Shortcuts are one of the new features in iOS12. They let you automate specific tasks (or sequences of tasks) on your iPhone or iPad that you can trigger with a single tap or voice command. So, what can you do with them? Let’s take a look.

What Are Shortcuts?

Long story short, Shortcuts in iOS let you automate sequences of actions so that you can perform them quickly with one tap on a shortcut icon or with a voice command issued to Siri.

You can  say a custom phrase like “Hey Siri, good night” to switch your phone to Do Not Disturb mode and turn the screen brightness all the way down (if you don’t already have auto-brightness enabled). Third-party apps can also include support for Shortcuts for getting things done in those specific apps. Philips Hue is one example, where you can record custom phrases to tell Siri, and she’ll activate your favorite Hue scenes. This is just one small example, though.

RELATED: iOS 12 is Out Now, But Should You Upgrade?

You can, of course, trigger shortcuts without using your voice by tapping on the shortcut within the Shortcuts app. You can even create home screen icons for shortcuts or place them on your lock screen in the form of widgets.

How Do I Get Started?

To create a custom shortcut, you’ll use the Shortcuts app, so make sure you have it downloaded to your iPhone. To get started, open up the app and tap the “Create Shortcut” button. You can also tap the “Gallery” tab at the bottom to browse pre-made shortcuts that you might find useful.

For this guide, though, we’ll create a simple shortcut for searching for restaurants nearby no matter where you are. Obviously, you can customize the shortcut how you want, but we’ll simply be showing you how it all works and then leave it to you to add your creative touch.

After you’ve tapped on “Create a Shortcut,” swipe up from the bottom to expand the Actions screen, which will show a list of various actions that you can add to your shortcut. If the specific action you want doesn’t appear, tap the search bar at the top, and you’ll be able to find it that way.

For my shortcut, I’ll search for “maps” and then select “Search Local Businesses.”

After you add an action, you can customize it. In the “Search” field, we’re typing in “restaurants.” Below that, you can change the search radius in kilometers if you want.

So now that we’ve told the shortcut to search for restaurants nearby, it needs an output. In other words, what does the shortcut do with this information? It needs to open up the maps app and display the results. So we’ll need to add another action for this. In this case, we’ll select “Show in Maps.”

You can select which maps app it opens by tapping on “Maps App.” We’ll stick with the default Apple Maps, though.

At this point, the shortcut is done, and you can tap on the play button at the top to test it out and make sure it works as you want.

After that, we just need to customize some things, like giving the shortcut a name and adding it to Siri. Tap on the toggle switch button up toward the top-right corner of the screen.

Give the shortcut a name by tapping on “Untitled Shortcut” and then typing it in. Hit “Done” when finished. You can also change the icon if you want.

To trigger this shortcut using Siri, tap the “Add to Siri” option.

Next, hit the record button and say the custom phrase that will trigger the shortcut. Hit the record button again at the end of your phrase to stop recording.

Hit “Done” in the top-right corner if everything looks good.

There are some other options you can enable towards the bottom, like adding the shortcut to your home screen (or as a widget), sharing the shortcut with other users, and having the shortcut appear in the share menu within other apps.

Once you’ve customized these settings, hit “Done” and then hit “Done” again to go back to the main screen. You’ll see your new shortcut, and you can tap on it to run it if you’d like (or from the home screen if you’ve added a home screen icon for it). But if you’ve set it up to work with Siri, you can use your voice instead, just like you would with any other Siri command.

You can get as simple or complicated with Shortcuts as you want, but it’s not as easy and intuitive to set up shortcuts as we would like. Luckily, the Gallery makes it easy to find shortcuts that you might find helpful, and there are several resources that you can use as well, like r/Shortcuts on Reddit and

Profile Photo for Craig Lloyd Craig Lloyd
Craig Lloyd is a smarthome expert with nearly ten years of professional writing experience. His work has been published by iFixit, Lifehacker, Digital Trends, Slashgear, and GottaBeMobile.
Read Full Bio »