You probably spend a lot of time on your iPhone or iPad running one task after another across a variety of apps. Think how much time you’d save if you could automate those tasks, or even combine them into a single action. You can do all that and more with Apple’s Shortcuts app.
Offering a host of predefined actions, the Shortcuts app lets you create customized sequences or access a large gallery of existing shortcuts. After you set up a shortcut, tap it, and it will perform all the assigned tasks.
A shortcut can run on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch running iOS 12 or higher, but you will need to be running iOS 13 and up on iPhone or iPadOS 13.1 and up on iPad to tap into all the app’s functionality. This includes integration with the Notes app in iOS 12.2 and, most recently, a new automation feature that lets you select actions to add to your shortcuts in a more user-friendly, step-by-step manner.
You can run a shortcut a number of ways. Opening the Shortcuts app and tapping a shortcut from the main screen is the most basic option. You can also add a Shortcuts widget to your home screen to more quickly trigger the sequence, or integrate the app into Siri’s repertoire. Open the Shortcuts app and tap the Get Started button to kick things off.
Create a Shortcut
You can create new shortcuts right from the app. At the Library screen, tap the icon to Create Shortcut.
Choose a Shortcut
Think about the particular task you’d like to automate. You can create shortcuts to add an event to your calendar, email a contact, search for an address, play music, select certain photos or videos, and more. Even better, you can combine several of these tasks into one single shortcut. For this example, let’s create a shortcut to text the latest photo from your library to a specific person. Swipe down the list of actions and tap the one called Get Latest Photos. Actions appear at the left side of the screen on an iPad and at the bottom on an iPhone.
Build Your Shortcut
The first time you create a shortcut that needs certain information, the app will ask you to allow access. In this example, the Shortcuts app tells you it does not have access to your photos. Tap the link to Allow Access. Choose how many photos you want to send and decide whether to include screenshots. Next, tap the action Send Message. The first time you do this, the Shortcuts app tells you it doesn’t have access to your contacts. Tap the Allow Access link.
Finalize Your Shortcut
Press the + sign to add a specific contact to the shortcut. Choose the contact and tap the person’s mobile phone number to select them. You can also type a message in the field below the person’s name. Now tap the Play button to run the shortcut. The messaging app should pop up with the photo attached and ready to send to the contact you selected. Tap the arrow to send the message.
Change Shortcut Settings
You can change the name and other attributes for a shortcut. Tap the Settings icon in the upper-right corner. At the Settings screen, tap the Name field to give the shortcut a more descriptive name than the default Untitled Shortcut. Tap the link for Icon to change the icon. You can then choose a color, a glyph, or a custom image you want to use for this shortcut. Tap Done once you’ve made the desired changes.
Sync Shortcut With Siri
Tap Add to Siri in Settings if you’d like to ask Siri to run the shortcut when you need it. An Add to Siri Screen pops up. Tap the Record button to record the phrase you want to use to run the shortcut.
Add Shortcut to Home Screen
Tap Add to Home Screen in Settings if you want your newly created shortcut to exist on your device’s home screen. A web page opens in your browser to explain how to add the shortcut to the Home Screen. Tap the Share icon in the upper right-hand corner and tap the Add to Home Screen.
Edit a Shortcut
Once a shortcut has been created, it will appear in your library in the Shortcuts app. If you need to edit the contents of a shortcut, tap the ellipsis icon to change any of its actions.
Run a Shortcut
To run any shortcut, tap it from the library or from your home screen, depending on where you saved it. You can also tell Siri to run it if you previously synced it. Just say “Hey, Siri, [name of your shortcut].” Siri opens and runs the shortcut.
Add New Shortcut
Besides creating your own shortcuts, you can tap into existing ones. At the Library screen in the Shortcuts app, tap the Gallery icon in the bottom navigation bar. The app shows you a variety of different routines that have already been created.
Browse through each category and tap a shortcut that interests you. Tap the button to Get Shortcut, then configure the shortcut accordingly. Once you’ve finished setting up the shortcut, tap Done to finalize it.
Return to the Library, and the newly added shortcut will be included with the others. From this point, the new shortcut will act just like one you created yourself. You can edit the shortcut however you wish or simply tap it to run it.
Create a Shortcut for the Notes App
You can create and access the Notes app through several different shortcuts, like Create Note, Append to Note, Find Notes, and Show Note. You can either search for the specific shortcut you want or find it in the existing list of available shortcuts.
For this example, we’ll create a shortcut that finds and displays specifics notes based on a keyword. Find the actions you want in the list and select it. Allow access to your notes. You can then look for additional Note-related actions to string together.
Adding Find Notes, Show Note, and Create Note will perform the desired actions, but they must be in the correct order. You can drag actions by holding the name and pulling it to the correct order.
You can also set up a filter to find the note. Tap the Add Filter button and add select words that are inside the body of the note.
Tap Done and then Done again. At the Shortcuts screen, tap your new shortcut to run it. The results should list all notes with the keyword. Tap the name of the note you want to open.
Use Automation to Build a Shortcut
Create Automated Shortcut
At the New Automation window, you first select the type of event that will generate a specific action. You can choose a time of day, an alarm, a travel time, a certain setting such as Airplane Mode being enabled or your AirPods connecting to your phone. Some events require that you actively perform a task, such as turning Do Not Disturb mode on or launching a specific app.
For this example, let’s work with Do Not Disturb mode. Maybe you put Do Not Disturb mode on when you go to sleep and then turn it off in the morning. Now let’s say you’d like music to play automatically when you turn off Do Not Disturb each morning. In the Settings section, tap Do Not Disturb > Is Turned Off > Next.
Add Automated Action
At the Actions window, tap Add Action. You then choose the action you want to run based on the event. You can also review suggestions for actions based on how you use your device—run a specific app, launch a script, take a photo or video, get a location, open or edit a file, share something through email or social network, or launch a web page. In this case, tap the icon for Media and swipe down the screen. In the section for Music, tap the entry for Play Music, then hit Next.
Finalize Automated Shortcut
You will then see a switch that says Ask Before Running. If this switch is turned on, you’ll have to tap a notification of the shortcut before it runs. If it’s off, the shortcut will run automatically without prompting you. Return to your Home screen and make sure Do Not Disturb mode is on. Now if you turn it off, a notification tells you the shortcut is running, and a song should start playing on your device.
Add Shortcuts Through Siri
You can also check out existing shortcuts from the Siri & Search screen under Settings. Here, you can record phrases that you can use to have Siri run shortcuts. To get there, open Settings > Siri & Search. The screen may start off with one or more Shortcuts under My Shortcuts. Tap that entry to view any shortcuts. Ask Siri to run the shortcut.
View Suggested Shortcuts
Over time, Siri learns your routines and behaviors as you use various apps, and then suggests certain shortcuts. For that reason, you should periodically check the Suggested Shortcuts list. Under that list, tap on All Shortcuts. Swipe down the list for any you might want to use. Siri serves up shortcuts on the Lock screen and the Search screen. Certain apps also offer an Add to Siri button, in which you can add a shortcut to run a specific action in that app. If you select an entry under the suggested shortcuts, you’ll then need to record the phrase that Siri will use to run it. Once the phrase is recorded, that shortcut is added to My Shortcuts. Ask Siri to run the shortcut.
Find Shortcuts Online
There are other cool ways to add new shortcuts to your phone. Many people share their shortcuts online, so you’ll find helpful routines on Reddit and ShortcutsGallery.com to add to your library. Let’s check out a few that you can download onto your device:
- The Good Morning shortcut greets you, shows the news and weather, and then finishes with the app of your choice.
- With Good Night, Siri wishes you good night and turns on Do Not Disturb.
- The Search on… shortcut makes it easy to choose a particular search engine or site to find information.
- With the Airdrop Business Card shortcut, you can send someone your contact information as a virtual business card.
- The Get Public Transport shortcut tells you how to get somewhere using public transportation.
- Use the Police shortcut to record an encounter you have with the police. It alerts a specified contact that you’ve been stopped by an officer and sends that person a video of the encounter.
- The Meditation shortcut allows you to set a specific amount of time to meditate. Your device will activate Do Not Disturb, vibrate as a starting point, and then play chimes when your time is up.
- Use the Download YouTube shortcut to download whatever current YouTube clip you’re watching. Use this shortcut while playing a video on your device, then tap Share > More > Shortcuts > Download YouTube to save it to your photo album.
- Calculate Tip gives you a quick and easy way to figure out a tip. Run the shortcut, then enter the price of the bill and the percentage you’d like to leave as a tip.
- Weight Logger calculates your BMI and records your weight information to the iOS Health app.