A Beginner’s Guide to Shortcuts Automation on iPhone
The Shortcuts app on iOS enables you to string together multiple actions and trigger them with one tap. That’s great for simplifying tasks you do manually, but there’s a deeper level to the Shortcuts app—automations.
Automations are shortcuts that run automatically based on triggers and criteria that you configure. With automations, you can control your iPhone on a schedule or based on specific contexts.
Learn how to wield the power of Shortcuts automations to control your iPhone and HomeKit devices.
How Are Automations Different From Shortcuts?
Automations are shortcuts that you design to run automatically, according to schedules, context-based prompts, or other factors.
When you set up an automation, you’ll build a chain of actions just like in a standard shortcut. The key difference is that you’ll also choose the specific trigger that sets off the automated shortcut.
This means you can build simple or complex chains of actions—including those that change system settings and interact with third-party apps—that will run automatically, in the background.
Automations are available in the Shortcuts app in iOS 13 and later, but some triggers require later versions of iOS.
What Types of Events Can Trigger Automations?
While some personal automation triggers run actions completely in the background, others require user confirmation before continuing. When triggered, those that require confirmation will deliver a notification that you have to tap to run the automation.
These events trigger automations that run automatically:
- Time of Day
- Sleep (Wind Down, Bedtime, and Waking Up)
- Battery Level
- Charger (Connected or Disconnected)
- Open or Close App
- Apple Watch Workout
- Low Power Mode
- Do Not Disturb
- Airplane Mode
These events trigger automations that require confirmation:
- Locations (Arrive and Leave)
- Before I Commute
The Downside: Annoying Notifications
Truly automatic triggers unlock some incredibly powerful automations. Unfortunately, they come with a downside—annoying iPhone notifications. Despite not requiring confirmation, automations still send a notification each time they run.
With just a few active automations, the Shortcuts app can quickly become one of the top offenders in Notification Center and Screen Time.
While requiring confirmation is a way to discourage others from installing potentially spammy or unwanted automations on your iPhone, there’s certainly room for improvement in the implementation of this feature.
Automating Your HomeKit Devices
The Shortcuts app also lets you create Home Automations. These belong to a separate category of automations that control HomeKit devices and use them as triggers to control other devices.
Home automation triggers include:
- People Arriving
- People Leaving
- Time of Day
- Accessory Controlled
- Sensor Detects Something (requires a HomeKit sensor)
Home automations can control HomeKit devices or trigger full shortcuts. These automations don’t require user confirmation.
You can build both personal and home automations to control various aspects of your iPhone, third-party apps, and your HomeKit setup.
To show you how to get started using automations, we’ve created step-by-step instructions for two example automations below, one personal automation and one home automation.
Example 1. How to Set Up a Personal Automation to Activate Low Power Mode
In this simple example, you’ll build an automation that activates your iPhone’s Low Power Mode whenever the battery drops below 30 percent (or your desired level).
Here’s how to set it up:
- Open the Shortcuts app and select the Automation tab at the bottom.
- Tap the blue plus icon (+) in the top-right corner.
- Select Create Personal Automation.
- Scroll down to the battery triggers at the bottom and tap Battery Level.
- Drag the slider to set the battery level at which you’d like the automation to enable Low Power Mode—for example, 30 percent.
- Choose Falls Below 30%.
- Tap the blue Next button at the top.
Now, you’re ready to configure the actions. If you’ve ever built a standard shortcut, you’ll see that the automation interface is almost identical.
- Tap the blue Add Action button that’s centered on the screen.
- Search for Set Low Power Mode and tap it in the results to add it.
- Tap the blue Next button at the top.
There’s one important change left to make and it’s the key to allowing your automation to run in the background:
- Turn off the Ask Before Running toggle.
- Tap the Don’t Ask option on the alert that pops up.
- Tap the blue Done button.
That warning alert simply says that the automation will run without asking for confirmation.
If you’re familiar with creating shortcuts, you can also create a standalone shortcut that contains the Low Power Mode action. Then, within the automation, use the Run Shortcut action to run the shortcut you’ve created.
The automation will behave in the same way, but you can duplicate standalone shortcuts and share them using iCloud links—two capabilities that automations lack.
More Examples of Personal Automations to Try
As another automation example, you can use the Shortcuts app to automatically change your wallpaper to match light and dark mode.
You can also set up amazing Apple Watch automations.
Example 2. How to Turn on the Air Conditioning With a Home Automation
Home automations unlock other powerful possibilities for running shortcuts and automations. In this example, you’ll create an automation to turn on the air conditioning and the lights when you arrive home.
To do so, follow these steps:
- In the Shortcuts app’s Automation tab, tap the blue plus button (+).
- Choose Create Home Automation.
- Tap the People Arrive location trigger.
- Choose The First Person Arrives.
- Then you can tap the Info button and uncheck everyone but yourself so that the automation will only run when you are the first person who arrives home.
- To choose a specific time period during which the automation should run, tap Time and choose Specific times.
- Choose the start time and end time for the period your automation should be active every day.
- Tap Done at the top. Then, tap Next.
Now, it’s time to choose the accessories (or HomeKit scenes) you’d like to control with the automation—for example, a smart plug that controls the air conditioner and the lamp in the entrance hall.
- Tap each relevant accessory or scene in the list to select it.
- Tap Next.
- Optionally, adjust the brightness settings and make sure the air conditioner is set to turn on.
- Then, tap Done to create and enable the automation.
You can customize this type of automation to control various accessories and use different triggers, depending on your HomeKit setup.
Use Shortcuts to Unlock Powerful Automations on Your iPhone
Personal and home automations on iOS present a slew of possibilities for streamlining your iPhone and making your smart home smarter.
While the Shortcuts app is great for productivity, its range of actions can also help you improve your health and well-being, among many other aspects of your life.
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May 14, 2021 at 07:12AM