The Shortcuts app has long been one of Apple’s lesser-used offerings, and that’s a shame, because it can supercharge your iPhone’s capabilities. With a single tap, you could turn on your smart lights, raise the temperature on your smart thermostat, and start an energetic playlist—and that’s just one example.
Like the macOS version, the mobile Shortcuts app is essentially an automation tool that can combine many tasks into one action that you launch with a tap or a word to Siri. Introduced in 2018 alongside iOS 12, the app is built into the iPhone’s operating system, so you’ll find it on one of your home screens or in the App Library. From the app’s Shortcuts tab, you can start manually building your own shortcut, or install a prebuilt one from the integrated shortcut gallery or the web.
1. Get yourself in the mood to focus
A good way to start using Shortcuts is to install one made by someone else—you can always open the tool up to see how it works and adapt it to your needs if necessary. Go to the Gallery tab in the app, look for a shortcut called Reading Mode, and install it by tapping the plus icon on the shortcut’s thumbnail.
Reading Mode is a great example of how shortcuts combine multiple actions: It turns on Do Not Disturb, switches to dark mode, opens your reading app of choice and even starts the Apple Music playlist you specify. Tap the three dots on the shortcut entry once it’s installed to customize any of these actions.
2. Edit images in batches
As you get more confident with Shortcuts, you can start building your own—it helps to think about tasks and groups of actions you do repeatedly on your phone. To create a shortcut from the Shortcuts tab, tap the plus icon in the top right corner and hit Add Action to get started.
[Related: Edit gorgeous photos right on your phone]
If you want to, say, automate a series of photo edits you do again and again, choose Apps, Photos, then Select Photos. From the All Actions list, pick Resize Image as the next action, and enter the desired size. The final action is Save to Photo Album. Tap Done to save your shortcut.
That’s a basic example, but there are lots of other image editing actions available, including the ability to remove backgrounds and rotate images, so you can combine them as you need.
3. Use ChatGPT with Siri
It’s difficult to avoid ChatGPT at the moment, and the AI chatbot can be used in tandem with Siri on your iPhone. First, register a free account with ChatGPT developer OpenAI, then grab an API key from its site. API (application programming interface) keys are simply identification codes that let one program (Shortcuts) work with another (ChatGPT).
With the key in hand, open the SiriGPT shortcut in your iPhone’s web browser and tap Get Shortcut. In the Shortcuts app, select Set Up Shortcut, paste or type in your API key, and choose Add Shortcut.
If you’d like to launch this shortcut using your voice, you’ll probably want to rename it to something simpler—do so by pressing and holding it, then picking Rename. Launch the shortcut with a tap or a voice command, and ChatGPT will be at your disposal.
4. Let someone know when you’ll be home
One of the benefits of running shortcuts on your iPhone rather than your Mac is that it provides a much more precise fix on your location. That can come in handy for all kinds of automations.
Head to the Gallery tab and look for the Home ETA shortcut. When you install and run it, it’ll work out how long it should take you to drive home, and then text your estimated time of arrival to the contact of your choice.
[Related: 14 tricks for getting more out of the underrated Apple Maps app]
Open the shortcut from the Shortcuts tab by tapping on the three dots on its entry, and you’ll be able to easily change the address the shortcut defaults to, as well as the contact(s) who receive the message about your ETA.
5. Look back on your day
If you tap Gallery in the Shortcuts app and use the search function, you should find a shortcut called Reflect on the Day that does exactly what its name suggests. You’ll be asked to answer questions about how your day has been, and you can also set goals for tomorrow.
Your responses will be stored in the Notes app, so you can track your progress over time, and the shortcut will also set reminders for the next day so you don’t forget your goals. To edit the questions the shortcut asks you at the end of each day, open it up by tapping the three dots on its thumbnail.