How to Solve Your Problems with Shortcuts

How to get started in Shortcuts, and 5 problems solved with Shortcuts

In a recent chat on Clubhouse with Matthew Cassinelli and Christopher Lawley there was a listener who asked a questions along the lines of:

How can I get someone new to Shortcuts start using it more?

My original answer was to solve a problem with Shortcuts for them. I still stand by that statement, but I want to elaborate more. When I say ""solve a problem" "it can mean a multituide of things. 

Get Somewhere Faster

The first being to do something in a single tap on your iPhone rather than swiping, tapping, and searching for something. In this case you may be able to figure out a way to get to where you want thanks to Shortcuts. You could open a specific URL, open an app, or even find a deep link to a settings area and save yourself the hassle of finding the setting your want.

Do More at Once

The second problem you can solve using Shortcuts is to chain together a number of actions in a single shortcut instead of having to run multiple shortcuts at once. One great option is to have a built in menu selection in a Shortcut like those in Matthew Cassinelli's simplified Shortcuts Library.

Do Something You Couldn't Do Otherwise

There are things that Shortcuts can do that you can't. These problems aren't easy to find without a little knowledge of what is possible with Shortcuts, but when you do start tinkering and playing around in the app you start to make connections you otherwise wouldn't.

One quick example is Federico Viticci's Apple Frames shortcut which takes a screenshot you have and superimposes it into the Apple device to make for a beautiful looking image. You can see an example of this below.

5 Problems Solved with Shortcuts

Given this talk about solving problems with Shortcuts, I thought I would help kickstart things by solving 5 problems for you. Some solutions even have variations depending on the service you prefer.

Read Saved Articles

If you are a reader, or would like to start being one, a quick and easy way to do so is by saving articles to read later. One great solution for that is with an app or service. 

There are two wonderful web services, Instapaper and Pocket. Both of these services have fantastic iOS and iPadOS apps that integrate with Shortcuts. 

Another read later option is Reeder, an RSS reading service that also has a fantastic Read Later feature

The potential problem with these services, no matter which one you choose, is that you need to actually read what you've saved. I know that I have caught myself saying I have nothing to read, even though my read later inbox is stuffed. The shortcuts below are used to choose a random article you have saved in Instapaper, Pocket, or Reeder and open it for you to read.

These are fairly simple shortcuts but you can play around with them a bit and see about filtering out certain articles by tag, folder, or something similar. 

Open Your Task Inbox

Another problem that can be solved with Shortcuts is to open straight to the inbox of your task manager. If you are a GTDuser you know that processing and clarifying are among the most important steps. Which means you need to periodically take a look at the items in your inbox and organize them. These shortcuts are made to go straight to your Inbox area for just that reason. I have three built, one for Things 3, one for Omnifocus, and one for Todoist

If you are a user of a different task manager app, chances are they have some Shortcut support. Just open the Shortcuts app and create a new shortcut. Once there, see if your task manager app shows up in the App section. 

Turn on the Flashlight

I often find myself needing a flashlight and to this day I still haven't figured out to long press on the lock screen properly. Sometimes I can tap on that little flashlight icon in the bottom left corner of my iPhone, and other times it just doesn't work for me. 

A simple solution is to just have a Shortcut for it and either use Siri or add it to the Home Screen and tap on it. I haven't figured out how to make a flashlight shortcut toggle on and off in a singular shortcut so I had to create one shortcut to turn it on and another to turn it off. Not ideal, but it does the job.

Send Current Location

As I mentioned earlier, there may be a time where you need to send your location to someone. This could be something as simple as sending it to a friend for directions or something more important like a natural disaster. Either way, this shortcut can be preconfigured to either have a set recipient or allow you to choose who it goes to. Additionally, you can edit the message that is sent as well. I hope you never have to use it during a catastrophe but it might be better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it. 

New Draft

If you are a Drafts user, this shortcut is made to open Drafts and begin a new draft document. On the surface this may seem redundant as Drafts is made to automatically open with a new draft note ready to be written in. The difference between this shortcut and simply opening Drafts to begin writing is that you're able to preconfigured items you otherwise can't in Drafts. For example, you can edit this shortcut and have "idea" as a built in tag. Now, whenever you have an idea you can simply run this shortcut, type in what your idea is, and Drafts automatically has the "idea" tag assigned to that note. 

Conclusion

If you or someone you know is looking to get started in Shortcuts, consider thinking about problems you have with your devices and see if Shortcuts has a way for you to fix or simplify that problem.

One great resource I haven’t mentioned that can help you get ideas of what you can do with Shortcuts is the built-in Shortcuts Gallery. If you haven’t looked into that, I highly recommend it.

Finally, if you have any Shortcut issues or need help with building a shortcut to simplify your life let me know and I will be happy to help in any way I can. You can either email me at contact[at]tablethabit[dot]com or get a hold of me on Twitter @iamJeffPerry.