5 ways Siri Shortcuts can automate your workday

Siri Shortcuts add a layer of functionality to Apple's digital assistant, and it could be a huge boon for business users.

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Image: Brandon Vigliarolo/TechRepublic

Since the 2018 release of Siri Shortcuts, Apple's digital assistant has become more useful than ever—if you know how to make the most out of the myriad possibilities of Shortcuts.

Shortcuts are quick actions and suggestions that Siri will provide and that users can build themselves, but Shortcuts go beyond IFTTT-like call-and-response commands. Shortcuts use connected email accounts, calendars, social media, and other apps that keep track of your life to predict messages you may want to send and what apps you're likely to use, and to predict other ways you may want to use your device based on what it knows about you.

Google Assistant has been able to perform similar tasks for quite some time, so the arrival of these features on iOS are sure to excite Apple users--especially those who use Apple devices for work.

So, what can you do with Siri Shortcuts on an iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, or HomePod to streamline your workday? Here are just a few possibilities.

SEE: Get more done with your iPhone: Tips and tricks for power users (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

1: Stay in touch more easily

Siri Shortcuts come in two forms: One are built-in ways that Siri Suggestions learn about your life and suggest actions on your device, and the other are custom-made workflows. Both can make staying in touch easier, but Siri Suggestions are where that ability shines.

Siri Suggestions uses lots of data about you--your emails, calendar appointments, device use routine, social media, for example--to build a profile of your routine. Siri will make suggestions based on what you may need to do, and a lot of it is communicative.

Say you're late for a meeting--Siri Suggestions would prompt you with a Shortcut that says you should text fellow attendees to let them know. It could also remind you to call your mother on her birthday, or prompt you to order a coffee if it's part of your routine at a certain time of day.

2: Never miss a thing

Shortcuts do more than help you stay in touch--they also keep you on track throughout the day. If you usually do something at a particular time, Siri Suggestions will learn it and give you a nudge that you might not want to forget about that part of your day.

If you're leaving for work in the morning, a Shortcut could give you a Calendar briefing, play the news, turn on the lights in your office, and more. If you're already living an IoT-connected life Shortcuts could make your life super smooth.

3: Shortcut the third-party apps you use most

Siri was never one to integrate with third-party apps, but that changed in iOS 12 with the introduction of Shortcuts.

A Shortcuts app included in iOS 12 and later allows users to create their own if, then workflows and assign them a Siri Shortcut. Third-party apps that provide content like weather, news, maps, and other quickly digestible information can be given a short verbal cue, making them more useful than ever.

Third-party app support is included in Shortcuts as well, so it's possible to create quick commands for apps like PayPal, Instagram, and other popular, well-established apps available on the App Store. Commands for third-party apps aren't always super customizable, though: Most come with a list of pre-defined actions that can be modified in simple ways. 

The smart home app Kasa, which I use for a light in my office for example, allows me to create a shortcut to turn the light on, which means I have to specify a device to react to the cue, That's about as complicated as many third-party Shortcuts integrations get, though.

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4: Connect in the car

For those with a vehicle that has Apple CarPlay, Shortcuts will be fantastic. Connecting to CarPlay can be part of a custom Shortcut.

Just imagine jumping into your car, telling Siri you're going to work, and having the stereo play exactly what you want, bring up navigation, and send a text message without pushing a button.

5: Get more use out of the iOS search bar

I don't know about you, but one of my most frequent actions on my iPhone is swiping down to open the search bar. I see that screen a lot, and it would be great if it contained other relevant info to my day.

Shortcuts is adding that, making the search bar more of a landing page than simply an area to ask questions of Google. Actions relevant to your day will appear on the search bar (provided you're using Apple Suggestions), and all you'll have to do is tap them to complete an action, like confirming a doctor's appointment, buying a coffee, or sending a text message.

If iOS users use the search bar as much as Apple seems to want them to, it could turn into a new landing page for the iOS user experience.

SEE: The 10 best smartphones you can buy right now (ZDNet)

Don't forget about the Siri Shortcuts Gallery

For those who don't want to create their own shortcuts, Apple has included a gallery of pre-built Siri Shortcuts to the Shortcuts app.

When you open the Shortcuts app, you'll see three options at the bottom: My Shortcuts (for items you've created or saved), Automation (for creating custom Siri Suggestion-style context-triggered shortcuts), and Gallery (where you can find pre-built Shortcuts from Apple).

The Siri Shortcuts Gallery is broken down into a whole bunch of categories that you can scroll through to find shortcuts, like essentials, morning routine, read it later, shortcuts for around the house, collaboration-related shortcuts, shortcuts to make using the iOS clipboard easier, shortcuts specific to apps you have installed and actions you've recently performed, and more.

Even better, when you tap on a shortcut to install it, you can optionally see how it's built by tapping Show Actions. It's a great way to get a crash course in building your own Shortcuts that are more detailed than simply call and response actions.

Editor's note: This article was updated to include information about the Siri Shortcuts Gallery.

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