What The Tech: Apple Shortcuts
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — More than likely you’ve seen the Shortcuts app on the iPhone or iPad but since you didn’t know what it does, you’ve never opened it. Maybe you deleted it. Apple introduced the Shortcuts app several years ago as a way iPhone and iPad users can do many things with just one tap on the screen or one request to Siri.
It’s similar to IFTT, or the “If This, Then That” app that enables scripts of actions with results. People familiar with writing code know how to create scripts where a device or computer does a string of actions when the user enters certain letters or words and hits enter. Thankfully, you don’t need any knowledge of writing code for the Shortcuts app as it does the heavy lifting for you.
The Shortcuts app is pre-installed on new iPhones. If you don’t see the app on your iPhone or iPad, you can download it from the App Store. What this app does is take some of the most complex things we often do with the iPhone and do them with just one tap on the screen or by asking Siri using the key phrase.
Let’s say when you leave work you typically call or text someone that you’re on the way home and what time they can expect you. You also open the podcast app to play the latest episode of your favorite show and you open Apple Maps to get the best route home. Rather than needing to open the messages app, find a contact, write out that text and hit send, then open the podcast app and find your favorite, and then open Apple Maps for directions home, a shortcut can do all of those things automatically.
Opening the Shortcuts app, tap on Gallery to see some of the more popular and useful shortcuts created by Apple and other users. Using the “Going Home” shortcut, I can select a favorite podcast to start playing, get directions and send my ETA in a text to my wife. When my phone detects I’m leaving work using the time and location, the shortcut starts the podcast, opens maps, and sends my ETA through a text message. I can choose to run the shortcut automatically or have it appear on the screen requiring that I tap on it.
Another shortcut automatically starts a workout when my phone connects to the earbuds I wear at the gym. Another shortcut I use opens Amazon Music when I arrive at the gym based on my location.
To find shortcuts, take a look at “Starter Shortcuts” or the “Gallery”. I installed the shortcut “Take a Break”. It’ll set an alarm and turn on do not disturb whenever I ask Siri to “Take a Break”. Siri then asks for how long then sets an alarm and turns on “Do Not Disturb” for the duration of my
break. When the alarm goes off and I hit stop, the shortcut turns off “Do Not Disturb”.
Customizing these shortcuts take a little bit of work but you don’t have to pay attention to all of the steps, Apple has set this up for you with each shortcut script.
You can create your own shortcuts if you know a little bit about writing scripts or code. Or if you’re willing to learn.
You can add a shortcut to the home screen, but it’s generally much easier to just ask Siri to run the shortcut by using the “action” phrase.
There are tons of shortcuts available. Open the shortcuts app and look around at the recommendations. You might think it’s more trouble than it’s worth, but if there’s one thing you find yourself doing over and over again, a shortcut can save you a lot of time.