Getting Started with Shortcuts

Shortcuts can be a powerful tool for getting things done on your iPhone or iPad, but it can seem intimidating at first.

 

The Shortcuts app, first introduced as an official Apple app with iOS 12, got a big boost with the release of iOS 13 and iPadOS 13. Now a built-in part of the system, Shortcuts offers powerful tools for connecting first- and third-party apps with both each other and system features to help you get things done without a lot of hassle. In many cases, you just tap a button, a complicated series of actions take place, and you go about your day.

But Shortcuts can be intimidating to get into. There are so many options, it's hard to know where to begin (hint: it's the gallery). Even building a basic shortcut with one step can seem like an undertaking. But it's actually easier to get into than you might imagine (seriously, use the gallery).

How to create a basic shortcut

The great thing about shortcuts is that they can adapt to fit what you need. Do you need something simple? You can create easy one- and two-step actions. You can also create something more complicated with multiple conditional parameters, but that's for a different time.

Now that you've learned about shortcuts, and maybe played around with a few from the gallery, here's how to make a shortcut of your own.

  1. Open Shortcuts on your iPhone or iPad.
  2. Tap the + button in the upper-right corner.
  3. Tap Add Action. You'll be presented with a variety of options for your shortcut action.

    Open Shortcuts, tap +, tap Add Action

  4. Tap one of the options presented to you.
    • Apps: This section features apps that work with Shortcuts. Tap it and tap an app if you have a specific one in mind for your shortcut.
    • Favorites: If you have any actions that you've marked as favorite, they'll appear under here.
    • Scripting: The actions under Scripting include commands to open particular apps, control over device functions, control flow, interacting with dictionaries, and a whole lot more.
    • Media: Actions for recording audio, using the camera, get app details from the App Store, and playing music and videos, and other media-related activities.
    • Location: Location-based actions that can start or be added to your shortcut.
    • Documents: Actions for working with files, from appending to a file, creating folders, marking up documents, working with the Notes app, and text editing.
    • Sharing: Sharing actions like interacting with your device's clipboard, sending a message through email or Messages, AirDrop, social app actions, and more.
    • Web: Get and expand URLs, perform a GIPHY search, get items from RSS feeds, add something to your Reading List, and more.
    • Suggestions: Shortcuts will offer suggestions based on frequent actions, as well as options for modifying repeated actions to fit a specific parameter. Suggestions come from both Apple and third-party apps.
  5. Tap the action you want to take from your available options. In this case, we'll use the Things app's new Shortcuts functionality to view a particular list.
  6. Tap on a blue parameter to change it.

    Tap an option, tap action, tap parameter

  7. Tap an option for your parameter.
  8. Tap Show More if it's available.
  9. Tap any blue parameters to change them.

    Tap option, tap Show More, tap parameters

  10. Tap the + button if you want to continue adding actions to your shortcut.
  11. Tap the  button in the top-right of the screen.
  12. Tap Shortcut Name to name your shortcut.

    Tap +, tap ..., tap Shortcut Name

  13. Tap Done when you've enter your shortcut's name
  14. Tap Done when you're finished editing your shortcut.

    Tap Done, tap Done

I know this might seem like a lot, and it can be intimidating, but a shortcut can actually come together a lot faster than you might think.

Examples

These shortcuts vary in complexity, but you can take each of them and modify them to fit your use cases.

In order to add these shortcuts, you may need to turn on the Allow Untrusted Shortcuts option in the Shortcuts section of the Settings app. Run any shortcut in the Shortcuts app (such as one of those available in the gallery), then follow these steps.

  1. Open Settings on your iPhone or iPad.
  2. Tap Shortcuts.
  3. Tap the switch next to Allow Untrusted Shortcuts.

    Open Settings, tap Shortcuts, tap switch

Now you should be able to add and use these examples easily.

New Thing - This shortcut works for the Things task manager app for iPhone, and is a simple one that just lets you add a new to-do to Things. As currently set up, this shortcut will ask for every important detail when I run it, so it works well with Siri's new conversational capabilities.

Seasonal Tunes - Part of working out shortcuts is learning, and this shortcut is a bit of an experiment for me, personally. A little more advanced than the last shortcut, this one will play different Apple Music playlists depending on whether or not it's the Christmas season. Most of the year, if I activate this shortcut, it will play my Apple Music Chill Mix. But between December 1 and December 25, it should play Apple's Essential Christmas playlist instead.

Apple TV On - This shortcut is fairly straightforward. It wakes up your Apple TV and opens one of its apps. By default, the shortcut will open the TV app, but you can change which app opens by tapping the TV parameter and switching selecting one of the other available options.

Audio note - Apple's Voice Memo's is great for a quick recording, while the Notes app is great for taking down a quick thought or two. This shortcut essentially combines the two. Upon activation of the shortcut, your iPhone will start recording. When you're done, the recording will automatically be added to its own new note in the notes app. Save the note, and you're good to go.

 

 

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