Digital Toolmaker

If you’re new around here, I’ll let you in on a little secret: I love building shortcuts. I have 579 of them in my personal library at the moment, and I’d guess that I built or modified about half of those at some point or another. Between my HeyDingus Shortcuts Library and my old home on RoutineHub, I’ve shared over 40 of them publicly, thinking that maybe someone else will find these little tools helpful.

Has the time I’ve spent building, testing, tweaking, and sharing those shortcuts been earned back in the time they’ve saved me rather than doing things manually? After all, they are called shortcuts for a reason.

It’s hard to say, but I’d hazard a guess that I’m coming out ahead, but not nearly as far as one might imagine. Saving time is just one reason I like throwing my time into creating these (sometimes) small digital hammers. Another is because, at this point, all my digital problems look like little digital nails, just waiting to be tapped into place with a few well-placed Shortcuts actions.

But mostly, it just lights up my brain in a way that few other things do. Throughout primary and secondary school, I used to be very into mathematics. I loved figuring out the logic behind equations and how you could always solve your way down to an answer. My field of study in college didn’t require any advanced math courses, so I’ve long since fallen out of practice and now would be embarrassed to tell you how often I pull out a calculator for simple mental math.

But when there’s a little burr in my computing life that I think could be sanded down with Shortcuts, my wheels get turning and it’s hard to pull myself away from refining, adding features, and solving down to an ideal answer. I’m sure if I learned traditional coding, I’d feel the same. Or if I had a workshop to craft furniture or pound metal into useful shapes. But since I don’t know that much about programming languages nor have the desire to craft physical products, Shortcuts is my IDE, my workshop.

Why am I pondering this tonight, when by all accounts I should be fast asleep? Because I spent the last many hours creating, troubleshooting, and refining a handful of shortcuts, of course! I worked on a particularly complicated one that’s been giving me some trouble (over 100 actions long), and then followed it up with one of the simplest ones in my library (just two actions). Was the little one, which amounts to some elementary text replacement, even worth it? Absolutely! That two-action shortcut, along with its PopClip companion extension, helped me to speed through adding run-shortcut URLs to each of the 30 entries in my public library. And then it led to me updating another larger shortcut with expanded functionality, which will streamline putting together every shortcut I share from now on.

And I enjoyed every second of getting them just right. Some people like physical puzzles best, but I found my preferred brain stimulation in being a digital toolmaker. Whether they’re just for me, or designed specifically for others to use, it brings me great joy to scratch this itch.

Shortcuts Coding

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