How to use Automation Shortcuts in iOS

by: - Last updated on: November 27th, 2019

Apple introduced Shortcuts back with the release of iOS 12. At that time, Workflow was one of the highly regarded automation apps in the iOS ecosystem. But soon after, Apple went on to buy it and re-introduced it with a slew of new additions into a new app, called Shortcuts. Essentially, the Shortcuts app allows users to create workflows using different actions to automate their routine, mundane tasks in an efficient way. And in turn, get more done in lesser time.

Automation Shortcuts

A couple of months back, Apple introduced iOS 13 with a bunch of major and minor updates and improvements, the highlight of which is the highly-requested Dark Mode. With this new update, Apple also introduced noticeable changes to the Shortcuts app, some of which aim at offering more granular control over individual actions to allow users to automate tasks more effectively. Among these, one of the changes is that, with iOS 13, the Shortcuts app now comes pre-installed and no longer requires users to download it from the App Store. And the other is the addition of a new Automation tab on the app, which, just as it sounds, offers the ability to execute certain tasks automatically in the background without requiring any prompts.

In this article, we delve deep into Automation to help you better understand it, and in turn, help you create your first custom Automation shortcut.

Before we dive into creating our custom Automation shortcut, let’s first look at the types of Automation shortcuts available and the different triggers that each of them has to offer.

The new Shortcuts app offers two options for Automation — Create Personal Automation and Set Up Home Hub. The Create Personal Automation option offers you the ability to create a custom automation for performing a task. This automation can run on your iPhone or iPad. On the other hand, Set Up Home Hub offers you the ability to create home automation for all your users at home.

For this guide, we will only focus on Personal Automation and help you create one for yourself.

First, make sure you are on the latest version of iOS, iOS 13. Next, open the Shortcuts app. Here, on the app’s home screen, you will see three different tabs at the bottom: My Shortcuts, Automation, and Gallery. Going by their name, you can get an idea about how different shortcuts are arranged in the app. The My Shortcuts showcases all the shortcuts that you have added to your shortcuts list, whereas, the Gallery tab provides a pool of shortcuts, organized under various categories for you to explore and add to your shortcuts list. And the third one is the Automation tab, which we need to stick with for the purpose of this article.

Once you have the app opened, tap on the Automation tab. Here, you will be greeted with a screen that offers you the option to choose between either Create Personal Automation or Set Up Home Hub.

Tap on Create Personal Automation, and now you have a screen with various trigger events listed under three different categories: Events, Travel, and Settings. Based on the trigger you choose from here, your next action will either depend on an Event trigger, a Travel trigger, or a Setting trigger.

To help you distinguish better, here’s what you get with each of these triggers —

I. Events Trigger – A linked shortcut runs only when an event gets triggered. This event can be either any particular time of day or an alarm action (stopped, snoozed, etc).

II. Travel Trigger – Depending upon when there is a change in your location ie you travel, the linked shortcuts get triggered. These triggers can be either when you arrive at a certain location, leave a location, before your commute, or even when you connect your phone to your car via CarPlay.

III. Settings Trigger – When you make certain changes to your device settings, the connected shortcuts get triggered. The settings that cause these triggers can be when you turn on or turn off airplane mode, connect to a specific WiFi network, establish Bluetooth connection with a particular device, toggle Do Not Disturb mode on or off, enable or disable Low Power Mode, NFC, or even launch an app or shortcut.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s create a few of our own custom Automation shortcuts to get a better idea of how they function —

The first shortcut that we will be creating will turn off WiFi, Bluetooth, and Mobile Data, and reduce the brightness and activate DarkMode. Let’s begin.

1. Tap on the Automation tab in the Shortcuts app and select Create Personal Automation.

2. Scroll down to the Settings trigger and tap on Low Power Mode.

Automation Shortcuts 2

3. On the next screen, tap on is Turned On and hit Next.

4. Next, on the Action screen, click on the Add Action button.

5. Search for set Wi-Fi and tap on it. Once done, tap On on Turn Wi-Fi to toggle it off. Repeat the same with Bluetooth and Mobile Data.

6. Now, in the same way as step 5, search for Set appearance and toggle it to Dark. Similarly, search for Set brightness and use the slider to adjust it.

Automation Shortcuts 3

7. Finally, tap Next and hit Done. Also, make sure the toggle for Ask Before Running is off.

To see this work in action, pull the Control Centre and enable Low Power Mode. As soon as it is enabled, you will see that the Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Mobile Data will be turned off automatically. Similarly, the appearance will be changed to Dark, and the brightness will be turned down to the specified level.

In much the same way as the above Automation shortcut, you can create pretty much any shortcut using the supported triggers. One such interesting Automation shortcut that can come in handy to perform a wide variety of mundane actions is with an NFC tag. But, for this shortcut to work, you need an iPhone X or later that offers support for NFC out of the box. And along with that, you also need a few NFC tags.

Now then, let’s create an NFC shortcut that would allow you to place your phone on the tag to

1. Open the Shortcuts app and tap on the Automation tab.
2. Hit the plus sign on the top right. If you don’t have other shortcuts, tap on Create Personal Automation.
3. Scroll down to the Settings trigger and click NFC.
4. Tap Scan on NFC Tag.
5. On the next screen, give a name to your NFC tag.
6. Tap Next and hit Add Action.

From here, you can add any action to your shortcut. For instance, you can play music, turn on/off Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, launch an app to perform some actions, and more. After which, once you tap your phone on that NFC tag, the shortcut will automatically trigger and perform the specified action.

That’s it for this article. We plan to do more tutorials on Shortcuts Automation soon. So stay tuned!

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