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How to run iOS shortcuts from your Mac

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Shortcuts on Mac.
Shortcuts on Mac — kinda.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

While it is possible to get the Shortcuts app running in macOS Catalina via Catalyst, you can’t do much with it. But what about the next best thing? How about selecting something on your Mac, then tapping a shortcut on your iPhone, and then having the result show up back on your Mac?

I’ve been doing this for the past few weeks, and it’s not only a workaround, but a genuinely useful — and reliable — way to “run” iOS shortcuts on the Mac. Let’s get right into it.

Toolbox Pro brings incredible new tricks to Shortcuts

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Toolbox pro
Who doesn’t love a good pro toolbox?
Photo: Susan Holt Simpson/Unsplash

Apple’s Shortcuts app is already a very powerful tool for automating stuff on your iPhone and iPad, and for creating your own push-button mini-apps. But what if it also could use the deep tools that Apple builds into iOS for app developers? What if Shortcuts could use Face ID, or analyze your photos using iOS’ crazy-powerful machine learning? Or if you could use the OCR to pull text out of photos, all inside Shortcuts?

Thats what Toolbox Pro does. It opens up many of Apple’s amazing under-the-hood technologies, and lets you use them just by dragging a new step into your Shortcuts workflows. Let’s see what it can do.

Check out iOS 13’s amazing NFC-triggered Shortcuts

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nfc shortcuts
These little NFC tags are discreet enough to stick anywhere.
Photo: Cult of Mac

Shortcuts has gotten so many amazing new tricks in iOS 13 that it’s going to take a while for us to cover them all. So, how about starting with the new NFC automations? This lets you tap your sleeping iPhone onto an NFC sticker or tag, and your iPhone will run a shortcut. This is pretty amazing, because you can walk around you home (or office), and just tap your iPhone onto objects to perform tasks: open apps, set timers, play music, dim the lights — in fact, you can do anything a regular shortcut can do.

Here are two great examples of using NFC shortcuts in iOS 13.

Patterning’s new shortcuts transform iPad keyboard into drum kit

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Street drummer with buckets
This guy makes better music with buckets than I can manage with any app.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

Patterning is probably the best drum machine app on the iPad, and one of the best iOS music apps, period. Which makes it criminal that we’ve never written a dedicated post about it. That can change today, because the developer, Olympia Noise Co., just added keyboard shortcuts.

Wait, come back! These aren’t just any keyboard shortcuts. These shortcuts let you use your iPad’s Smart Folio Keyboard, or any Bluetooth keyboard, to fingerdrum on the iPad.

iOS 13 Shortcuts can automatically download new wallpaper

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Cheesy romantic photo on ipad screen
WTF SRSLY Shortcuts?
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

In iOS 13, Shortcuts has gotten some pretty wild new powers. It can run shortcuts automatically, in the background, for example, based on the time of day, or your location. You can tap your iPhone on an RFID tag, and it’ll fire off a shortcut. You can have your iPhone hand off a podcast from your AirPods to an AirPlay speaker when you arrive home.

And, as we’ll see today, you can have your iPhone or iPad download and load new wallpaper automatically, so you can see a fresh backdrop every morning.

All the new keyboard shortcuts in iPadOS Safari, listed

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A keyboard, upon which one might perform shortcuts.
A keyboard, upon which one might perform shortcuts.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

Safari in iPadOS is “desktop-class,” according to Apple. And part of that definition means Safari offers plenty of keyboard shortcuts, just like when you use Apple’s web browser on a Mac.

Just a quick look at the screenshots below will show you how many more Safari shortcuts are available in iPadOS than in iOS 12: Holding down the ⌘ key now reveals two panels in the pop-up help screen, instead of just one.

Let’s take a look at the new Safari keyboard shortcuts in iPadOS.

Catalyst versions of Messages and Shortcuts on the way to macOS

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iMessage effects
A look at one of the new animations on Messages.
Screenshot: Steve Troughton-Smith

Apple is working to bring new versions of Messages and Shortcuts to Mac, according to code discovered in the latest beta of macOS 10.15 Catalina.

The code was uncovered by developer Steve Troughton-Smith. This would be the first time Shortcuts is available on macOS devices. While Messages is currently on Mac, it looks to be getting a big overhaul.

iOS 13’s NFC triggers bring Shortcuts to the real world

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With NFC shortcuts in iOS 13, this speaker could become a trigger to play your favorite podcast.
This speaker could become a trigger to play your favorite podcast.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

The iOS 13 Shortcuts app brings plenty of radical changes — automatic scheduled and location-based shortcuts, for example — but one super-neat new feature will make a world of difference. Now, if you have a compatible iPhone, you can combine NFC tags with Shortcuts. That is, you can run any shortcut just by tapping your iPhone onto an NFC sticker.

Seriously. Pretty wild, right? You could tap your iPhone onto a sticker atop a speaker in your kitchen, and it would start playing the radio, for instance. Let’s check out how NFC shortcuts will work.

Time and location triggers make Shortcuts far more useful in iOS 13

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Shortcuts iOS 13
This is Shortcuts in iOS 13. It looks great.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

Apple’s Shortcuts app is already great, but in iOS 13 it gets even better. You can still create simple or complex workflows to do all kinds of tasks, from downloading YouTube videos or setting a quick meditation timer to resizing a whole folder of photos. But until now, you had to trigger those shortcuts manually.

In iOS 13, your iPhone or iPad can run a shortcut at a preset time or when you arrive at a specific location. This is huge.