What are Siri shortcuts?
A Siri shortcut is a set of actions grouped together, that perform a specific task.
Shortcuts can automate repetitive tasks and trigger multiple actions over multiple apps. They can be run by Siri using a voice command.
They are created and installed using the Shortcuts app on the iPhone, iPad, and Mac.
In this article, we’ll show you the following:
- How Siri shortcuts work.
- A tour of the Shortcuts app.
- How a Siri shortcut is built.
- How to create a new shortcut.
- How to run a Siri shortcut.
We’ll be using an iPhone in these walkthroughs, but the procedures are the same on an iPad and very similar on a Mac.
How do Siri shortcuts work?
A shortcut is a container for a set of actions. A single action can pass its result onto the next, and several actions can run in a sequence.
Shortcut actions are available for most iOS apps, such as Apple Music, Email, Messages, Calendar, Weather, HomeKit, FaceTime, and Photos. Actions can do many things, like access your location data, interact with documents, search the web and run scripts.
The name you choose for a shortcut is also the phrase you use to trigger it with Siri.
For example, a shortcut called ‘I’m on my way home’ could check the local traffic conditions, plan the quickest drive home, tell you the weather forecast for your journey, then send a text message to a chosen contact to say you’re on your way and your estimated time of arrival. The shortcut would be triggered by saying:
Hey Siri, I’m on my way home.
Siri shortcut suggestions
Siri may offer to create new shortcuts based on machine learning. For example, if you use a weather app at the same time each day, Siri may automatically suggest opening the app for you at the same time as you usually would.
If this happens, tap on the Add to Siri button next to the suggested shortcut.
Using third-party apps with Siri Shortcuts
Many third-party apps install shortcuts and actions for you automatically.
Mac app Pixelmator adds several actions that perform image editing tasks with ease. Using these actions, it’s possible to create a shortcut that will crop, resize, convert and export an image, triggered by Siri or a custom key command.
A tour of the Shortcuts app
The Shortcuts app is divided into three sections, Shortcuts, Automation, and Gallery. Each section is accessible by tapping the tabs at the bottom of the screen.
This section displays all the shortcuts you have created or installed on your device.
An Automation is essentially a rule by which another action is run. Automations can be Personal – for use on one device, or Home – for controlling HomeKit devices.
A Personal Automation is specific to the device it is created on; it will be backed up to iCloud but will not sync to other devices.
In this example, we’ll set up a Personal Automation to play music when an iPhone’s wake-up alarm is stopped.
- Tap Automation in the Shortcuts app.
- Tap Create Personal Automation.
- Tap Alarm.
- Make sure Is Stopped has a check next to it and press Next.
- Tap Add Action.
- In the search field, type in Music, and select Play Music from the results.
- Tap the word Music in the shortcut and choose the music you want to play when the alarm finishes. This can be songs, playlists, and radio stations. In this example, we’ve selected Apple Music 1 radio.
- When you’ve selected the music you want, tap Next.
- Toggle off Ask Before Running if you want the music to start playing without being asked for permission first.
That’s it! There really is a lot you can do with Personal Automations, and it’s worth looking through all the different automation types for ideas.
The Gallery tab provides a library of prebuilt shortcuts you can download and install.
Browse shortcuts by scrolling down, tapping on See All, or typing a keyword in the search field.
To install a shortcut, tap on it. A popover will appear with a description of the shortcut and a button prompting you to set it up. Some shortcuts may require you to input information for them to work correctly.
As well as providing helpful shortcuts, the Gallery offers an opportunity to look at how Shortcuts are created. Next, we’ll show you how to install a shortcut and then take a look a how it was built.
How a Siri shortcut is built
To demonstrate the power of shortcuts, we’ll look at one available in the Gallery. We’ll install it, then open it up to see how it was made.
Search for and install the shortcut
First, we need to find and install the shortcut we want to examine:
- Open the Shortcuts app, and tap the Gallery icon.
- In the search field, type Running. A shortcut called Running Late should appear in the results.
- To install the shortcut, tap the + button. To learn more about the shortcut first, tap the shortcut name. A popover will appear, telling you what the shortcut does and what the Siri command is.
- Tap Add Shortcutto install it.
- Tap the Shortcuts tab at the bottom of the screen, and you’ll see the ‘Running Late’ shortcut has been installed.
- Tap the three small circles at the top right of the shortcut to open its edit screen.
You’ll see the sequence of actions used to create the shortcut. Each action performs a task, then passes the results on to the next.
When words are highlighted in blue, their value can be edited by tapping them.
Let’s look at each action.
Find Calendar Events
The first step in this shortcut is an action to grab upcoming events in a defined date and time range. In this case, any events that are happening today.
Tap on any of the words highlighted in blue to change the criteria the action uses to search events in your calendar.
Tapping on Add Filter reveals additional filters you can use to refine the search.
Get Travel Time
This action takes the location information of events passed on from the previous step and calculates the expected journey time.
The journey time is then passed on to the next action.
Text is input into this action using the keyboard. In this example, it says, ‘Running a little late! Be there in…’
The last part of this message is a variable which displays the estimated time of arrival calculated in the previous step.
The menu bar above the keyboard displays available variables created in previous actions. In this case, the one used is called Travel Time.
This action will send the text created in the previous step as a text message to the contact associated with the event in the calendar.
This action will display a message window on the screen when it has run.
How to create a new shortcut
Now we’ve seen how a shortcut is built, you might want to try making one of your own.
To create a new shortcut:
- Open the Shortcuts app and make sure the Shortcuts tab is open.
- Tap the + icon at the top right of the screen.
- Tap New Shortcut at the top of the screen and select Rename. Give your shortcut a name; this will also be the voice command Siri uses to trigger the shortcut.
- If you wish, tap Choose Icon to change the shortcuts’ icon and color.
- To add the first action in a shortcut, tap Add Action.
- The app will recommend actions based on your previous selection, displayed under Next Action Suggestions.
- Type in the search field to find specific apps or actions.
- If you’re unsure which action to use, tap one of the categories to see available actions or the Apps tab to see actions related to specific apps.
When you have finished building a shortcut, tap the ‘i’ in a circle at the bottom of the screen for additional options, such as enabling different ways to trigger the shortcut.
We’ve written some in-depth articles on building shortcuts from start to finish. Check them out if you’d like to learn more about how to build a shortcut from scratch.
- How to build a workout time with Siri Shortcuts.
- How to find your Latitude and Longitude with Siri Shortcuts.
How to run a Siri shortcut
There are several ways to run a Shortcut, depending on your device.
Ask Siri by saying, “Hey Siri”
When you create a shortcut, Siri automatically recognizes it by the name you give it. So if you call a shortcut ‘take a photo’, to run it, say:
Hey Siri, take a photo.
Add the shortcut icon to your Home Screen
You can create an ‘app icon’ for your shortcut that will appear on your Home Screen.
- Open the shortcut by pressing the three dots in a circle next to the shortcut name.
- Tap the ‘i’ in a circle at the bottom of the screen.
- Tap Add to Home Screen.
- You’ll be shown a preview of how the icon will look; tap Add.
The icon is now on your Home Screen; tap on it to run the shortcut.
Add the shortcut to your Home Screen in a Widget
A shortcut can be added like other widgets from your Home Screen.
- On your Home Screen, tap and hold until the icons wobble.
- Tap the + button at the top left of the screen.
- Scroll down and tap Shortcuts, then choose a widget.
Show the shortcut in Share Sheet
This option adds the shortcut to the Share Sheet.
A great example of a Share Sheet shortcut can be found in the Gallery:
- Open the shortcuts Gallery and search for ‘Email Myself’.
- Install it and follow the setup instructions by entering your email address.
- Tap Add Shortcut when done.
- Now open up an app that allows you to select text, such as Safari.
- Make a selection and tap the Share Sheet button.
- Scroll down, and there will be a new Share Sheet option called Email Myself.
- Tap it, and the text you selected will be sent to the email address you specified. You may need to give the shortcut permission; just tap Allow if asked.
So, how is this done? To find out, open the shortcut by pressing the three dots in a circle next to the shortcut name.
Tap the ‘i’ in a circle at the bottom of the screen for further details about the shortcut. You’ll see that Show in Share Sheet has been toggled on.
Tap Done to return to the shortcut.
The first action you’ll see is automatically added when ‘Show in Share Sheet’ is turned on. It instructs the shortcut to take input from the Share Sheet and pass the content it receives to the following action.
The types of content the action will accept can be changed by tapping the blue text that reads Images and 16 more.
The example we’ve used here is relatively simple, but goes to demonstrate how Share Sheet shortcuts can automate mundane tasks.
In this article, we’ve barely skimmed the surface of what is possible with Siri shortcuts. Many of you will be happy to use the shortcuts provided in the Gallery, or you may relish the idea of creating complex, multistep actions.
Either way, it’s a feature that makes Siri far more powerful and far more useful.