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.

Apple acquires Italian startup that specializes in backend automation

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stamplay
The Stamplay team.
Photo: Il Sol 24 Ore

Apple recently acquired a startup that could soon help the iPhone-maker deliver better backend tools to iOS and macOS developers.

Stamplay, an Italian startup that specialized in building a “low code workflow automation” platform, was reportedly purchased by Apple for about $5.6 million. The acquisition hasn’t been confirmed by Apple but there are some telltale signs that Stamplay’s tech has found a new home.

How to use Apple’s new Shortcuts app

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A shortcut.
A shortcut.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

Shortcuts is Apple’s new automation app for iOS 12. It integrates with Siri and lets you build all kinds of amazing automated workflows, from shutting your house down when you go to sleep, to downloading videos from YouTube and saving the them to iCloud.

Shortcuts is really just the new name for Workflow, an iOS automation app that Apple bought a year or so back. Let’s take a look at what Apple has put in Shortcuts.

Handy Shortcuts app launches alongside iOS 12

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Shortcuts app from iOS 12
Apple's new Shortcuts automation app has to be downloaded separately from iOS 12.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

The full version of iOS 12 is now available for everyone. One of its cool new features is Siri Shortcuts, but those who want to automate functions on their iPhone also need to download a separate application from the App Store.

The new utility lets people create scripts that collect several actions together, then launch them with a voice command. The idea is to let you automate actions that you perform regularly.

Add events to your iPhone calendar using natural language and Drafts

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Adding an calendar event with Drafts is as easy as writing it on paper.
Adding an calendar event with Drafts is as easy as writing it on paper.
Photo: Sludge G/Flickr CC

Do you hate adding new events to your iOS calendar? It’s a real pain, right? You have to click, and type, and turn one of these time and date dials, and type some more. On the Mac you can just hit ⌘-N to create a new event, and then type something like Dinner tomorrow at 19:00, and the Calendar app just works out what you mean, and adds the event.

On iOS, you have to do it manually, or try to coax Siri into doing it for you — neither of which is a pleasant experience. Why isn’t there a natural-language input for the iOS Calendar app? Well, if you’re using the awesome Drafts app, then there is.

How to add your own iOS 12 Siri Shortcuts right now

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Siri
Siri Shortcuts could become super powerful.
Photo: Apple

Siri Shortcuts are the iOS way to automate actions you do over and over. The WWDC 2018 keynote gave an examples of chaining together a bunch of these actions into one shortcut — order your favorite “coffee,” and give you directions to work, or switch on the lights at home one whole hour before you get there in order to, I don’t know, waste electricity? To trigger these little automations, you just tell Siri, using a pre-chosen keyword/name.

However, you don’t alway want to put together lots of steps. Sometimes you just want Siri to carry out a single action with a Shortcut. For instance, opening up your favorite news site in Safari, or sending a message to your spouse, or viewing your most recent photos. The good news is, you can do all of these right now, even without the fancy new Siri Shortcuts app.

Embrace automation with Workflow [50 Essential iOS Apps #13]

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Workflow app Webpage to PDF action
Workflow can make the most basic of tasks incredibly simple.
Photo: Ian Fuchs/Cult of Mac

50 Essential iOS Apps: Workflow appNot all tasks are simple or straightforward. Sometimes a task involve multiple complex or repetitive steps. Having the ability to use a “program” to do these tasks quickly and easily makes you more efficient. Unfortunately, we aren’t all programmers. Workflow for iOS makes performing complex or repetitive tasks a breeze, all without needing to know a programming language.

How to convert any video (or song) into an MP3

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convert MP3 iPhone workflow
With a couple of taps, you can convert any audio or video file to MP3
Photo: Cult of Mac

Converting an audio track to MP3 on the Mac is dead easy. Just open it with iTunes, and choose the File > Convert option from the menubar. On iOS there’s no native way to do this. There are lots of shonky-looking apps in the app store that offer to create MP3s for you, but it’s likely that you already have the answer installed on your iPhone or iPad.

That’s right. Apple’s own WorkFlow app can quickly and easily convert any audio (or video) file to MP3.

How to get alerts when iOS games and apps go free

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Free game alerts
Who wouldn't want to play UNICORN 3D - Colour by Number?
Photo: Cult of Mac

Are you an iOS gamer? Do you love games so much that your iPhone may as well be a pocket games console? And do you also hate paying developers to make those amazing games for you? Then good news! because today’s how-to shows you how to get alerts whenever a top game gets its price reduced to free.

How to use HomePod to control your smart home

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HomePod HomeKit Unboxing
HomePod is a great speaker, and a more-than-adequate Home Hub.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

If you’re a home automation fan, then you’re going to love Apple’s new HomePod speaker. Not only can you use it to control your HomeKit setup with your voice using Siri, but you can also use the speaker as a Home Hub. That means that you can leave it at home taking care of business, letting you dial in to tweak things from wherever you are in the world.