App developers cite major improvements to Apple’s shortcut APIs, now a ‘modern’ framework

Source: Matthieu Cassinelli / iMore

Apple’s new framework for implementing shortcut support in iOS, iPadOS and Mac apps has been called ‘modern’, ‘expansive’ and ‘much easier’, app developers say who have been testing the new framework since its release at WWDC.

I asked three developers – Alex Hay from Toolbox Pro, Seth Sandler from AffinityBlue (responsible for apps like Tunable) and Josh Holtz from ConnectKit – about the new App Intents framework, what new feature they’re looking to use in the future , and how things compare to what was previously available. Here are their responses:

Implementing shortcuts is easier now

Apple screenshot "Dive into app intent" session showing the words "Concise," "Modern", "Easy," and "maintainable" referring to the qualities of the new APIs.Source: iMore

Alex Hay was intimately familiar with the Shortcuts APIs as the developer of Toolbox Pro, an early Shortcuts utility that provides over 100 actions to the Shortcuts application – he first highlights how this year’s tools are a big change from compared to previous years:

It’s clear the team behind Shortcuts has been busy again… they’ve now completely changed the way developers make their app actions available in Siri and Shortcuts in iOS 16.

‘App Intents’ is their new modern and expansive framework which has two big advantages over the old system.

First, I think Apple is trying to push developer adoption by dramatically simplifying the effort required to add basic support for an app in Shortcuts.

Adding a single shortcut action previously required a careful tour of Xcode checkboxes and boilerplate writing.

It now takes seven lines of code.”

Now developers can expect a much smoother adoption process to get started, allowing them to not learn how to use the tool and instead focus on how best to integrate shortcuts, especially the new app shortcuts feature.

Seth Sandlerfounder of AffinityBlue, echoed this sentiment:

Previously, developing shortcuts was tedious and lacked flexibility. The new API makes it easy to create Siri Shortcuts and Phrases with improved flexibility by allowing developers to specify parameters that users can talk to Siri or set in the Shortcuts app, making app functionality more accessible and extends the functionality of the application.”

App developers can dig deeper

Apple screenshot "Dive into app intent" developer session showing App Intents logo on screen.Source: iMore

Hay goes deeper into how these changes make deeper shortcut support easier to maintain for developers like him:

Second, at the other end of the spectrum, the new APIs make it easier to add more complex actions as well as manage more actions.”

Josh HoltzConnectKit developer, had the same problem with his tool from the app, uh, connect to as many API endpoints that each require an unobtrusive action:

My app, ConnectKit, currently has 30 intents (and more to come), and adding new ones has always been a problem with the visual editor.”

Holtz mentions that shortcuts are easier to adopt because he can literally copy and paste code while developing new actions:

Application Intents set in Swift will allow me to easily copy and set new Intents (while potentially unlocking automatic generation of new Intents with a bit of custom scripting)!”

Developers are happy

Apple screenshot "Dive into app intent" developer session showing the Siri icon and a demo shortcut running on an iPhone.Source: iMore

Apple’s improvements to their Shortcuts developer tools are a major win for the Shortcuts community.

Rather than adding complexity to the exercise of developing good shortcuts for an app, Apple has minimized the effort required to adopt shortcuts. Simpler tools mean that implementing a set of actions in an application is easier for teams to prioritize, faster to develop, and simpler to support over time.

As Holtz said, these are exciting updates:

Application intentions might be one of my favorite unexpected things to come out of WWDC 22!”

Toolbox Pro for shortcuts logo

Toolbox Pro for shortcuts

Create tons of cool new automations with Toolbox Pro for Shortcuts. There are even over 130 new actions!

Tunable app logo

Adjustable

Practice your musical skills with Tunable, which functions as a chromatic tuner, metronome, recorder, and more. A must have for any musical artist.

Connection kit logo

ConnectKit

ConnectKit allows developers to access the App Store Connect API with shortcuts, making it easy to create shortcuts with premium actions.

The intention to improve

Hopefully more app developers will take notice and implement shortcut support for iOS 16, iPadOS 16, and macOS Ventura this fall. We’ll cover the best apps for your favorite iPad, iPhone, or Mac with updated shortcut support when they’re released!

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