How To: 27 Must-Know Features in Apple's Shortcuts App for iOS 16 and iPadOS 16

27 Must-Know Features in Apple's Shortcuts App for iOS 16 and iPadOS 16

Apple made significant improvements to its Shortcuts app in iOS 16 and iPadOS 16, so you can do even more with custom task shortcuts on your iPhone or iPad. The big story is "App Shortcuts," which takes all the work out of building shortcuts, giving you immediate access to premade ones that developers include with their apps. But that's definitely not all you'll find that's new.

While I was hoping for some more automation triggers and more advanced scripting actions, the Shortcuts updates in iOS 16 and iPadOS 16 are still impressive. There are more actions for some of Apple's core apps, a few design modifications, and some important additions for staying organized.

While iOS 16 and iPadOS 16 are in beta, with a stable public release not expected until the fall, you can still see what's coming below. You can even try all the new features by installing the iOS 16 beta or iPadOS 16 beta.

1. Run Shortcuts via Siri Without Any Setup

With the new App Intents API for iOS 16 and iPadOS 16, developers can build actions into their apps, called "App Shortcuts," that you can start using right away with Siri, Shortcuts, and Spotlight.

Developers could incorporate intents before, but you would have to build a shortcut yourself to use one. Plus, you could only use a shortcut via Siri, Shortcuts, and Spotlight using the specific name you gave it.

Now, you can use a developer's app intents without having to set up anything, and they become available immediately after installing the app. The App Intents API supports parameters and synonyms, so you might not even have to use a specific phrase to complete a task via Siri or Spotlight, making the experience more natural.

For example, if you want to reorder lunch for pickup via a specific food app, you'd ask Siri to "Reorder pickup at [App Name]." Then, Siri will present a summary of the order to get your final approval.

Images via Apple

2. Use Spotlight to Run App Shortcuts

As mentioned above, you could open Spotlight Search to find and run any shortcut you've built on your iPhone or iPad by name, but now it's even easier. An app's automatically available App Shortcut can show up when you search for the app in Spotlight or when the app's suggested. For example, you could start a timer without even having to open up the timer app or add a calendar event.

3. 'My Shortcuts' Is Now Just 'Shortcuts'

In a minor change, the Shortcuts app in iOS 16 changes the name of the "My Shortcuts" tab in the bottom navigation bar to just "Shortcuts," and the glyph is the same image in the Shortcuts app's icon that used to be the "Gallery" tab's glyph. The name change also applies to iPadOS 16 in the sidebar menu.

Apple made the swap because it adds new App Shortcuts automatically to the Shortcuts app. You don't create them, so they can't technically be called your shortcuts, but there is a new "My Shortcuts" folder in the "Shortcuts" view.

4. Easily View All App Shortcuts Available

If you're ever interested in what App Shortcuts are available on your iPhone or iPad, open the new "Shortcuts" view to see the new "App Shortcuts" section. Tap an app's name in the list to see all its quick actions, then tap the action to run the shortcut.

5. Stop App Shortcuts from Appearing in Spotlight

From the "App Shortcuts" section in Shortcuts, instead of running an action, you can tap its ellipsis (•••) to add it to a new shortcut or prevent it from showing up in Spotlight. Also, when you tap the (i) button on the app's App Shortcuts page, you get toggles to switch on or off "Spotlight" and "Siri" for all of the app's shortcuts.

6. Switch from Grid to List View

I never liked the grid-style view in Shortcuts because it was impossible to find anything. The search bar definitely helps, but now there's another option: list view. Tap the new grid icon and pick "List" to open it.

7. Reorder Lists by Name, Action Count, or Last Modified

List view is a good start, but it goes even deeper than that. Tap the list icon, and instead of just switching back to the grid view, you can choose to sort the list by "Name," "Action Count," or "Last Modified."

8. Actions for Apps Grouped by Category Now

Like the Scripting actions section, most other apps have categories to help organize things. For example, Calculator splits its actions up into Math and Numbers. Contacts uses Contacts and Phone. Calendar uses Calendar and Event Attendees. And Music uses Music and Playlists. And those are just a few that have categories now.

9. Each Shortcut's Title Bar Is Smaller in the Editor

The title bar in each shortcut's editor is much smaller now and centered at the top. You can still tap the icon to change it, but you can't tap the name to edit it right away. Instead, tap the drop-down arrow and select "Rename." It's an extra tap to do something you pretty much have to do, so that's a bummer.

But the drop-down also has other options such as "Choose Icon," in case you don't want to tap the icon itself, "Share," "Duplicate," and "Move," which are all quick actions when long-pressing the shortcut from the grid or list view, and "Export File." The latter lets you export the shortcut as a file that anyone can use or only people who know you. You could previously only do that by choosing "Share" from the shortcut's quick actions, tapping "Options," and using "File."

10. Shortcut Details Only Accessible from Quick Actions

Before, when editing a shortcut, you could tap the settings icon to open up the Details, Privacy, and Setup options. With the new title bar, that no longer exists. To get to these options now, you must long-press the shortcut from the grid or list view and pick "Details" from the quick actions. It was in the quick actions before, so Apple just removed another way to access them.

11. Run Shortcuts from the Quick Actions

In an odd move, a new "Run" quick action for each shortcut is now available. Why you would use that over just tapping the card or link in grid or list view is anybody's guess, but there's probably a good reason for it. I just don't know what it is yet.

12. You Can Hide the Next Action Suggestions

There's now an arrow icon in the editor by "Next Action Suggestions," so you can hide them if you never use them. It doesn't appear to remember your preference since they reappear every time you open the editor.

13. The Icon Picker Loses the Tab Design

When picking an icon for your shortcut in older versions, there would be a "Color" and "Glyph" tab in the icon picker. Now, Shortcuts has opted out of the tabs for a scroll view instead, where colors are up top and glyphs are below them.

14. You Can Search for Glyphs by Name

In the icon picker, a more helpful addition is a search bar for the glyphs, now called symbols. Instead of browsing the icons every time, looking for something you're not sure even exists, you can try searching for a few keywords.

15. Minor Glyph Design Changes

In the icon picker, there are a few minor symbol changes. For example, the iPhone and iPad screens are now grayed in instead of being transparent, and the woman in a dress is nowhere to be seen.

16. Hit 'Done' Instead of 'X' to Exit the Editor

After editing a shortcut, you now press "Done" instead of the (X) symbol, bringing it in line with the majority of Apple's other apps.

17. Books Has 7 More Actions

Before, the only action Apple Books had was "Add PDF to Books," but iOS 16 and iPadOS 16 added seven more actions, including:

  • Change Theme
  • Open Book
  • Open Collection
  • Open Tab
  • Resize Text
  • Search Books
  • Switch Page

18. Mail Has 3 More Actions

While not as many as Books, there are still three new action additions for the Mail app:

  • Open Mailbox
  • Search Mail
  • Configure Mail Focus Filter

19. Maps Has 3 More Actions

Apple Maps also has a few new actions related to parked cars.

  • Get Details of Parked Car
  • Get Parked Car Location
  • Set Parked Car

There are also a few minor name changes for Maps:

  • The "Show Directions" action for Maps is now "Open Directions."
  • The "Show in Maps" action for Maps is now "Open in Maps."

20. Messages Has 2 New Actions

Messages has two new actions, one for focuses and one for erasing messages.

  • Configure Messages Focus Filter
  • Delete Messages

21. Notes Has 13 More Actions

The app with the most new actions is definitely Notes, with 13 total so far. Many of them have to do with the tagging system, but there are some for folders and even changing a note's settings.

  • Delete Notes
  • Pin Notes
  • Open Notes Account
  • Change Notes Settings
  • Open Notes View
  • Create Folder
  • Delete Folders
  • Move Notes to Folder
  • Add Tags to Notes
  • Create Tag
  • Delete Tags
  • Open Tag
  • Remove Tags from Notes

There are also a few minor name changes for Notes:

  • The "Show Note" action for Notes is now "Open Note."
  • The "Show Notes Folder" action for Notes is now "Open Folder."

22. Reminders Has 3 More Actions

The Reminders app has just a few new actions:

  • Create List
  • Open Reminders Smart List
  • Search Reminders

There is also one minor name change for Reminders:

  • The "Show Reminders List" action for Reminders is now "Open Reminders List."

23. Safari Has 6 More Actions

Safari has new actions related to tab groups and opening new tabs, as well as a focus filter setting and a way to open a specific view.

  • Open View
  • Configure Safari Focus Filter
  • Create Tab Group
  • Open Tab Group
  • Open New Private Tab
  • Open New Tab

24. Shortcuts Has 4 More Actions

The Shortcuts app itself even has a few more actions:

  • Open Folder
  • Search Shortcuts
  • Create Shortcut
  • Delete Shortcuts

25. Voice Memos Has 9 More Actions

Voice Memos has a few App Shortcuts that are ready-made to be used without any further setup, but Apple also includes nine more actions for your own shortcuts:

  • Search Voice Memos
  • Create Folder
  • Delete Folders
  • Open Folder
  • Create Recording
  • Delete Recordings
  • Open Recording
  • Play Recording
  • Change Playback Settings

26. There Are Even More Actions

Aside from the apps above, there are a few more actions worth mentioning:

  • Set Personal Hotspot (Scripting)
  • Remove Image Background (Media)
  • Optimize File Size of PDF (Documents)
  • Open Tab (Clock app)
  • Search Files (Files app)

27. And There's Another Name Change

As you could probably tell from above, the only real name changes for any previously available actions involves using "Open" instead of "Show." While I pretty much listed them all above, there's one more:

  • The "Show in Calendar" action for Calendar is now "Open in Calendar."

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Cover photo, screenshots, and GIF by Justin Meyers/Gadget Hacks (unless otherwise noted)

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