With macOS Monterey comes a tool that can help you create user friendly, repeatable actions to help optimize your daily life in numerous ways.

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Image: Apple

Monterey has landed, and at first blush, you might think it’s pretty light on new features. Although the newest iteration of macOS might not be a jaw-dropping affair, it does contain a few new features that really stand out. One such feature is called Shortcuts. As the name implies, this tool allows users to create shortcuts for repetitive tasks so your day can be even more efficient than you thought possible.

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Shortcuts has been around on Apple mobile devices for some time, but only made the shift to macOS with Monterey. It was worth the wait. If you’re not familiar with Shortcuts (which I wasn’t, as I am not an Apple mobile user), the premise is simple: Create single-click shortcuts that launch repeatable chains that consist of multiple actions. You can either download a new shortcut from the gallery or create a new shortcut. 

An example of an easy-to-create shortcut is sending an email to a pre-defined recipient, without having to first open the Mail client. I’ll show you exactly how to do this in a moment.

Why you should be using Shortcuts

Shortcuts remind me of the GUI version of Linux bash scripts in that, with a bit of creativity, you can piece together just about anything you need. Once cobbled together, those shortcuts can be quickly run from a drop-down in the macOS topbar. This is a feature every good operating system should have.

The thing about Shortcuts, however, is that it isn’t quite as intuitive as macOS users might be accustomed to. Given the nature of what Shortcuts does, that’s understandable. But don’t worry, the learning curve isn’t all that steep. In fact, you can do what I did and download one of the many Shortcuts from the Gallery and deconstruct it until you understand how they work. It might take you a minute or two to get up to speed, but once you understand how Shortcuts work, you’ll be creating them for all sorts of tasks.

What you’ll need

To use Shortcuts, you must have a macOS machine running version 12.0.0 or better. I’ll be demonstrating on a MacBook Pro M1 with macOS 12.0.1.

How to create a shortcut on macOS

Let’s dispense with the introduction and create a shortcut. What we’ll do is create a shortcut that allows you to quickly fire off an email to a pre-defined recipient. If you frequently send emails to particular addresses, this is a great way to make that process a bit more efficient.

To create the shortcut, click the Launchpad, type Shortcuts, and click the launcher for the app. When the app opens, click Quick Actions in the left navigation (Figure A) and then click the + button in the upper right corner.

Figure A

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The Shortcuts application makes it relatively easy to create tiny applications to launch action chains.

In the resulting window (Figure B), the first thing to do is give the new shortcut a name. Since we’re creating a shortcut for an email to be composed to a specific recipient, you might give that shortcut the name of the recipient.

Figure B

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The shortcut creation window is where you build your shortcuts.

Click on the Categories tab in the upper right, type Send Email in the search field and then drag the entry to the left pane. Once you’ve added the action, click Recipients and type (or select) the email address of the desired recipient (Figure C).

Figure C

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Locating the Send Email action in Shortcuts.

Click the Recipients field in the action and either type or locate the email address to be used for the Shortcut (Figure D).

Figure D

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Adding the email recipient to the action.

At this point, you can test the Shortcut by clicking the Run button (right-pointing arrow). The action should open a Mail composing window. If it does, close it and then click the Options button in the top right of the Shortcut creator window. In the resulting pane (Figure E), click the checkbox for Pin in Menu Bar to add an entry in the Shortcut topbar drop-down.

Figure E

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Adding the entry to the Shortcut drop-down menu.

You can also create a keyboard shortcut for this new action as well as share it with any iPhones or iPads associated with the same account. 

To use the shortcut, simply click the Shortcuts topbar menu and click the entry (Figure F).

Figure F

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Launching the newly created shortcut.

When you launch this shortcut, an Apple Mail compose window will open, where you can begin creating the email.

And that’s all there is to using the new Shortcuts tool in Monterey. Once you get the hang of creating new actions, you’ll find this tool absolutely indispensable in gaining a level of efficiency you have yet to experience on macOS.

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