AI is generating some interesting work but still isn’t able to understand the complex context required for effective communication. It may never do so in the same way we do. And do we really need AI?

We want computers to do the work for us, and we want to get the credit for it. There are already tools to automate our tasks and I sorted the ones I know and use into the list bellow, from the easiest to use (level 1) to the most complex ones.

Level 1

Apple shortcuts can run on your computer or phone, and it can even run code. I use it to create quick actions for images, to resize and optimise them into smaller files. You can do something like that with this prompt for ChatGPT:

“create a quick action that does {X} using AppleScript and tell me how to add it as a quick action for MacOS”

macos right click menu on an image showing a new quick action menu

Level 2

If this happens, do that. That’s what IFTTT was made for and it comes with a number of preset automations. Like saving photos to Dropbox everytime someone tags you on Facebook.

Level 3

In case IFTTT isn’t powerful enough, Zapier will make you happier. It allows for the same logic of triggers and actions you see on IFTTT but the flow can be more complex and use private tools a company has, for example.

Level 4

Apple Shortcuts is amazing and simple but sometimes we need something a little more powerful that can jump across apps, move files around, or fill in forms. Keyboard Maestro is the tool for that. (MacOS only)

Level 5

If you still want more, like an always on agent that runs taks for you or answers your queries, NodeRED is the tool for that.

It needs to be installed on a server of some sort. I have it running on my home server, a small computer that runs apps I need.

In NodeRED you can configure flows for any number of tasks and even install new integrations available for free in the community.

At the moment, NodeRED allows me to run a Telegram bot I call Johnny Five.

Johnny can do things like

  1. run repetitive web searches and store the results in a database, removing duplicates.
  2. sort invoices from my email and save them to my Synology Network Attached Storage (NAS)
  3. receive images from my instagram account and create a version to use as an instagram story
  4. receive any webform directly to my telegram notifications because not everything needs to be an email
  5. integrate different services with my home automation (Home Assistant)
  6. notify me on Telegram of emails that are high priority (such as information from my doctor)
  7. filter RSS feeds
  8. track my amazon orders
  9. add new tasks to Notion

Hat tip to Rui Carmo, from Tao of Mac, for having showed me NodeRED.

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