Automate your iPhone, iPad, or Mac!

Take Control of

Second Edition
Rosemary Orchard

Automation is no longer just for advanced computer users! Apple’s Shortcuts app lets anyone with an iPhone, iPad, or Mac automate day-to-day tasks, from the simple to the complex. This book is a complete introduction to Shortcuts, covering every aspect of building, installing, debugging, running, syncing, and sharing shortcuts. It also includes step-by-step recipes for creating numerous useful shortcuts yourself.

All Take Control books are delivered in three ebook formats—PDF, EPUB, and Mobipocket (Kindle)—and can be read on nearly any device.


Note: This book is mostly up to date. Shortcuts underwent some changes in macOS 13 Ventura, iOS 16, and iPadOS 16. Although most of the the changes are not huge, they do make parts of the book slightly inaccurate. Rosemary has said that she plans to deliver an updated manuscript in December 2022, and we will publish it as soon as possible after we receive it. The update will be free to everyone who purchases the book now. (Read more about updates).)

Apple’s Shortcuts app brings extensive automation capabilities to your iPhone, iPad, or Mac, using a drag-and-drop, fill-in-the-blanks interface much like Automator—but much more powerful. It lets you perform sequences of tasks, including ones that span various apps, with just a tap, a click, or a voice command—or even automatically when certain conditions are met. Shortcuts can save you time and effort, help you accomplish previously complicated tasks, and let you customize your device to better meet your needs. macOS 12 Monterey finally brought Shortcuts to the Mac, and with iOS 15/iPadOS 15, Shortcuts has become even more powerful than before.

But for all its utility, Shortcuts is not self-explanatory, so it can be challenging to figure out its quirks and create effective, time-saving automations. That’s where Take Control of Shortcuts comes in. Written by automation expert Rosemary Orchard, this book opens the world of automation to users at every level.

With Rosemary’s help, you’ll learn how to:

  • Navigate the Shortcuts app: Understand the user interface (on each platform) and terminology, then install and run your first shortcut.
  • Run shortcuts: Discover many different ways to run a shortcut, from tapping or clicking an icon to using Personal or Home automations, Siri, and Apple Watch.
  • Build shortcuts: Start with simple, one-step shortcuts and work your way up to complex shortcuts with input, output, variables, conditionals, loops, and more. Debugging advice is also included.
  • Install and sync shortcuts: Download and install shortcuts others have written, sync your shortcuts across your devices, and share them with other people.

Then, to both illustrate the main principles you’ve learned and give you practical tools to get you started, Rosemary walks you step by step through the creation of 23 sample shortcuts, most which you can also download and install using links in the book. Examples include:

  • Event templates
  • A daily overview
  • Converting and sharing images
  • Adding a song to a playlist
  • Logging expenses
  • Turning on lights automatically when you get home
  • Disabling rotation lock just for YouTube on an iPhone
  • Reminding you about upcoming deadlines 15 minutes after you arrive home
  • Automatically setting seasonal scenes for HomeKit lights

The book also discusses how Shortcuts can use REST APIs to talk to various web services (with detailed examples), and numerous complementary apps that work in conjunction with Shortcuts.

Whether you’re completely new to automation or already have significant programming experience, you’ll find plenty of useful information in this friendly, practical guide.

Rosemary Orchard photo

About Rosemary Orchard

Rosemary Orchard is the cohost of Automators, an automation-themed podcast on Relay FM with David Sparks, and Nested Folders, an independent productivity podcast with Scotty Jackson. She also writes for MacStories and The Sweet Setup, and produces videos for ScreenCasts ONLINE.

When she isn’t writing, she’s busy eating chocolate and planning world domination with Shortcuts.

What’s New in the Second Edition

This revised and expanded second edition includes information related to changes brought about by iOS 15 and iPadOS 15, as well as the launch of Shortcuts on macOS. Major changes include:

  • Coverage of Shortcuts for macOS throughout the book, including an overview in “macOS Launch” and how to run shortcuts in macOS
  • An expanded discussion of how to run shortcuts from automations in iOS or iPadOS, now in its own chapter
  • How to deal with device-specific actions when developing cross-platform shortcuts
  • A new chapter describing Focus Mode shortcuts that let you take advantage of the upgraded Do Not Disturb built into iOS 15, iPadOS 15, and macOS 12 Monterey; the chapter includes step-by-step “recipes” for three new shortcuts: “Disable Work Focus When It’s a Holiday,” “Focus Modes—Scheduled Exceptions,” and “Remind Me 15 Minutes After I Arrive at Home”
  • New shortcut recipes in the Media and Home categories: “Disable Rotation Lock for YouTube,” “Evil Flashing Alarm Clock,” and “Seasonal Scenes”
  • A greatly expanded list of complementary apps that work with Shortcuts, now categorized by which operating system(s) they support
  • Read Me First
    • Updates and More
    • What’s New in the Second Edition
  • Introduction
  • Shortcuts Quick Start
  • Explore the User Interface
    • Cross-Platform Similarities
    • iOS/iPadOS Interface
    • Apple Watch Interface
    • macOS Interface
    • Install and Run Your First Shortcut
    • Converting Automator Workflows
  • Run Shortcuts
    • Run Shortcuts Manually in iOS/iPadOS
    • Run Shortcuts from Automations in iOS or iPadOS
    • Run Shortcuts on an Apple Watch
    • Run Shortcuts in macOS
  • Build Shortcuts
    • One-Step Shortcuts
    • Actions
    • Name
    • Variables
    • Input & Output
    • If and Otherwise
    • Repeat Loops
    • Lists, Menus, and Dictionaries
    • Device-Specific Actions
    • Run Scripts
    • Debug Shortcuts
    • Run a Shortcut Within Another Shortcut
    • Organize Shortcuts in Folders
    • Per-Shortcut Settings
  • Install, Sync, and Share Shortcuts
    • Install Shortcuts from iCloud Links
    • Sync Your Shortcuts
    • Share Your Shortcuts
    • Import Questions
    • Security
  • Productivity Shortcuts
    • Share PDF
    • Meeting Time and Notes
    • Event Templates
    • Add Tasks in Bulk
    • Daily Overview
  • Focus Mode Shortcuts
    • Disable Work Focus When It’s a Holiday
    • Focus Modes—Scheduled Exceptions
    • Remind Me 15 Minutes After I Arrive at Home
  • Media Shortcuts
    • Convert and Share Image
    • Rename and Wrangle Files
    • Play Audio
    • Set AirPods Noise Canceling
    • Add Current Song to Playlist
    • Movie Time with Apple TV
    • Disable Rotation Lock for YouTube
  • Home Shortcuts
    • Make a Button a Toggle
    • When I Get Home and…
    • Evil Flashing Alarm Clock
    • Seasonal Scenes
  • Other Shortcuts
    • Share Your Shortcuts in Bulk
    • Log Expense
    • Tip Calculator
  • Work with REST APIs
    • An Introduction to API Calls with Shortcuts
    • Zapier
    • Airtable
    • Manage API Keys with Shortcuts
  • Complementary Apps
    • Apps for iOS, iPadOS, and macOS
    • Apps for iOS/iPadOS Only
    • Apps for macOS Only
  • About This Book
    • Ebook Extras
    • About the Author
    • Shameless Plug
    • About the Publisher
  • Copyright and Fine Print

Rosemary Orchard Talks Shortcuts on MacVoices

Posted by Joe Kissell on December 4, 2022

Rosemary Orchard joined host Chuck Joiner on MacVoices to talk about Take Control of Shortcuts.

In part one, Rosemary talks about why you should use Shortcuts and discusses using Shortcuts with Notes.

In part two, Rosemary discusses using Shortcuts with Reminders and Focus modes, as well as syncing shortcuts.

Rosemary Orchard Talks Shortcuts with Chuck Joiner

Posted by Joe Kissell on December 28, 2019

Rosemary Orchard joined Chuck Joiner on the MacVoices podcast to discuss her new book, Take Control of Shortcuts. You’ll hear what’s great about Shortcuts for iOS and iPadOS and what you’ll learn from her book.

November 23, 2022—This book is mostly up to date. Shortcuts underwent some changes in macOS 13 Ventura, iOS 16, and iPadOS 16. Although most of the the changes are not huge, they do make parts of the book slightly inaccurate. Rosemary has said that she plans to deliver an updated manuscript in December 2022, and we will publish it as soon as possible after we receive it. The update will be free to everyone who purchases the book now. (Read more about updates.)


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