THIS WEEK'S SPONSOR:

Kolide

Nail Third-Party Audits and Compliance Goals with Endpoint Security for Your Entire Fleet


Creating Shortcuts with Invisible Names for the iOS Home Screen and Widget

I’ve spent the past two weeks updating my iPhone’s home screen setup for the XS Max and, as I shared in the latest episode of AppStories, part of the process involved gaining easier access to some of the shortcuts I use on a regular basis. While I’m not a fan of the shortcuts-only home screen approach described by CGP Grey in episode 75 of the Cortex podcast (at some point, I believe you just end up swapping app folders for shortcuts), I do like the idea of adding a couple of frequently used custom shortcuts to the home screen. And as I detailed on AppStories, I also like to use “shortcut launchers” – effectively, shortcuts to launch other shortcuts.

For context, here’s what my current widget and home screen look like, with one of my shortcut launchers on the right:

You may notice that I was able to add shortcuts to the home screen without displaying their names. This is possible by using an invisible Unicode character as the name of a shortcut (a tip that was shared on the Cortex subreddit); while the Shortcuts app doesn’t let you name your shortcuts with spaces, you can use the character linked above to create shortcut icons that look like they don’t have a text label. The four grey shortcut separators I’m using in the widget are based on the same technique: they only contain an ‘Exit Shortcut’ action (so they do nothing if they’re accidentally pressed) and I used the invisible character to create their blank names.

Because the Shortcuts app doesn’t let you assign the same name to multiple shortcuts, you’ll have to paste the invisible character multiple times for each shortcut you want to have an invisible label on the home screen. Of course, I had to create a shortcut that simplifies this process and asks you how many times you’d like to repeat the invisible character in a text string. You can find the shortcut below; you should also listen to episode 83 of AppStories for a special link to a Shortcuts-related project I’ve been working on.

Copy Blank Characters

Generate a string of invisible characters based on the Braille Pattern Blank Unicode character (U+2800). This is a workaround to create shortcuts with invisible names on the iOS home screen. The shortcut lets you choose how many times you’d like to repeat the blank character to avoid issues with multiple shortcuts having the same name.

Get the shortcut here.

Unlock More with Club MacStories

Founded in 2015, Club MacStories has delivered exclusive content every week for over six years.

In that time, members have enjoyed nearly 400 weekly and monthly newsletters packed with more of your favorite MacStories writing as well as Club-only podcasts, eBooks, discounts on apps, icons, and services. Join today, and you’ll get everything new that we publish every week, plus access to our entire archive of back issues and downloadable perks.

The Club expanded in 2021 with Club MacStories+ and Club Premier. Club MacStories+ members enjoy even more exclusive stories, a vibrant Discord community, a rotating roster of app discounts, and more. And, with Club Premier, you get everything we offer at every Club level plus an extended, ad-free version of our podcast AppStories that is delivered early each week in high-bitrate audio.

Choose the Club plan that’s right for you:

  • Club MacStories: Weekly and monthly newsletters via email and the web that are brimming with app collections, tips, automation workflows, longform writing, a Club-only podcast, periodic giveaways, and more;
  • Club MacStories+: Everything that Club MacStories offers, plus exclusive content like Federico’s Automation Academy and John’s Macintosh Desktop Experience, a powerful web app for searching and exploring over 6 years of content and creating custom RSS feeds of Club content, an active Discord community, and a rotating collection of discounts, and more;
  • Club Premier: Everything in from our other plans and AppStories+, an extended version of our flagship podcast that’s delivered early, ad-free, and in high-bitrate audio.