Inside iOS 12: How to Create Siri Shortcuts

Originally published at:

The new Siri Shortcuts feature in iOS 12 lets you create your own Siri commands for both built-in features and for capabilities provided by third-party apps. “Take Control of iOS 12” author Josh Centers explains how to create and use these custom Siri commands.

OK, what I need is Keyboard Maestro for iOS. Here’s the example of a shortcut I need to perform. Certain nuisance/scam phone calls need to be added to my Sir Spamalot contact so I won’t be bothered next time a call comes from that number. When I receive a call that might be from a scammer/spammer, I copy the call from history, enter it into a spammer database site to check, and if it is flagged as a scammer/spammer, I return to Phone history and add it to my Sir Spamalot contact. Can the iOS 12 Shortcuts do something that complex?

If that was possible, it would require significant work in the Shortcuts app. But things like the AT&T CallProtect and Hiya apps block known spammers automatically—I’ve given up blocking any spammers manually since they always call from new numbers anyway.

Thanks. I’ve had quite a few repeat callers, but many do seem to stay ahead of the blockers, no matter how they’re managed. Anyway, I’m assuming Shortcuts still has the limitation that it can’t take selected text and enter it into a text field of another app due to sandboxing. That’s a fairly severe limitation, I think. Makes true automation very elusive.

Oh, no, you sure can. You can create a shortcut that accepts a contact as the input, share the contact to the Shortcut, and it will be able to extract the contact.

As for using that phone number to lookup anything… not sure, I’ll see if I can figure it out. (What is the URL of the spammer database lookup that you do?)

OK, that’s good. Can you do it without learning a new URL language?

And here’s one I’ve wanted for a while: a recurring reminder that is set at an interval from completion date rather than from due date, such as when I’m a couple of weeks late changing the air conditioner filter. Microsoft Entourage for Mac actually provided that at one time, but that was long ago.

That sounds like an awfully complicated way to block spammers. Why not just use the block caller function built in? If I get a call from a number I don’t recognize I don’t answer it. If they don’t leave a message, I block them. If they do, I listen to the message (or at least to the beginning of it) and then decide what to do. But the point is I use the Phone app’s built-in blocking; there’s no need to go to all the work to copy the number to a spam contact. BTW, the same blocking function is built into iMessages for spam texts.

Actually, I don’t even do that anymore. For $20/year, I use RoboKiller, an app that automatically blocks spam calls and spam texts and keeps its own database of spam numbers collected from all its subscribers. If it blocked a number it shouldn’t, you can unblock it. Other than that, the phone doesn’t ring. You get a notification that a number was blocked, and it shows the number in case you would recognize it. Also, if the number happens to be a real number, it will show you the name and address the number is listed to (it actually looks it up in real time) and it will show you a Google Earth photo of the location.

The other thing RoboKiller does, is actually answer calls with answer bots that will waste the time of the caller if the call happens to come from a real person, and it records the call so you can listen to how it spoofed the caller.

Please note: I don’t have anything to do with RoboKiller personally or professionally, other than paying them $20/year for a subscription to their app. I just think that if there’s anything easier than using the built-in blocking functions, it’s using RoboKiller.

Forget all that, then. I just want to type today’s date into

Download the shortcuts app and run this shortcut: Shortcuts

It will get today’s date and start a Note with the date in it. At the bottom of the create note control there is something that says “new note” - tap that and you can append the date instead to an existing note of your choice.

Well, thanks Doug, but do you understand why I find that solution frustrating rather than encouraging? It’s because using Shortcuts to create a note so I can add a date to it is just about the most precise example I can imagine of the tail’s wagging the dog. Appending is better than creating, but, oh well, I guess some people are just never satisfied.