How to use Shortcuts to create shortcuts to better organize the apps you use for caregiving
At a Glance
Shortcuts is an app native to iOS devices (iPhone, iPad, etc.) that allows you to create and automate a variety of tasks. Without getting too technical, you use the app to combine a series of smaller tasks called actions into a larger task called a shortcut that you activate with a tap of your finger or via voice command if you integrate it with Siri, Apple’s virtual voice assistant. The app comes equipped with a plethora of ready-made shortcuts that you can access and activate as desired. You can also create custom shortcuts that can be as simple or complex as you want to make them. The list of tasks you can automate is limited only by your imagination.
Available on: Apple mobile devices running iOS 12 or later
Restrictions: Ages 4 +
“Short cuts make long delays,” so wrote J.R.R. Tolkien in the “Lord of the Rings” circa 1937. Obviously, he didn’t have an iPhone.
If he did and had he known about the Apple Shortcuts app, he may have instead written, “Short cuts save time, energy, and effort.”
A quick look back
As you may recall, last week I wrote about how to use folders on your phone to organize the apps you use for caregiving.
In that post I mentioned that because the App Store won’t let you download the same app more than once, you technically can’t place an app in more than one folder.
That’s unfortunate, because if you care for more than one person, placing the same app into more than one folder could be useful.
Let’s say for example you care for both your parents and they divorced years ago when you were in your teens and neither of them remarried. Mom lives uptown; Dad lives downtown; and you live somewhere in between.
For your mom, you use Takl to help with chores, Meetup to combat social isolation and to help protect her from fraud you also use Privacy.com.
You’d like to group the apps you use for your dad in a folder and likewise create a folder for the apps you use for your mom.
However, because you use Privacy.com for both of them, due to the App Store’s restriction on downloading more than one version of the same app, it would seem that placing Privacy.com in each of their folders is an impossibility, thereby limiting the usefulness of creating separate folders.
While technically it’s true that you can’t place the same app in more than one folder, the good news is that with Shortcuts you can essentially accomplish the same thing.
Shortcuts is an app that allows you to create and automate a variety of tasks. Without getting too technical, you use the app to combine a series of smaller tasks called actions into a larger task called a shortcut that you activate with a tap of your finger or via voice command if you integrate it with Siri, Apple’s virtual voice assistant.
The app comes equipped with a plethora of ready-made shortcuts that you can access and activate as desired that will, among many other tasks
Convert a favorite photo into a GIF
Create a playlist from the songs you play the most
Calculate how long it will take you to get home from your current location
Set a reminder that informs you when your laundry is done, and
Obtain Merriam-Webster’s word of the day
You can also create custom shortcuts that can be as simple or complex as you want to make them.
The list of tasks you can automate is limited only by your imagination.
Putting the solution to work
Using Shortcuts, you can create a shortcut that looks like an app, but actually isn’t one. You can then use that shortcut to simulate placing the same app into more than one folder. It sounds complicated, but it really isn’t.
Step 1: Download the app
The first thing you need to do is download Shortcuts from the App Store. When it finishes downloading, the Shortcuts icon will appear on your phone’s home screen.
Step 2: Launch the app
When you are ready to create your shortcut, tap the Shortcuts icon to launch the app.
Step 3: Create the shortcut
After the app opens, make sure you are on the Library page by tapping the Library icon at the bottom of the screen. Then tap the Create Shortcut button, which will open a new screen labeled “Untitled Shortcut.”
Tap the Settings button
Next, tap the Settings button located toward the top of your screen and to the right of the Share button. Performing this action will take you to the Settings screen.
To make sure you tap the right button, rather than looking like a cog, as is typical for most Settings buttons, this button looks like two parallel capsules stacked on top of each other with dots in them.
Name the shortcut
Once in Settings, your first task is to give your shortcut a name. Though you can name your shortcut anything you want, I recommend naming it the same name as the app you are going to have it open.
Create an icon
After naming the shortcut, you next need to create an icon for it by tapping Icon, which will cause the Icon screen to appear on your phone.
A little more than halfway down the screen will be a horizontal menu. Within that menu tap Home Screen. Next, tap the Select Photo button, which will take you to the Photos app on your phone.
Sort through your photos until you find the image you want to use as the icon for your shortcut. Taking into consideration any copyright issues, you may want to use the logo of the app your shortcut will be opening.
Whatever image you use, after you find it, tap it, then tap Choose, which is located in the bottom left hand corner of your screen. Then tap Done, which is located in the upper right hand corner of your screen, which will take you back to Settings.
Create a voice command
If you’re feeling adventurous, once back in Settings, tap Add to Siri. This will allow you to create an optional voice command that you can use to launch your shortcut using Siri.
To create the command, tap the bright red button located at the bottom of your screen and record the phrase you want to use to launch your shortcut.
Afterward, tap Done in the upper right hand corner of your screen to return to the Settings screen.
Add the shortcut to your home screen
Once back in Settings, add the shortcut to your home screen by tapping Add to Home Screen. This will launch Safari and actually take you out of the Shortcuts app.
After exiting Shortcuts and entering Safari, tap the Share button located at the bottom of your screen, then tap the gray square with the white cross in it labeled Add to Home Screen, then tap Done. This will place the shortcut onto your home screen and close Safari.
Determine the actions you want your shortcut to perform
Because you haven’t yet added any actions to your shortcut, it’s a shortcut in name only and at this point doesn’t actually do anything.
To add actions to it, tap it. This will re-open Settings, which you then need to immediately close without making any changes to it by tapping Done located in the upper right hand corner of your screen.
At the bottom of the new screen that appears, tap the Search bar, which will open a screen that contains a whole host of actions you can string together into a larger action that you can have your shortcut perform when you launch it.
Among the listed actions will be one that opens apps, which is what you want your shortcut to perform.
Under Content Types, tap Apps then tap Open App then tap Choose. This will display all the apps available to you that you can have your shortcut open.
For the sake of illustration, we’re going to assume that Privacy.com is among the available choices and that it is the app you want your shortcut to open.
If it’s not currently visible, you can look for it by either scrolling through the list of displayed apps or using the search function. Once you find it, tap it, which will add the action of opening it to your shortcut.
And because this is the only action you want your shortcut to perform, you have finished creating your shortcut.
do the impossible
With your newly minted shortcut, you will now have in effect two versions of the same app on your phone.
And you will now be able to do the seemingly impossible.
You will be able to place Privacy.com into the folder you created to house the apps you use to care for your mom and the folder you made to store the apps you use to care for your dad.
One will contain the app, while the other will contain the shortcut and together their folders will now contain the complete set of apps you use to care for the both of them.
Though in this post I used Privacy.com to illustrate how you can use Shortcuts to create a shortcut that in effect serves as a surrogate app, you can do this with any app you want to effectively clone and place into multiple folders on your phone.
With practice, I am confident you will become quite adept at using Shortcuts and in fact will end up using it to create shortcuts that do far more than just launch a single app.
And of course when you do, we would certainly like to hear about it in the comments section below.