How to Create a Simple App Launcher Using Shortcuts

As you might know, we have started a new series of articles on Shortcuts where we try to teach you how to create shortcuts to automate tasks on your iPhone and iPad. This is the third article in the series and this is a small but nifty one. Most of us organize our apps by priory or in folders because these two are basically the way Apple allows us to organize our home screens on iOS devices. But, with the launch of the new Shortcuts app, users can now create simple app launchers which allow them to create shortcuts which can launch multiple apps. In this article, I am going to teach you how you can create a simple app launcher shortcut to get easy and fast access to your apps:

Creating a Shortcut to Launch Apps

Using a shortcut to launch apps is pretty nifty as it just takes you two taps to launch your favorite apps and you don’t have to spend time searching for them. For my personal use, I have created a simple “Stories” shortcut which allows me to launch any of the five apps that I normally use for listening to or reading stories and novels. Here are the apps that I launch using this shortcut:

  • BookPlayer (a nifty app for playing audiobooks which you have not purchased from Apple or Amazon)
  • Pocket Casts (A podcast player app. I switched back from Castro because of its awesome web-player and cross-device syncing option)
  • Audible (Best Audiobook service along with original content. Seriously, try it out. They have a 30-day free trial with one free book.)
  • Books (Apples own Books app).
  • Kindle (I have joined the Kindle Unlimited Program where get access to thousands of books.)

Normally, these apps tend to live on the second or third page of the home screen inside a single folder. However, with the new Shortcut I have created, I can access them directly from the widget panel. The best part is that you can create such shortcuts for any number of apps. So let’s see how we can create this shortcut, shall we?

Steps to Create an App Launcher Shortcut Using the Shortcuts App

If you have read our last article on Shortcuts, you will know how you can navigate the Shortcuts’ app interface. If you have not done so, I suggest that you click on this link to get yourself up to date as it will help you follow this tutorial far more easily:

  • The first step is always the same, you will have to launch the Shortcuts app and tap on the new Shortcuts button and then tap on the Search bar.
Create an App Launcher Shortcut Using the Shortcuts App 1
  • Now, remember that we don’t want to launch all the apps at once. Rather, we want to be presented with a menu of the apps from which we can select the app that we want to launch. There’s a simple action inside the Shortcuts app which can help us do that and it’s called “Choose from Menu”. You can either find this action by going to Scripting → Control Flow → Choose from Menu or you can just search for it as shown in the picture below. Tap on it to add it to your shortcut.
Create an App Launcher Shortcut Using the Shortcuts App 2
  • As you can see, the “Choose from Menu” action allows us to choose from a list of things. There are two menu items already created for us but we can create more by tapping on the plus icon. We can also rename these menu items and rearrange them by holding and dragging on the buttons on the far right side.
Create an App Launcher Shortcut Using the Shortcuts App 3
  • The number of menu items depends on the number of apps that you are going to launch. Since I am using this to launch five apps, I will create five menu items. Also, I will rename the items to correspond with the app that I want to launch so that I don’t have to remember which menu item launches which app. The final result should look something like this:
Create an App Launcher Shortcut Using the Shortcuts App 4
  • Now, we have our menu set. But currently choosing these items will do nothing as we haven’t assigned any action to them, so we will do that now. Since we want to launch apps, we will add the “Open Apps” Command to each one of them. Again, you can find that action either by going to Apps → Open Apps or by just searching for it. Then tap on the action to add it to your shortcut.
Create an App Launcher Shortcut Using the Shortcuts App 5
  • Here is the important part. For every app we launch, we will have to add an action. Since I am launching five apps, I will add five “launch app action”. I will also hold and drag each launch app action to place under their respective Menu items. I will explain why we are doing that in a moment. For now, just do this and your end result should match the picture below.
Create an App Launcher Shortcut Using the Shortcuts App 6
  • You might have noticed that the “Open App” action allows you to choose the app that you want to launch. Tap on the choose button and assign the relevant apps. After you are done, it should match the picture below.
Create an App Launcher Shortcut Using the Shortcuts App 7
  • Now, before we do anything, let’s test our shortcut. Tap on the play button and see if it is working or not. If you have followed everything to the point, it should be working as shown in the picture below.
Create an App Launcher Shortcut Using the Shortcuts App 8

Congratulation, you have created your app launcher shortcut. The best place to launch this shortcut is from the Shortcuts widget. You might also want to customize this shortcut to rename it and add an icon. Again, read the second post of this series where I have explained everything. I wrote that article so I don’t have to explain the basics every time. Here is how my personal “Stories” shortcut looks when launching from the widget.

Create an App Launcher Shortcut Using the Shortcuts App 9

Now, let’s talk a little bit about the step six, specifically why we needed to drag and drop each Open App action below the menu items. Shortcuts is a linear app which executes actions from top to bottom. So, when you run your launch app shortcut, the first action it executes is the “Choose from Menu” action which gives us our prompt. Depending on the Menu item you interact with, it will only execute the action associated with it.

That’s why, when I tap on Audible, it only opens Audible as that’s the only action associated with it. The “Choose from Menu” action is powerful and can be used in a variety of ways. We will see it can help us more and more as start learning to create more complex shortcuts. Till then, I hope that you enjoyed this small tutorial.

Creating an App Launch Shortcut: Final Thoughts

I hope that you enjoyed this tutorial. If you have any problems, you can use the comment section and we will respond to all your queries. If you are following this series on Shortcuts, I would like to think that by now you must be familiar with the basics. So, in the next article, we will try to create a little more complex shortcut which will also be more useful.