Shortcuts-for-Mac-Square-ArtCalifornia attorney David Sparks recently shut down his law practice so that he could devote 100% of his time to his various tech-related endeavors, such as the Mac Power Users podcast, the Automators podcast, and his MacSparky website.  Another one of his projects is a series of video tutorials that he calls the MacSparky Field Guides.  The Field Guides are courses that teach you how to use various types of technology.  I’ve written about many of them over the years, including his iPhone Field Guide, Paperless Field Guide, Photos Field Guide, and Shortcuts for iOS Field Guide.  Today, I am reviewing David’s most recent project: the Shortcuts for Mac Field Guide.

These Field Guides are excellent for a number of reasons.  First, David Sparks is a great teacher—a skill that probably comes, in part, from his being a successful trial lawyer for many years.  Second, David has great video production skills, so the quality of the Field Guides is amazing.  In some videos, David speaks directly to the camera, but in most videos, you see his screen so you can follow along and watch what he is doing as he describes what he is doing.  Third, unlike a traditional video course where you have one video to watch, the Field Guides are broken up into dozens of segments that are typically just a few minutes long.  The website that you use to watch the videos has an outline along the left side, making it incredibly easy to jump to different sections.  If you are a complete beginner on the subject of a Field Guide, you may want to start from the beginning and watch the videos in order.  But if you already have some knowledge of the subject, you can skip over the videos that seem more basic and jump right to the topics that interest you the most.  Having said that, if you are like me, you will initially skip over an introductory video, and then find yourself going back to it later just to get a refresher on the fundamentals because you didn’t know quite as much as you thought you did.

I was a big fan of the Shortcuts for iOS Field Guide.  Although I still don’t consider myself anything close to an expert with the Shortcuts app, that Field Guide helped to elevate me from a newbie to an intermediate-level user of Shortcuts on my iPhone and iPad.  More importantly, it gave me the confidence and the skills to create simple automations in Shortcuts to make me more productive with my devices.

Although I was happy to learn that Apple brought Shortcuts to the Mac last year, I had never tried it out before this week.  That is mainly because I use a PC at work, so my Mac use is a relatively small part of my day.  Additionally, I wasn’t sure that I would have much use for Shortcuts on the Mac.  As a result, when I learned that David was releasing this new Field Guide, I wasn’t sure that it would interest me.  However, David shared a free copy with me so that I could check it out, and I’ve been going through it this week.  I’m so glad that I did.  This new Field Guide is excellent, and it has opened up my eyes to a large number of ways that I now want to start using Shortcuts on the Mac.

SMFG - 3

The main thing that this Field Guide helped me to appreciate is the different triggers on the Mac.  There are some triggers that are on the iPhone but not the Mac, such as a location-based trigger, which you can use to have a shortcut run when your iPhone senses that you have moved to a specific location.  That type of trigger doesn’t work on the Mac, and indeed, for someone like me who uses an iMac, that type of trigger wouldn’t even make sense because my iMac always stays in the same location.  On the other hand, on the Mac—and unlike the iPhone/iPad—you can right-click on a file and then select a shortcut from the Quick Action menu.  That’s a very useful trigger that is perfect for a shortcut that changes something about that file, such as changing the filename, converting the file from one format to a different format, etc.  You can also trigger shortcuts on the Mac using a keyboard gesture, from the menu bar, or from another automation program such as Keyboard Maestro.  These Mac-specific triggers make Shortcuts on the Mac far more powerful than I had previously realized.  And it gives me all sorts of ideas for making my own simple shortcuts to speed up and improve my use of my Mac.

The Field Guide also includes information on how you can use Shortcuts with dozens of different apps on the Mac.  This is useful for the obvious reason that it shows you what you can do with different built-in and third-party Mac apps, but it also helped me to come up with more ideas for what I could do with Shortcuts.  The Field Guide also includes sixteen lessons on advanced concepts.

SMFG - 2

Much like David’s Shortcuts for iOS Field Guide, one of the most useful parts of the Shortcuts for Mac Field Guide is a section that includes almost two dozen sample shortcuts.  You can download and use these shortcuts as-is, or you can use them as a starting point for creating your own shortcuts.

Finally, David has a section that I haven’t seen before in his other Field Guides: interviews with five power users of shortcuts on the Mac.  David interviews Rosemary Orchard, Myke Hurley, John Voorhees, Stephen Millard, and Stephen Hackett.  The videos are around 15 minutes long, and they provide a different perspective on the best way to take advantage of Shortcuts on the Mac.  This is a great idea, and I hope that David incorporates it into future Field Guides.

SMFG - 1

I mostly used Safari on my iPad to watch the course, which worked well for me.  Sometimes, I would curl up with my iPad on my couch and watch the videos.  Other times, I had my iPad next to my iMac so that I could watch the course on one screen while working with Shortcuts on my iMac.  Of course, you can also watch the videos on a computer, and I did that a few times.  If you want to watch the videos while you are offline, you can either download individual videos or you can download different sets of combined videos.

If you are a complete novice on Shortcuts, this Field Guide is perfect for you.  If you are like me and you have used Shortcuts on iOS but not on the Mac, this Field Guide is a perfect way to help you with the transition.  And even if you are an advanced user, I suspect that you can still learn something from the advanced lessons and the power user interviews.  In other words, if you have any interest in using Shortcuts on a Mac, this Field Guide should be perfect for you.

You can purchase the Field Guide for $49, although it is currently on sale for $44.  Alternatively, you can purchase the “Plus” edition of this Field Guide for $99, currently on sale for $89.  The Plus edition gives you everything that I described above, plus you have the opportunity to participate in a series of Webinars hosted by David to discuss Shortcuts on the Mac—or, if you cannot participate in one or more of the webinars, you will be able to download them to watch them at a later date.

Bravo to David for creating what is clearly his best Field Guide yet.  

Click here to get Shortcuts for Mac Field Guide (on sale for $44)

Click here to get Shortcuts for Mac Field Guide Plus (on sale for $89)