This Siri Shortcut will automatically text your commute time to your spouse

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Siri shortcuts knows how long your bus will take to get you home.
Siri knows how long your bus will take to get you home.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

This Siri Shortcut will send an iMessage to a friend, spouse or other contact telling them how long it will be until you get to their location. Once set up, all you need to do is say something simple (and easy to remember) like “Home soon.”

This shortcut uses a brand-new feature in Shortcuts beta 2.0 that allows the sending of messages in the background, without having to confirm them first. It’s a small but powerful addition. Once Apple irons out the kinks, this feature could make a huge difference in how useful Siri Shortcuts will be day to day.

Send iMessages without human confirmation

Today we’ll see how to use the new Shortcuts app in the iOS 12 beta to do the following:

  • Get your travel time to your home.
  • Compose a message telling a contact how long it will take you to get there.
  • Send that message with no further interaction.

The shortcut is dead-simple. Here’s a screenshot of the steps you need. I used the iPad version because it’s bigger and easier to read.

Just fill in the gaps and you're ready to go.
Just fill in the gaps and you’re ready to go.
Photo: Cult of Mac

To personalize this shortcut, add your home address (or your office address, if you want to use this for co-workers or the boss) into the Street Address step at the top. You can fill it out properly, or you can just paste the entire address into the Line 1 field and it seems to work fine.

Then, make sure the Get Travel Time step is configured correctly. You need to select Current Location in the From field, and choose your transport mode. You get to use any of the transport modes available in the regular Maps app, so if you’re a cyclist you’re already out of luck.

Compose your message

Then, in the third and final step, you compose your message and choose a recipient. Theoretically, you can tap the + icon and navigate to your contact using the standard iOS contacts picker. However, when I did it like that, the shortcut tried to send the message as a green-bubble SMS. If I just paste the email address of the contact into this field, it works fine.

To add the Travel Time to the outgoing message, just tap the Travel Time icon in the row above the keyboard. This inserts a variable that will be replaced with the actual travel time when you run the shortcut. Mine reads “I’ll be home in Travel Time.”

These widgets above the keyboard can be tapped to insert them into the text.
These widgets above the keyboard can be tapped to insert them into the text.
Photo: Cult of Mac

And that’s it for the main Siri Shortcut steps. If you tap the play button at the top of the screen, the shortcut will run. Pro tip: You may want to use your own iMessage contact details while setting this up, or your husband/boss/employees will get spammed every time you test-run it.

Run this Siri Shortcut via voice

To make this into a Siri Shortcut that can be triggered via voice, you need to enable that feature. Just tap the settings icon (the one that looks like no other settings icon ever). It’s the one below Done, and next to the share arrow. You’ll see this panel:

Name your shortcut, and add a Siri trigger phrase.
Name your shortcut, and add a Siri trigger phrase.
Photo: Cult of Mac

Give the shortcut a name, and pick an icon if you like. You can also add it to your home screen to run it by tapping, in case you don’t trust Siri.

Then, tap the Siri Phrase button, and you’ll be prompted to record a trigger phrase. I went with “Home soon,” as I’m pretty sure I can remember it.

If Siri mishears you, you can pick from a short list of alternatives.
If Siri mishears you, you can pick from a short list of alternatives.
Photo: Cult of Mac

How to use the new Siri Shortcut

Now, whenever you want to send this message, just invoke Siri and speak your trigger phrase. If all goes to plan, you’ll have to do nothing more. The message will be composed and sent, and you can go home to your lovely husband and one of his amazing dinners.

However, all will not go well. If you utter the magic phase using Hey Siri, you’ll be prompted to unlock the iPhone first. If you try to run it using Siri, even on an unlocked iPhone, it’ll prompt you to open Siri Shortcuts’ settings, and then just leave you there, with nothing more happening.

I’ve only made this work consistently by running it from the actual Shortcuts app. But that kind of thing should all be smoothed over by the time iOS 12 launches this fall.