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How to use the Shortcuts app on your iPhone or iPad

Automate all possible tasks on your iOS device.
By
January 9, 2023

If you’re a fan of automation and you hate doing repetitive tedious tasks, then Apple has an iOS solution for you. It’s called Shortcuts, and since iOS 13, it has come pre-installed with every iOS installation. Those that don’t have it (or who have uninstalled it) can get it from the App Store for free. So what is the Shortcuts app, and how do you use Shortcuts on an iPhone or iPad? This is the topic of today’s article.

Read more: iPhone secret codes — what are they, and how do you use them?

QUICK ANSWER

Shortcuts is a free iOS app that enables various apps on your device to work together to perform automated routine tasks. This can be anything from image conversion to sending out automatic SMS messages. A basic understanding of automation is required, but there are countless tutorials and automations online.


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What is the Shortcuts app, and what does it do?

Shortcuts is an iOS app that tells one app on your device to perform an automated task with another app on the device. In this way, you can take various routine tasks and get those apps to do them for you instead. Some of those automations can be silently run in the background without any further input from you. While others require you to confirm that you want the task to be carried out.

This is something that is literally only constrained by the limits of your imagination. Some people have made really complex automations involving several apps that do some amazing things. While you need to have a basic understanding of how automation works, you don’t have to be a coding expert by any means.

How to use the Shortcuts app on your iPhone and iPad

Shortcuts can do things such as converting images to sending out pre-written SMS messages to making a QR code on the fly. Think of a task on your iOS device that you find tedious and boring, and you’ll most likely find a way to automate it with Shortcuts.

There are so many variations that you can build that showing you everything would be a bit too much. So what we will do is show you the basic functions and how to make a basic automation. After that, it really is a case of just poking around in the app and exploring the various possibilities for yourself.

Setting up a going-to-bed automation

bedknobs broomsticks
Disney

Let’s keep the first automation simple. When my phone informs me that it is time to start getting into bed and wind down, I want Apple Music to automatically open and play brown noise. Brown noise, in case you’re curious, is soft static noise that relaxes the brain.

  • When you tap on the Automation tab, you will see some examples to get you started. Let’s tap Sleep.
  • Select when you want the automation to begin. I chose Wind Down Begins. This is five minutes before Sleep Mode starts on my phone.
  • Now you need to select what action should start when this condition is met. Tap Add Action. Below that are some suggestions you can use.
  • To get to the music app, tap the Apps section, scroll down and select Music.
  • Select the album you want to play and tap Next at the top.
  • If everything looks good, tap Next again.
  • You’ll notice that, at the bottom of the screen, there is an option that says Ask Before Running. This means the automation won’t start until you tap a button confirming you want it to start. Since the whole point of automation is not to think about things like this, I usually disable this option by toggling it off. Tap Done.
  • The automation is now complete. To edit and tweak the automation, simply tap it to open it up again.

As I said, this is a very basic automation and the literal tip of the iceberg as far as what the Shortcuts app can do. But if you’re just starting out with Shortcuts, this is a nice easy one to get your feet wet.

Some of the best shortcuts for your iPhone and iPad

If you really want to get into shortcuts and automation, and you have no idea which ones to do, then don’t worry. You’ll find plenty of inspiration online.

In the Gallery tab of the Shortcuts app, there are countless automations you can start. In the Shortcuts tab, you’ll see automations appear when you install a certain app. For example, when I installed a parcel tracking app, shortcuts suddenly appeared for it.

There are also sites and communities revolving around iOS shortcuts. They’re just a Google search away.


Read more: How to add a website to an Android or iPhone home screen

FAQs

Shortcuts comes pre-installed with every iOS device running iOS 13 or later. If you are running an older device, you will have to install Shortcuts from the App Store.

Deleting a shortcut on one iOS device will delete on any other iOS device signed into the same iCloud account.

Some shortcuts can slow down your device, such as custom app icons. Therefore, it’s prudent to be conservative with what you install.