Back in late 2016, venerable tech journalist Andy Ihnatko broke the news in a tweet that Sal Soghoian, Apple’s Product Manager of Automation Technologies, left the company when his position was terminated.
In 2017, Apple acquired Workflow, the delightful iOS automation app that punched way above its weight.
Workflow became Shortcuts and was released alongside iOS 12 in September, 2018. It would later become a default app installed on all devices running iOS 13 when that update was released the following year.
The Mac automation app, Automator, has seen no appreciable improvements or updates in a very long time. Indeed, it appears to have been forgotten. In contrast, Shortcuts has seen relatively consistent updates since its release. Automation touches many aspects of iOS now, including within the Home app. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Shortcuts and Home run on much of the same underlying code.
This sequence of events leads me to believe that there is a dim future for Automator on the Mac. Since the acquisition of Workflow, I’ve believed that we’ll see Shortcuts appear on the Mac one day. Apple downsized its old automation department and has subsequently invested heavily in its Shortcuts team.
In many ways, Automator is a remarkable app, but it’s never been user-friendly in the way that Shortcuts is. For people who don’t know much about automation, it’s far too complex and demanding.
Shortcuts, on the other hand, is bright, friendly, and hides its complexity behind action blocks that are easier to figure out. I may not use it as frequently as some people, but when I do the end result is more success and less headaches. If Apple wants non-power user people to get into automation, the answer does not lie in Automator.
I believe Shortcuts is the future of automation on the Mac. I really want to see it on that system. I think it will happen one day. 🍎