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Diving into Siri Shortcuts

Updated

By Rom Feria

Now that iOS 12 is out, the third-party Workflow application that Apple bought is now transformed to Shortcuts. Shortcuts needs to be downloaded separately as it is not included with iOS 12. If you have workflows in your Workflow library, it gets migrated to Shortcuts. In my case, I decided to start fresh — I deleted all my previous workflows for a clean slate.
The Shortcuts application has a gallery or collection of pre-made shortcuts that you can install and customize to your own liking. I selected three shortcuts from the gallery, Home ETA, Share Location and Total Caffeine Today, and customized it.

I just customized Home ETA to save my home address. Share Location, however, needed a few tweaks, i.e., I added an alternative response when the the device can’t find my location. Total Caffeine Today was modified to give different responses when it is invoked from another shortcut, or on its own.
Log Coffee is a shortcut that logs a preset amount of caffeine (since I usually consume the same amount of coffee each time) to my health record, and invokes Total Caffeine Today shortcut to give me an idea as to the total I’ve consumed for the day.
Good Night is a routine that sets my alarm at night.
TinEye is actually an action that requires a photo or a URL of a photo as input, and invokes the TinEye.com services to determine if the photo is original or not. This is a great tool for checking photos on social media, whether they’re original or not.
MacStories is a shortcut that queries the MacStories.net site, and lists the titles of the last 5 news entries. TechNews is culled from the same shortcut, but using Manila Bulletin’s TechNews as the source.
Birthdays shortcut lists the upcoming birthdays for the coming week, as recorded on my Birthdays calendar.

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Get Weather is a shortcut that connects to the DarkSky website, and retrieves the current temperature (actual, and the “Feels Like” apparent temperature), and the weather forecast for the day.

Good Day is another shortcut that I wrote that reads off the upcoming events on my main calendar, calls Carrot Weather shortcut for a snarky weather report, and then calls the Birthdays shortcut.

Whilst the Shortcuts app is listed as Shortcuts 2.0 (maybe because Workflow is version 1.0), but it feels like it is version 1.0. There are quirks that I wish Apple fixes in 2.0.1, such as:

“Shortcut says…” — each time you invoke a shortcut via “Hey Siri”, it returns and says “Shortcut says” and reads off the shortcut results. If your shortcut uses the “Speak text” action multiple times, you will hear “Shortcut says” for each instance. It is annoying.

“Get Current Location” action works as expected, when invoked from the Shortcuts application and/or widget. However, when invoked via “Hey Siri”, it is a hit or miss. Each time it misses, it returns an invalid location and cripples your shortcut — so you have to make sure that your shortcut recovers from this error.

Shortcuts on multiple devices. Whilst Shortcuts are synced via iCloud, the permissions to access the Calendar, Location, Health, Reminders, etc., are not. From a privacy point of view, it makes sense that they are not synced, but I wish Shortcuts will provide feedback about it when it runs for the first time. In my experience, Shortcuts will request for access when you are creating the shortcut, but if you created it on another device and it syncs over iCloud, that’s when it gets confusing — making it difficult to debug.

Apple has home-run in Siri Shortcuts. If you know how to code, you can easily create you own shortcut, otherwise, there are shortcuts that you can get from friends, or from websites that you can trust, like Macstories.net.

In my case, I have barely touched the power of Siri Shortcuts. Expect several more articles about Siri Shortcuts in the future.

 

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