The Shortcuts-Based Home Screen

With the new Shortcuts, you can completely rethink your home screen and think in terms of context instead of applications.


Okay, here's a weird one. What if your home screen looked like this? This is a home screen made entirely of shortcuts. And these are particular kind of shortcuts. These are shortcuts that are largely choose from menu shortcuts that are triggers to a whole bunch of other shortcuts.

For instance, this second row far left is a lightning bolt. That's the MacSparky task item. So if I tap on that, it opens up a shortcut that lets me choose from different things, like I can go to my MacSparky inbox and email. The action and planning items are specific perspectives in OmniFocus. If I have a post idea, I tap the post idea, and it opens up an OmniFocus new task with the tag set and the project with, I did a Write Post About, and I just type in what I want and tap Save. And it's done. Continuing, I've got links to Mac Power Users, show preparation documents and schedules. Same thing for Automators and Free Agents. I've got my blogging app, Air Table, which I used to manage the production of these Field Guides, even the blog sponsor prep mail, which I did in a separate screen cast. So no matter what it is I want to do related to MacSparky, I put it all under that icon. So tapping that one thing doesn't just get me to one app, it gets me to the universe of MacSparky. And any task I want to do related to it on my iPhone is available to me.

I have the same thing with the next one. That's for legal. And it's the same thing. It's legal inbox, legal action, planning, my telephone app, I have PDF Edit. If I had to go to Basecamp, where I manage a lot of my legal stuff, in Basecamp, I can do it from this one tap.

I got the idea for this from CGP Grey. He was doing it in iOS 12. But I think it's really good in iOS 13. Because no longer does it have to jump through Safari though. The whole process is faster and smoother now.

This one right here. This is all of my personal stuff, email action planning, day one, which is my diary app.

Next one over is my health stuff. So I've got activity, meditate, food tracking, and start walk. In fact, I want to make some changes to that one.

And let me show you how these are built. I'm going to go in and tap the ellipses for the Health one. And you can see that it just starts with a Choose from Menu item. It's a pretty simple command, really. We've used it throughout the screen cast.

But for these home screen things, they're perfect because you just create an entry for everything you want to do, and you embed the scripts underneath it. And usually these are not going to be specific, detailed shortcut scripts that you build for just this launcher app. Instead, it's just pointing at an application or pointing at an existing script that you've incorporated in this Choose from Menu.

For example, with this Health one, the first one is activity. If I want to open the Activity app, I can do that. In fact, let me just go through and show you a few of these. If I tap Activity, it opens the Activity app. Look at that, I only need one more ring, just need to stand up one more time today. The same thing, I can go into my meditation application, I can go into my food tracking. Then I also have one in here that's an actual workflow. So scrolling down in Health, you see the first one is Activity, it's opening the Activity app. The second one is meditating, it opens the Headspace app, where I do meditation, I do food tracking and my fitness pal. So the first three of those is just opening an application. The next one is the Start Walk, where it locks the door,my front door and it opens the podcast app, so I can start listening to a podcast. But I want to add one more to it. And this will be an app-based one. I also go to a gym occasionally. I've been doing this Orange Theory thing and it's killing me. As I'm recording this, I can barely lift my left arm over my head. All right, I'm scrolling down. And you can see that I've added Orange Theory, I'm going to hit the plus button at the bottom. And then I'm going to go to Favorites. And on my phone, one of the favorites is Open app because of these desktop scripts that I make. I'm going to just drag that in there, tap the App button and then scroll down to Orange Theory. Great done. So now, when I go back to my home screen and I type the Health one, I can get to Orange Theory as well from that home screen.

So I've made a series of these, they cover different areas of my life. And like I said, most of them are either apps or existing scripts.

The calendar is one, is a good example. I've got a couple different calendar apps I use, Fantastical and Calendar. But then after that, these are all just other scripts. You know, I talked in some of my earlier screen casts, how I do these blocks. Well, I've got each one of the blocks listed as a home screen link through the Calendar button. So if I tap Monday, I just added all those blocks to next Monday. So my calendar for next Monday is good.

This is my Safari, or my browsing one. It's got Safari, Chrome, RSS, news and the MacSparky website. You don't have to copy all these, I just kind of want to show you what I've been using.

And I find this very useful by the way, Communications, Mail, Messages, Slack, Discourse, Twitter, Spark, I need to add Basecamp to this and I would do it the exact same way I just did the Orange Theory one, a few minutes ago.

I have Navigation under the sign, and you'll note that there are no names on any of these icons. I just like the way it looks without the names. And I know what they are. I mean, the signs are navigation, the puzzle pieces play, the headphones is audio.

The books are reference, it's not hard for me to know what these are, tools, this is a good one.

So I've got all these different Tools app, I've got the Apple Watch app, the Settings app, the App Store TestFlight, all these different apps, I didn't want to put them on my home screen, but I wanted them easy access. And I just put them under the Tools icon.

But anyway, getting back to my point, these don't have names on them. With iOS 12, it was very complicated. Actually I had to build a shortcut to make the Unicode blank spaces. You don't have to do that anymore. Now you can go in Shortcuts and just pick any shortcut.

And if you want to save it to home screen, all you do, like I did in that separate screen cast, I say Add to Home screen.

And it used to be, you had to put the blank characters in there for the name because it had to have a name, it doesn't have to have a name anymore, you just delete them, tap Add, and then done.

And you'll see, there it is, a new icon with no name attached. I was torn about whether to include this shortcuts home screen in the basic concepts of the application or towards the end with these advanced concepts. I think it's an advanced concept because you can't really appreciate it until you've built a bunch of shortcuts.

But having access to your shortcuts and your apps with just one tap is really nice. If you're not entirely sold, you can always put the same icons in your today view screen, shortcuts as a today view widget, you can see I've got it there to my left, I'm currently showing the small version. But if I just tap the disclosure arrow, you can see I've got a bunch of them there. And I could run it from this screen as well. So if you wanted to put all app icons here and your shortcuts over here, that would work as well. But I gotta be honest, I prefer to have it on my home screen, I want to get straight into those contexts.

Over on the iPad, starting with iOS 13, you can actually put those today view widgets on the home screen at the same time as your applications. And as a result, I'm able to have the best of both worlds. So in that case, I actually do run the widgets out of the today view. Either way, a Shortcuts-based home screen fundamentally changes the way you think about your home screen. For me now, every button is not an app, or an action, every button is a context.

So if I want to get into the legal context, I tap that button and everything I need to do usually on my phone relating to the law is right in front of me. It's just a different way to use your phone, and I recommend you give it a try.

Starting with iOS 13, this is now easier than ever because the Shortcuts launch faster, they're easier to design and frankly, they look better. So give it a try. Let me know what you think. And if you like it, you don't have to put all of your home screen icons to shortcuts, but even just maybe pick two or three and try and work in your phone on a context basis, rather than an application and shortcut basis and see what happens.

Complete and Continue