New iPhone – Automate iOS Siri Shortcuts

It’s that time of year again – iPhone Xs Max

It’s a good time of year to be good and geeky we will get iOS Siri Shortcuts as well as new phones. Possibly an expensive time of year, but good all the same. Apple has just announced their new iPhone and you can’t help but want it. I work on the basis of having an iPhone for two years so that when I sell it there’s enough value left in it to donate some cash to the next iPhone. I sometimes wonder it might be a better idea now that the iPhone iterations are only small, to keep the phone for longer. The plan then would be to start saving for the next phone as soon as you have just bought the latest and greatest.

iOS Siri Shortcuts

Spread the cost for the next iPhone

The idea would be to decide your next phone will be in three/four years time and you make a guess at how much you’ll need to pay for it. This can be a little difficult given the steadily increasing prices of the new Apple iPhones. Who would have thought we would be prepared to pay between €1000 and €1500 for a new iPhone when buying the iPhone 7. So if I’m going to wait for 36 months for the next iPhone and I’m going to pay €1500 and I need to divide that total by 36. The plan would involve buying Apple gift cards each month to the value of between €40 and €45. If after two years there’s a new iPhone that comes out which is unmissable, at least you have a good lump of money to put towards it.

It’s not all about money – It’s software too.

At the same time as the new iPhone comes out we get the new operating system. We are now moving on to iOS 12 and some of the features only work in the iPhone X onwards. Some of the new features are just frippery. Some of the new features are worth having and inform ones decision to buy a new phone. One of the features I’m particularly looking forward to is the Siri Shortcuts application which is taking over from Workflow. This is going to make a huge difference with how we use our phones. All we have to do is to work out those things which we do over and over again and use Siri Shortcuts to automate the process. I think the operating system will also do machine learning and will give us clues as to things we might automate.

Learn More about making Shortcuts

Workflow siri shortcuts

The system should be able to look at things we do over and over and suggest – “Why not make a Siri shortcut to complete this action or set of actions.” Hopefully, after getting the suggestion we will only need to open the application and half the set up will be already done for us. To get the best from this we need to understand a little bit about how to make the Siri Shortcuts work for us.

It’s not that easy to learn how to use iOS Siri Shortcuts

There are some programming concepts to get your head around in Siri Shortcuts. Variables, IF statements, Dictionary values, and other flow controls. You don’t need these in the simple shortcuts you can make when you start using the app. On the other hand, Apple are trying to make it simpler by allowing us to load blocks of actions. You only have to drag the block into the shortcut and maybe fill in a couple of parameters. For some of these automations, the best way forward is to take a Shortcut someone has already made and pull it apart. Examine it to see what information the action needs to make it work. Maybe add extra bits or remove actions and not worry about breaking it. A process of trial and error will let you learn how it all works.


How to learn iOS automation

There are a few websites where you can see tutorials to help you learn the necessary skills for iOS Siri Shortcuts. Some do it with explanations and photos showing step-by-step of what needs to be done. A particularly good way to learn is to use video tutorials. At least you can watch them multiple times and pause the video when you need to follow along with some of the steps. Many of these tutorials are free to watch and learn from. You just need to be prepared to stick at it until it starts to make sense. Make a few simple shortcuts/workflows to get into the swing of it and work from there.

What can we get done using automation?

  • Remind me at work
    • Asks for input – what do you want to be reminded about
    • You put in the address of work
    • Add a Reminder – Asking for input again and you say how close you have to be to work to get the geo locating reminder.
  • Log Caffeine intake
    • Choosing from prompts you get to add data to the health app.
    • Choose the drink and the size – you have already inserted numbers for the caffeine for each option.
  • Plan Your Day – 3 main tasks
    • You answer 3 questions for the important tasks of the day. Can have default answers if you want.
    • The end of the automation is to share the results to where ever you want to. You might send to Day One journalling app or set it up as a Omnifocus project.
  • Send a message to your significant other to say you will arrive soon
    • Add a ‘Get Current Location’
    • Text block – What you want to say with the variable of Current Location
    • Send message block – Choose the names you want to send it too.

How to use these iOS Siri Shortcuts on your iOS devices

One way of using these automations is to open the workflow or Siri Shortcuts application.

  • Tap once on the tile for the shortcut and then press the run button which in the middle at the top. Tap once, is also the way to get into the automation/workflow if you want to edit it.
  • Do a double tap and it should start running.
  • You can start a shortcut working from the today widget.
  • Make your shortcut available on the Apple Watch.
  • Add the shortcut/workflow to your home screen.
  • Add the shortcuts/workflow to the Launch Center application.
  • Make the shortcut/workflow available as an Action Extension. This allows you to run it from share sheets inside other applications.
  • Have the automation activated by using Siri, as soon as we have iOS 12 and the Siri shortcuts app available.

Which of these options you use depends upon the way you use the workflow/Siri shortcut. It is possible to make more than one of these options available. All you have to do then is to remember you have the automations and to use them. I sometimes think that we only get to use a small percentage of what our powerful computers are able to do. Often because we forget to either set up or to use what we have already set up in terms of automation. Sometimes you have to be quite dedicated and particularly good and geeky to get the best from your technology. I am positive it is definitely worth doing with iOS Siri Shortcuts.

My favourite automations

I work in a campsite during the summertime and I need to know the reservations for places for the next week or so. I worked out a way to export this information from the computer. I then was able to get it into a spreadsheet on my iOS device. I copied all of this data into the clipboard. Next I used the application Editorial to automate bringing the data in so I could use it. I was able to convert the text from capitals into title case. I did a search and replace on some text which wasn’t required. I did a search and replace with some text turning it into emojis, this made it more visual for me. I was pleased to have a number of steps completed with just one quick text trigger.

I have my directions to home available to me on my home screen of the iPhone. It knows where I am using GPS and where my home is and suggests a route. this says me a number of button presses and is much quicker in operation.

We’ve got a number of Homekit devices in the house and some of the lights are operated using motion detectors. Some of the a devices I operate using Amazon Echo. For example I can turn everything off at night time a by just telling Alexa “night night”.

One of my favourite application is Drafts – This is a text entry application with automation built in. I can capture text and decide after capturing the idea or whatever the note is, what I’m going to do with it. I might send something to the social networks, add some more to it and send to my journalling application Day One. I might even set up a new sheet in Ulysses or Scrivener. I can even send stuff into one of my get things done applications, like Omnifocus or Due. Can’t wait to get my hands on iOS Siri Shortcuts.

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