5 Free Apple Shortcuts for Writers and Other Word People


Apple’s Shortcuts app with Siri is making writers and designers more productive by eliminating the tedious workflow steps that everyone hates.

Shortcuts are quick automations that iPhone and iPad users can use to create fast and efficient workflows. Simple examples come right in the app’s Gallery. Third-party apps can create their own actions. Users can even create their own custom Shortcuts, which is way easier than it sounds.

As writers and instructional designers, there are many ways we use Shortcuts to speed up the non-creative work so we can focus our time on producing great content.

What Are Shortcuts?

Apple acquired an app called Workflow in 2017. Workflow became Shortcuts, an official Apple app available since the release of iOS 12, and automatically included for everyone with iOS 13.

Custom Shortcuts are built using actions, or little functions that can be strung together in a sequence. Actions manage common device functions and app data. There are actions for playing music, scheduling appointments, navigating, messaging, and lots of other tasks. When combined, these actions become Shortcuts that automate tedious or repetitive tasks.

Consumer automations have been available for a long time through tools like IFTTT and Automator. Shortcuts is democratizing these kinds of automations beyond the super users. This means that average people are using the app at the office, when working from home, and ultimately, while playing anywhere.

Download Shortcuts for Writers

See these five Shortcuts in action.

Shortcuts has almost unlimited possibilities for you to discover and design. The video demonstrates five of our favorite productivity-boosting Shortcuts that word people can start using today. Read about them and download them for free:

  1. Set Up Your Work Environment
  2. Change Some Capitalization
  3. Insert Lorem Ipsum Placeholder Text
  4. Set a Word Count Countdown Timer to Monitor Progress
  5. Make and Share a PDF

1. Set Up Your Work Environment

Many creators like to set up their environment before they work. Shortcuts can string together a bunch of actions that users can initiate with a single tap. In iOS 13, automation triggers can execute these steps without user input based on time of day, user location, wifi network, and more.

For example, our custom Work Mode Shortcut does all the following:

  • Turn on Bluetooth.
  • Activate Do Not Disturb.
  • Set volume.
  • Play a playlist in Apple Music.
  • Open Notes app.

Work Mode Shortcut


2. Change Capitalization

One common and annoying task is changing the capitalization of something like a title. It can require a lot of keystrokes. Shortcuts has a great little action to automate capitalization. When paired with some helper actions, the Capitalization Shortcut can help writers quickly switch between uppercase, lowercase, title case, initial case, sentence case, and alternating case. Our Capitalization Shortcut also fixes any misspellings as an added bonus.

Capitalization Shortcut


3. Insert Lorem Ipsum Placeholder Text

Sometimes designers want to get a sense of how a finished design will look before the copy is written. A common approach uses lorem ipsum text as a placeholder because the randomized Latin verbiage approximates what English looks like without distracting designers with English words. The Lorem Ipsum Shortcut makes it easy to insert placeholder text into almost any app in iOS or iPadOS.

Lorem Ipsum Shortcut


4. Set a Word Count Countdown Timer to Monitor Progress

Effective project management depends on completing tasks on time. For example, writers and editors sometimes use time benchmarks based on word count. A project manager might say, “Revise this white paper based an editing estimate of 500 words per hour.” Our Countdown Shortcut makes it easy to track metrics like this.

When you’re ready to work on a project, run the Shortcut from the share sheet. The Shortcut automatically calculates your word count, or you can enter your own. Enter your words-per-hour metric, and Shortcuts will start a countdown timer so you know how much time you have left to complete your project.

Countdown Shortcut


5. Make and Share a PDF

In the old days, creating a PDF required opening an app like Adobe Acrobat or something that could export as a PDF. Shortcuts makes it easy to convert almost anything into a PDF, such as websites, images, and word processing copy.

The Make & Share PDF Shortcut turns your content into a PDF and offers a menu of common disposition options.

Make & Share PDF Shortcut


more productivity-boosting tips


Shortcuts Troubleshooting

For best results, use mobile Safari. Also, Apple introduced a setting in iOS 13 to protect users from downloading malicious Shortcuts. To download new ones outside the Gallery, go to Settings > Shortcuts. Then, select Allow Untrusted Shortcuts and then Allow:

Settings Alert

For more information about Shortcuts, check out MatthewCassinelli.com.