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Smartphones & gadgets

Tech how-to: 5 useful tricks to try with iPhone’s Shortcuts app

Remember that old Workflow app that came loaded on the iPhone? Probably not — it wasn’t the most popular app by any means.

Well, Workflow may become a bit more popular soon because it’s gotten a major upgrade. These days, Workflow is known as Shortcuts, and it’s a really useful productivity app. Need help managing your to-do list? These apps will help.

You can use the Shortcuts app on your iPhone to get things done quickly. It lets you create shortcuts for tasks that would normally have multiple steps — saving you time and hassle of digging for multiple apps. But what exactly should you use it for? Let’s find out.

How to use the Shortcuts app

Do you surf? Well, you can build a “Surf Time” shortcut that pulls information on the surf report, gives you an ETA to the beach, and launches your surf music playlist — all by tapping the Shortcuts app. Want to automate your smart devices to turn on or off at certain times of the day? There’s a shortcut for that. Tired of digging around for your playlists? There’s a shortcut for that, too.

You can use the Shortcuts app to centralize a ton of tasks. It’s a really handy tool to keep in your pocket — and if you’re an iPhone user, you may want to take advantage of what it offers.

Want to get started with Shortcuts? You’ll need to start by installing the Shortcuts app on your phone. Once it’s installed, you can just drag and create new shortcuts or add them to your app from the Gallery. When you’re ready to use a shortcut, you can just tap the Shortcuts app or ask Siri to perform the action you’ve set up. Super easy!

To set up any shortcut, open the Shortcuts app and tap Gallery at the bottom of the screen. The easiest way to find a shortcut is to search for it in the search bar found at the top of the screen. For example, if you want to make a PDF just search PDF and a shortcut button labeled Make PDF will appear.

Before you start adding any shortcuts to the app, though, you may want to check out our list of the best Shortcuts below. These will save you time and hassle — and may even keep you pumped up while working out.

Try these clever shortcuts

1. Automated shortcuts

Automation is a little different than your typical shortcuts. Rather than using Siri to complete an action, an automated shortcut will be triggered by an event instead. Let’s say you want to set your smart lights to come on at a certain time of day. You can use automated shortcuts to set that up.

You can use the Shortcuts app to set up automation that’s triggered by your arrival or departure, a setting on your iPhone, or the time of day. You can even set an automated shortcut for emails for when you receive messages from certain people.

Setting up an Automated shortcut is a little different than a normal shortcut. Here’s what you do:

  • In the Shortcuts app, tap Automation at the bottom of the screen.
  • Tap Create Personal Automation.
  • Choose a trigger. There are many triggers to choose from including Alarm, Before I Commute, CarPlay, Email and more.
  • Select the options for the trigger, then tap Next. An empty automation will appear in the automation editor.
  • To see all available actions you can add to your automation, tap the magnifying glass. Or to search for a specific action enter a term in the search field.
  • To add an action to your automation, touch and hold an action in the list, then drag it to the position you want in the automation editor. You can also tap an action to add it to the bottom of the action list in the automation editor.
  • Add as many actions as you need for your automation.
  • To test your automation, tap the triangle.
  • To stop the automation, tap the square.
  • Tap Next > Done.

2. Play playlist

Do you like working out to a specific playlist? Do you have a road trip playlist in Apple Music? Well, you don’t need to stop your routine or take your eyes off the road to open Apple Music and get the music going. The Play Playlist shortcut can do it for you.

You can use the Play Playlist shortcut to start any Apple Music playlist from anywhere at any time. All it takes is one tap of the Shortcut app — or you can say “Hey Siri, play XYZ playlist” — and the playlist you choose will start right up.

Related: Essential keyboard shortcuts for Mac

3. Make a PDF

Need to save a webpage or document as a PDF? The Shortcuts app lets you do that right from your phone. All you have to do is add the Make PDF shortcut to your Shortcuts app. Once you’ve added the shortcut, you can use it to turn any document or webpage into a PDF. You can also share or save them from within the app.

4. Tip calculator

Always worried about under-tipping when the delivery driver knocks on your door with dinner? You can use your Shortcuts app to automatically calculate a tip when it’s time to pay for your meal or service.

This shortcut does all of the math for you. It even tells you the amount of tip you should add and the total bill with tip included. All you need to do is add the Calculate Tip shortcut to the Shortcuts app.

5. Map shortcuts

There are also map shortcuts you can use to make life easier. For example, if an event on your calendar has an address attached to it, you can use a shortcut to open your navigation app and get information on your drive time and route.

This shortcut is useful if you travel for work or spend a lot of time navigating unfamiliar cities or areas. If you want to walk to a meeting or event, you can change the map mode.

There are tons of other map shortcuts, too — like the Direction Home shortcut, which lets you navigate home from anywhere by saying “Hey Siri, directions home.” Siri will open the maps app you chose during setup and GPS will guide you home. You can even add a shortcut for location-based reminders so you don’t forget to pick up milk from the store.

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