How to Set Up and Use Siri Shortcuts

This simple trick will simplify your life

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Thanks to the Shortcuts feature of iOS 12, your iOS device can learn the things you do on your device regularly and then create actions that perform those tasks for you — even multi-step tasks using multiple apps — when you tap just one button. Here's what you need to know.

What Are iOS 12 Shortcuts?

Shortcuts are a way that your iOS device becomes smarter and more customized to you. Essentially, the device learns your common behaviors and then suggests them to you at contextually appropriate times so that the behaviors can be performed with a single button tap.

For example, let's say you order the same coffee and muffin from a nearby Starbucks every day using the Starbucks app. Shortcuts will learn that behavior and then, around the time you normally place your order, will ask you if you want to order. Tap a button and your order will be waiting for pickup when you get to the shop.

Besides automatically created Shortcuts based on your behavior, you can create your own custom actions using the Shortcuts app that comes pre-loaded with iOS 12.

What Are Siri Shortcuts?

Siri Shortcuts are one aspect of the Shortcuts feature. All Shortcuts can be launched using a button on the screen of your iOS device, but they can also be launched by Siri. To do this, select and record the phrase that launches the shortcut for Siri to learn. So, once you've got a Shortcut — either created automatically or one you created yourself in the Shortcuts app — just say "Hey Siri" and the phrase to launch the Shortcut and you'll be good to go.

What Do You Need to Use Shortcuts?

To use the Shortcuts feature of the iOS, you need the following:

  • iOS 12 installed on a compatible device.
  • Apps that support the Shortcuts feature. Most apps from Apple should support it, while third-party developers have to add support to their apps (for instance, the Starbucks example earlier only works if Starbucks adds Shortcuts support to its app).
  • Optionally, an Apple Watch that uses the Siri watch face.

Where Can You Access Shortcuts?

Once you meet the requirements for using Shortcuts, there are a number of places you can expect to find them:

  • On iOS devices like the iPhone and iPad, Shortcuts are suggested to you in contextually relevant places, such as on the lockscreen or in the Spotlight search tool.
  • On the Apple Watch, Shortcuts are suggested, when relevant, on the Siri watch face.
  • Shortcuts are accessible via the HomePod and CarPlay.
  • As noted above, devices with Siri can run Shortcuts just by saying "Hey Siri" and then the launch phrase.
  • Shortcuts can be created, edited, and launched from the iOS 12 Shortcuts app.

How to Create and Use Your Own iOS and Siri Shortcuts

iOS 12 Shorcuts app
Apple Inc.

As we've seen, the Shortcuts feature learns the actions you take regularly on your device and suggests new Shortcuts based on that. But you don't have to wait for those suggestions. You can create your own customer actions using the Shortcuts app.

As of this writing, the Shortcuts app isn't available, even as part of Apple's public betas of iOS 12. Since it's not available, we can't yet provide instructions on how to use it. When it's released — in beta or as part of the official iOS 12 release — this article will be updated with step-by-step tutorials on how to use it.

From what's been shown so far, though, here's what we know:

  • The Shortcuts app will come with a gallery of pre-configured Shortcuts to choose or you can add your own.
  • Pre-made Shortcuts can be modified to meet your needs and preferences.
  • You can assign a custom launch phrase to Shortcuts
  • Shortcuts can have multiple steps, and can trigger multiple apps. For instance, you could have a Shortcut that, when you tell Siri you're awake, turns on the bedroom lights, turns up the thermostat, starts your connected coffee pot brewing, downloads the latest news and podcasts to your favorite apps, and gets a traffic report for your morning commute from your Maps app.