a journal entry has made me want to journal more. Sometimes, it’s those little things that get you change your mind. I’m calling this a win.


Thanks again David and Rosemary for having me on, and for the idea to be a better Automator!


  1. You can find my first appearance here
  2. I am having a shortcuts bug where the file from Shortcuts gets created with a -2 suffix, which is hyper annoying. I have to manually fix them. I’m sure it’s something I could solve with a script, but I haven’t had the time. It’s a bug, and the Shortcuts team works it out. Additionally, I would like to have the ability in Shortcuts to save the entries to the Journal location I keep in iCloud Drive. Would make life a lot simpler. 
  3. I tried to use a script in Scriptable to move the files from the Shortcuts folder to my preferred journal location in iCloud Drive, but it often took a while to run. I can quickly move the files once a week, so I’m not too worried about it. Maybe a future update of my journal workflow will happen if features come to iOS 15. 
  4. if you want to use this exactly, you’ll also need the Journal • Forecast shortcut as well. 

Fully Broken

Well, hello.

It is with heavy hearts (and overtaxed livers) that we tell you we just don’t have it in us anymore to keep on going. It’s time to take Fundamentally Broken out behind the woodshed and put it down humanely.

Go ahead now, turn away. You don’t need to see this.

The past year or so since we last recorded has certainly had some ups and downs. It came a lot of new responsibilities for both of us at work, and frankly at home too. Our lives — like everyone else’s — were disrupted beyond any rational comprehension, and we found we didn’t have the bandwidth to get on and record conversations anymore. We still talk almost every day, and Tim often says “fuck, why aren’t we recording this” and we laugh, but the honest truth is that we’re just not interested in producing this type of content for an audience right now, and collectively we just don’t have the time.

So we hatched a plan to keep the show alive in spite of the fact that we weren’t going to keep doing it. Seth suggested we find a new home for it on the Internet Archive and Tim looked into it. The Internet Archive is something that the world desperately needs, and we always find delight when we head there. In fact, it’s one of our annual donations because we believe in the mission and the people behind it.

We’ve created a page and the show will be available there from now on.1 It doesn’t make sense to keep paying for podcast-specific accounts for a show we aren’t doing, and this way, it’s still available for the eleven people (looking at you, Japan) who might ever want to hear it, and it becomes a part of the great ocean that is the 1s and 0s of the past.

We’d personally like to thank everyone who did listen. Your feedback and enthusiasm was a constant surprise to us, and we really appreciated it. We started the show because we thought there might be a place for a simple, honest conversation about a lot of things that interested or troubled us, and the response we received was that we were right about that. It resonated with people, and that was encouraging.

But like in all things, time and life change who we are and what we do, and now we set this little ship ablaze and push it out to sea, gazing fondly as it floats further from us.

Maybe we’ll do it again someday. Maybe we won’t. That’s the beauty of the future. You just never know.

~ Seth & Tim


  1. Tim will be working on making an official collection on Archive.org, but until then, you can just use this page. This link will be updated when/if it ever gets made. 

The iOS-Only Podcasting Kit

I got into podcasting late. I’ve been listening for years, but I never started my own. But by the time that Seth and I did, there was an emerging idea started by Jason Snell: recording and editing podcasts iOS-only. As someone who rarely ever touches a Mac for their day-to-day work, this idea has continued to gnaw at my brain. I tried my hand a couple of times at doing something differently with it, but it never panned out the way I wanted.

In an effort to head down this road, I ended up switching microphones last year: I had the clutch Blue Yeti microphone, but decided on the Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB instead. Not only was it better for the environment in which I record, but it also afforded me the possibility to record using both the USB and XLR connections, pushing me closer to the goal of iOS-only.

A month or so ago, I was recording the show via the late-2012 Mac mini I have. I ended up having an issue while recording, and I lost my audio in several spots. Given that this is one of two jobs that I ever ask it to do, I was understandably upset and put off by recording in the same way going forward. The idea of going iOS-only came back to the forefront of my mind. I again turned to Jason’s setup, only to realize that this was going to cost me several hundred dollars to create. I don’t have that lying around, and I wanted to find something that would work for me.
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