Discovery Hub

Best iOS Shortcuts to Have on Your iPhone


April 25, 2019

With iOS 12, Apple introduced Shortcuts, a new app that automates a wide variety of common iPhone tasks across multiple apps with just one tap (or by asking Siri). Shortcuts is a powerful and useful tool on the iPhone, letting you do most of what you use your phone for in half the time.

What does Shortcuts do?

Shortcuts combines a series of steps into a single action, automating what you do with multiple apps into just one step. You can trigger a Shortcut by opening the iPhone Shortcuts app, accessing it through iOS’s widgets, or by adding it to Siri. For example, tell Siri “Say Cheese,” and your phone will open your camera app, take a hands-free picture, and save it to your camera roll. Or, simply tap the “Share Location” Shortcut to pull your current location, copy the Maps URL, and paste it into a message to one of your contacts.

How to make shortcuts on an iPhone

Shortcuts has two parts: Siri Shortcuts, and the Shortcuts app.

Siri Shortcuts recognizes actions you take regularly and prompts you to perform them based on previous behaviors. If you stop at the same coffee shop on your way to work every day, Siri can pop up a prompt on your lock screen suggesting you place an order through the app on the way there. Or if it’s your friend’s birthday, Siri might suggest you give them a call.

Siri Shortcuts lives in the Settings section of the iPhone, where there are suggested Shortcuts (such as “Look Up the Weather” or “Call Mom”) that you can turn into voice-activated Shortcuts with their own unique voice commands. You can create a Shortcut to ask Siri almost anything, and give it the exact voice command you want. For example, “Call Mom” can now become “E.T. Phone Home,” or anything else you dream up.

The Shortcuts app is a more robust option for creating Shortcuts, giving you more granular control and the ability to link multiple actions and apps together. Download the app from the App Store and peruse a gallery of pre-made shortcuts or design your own. Over 300 built-in actions allow Apple’s apps to work across one another, including Contacts, Calendar, Maps, Music, Photos, Camera, Reminder, Safari, and Health, as well as integrate with other third-party apps installed on your phone.

How to find great Shortcuts

Apple’s Shortcuts Gallery contains hundreds of Shortcuts divided into categories such as Essentials, Morning Routines, Photography, Music, Health, and GIFs.

Some of the best shortcuts suggested by Apple include:

  • “Home ETA” that will calculate how long it will take you to drive home, and send a text with an estimate of your arrival time to a person of your choice.
  • “Convert Burst to GIF” that will take a sequence of images and turn them into a shareable GIF.
  • “Scan QR Code” that gives you a quick way to scan QR codes without opening an app.
  • “Play Playlist” that starts your favorite playlist with one tap.
  • “Running Late” that scans your calendar and current location and can tell your meeting contacts that you are late, then send an updated ETA.
  • “Make PDF” that will turn anything you see on your phone screen into a PDF, whether it’s a webpage, a text message, or a photo.

How to create a Shortcut

In addition to creating Shortcuts in Siri’s settings, you can also use the Shortcuts app to build longer, more complicated Shortcuts for your most common iPhone uses.

Tap the “+” button in the top corner of the Shortcuts library or tap the “Create Shortcut” box to open the Shortcut editor. An empty, untitled Shortcut will appear, allowing you to drag and drop the actions you want to add to it. Tap the search bar for a complete list of actions or swipe up from the top of the search field to see a list of suggested actions. Select the actions you want to add, hit Done, and your Shortcut is ready to use. To name your Shortcut, tap the settings icon in the top corner, type in the name, and tap "Done" to save it.

How to use your Shortcuts

Once your Shortcuts are in place, you’ll need to figure out how to use them. The quickest option is to ask Siri. To add a Shortcut to Siri, tap the Shortcut in the library, tap the slider icon in the top right corner, tap “Add to Siri,” and record the phrase you want to activate the shortcut.

The second easiest option is to add the Shortcut to the iPhone’s Widgets, which appear when you swipe left on your screen. Follow the steps above, but instead of “Add to Siri” toggle on “Show in Widget.” Finally, you can activate any Shortcut by opening the Shortcuts app and tapping on its icon.

The Shortcuts app taps into the powerful computing prowess of your iPhone, transforming it from a useful device to a truly “smart” phone.

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