📺 Backing Up and Organising Shortcuts

Former Workflow team member Matthew Cassinelli recently shared a fantastic idea for both backing up and organising Shortcuts on iOS, on his new podcast (which he co-hosts with Alex Cox, called Supercomputer.

I’d planned on sharing this idea here in a simple blog post, but I thought a short video would perhaps work a little better in explaining the process. To that end, I recorded and edited a short video which you can see below.

While this was fun to make, I clearly have a lot more to learn on this front. I also need a new background image of the 2018 iPad Pros. This one looks pretty dated …

Better Folders with Shortcuts

A few weeks ago, David Sparks posted an interesting article over on his blog about a Siri Shortcuts Homescreen. The basic premise of the article was about how David had replaced the apps on his home screen with just Shortcuts actions. This was done by creating various Shortcut Shortcuts (is that what you call them?) and then simply adding them to the home screen with custom names and glyphs. David created a video detailing his setup, if you want to explore this further.

I thought this was a super interesting idea, but also incredibly limited if you use this to simply launch apps which you could launch far quicker via invoking Spotlight search and finding your app there. The idea of fully replacing my home screen with Shortcuts didn’t strike me as something I’d like to do.

After running through the video, however, it struck me that this method could be used, sparingly, to replace the tired home screen folder implementation that we’ve had on iOS for years now. I’ve always avoided having folders on my main home screen, for whatever reasons, so this seemed like an ideal workaround. I could, essentially, avoid the need for folders, but also retain / gain an ability to have more apps accessible from my home screen.

I can now, for example, quickly launch my ‘Entertainment’ Shortcut to get access to music, podcasts, books, audiobooks, or games etc. The flow below, for example, launches some options to listen to some things (an audiobook in  Books in this example).

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This action does, of course, jump into Shortcuts while it runs through each step, allowing you to choose options from a menu, so it’s not a hugely elegant solution. This still looks far better than the now dated and ugly home screen folders, however.

Creating a Shortcut like this yourself is incredibly easy, should you want to. You just need to use the ‘Choose from Menu’ action in Shortcuts to setup your initial selection. As you do this, each option you create will create sub sections below, which you can then populate with various ‘Open app’ actions, or even nest another ‘Choose from Menu’.

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You can download my example to use as
a base, if that sounds easier, though it is only really made up of the 2 actions mentioned above.

Shortcuts continues to be one of my favourite apps / features in iOS to date, and this simple solution to a long running problem is another example of its versatility.

A Couple of Shortcut Tips

My favourite feature that Apple introduced us to at WWDC this year was, far and away, Shortcuts. I’ve not left the app since it was released to the public on Monday. Workflow never really clicked for me, so I had assumed Shortcuts would be the same. This time, however, I made a concerted effort to really dig in properly and I realised very quickly it’s far more intuitive than it seems at first.

I’ve been meaning to (threatening to) start doing a few more regular posts here to share some ideas that I’ve either created myself, or to highlight some creations I’ve found around the web. This, unfortunately, isn’t that …

I did, however, think it may be useful to share a couple of small tips I’ve found really help when you start trying to build some more complex Shortucts.

Nesting

As you start to get more confident with Shortcuts, you’ll want to start building more and more complex flows. If you’ve seen, or tried to create, any of the popular morning routine type Shortcuts you’ll see what I mean. Something that really helps with this, however, is nesting your Shortcuts within each other.

Nesting involves creating a small component of your Shortcut as a standalone element, and then creating a master Shortcut that will pull in your seperate sub Shortcuts. An example of this can be seen here:

Nested Shortcuts

Each of the referenced Shortcuts are quite long, at times, but very managable as a single entity. When you add them into an overall master Shortcut, however, everything is far more managable.

Tagging

I’ve the last few weeks I’ve accrued about 200ish Shortcuts, all with different colours and Glyphs. It’s a mess in there! When I have a few minutes in the evening I’m taking a few minutes to review these to tidy them up, colour code and update the glphys to something more logical.

Something that may also be useful, which I’m also doing, is for you to ‘tag’ your Shortcuts. If you add a ‘Comment’ step to your Shortcut and then add something like #Automation you can then search for grouped / similarly tagged Shortcuts via … another Shortcut.

Here’s a Shortcut that can search for your tags, once setup.

I found this tag searching Shortcut elsewhere, but I can’t recall where now to give credit unfortunately. I would imagine it was either from Matt or Viticci.

Watch this space for more Shortcuts related goodness soon!