I’ve been playing around with the iOS app Shortcuts lately to see what types of things I can automate.
Shortcuts app is technically new as of iOS 12 but it’s been around for a few years as an app called Workflows that Apple acquired and integrated more deeply into the system.
I started by going through a tutorial on Apple’s website that took me through getting some data from a weather API and then doing something with it. I used the free OpenWeatherMap API and grabbed the current temperature for Toronto and had Siri speak it out loud.
That got me used to dealing with JSON API’s and also with how you hand data around inside Shortcuts to build more complex automations.
Next up, I decided to see if I could create a Shortcut that would tell me when the next bus was leaving the stop in front of Variety Village heading westbound towards our house.
I used the open Nextbus API and made a Shortcut that gets the time until the next bus is coming (five buses actually) and then speaks that out via Siri.
Once I’d perfected that Shortcut, I decided to try something a bit more complex. Often times the kids will come via transit to meet us in downtown Toronto. The Nextbus API also has an endpoint that provides the location of any vehicle by the vehicle number. I built a Shortcut that asks for the vehicle number, and then gets the latitude and longitude of that bus or streetcar and shows it in Apple Maps.
I’m just getting started with Shortcuts. There’s so much you can do from grabbing public API data and manipulating it to taking text from one app and using the WordPress API to publish a blog post without ever opening a browser.
If you have an iPhone or iPad, check it out. There’s a lot of neat Shortcuts in the Gallery to get you started and show you what’s possible.