Are you a productivity enthusiast, eager to reduce the time you lose with routine tasks? Then you should have a look at Apple’s Shortcuts app. You can use it to combine actions from many different apps into a single shortcut, accessible via a home screen icon, the shortcuts widget or a Siri voice command.
The Shortcuts App
In Shortcuts, there are two main views: Library and Gallery. In the Gallery, you can find curated, ready-made shortcuts for many different purposes. The Library is the spot where you collect your own shortcuts. These can come from the Gallery, or you can custom-build your own.
If you browse the Gallery and find a shortcut that seems useful, tap it to add it to your Library. Sometimes you will need to add custom information to make it work. Currently, there are two Ulysses shortcuts available in the Gallery; you’ll find them in the shortcut collection “Writer’s Toolbox”:
- “Append to Ulysses sheet”: This shortcut will take the text in the clipboard and add it at the end of a certain Ulysses sheet.
- “Attach note to Ulysses sheet”: This shortcut will take a text snippet or an image in the clipboard and add it as a note attachment to a certain Ulysses sheet.
The great thing about Shortcuts is that you’re not limited to the shortcuts that Apple provides — you can build your own shortcuts, specifically for what you use to do with your device. For this purpose, you can combine various actions from different apps into one sequence. According to Apple, there are more than 300 actions from various apps available; a number of Ulysses actions is among them. You’ll find them when you search for the term “Ulysses” in the action list while creating your custom shortcut.
The options are literally endless, and it totally depends on your personal workflows which shortcuts you should create. For starters, we’ll walk you through the creation of a sample shortcut.
Create a Shortcut
Let’s assume you keep a journal in Ulysses; every day you answer a number of predetermined questions. Your journal is represented by a Ulysses group, and every day you create a new sheet in that group. At the top of each entry, you’d like to include the current date and location.
Your new shortcut should do all of the following for you:
- Upon execution, the shortcut should open Ulysses and navigate to the journal group.
- It should create a new sheet in the group which contains the current date and location, and your chosen questions.
- You can instantly start jotting down your answers.
First, go to the Shortcuts library and tap “Create Shortcut”. This will open the shortcut editor for a new shortcut, still empty. On the lower part of the screen (iPhone) or on the left-hand side (iPad) you’ll see a list of suggested actions. Tap in the search field to browse the available actions per app, or enter a search term. For further information about each action, tap the info button on the right.
Tap or drag an action to add it to your shortcut. In the shortcut editor, you can customize the actions if need be, and change their sequence via drag & drop. For the shortcut from our example, add the following actions in the following order:
- Date, which passes the specified date and time to the next action. In our case, that’s the Current Date.
- Get Current Location, which gets the current location of the device.
- Text, which passes the specified input to the next action. In the shortcuts editor, tap “in” the Text action and select the variables “Date” and “Current Location” that are proposed to you in the row above the virtual keyboard. This will add them to the text action. You can further define how detailed you want to record date and time. For our example, the date (long format) and the city as location suffice, time is not necessary. Also, enter the questions into the text action which you would like to ask yourself while journaling.
- New Ulysses Sheet, which creates a new sheet in Ulysses. You’ll need to identify the group in which the new sheet shall be created. Switch to Ulysses, go to the library and swipe left on the group in question. Tap the ellipsis, select “Share...” and choose the action “Copy Callback Identifier”.
Now, go back to Shortcuts and paste the identifier in the respective field of the “New Ulysses Sheet” action. Also, untoggle “Return to Shortcuts” here.
Test your new shortcut by tapping the play icon at the top of the shortcut editor. If it’s all good, you should end in Ulysses with a page that looks similar to this:
Now it’s time to prepare your new shortcut for its daily use. Tap the toggles icon top right to open the shortcut’s settings.
First, you can name your shortcut and create an individual icon for it, by choosing a color and a glyph. Alternatively, you may take a photo or select one from your Photos library.
Then you have several options:
- “Add to Siri” will let you record a Siri voice command for the shortcut.
- “Show in Widget” will add the shortcut to the Shortcuts widget.
- “Show in Share Sheet” will let you use the Share button in other apps to access your shortcut.
- “Add to Home Screen” will let you add an icon to your home screen. You’ll be forwarded to a website, just follow the instructions you’re given.
Which one you should choose depends on what your shortcut does and how you prefer to work. “Add to Share Sheet” is only necessary if you want to be able to execute the shortcut while working in another app. Widgets are heavily used by some people; if you’re one of them, go for it. In the sample shortcut, we opted for a Siri voice command and a custom home screen icon.
If you’ve followed along, you can now start your journaling routine with the voice command “Hey Siri, Daily Notes” or a tap on the Daily Notes icon on your home screen.
That’s a wrap. For further information about the Shortcuts app, also have a look at Apple’s Shortcuts User Guide.
This post was last updated on Oktober 4, 2018.