You probably use Apple’s Siri voice assistant at least occasionally, asking it to “call my brother,” or “play music that I’ll like.” Apple has enhanced Siri in iOS 12 with Siri Shortcuts. At a basic level, Siri Shortcuts are useful because they let you assign your own Siri voice command to a wide range of actions such as starting a timer or a voice memo, playing a tune or a video, or displaying directions in Maps or recent photographs in Photos. Shortcuts aren’t restricted to Apple’s apps—third-party apps can offer them as well.
Assigning Voice Commands
Go to Settings > Siri & Search. Here you see a Suggested Shortcuts list, displaying a few actions that you’ve carried out recently by hand (in the image below, one such action is setting a timer). To add your custom voice command to one of these recent actions, tap it. The Add to Siri screen appears.
Tap the round red record button and speak your command. The command you spoke appears on the screen. If it didn’t come out right, tap Re-Record Phrase or Edit (you’ll see one of those two commands). If you like it, tap Done.
Your shortcut appears in the Settings > Siri & Search > My Shortcuts screen. You can use it with Siri any time, and it works on any Apple device that’s signed in to iCloud with the same Apple ID as your iPhone, as long as the Siri switch is enabled in the iCloud settings on the device. It will also work with your Apple Watch.
What about assigning a voice command to some task that’s not among the three suggestions? To accomplish this, tap All Shortcuts—apps are listed alphabetically, and available shortcuts are grouped by app. Some apps have a See All command that leads to more commands. Or search for a shortcut using the search field at the top of the Shortcuts screen. If you see a shortcut that you want to assign a voice command to, tap it and follow the same instructions as above.
If a desired shortcut isn’t on the Shortcuts screen, try performing it manually in the app. For example, if you want to make a shortcut for a Music playlist, try opening Music and playing the playlist. That shortcut should show up in the Suggested Shortcuts list on the main Siri & Search screen. If not, try playing the playlist another time or two.
Most Apple apps support Siri Shortcuts. When it comes to third-party apps, developers are rapidly adding support, but it’s not required. Some apps that support Siri Shortcuts offer a Shortcuts option in Settings > App Name > Siri & Search. Tap Shortcuts to view and add available suggestions.
You may also see an Add to Siri button within an app, allowing you to add a voice command right from inside the app.
The Shortcuts App
What if you want to put a few basic actions together into a more complex shortcut? Perhaps you frequently want to focus on a project for one hour. It would be nice to tell Siri “help me focus” and have Siri set a timer, enable Do Not Disturb, and start an appropriate playlist. You can now do this in iOS 12, thanks to a new app from Apple called Shortcuts. We’ll look more closely at Shortcuts soon, so stay tuned!