iOS 12 is here, and with it comes a new app: Shortcuts. Built upon the framework established by Workflow – a utility Apple acquired last year – Shortcuts allows users to perform custom multi-step actions with a single button press or a single command to Siri. It’ll take a modicum of effort to set up, but could save you time and hassle in the long run.
How to get Shortcuts
Unlike many of Apple’s homegrown apps, Shortcuts doesn’t come pre-installed with iOS – you’ll have to download it yourself.
First, make sure you’ve updated to iOS 12 (Settings > General > Software Update) and then grab the app from the App Store using the button below. It’s completely free to download and use.
If you previously had Workflow installed, you can simply update the app in the App Store. If that doesn’t work you’ll need to delete the app before downloading Shortcuts.
Even without installing the app, iOS 12 users have access to a range of voice-activated shortcuts through the Siri & Search section of Settings, but you’ll need the app to choose anything more complex than the automatic suggestions.
How to use Shortcuts
When you load up the app you’ll be presented with two tabs: Library and Gallery. The Library is a list of all the shortcuts you’ve set up. You can tap existing shortcuts to launch them, or use the Create Shortcut button to make your own from scratch. More on that later.
Meanwhile, the Gallery is a curated list of premade shortcuts and is a great place to get inspiration for the type of shortcuts you might want to use.
Anything you find in the Gallery can be added to the Library with the Get Shortcut button, and we’d recommend new users start by browsing through this selection and adding anything that looks useful.
How to create Shortcuts
Before we start, let’s clear up some terminology. An action is a single task, like sending a message, playing an album, or logging a workout. A shortcut is a series of actions glued together.
Hit the Create Shortcut button and you’ll be presented with a blank canvas and a list of actions. You can build shortcuts by tap-holding actions and dragging them onto the canvas, testing them with the Play button at the top of the screen to make sure they work as intended.
Actions can be chained together – order is important – and some of them require additional details. For example, a shortcut that gives you directions home is comprised of two things: a Street Address action with an address filled in, and a Show Directions action that defines which maps app to use and what type of directions to give.
Choosing one action will filter the list of available actions to show things that can follow up on the first task; you won’t see the Combine Images action until you’ve already added Get Photos or similar so it has something to work with.
How to trigger Shortcuts
So you’ve chosen a range of shortcuts that could save you time each day. But how exactly do you start them going? There are actually five different ways to trigger a shortcut, so you can pick whichever works best for you.
The most obvious way is to open the Shortcuts app and tap any of the shortcuts in your Library to run them. However, there are some much quicker alternatives – tap the … icon to edit a shortcut followed by the Settings button in the top right to access a bunch of options for your shortcut.
From this menu, you can define a suitable name and icon to represent your shortcut. You can then choose where to display a button that triggers it with a single tap: Show in Widget adds a button to the Today View visible when swiping to the left from your Home or Lock screen; Show in Share Sheet adds a button to the bank of options that surfaces when you hit Share from any app; Add to Home Screen puts a custom app icon right there on your main page.
Finally, and perhaps most usefully, Add to Siri allows you to record a personalized trigger phrase to prompt Siri into running the shortcut for you.
That’s it! Shortcuts can be as simple or as complex as you like, and with a bit of creativity could very well birth some incredibly helpful workflows for everyday use. Time to start experimenting!