Apple iOS shortcuts – how to use them

There’s a common saying in the UK that I love: “It does what it says on the tin”. Basically, what this means is that the name (on the product or app in this case) is an accurate description of what you’ll find in it , the properties or capabilities of the item. The Apple iOS Shortcuts App – it keeps what it promises.

TJ McCue iPhone 14 Shortcuts app screenshot

TJ McCue

The app’s name includes it — a method for creating an association with pretty much anything you want your iPhone (or iPad, or Apple Watch) to do with the app. I mainly focus on the iPhone here. Oh, one more explanation: if you’ve ever used a Microsoft Excel “macro” then you have a good idea of ​​what Apple iOS or iPadOS shortcuts are all about.

More formally, Apple’s Shortcuts app is a tool for creating “macros,” or sequences of actions, to perform specific tasks on their devices (on iOS, iPadOS, macOS, and watchOS). These custom task sequences can be created online via iCloud and shared with others. After making a super creative shortcut, you can share it with your friends and family. Or not. Oh, and this can be a verbal command to Siri, or a button on your screen to start the sequence with one tap.

Perhaps better explained with an example: I keep my phone’s orientation locked in vertical mode. I don’t want it to shift from vertical to horizontal if my hand moves just far enough for the iPhone to interpret that when I go horizontal. But I’ll admit that I also find it annoying to have to swipe down to Control Center to unlock when opening the YouTube app, for example. I know, I know, poor me old man.

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TJ McCue iPhone Shortcuts Automation Orientation Lock Unlock

TJ McCue

I used the iPhone Shortcuts app to automate the orientation process to turn it off when opening YouTube and lock orientation again when I close the YouTube app. I also decided to add the photo gallery app. As you can see in the screenshot below I checked YouTube and Photo Gallery but I might as well add Amazon Prime Video which in hindsight is not sure why I didn’t.

TJ McCue iPhone Shortcuts App Unlock Orientation Lock

TJ McCue

Most of the shortcuts are pretty easy to set up and I will explore more of them in the future because they can be very useful and there are almost no limits other than what you can imagine and logically write into existence. However, it can take some time to set up, so I want to examine certain shortcuts that I’ve tested or that are popular and walk you through them step-by-step.

In the very first screenshot above, you might have noticed two shortcut buttons, “Take Photo With 10” and “Take Photo 5 Seconds”. Only one of them works, but I haven’t removed the faulty one yet.

However, the title is also the verbal command to Siri, so you can get an idea of ​​what’s happening – I can put my iPhone on a tripod and then ask Siri to “take photo 5 seconds,” and that will trigger a five-second delay timer . Instead of setting everything up and running to get in the picture, position myself or others, I can stand 10 feet away directly in front of the camera and when we’re all calm, say the command. Pretty neat, right?

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The last one on that screenshot you might not have noticed above – “Order Starbucks” which is what I need after working to figure all of this out. The Shortcut app knows its target audience and built them in to allow for an easy setup for a verbal command to get your caffeine fix. All of this, of course, is in the name of productivity science and helps you get more done with less effort (and more energy).

Resource: If you can’t wait for my short series of posts on iOS Shortcuts, either download the Shortcuts app on your device or take a look at this official Apple Shortcuts User Guide. In the app there is a button (at the bottom) for the shortcuts gallery with all sorts of ideas to get you up and running (screenshot below).

TJ McCue iPhone Shortcuts Gallery

TJ McCue