Apple released iOS12, the latest version of their mobile operating system, on 17th September 2018 and with it came the new Shortcuts/Siri Shortcuts functionality.
Shortcuts is the new name for the old Workflow app. In essence, Shortcuts is a way of (relatively) easily automating tasks on your iOS devices. Shortcuts that you create can be made available on the Today View page of your device, with tappable buttons to run the shortcut. The Siri part comes into play by allowing you to assign your own custom phrase to trigger a shortcut. For example, I like to log my water intake without using a third-party app. I created a shortcut in the app to log water intake, and assigned the phrase “Add Water” to Siri. Now whenever I say “Hey Siri, Add Water” my Health data is updated in seconds. If the shortcut is simple enough and requires only certain UI elements then it will run entirely in the Today View, and if anything more complicated than simple lists or text input is required it will jump into the Shortcuts app itself.
It may seem like Shortcuts is something that only programmers would be able to work with, but that’s far from the truth. In general, it’s easy to setup Shortcuts to do a lot of tasks. As with most things like this though it can quickly get tricksy if you have a complicated task you are trying to automate.
With that in mind, here are a few of my favourite Shortcuts that I’ve been using for a few weeks.
Super simple, just one command “Log Health Sample”. I drink from Camelbak bottles and it’s roughly 500ml a refill so I’ve setup the shortcut to log that amount. Although not 100% accurate it’s good enough for me. I assigned the Siri phrase “Add Water” too, but it’s quicker to use the button in the Today View.
This is just a silly little shortcut that has Siri read out a random phrase from a list I entered. It has caused some amusement when triggered at the right time!
This one asks three questions – the bill amount, the number of people, the % tip – and calculates the total bill/bill per person with and without the tip. I’ve made it round up to the nearest pound, which means it always means you end up spending a little more but I find it easier to deal with payment that way.
I use this one to send a message to Gilliblogs to let her know I am on my way home and roughly how long it will take me. The shortcut asks me for a number which is the number of minutes I think I will be, and then it auto-sends a text via the iOS Messages app. You can use Google Maps to predict your travel time, but I prefer the speed of just typing in the number of minutes.
My favourite shortcut because it’s the most programmery! Basically, it sends a message to Gilliblogs informing her I am going for a run, with the name of the route and the time I expect to be back. The route details (name and time) are added to a Dictionary in the shortcut, and when I pick the route as the shortcut runs it calculates my ETA based on the current time plus a 15-minute contingency. The contingency is because I can’t guarantee I will run the same time every time, so I need some leeway for when I am running at different paces etc. The thing I don’t like with this shortcut is that it needs editing when I want to add a new route. I am currently working on storing the route list in an iCloud file, so that I can add routes to that file and have the shortcut download them when it runs.
They are just a few of my favourite shortcuts, but I am also working on new ideas. My latest prototype is for a “Today’s Birthdays” shortcut, which will trawl my Contacts for anyone with a birthday that day and text them a message. I’ve got the basic shortcut working, but I’m not sure I like the UI so I’m still tweaking it.
I hope you find the above shortcut ideas useful. If you want any advice on creating shortcuts find me on Twitter and ask away!