Use iOS shortcut scripts to summarize link with LLM

Minimalism is the art of knowing how much is just enough. Digital minimalism applies this idea to our personal technology. It’s the key to living a focused life in an increasingly noisy world.

Cal Newport. Digital Minimalism

What’s the most valuable idea if we have truly advanced AI technology? I bet personalized assistants will be one of the top usable use cases. Back in years, when watching White Christmas, one episode from the TV series Black Mirror, I felt so astonishingly that screenwriters were imagining the same as I do. A purely personalized assistant (no spoiler) would think as the user does, make some decisions as the user thinks, and improve as the user experience grows.

Unfortunately, this is still early! But LLM opens a small gap that we can peek at.

In my previous post, I mentioned trying to visualize the keywords from the top news stories of the week. It was a good way to quickly scan a bunch of content, but it wasn’t ideal for understanding the details of any single piece.

Lately, I’ve been focusing on using Large Language Models (LLMs) to summarize long articles into something more readable, especially for non-native speakers. And guess what? Today I found a cool way to do it using Apple’s App Shortcuts on iOS!

Here’s a demo:

The whole process

Here’s the shortcut’s entire process to achieve what you saw in the above demo (be warned, it’s a long screenshot!). To give you a better understanding before we dive in, let’s break down the whole process with some bullet points.

  • 1. Grab the URL: The shortcut retrieves the URL from your device’s default share menu.
  • 2. Choose Summarization Language (Optional): If you’re a polyglot (someone who speaks multiple languages), you can use a pop-up menu (also called a switch statement in programming) to choose between summarizing in English or Chinese. Skip this step if you only need English summaries.
  • 3. Fetch Web Content: The shortcut uses the Safari engine to grab the content of the web page associated with the URL.
  • 4. Prepare the Summary Request: The shortcut combines the chosen summarization language (if applicable) with the fetched web content and copies the combined text to your clipboard.
  • 5. Select LLM Provider App: Finally, a pop-up menu allows you to choose which Large Language Model (LLM) provider app you want to use for the summarization.

Some tips for using scripting blocks

Sadly, Apple seems to have given up on this feature. Documents are lacking, engagement is low making it hard to find answers. Here is the problem I encountered.

“The web content could not be loaded because your privacy settings do not allow this shortcut to load external web content. You can change this in the Privacy tab of the shortcut’s settings.“

The error message suggests fixing privacy settings, but clicking “More” (middle button in the bottom tab) reveals it’s not related. Here’s my guess: “Set Variable” likely creates a reference (alias) to the content, not actually changing its data type. The “Combine” block might not work with this “web of content” type.

The solution is simple (as shown in the screenshot): Use a “Text” block instead. Include the variable you want to combine, and it will convert it to plain text before combining. This creates a new text variable for the “Combine” block to work with.


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