Using Dictation in iOS Shortcuts

One of the features I was looking forward to the most with the iPhone 15 Pro has been the one I've taken advantage the least... the Action Button. The idea of having an assignable button on my digital assistant seemed like the perfect feature. So after getting my iPhone I did the most unimaginable and set the button as a flashlight.1

The real problem I had with the action button was that limits Apple had placed on the button itself. To date the button can be assigned one of 7 actions:

  • Silent Mode
  • Focus
  • Flashlight
  • Magnifier
  • Shortcut
  • Accessibility feature
  • No action2

I had hoped that the button would have a feature like previous iPhones had with 3D Touch. One action if the button was pressed quickly and another if the button was held for a while. Or maybe if the button was pushed once it would do one action and if pushed twice quickly do a different action. Nope, the action button is a one trick pony and you can only choose one of the three previous choices. 3

A while back Dr Drang had a post about using Dictation in Shortcuts. This got me thinking about the potential to use dictation to trigger different Shortcuts from the action button. Most of the time when I've used dictation it's been to either a) collect a thought I have and I don't have a means to quickly jot it down or 2) capture a to do item. What I wanted was a way to use dictation to select what I needed to do and then use dictation again to collect my thought.

Action Button Choice

I got a working version of a dictation Shortcut pretty quickly.

The first action in the Shortcut will capture a dictation to determine if I want to collect a Note or a Task. I didn't put any indicator or display instructions since the goal of the Shortcut was to quickly collect what I needed to say. The Shortcut will extract the dictated text into actual text that can be used by a If-Then function to check if I want to collect a "Note" or a "Task".

If I dictated "Note", the Shortcut will select the If-Then path to run a subroutine to open a second dictation window. This window will take the dictation and do another speech to text conversion. The collected text will be placed into a new note in Drafts with current date prepended to the text. 5

If I dictated "Task", the Shortcut will run the second part of the If-Then subroutine. This will open another dictation window and do a speech to text conversion, just like in the "Note" part of the Shortcut. But now the collected text is used to create a new task in my Inbox in OmniFocus and set a defer date 2 days from now. 4

Now when I press the Action Button on my iPhone, I can announce what choice of action I want to take and dictate the thought straight to the proper destination. The biggest roadblock I initially had with using dictation features was the weird looks I'd get when someone thought I was walking down the hall talking to myself.

Link to Shortcut: Action Button Choice

  1. Such a bold choice. 

  2. Aka... do nothing. 

  3. Cause the other 4 aren't worth the effort. 

  4. The trick to push a new Task to your Inbox is to leave the "Project" field blank on the Shortcut action. 

  5. Next version of the Shortcut is to collect all dictated notes into a single daily collection.