Copy a File in the Shortcuts app

The video version of this article

If you’re using Shortcuts for the first time, you may try looking for the copy file action and be surprised that there isn’t one. That’s because the copy file function is part of the “Save File” action. This tutorial will work across Mac, iPhones, and iPads provided the place where you save the file is on that device such as a Dropbox or iCloud folder. Otherwise your shortcut will need a little tweaking to work properly on a different device

What you actually want to do is look for the “Save file” action. Let me show you how that works

The Basics – Copying A Single File in a Set Folder

The Shortcuts app window with the “Save File” Action highlighted in the right sidebar

Let’s say I want to make a shortcut that will send a file to a specific folder such as one called “Demo” on my desktop.  In your shortcut go to go to the Action sidebar and search for “Save File” and add it to the project.  If you only wanted this to copy the same file to the Demo folder, you’ll just click the translucent word “File” next to “Save” and select the file.

The Save File Action with it’s options opened up and “Ask Where To Save” is disabled.

Where will this fill be saved to? Hit “Show More” on the right-hand side. You’ll now be presented with a few options, with the only one being checked is “Ask where to save”. As you might expect, running this command means that it will prompt us where to save the file and put it in that location. If you’re ok with that, then leave it checked. But if you want to set a specific folder for it to all ways go to, uncheck that box. Doing so adds a couple more options to our action. If you click where the word “Shortcuts” just appeared and hit “Replace”, the file picker box will appear, and you’ll navigate through the dialog boxes to the folder you want to the file to save to and hit “Open” once you’ve selected it. In my example, I’m selecting the “Demo” folder on the desktop. Now you can see that the line changed to say, “Save FILENAME to Demo” with FILENAME being replaced by the name of your file.

If you want it to create a folder within the location that you want to save it then you can type that in the “Subpath” box, just make sure to add a forward slash at the end of the name otherwise it will rename your file to whatever you typed into the box. Alternatively, if you want it to rename that file you can just type that new name in the Subpath box, but I wouldn’t recommend it since there is already a Rename File action if you want to do that.

Our Basics Shortcut that will save a file named “ScratchPad” to the Demo folder on the desktop

Lastly, if you want it to overwrite any files with the same name in that location, then check the “Overwrite” box.  Otherwise if you try to copy a file with the same name into the new location, it will just add a number at the end to signify that it copied the file. 

Advanced – Copying a File from a right click

What if, instead, I want it to select a file in Finder and have it automatically copy to a specific folder? I’m going to right-click (or long press on iPhone and iPad) the “File” option in the Save Action and click “Shortcut Input”.

The File context menu is open and the “Shortcut Input” option is highlighted.

A new action will appear above the Save action. This is where we’ll tell it what to look for and where to get its input. To tell it what files we’ll run, click on the “Any” button. These are all the file type our Shortcut can monitor for. This is dependent on what you want your shortcut to do, but in this case we’re only worried about the files on our machine and nothing else. So, hit the “Clear” button in the bottom right corner of the window. You can see it changed “Any” to “No”. Clicking that “No” button, I’m going to check the boxes next to the items I want, which are Images, Media, Files, Folders, and PDF’s. If you know this is only going to run on a smaller subset, like you will only copy PDF’s or you don’t want to copy folders, then you can uncheck those boxes. For this example, I want it to be a catch-all. Once you’ve got those selected, you can click out of that box, and the line has changed again from “No” to “Images and more”.

The file type options list with our 5 file types selected.

Now we need to tell the Shortcut what files we’re passing to it.  In that action, you should see the word “Nowhere” just down the line.  Click that, and the Action sidebar will change to the Details pane.  For Macs you’ll want to check “Use as Quick Action” and check the Finder boxes and Services boxes.  You can also setup a keyboard shortcut by hitting the “Add Keyboard Shortcut”, but make sure it isn’t the same as an existing Finder shortcut.  If you’re running this on an iDevice, then check the “Show in Share Sheet” box.  Where it said “Nowhere” before it will now say “Share Sheet” and/or “Quick Actions” depending on what you choose.

As it reads now, the files that we select either through the Quick Action, Services, or Share Sheet menus will be saved. Now we need to set where it will be saved. Go down to the Save Action and hit “Show More” on the right-hand side. Like the “Basics” directions above, uncheck the “Ask Where to Save” box, then right-click “Shortcuts” in the line and hit “Replace” and set the folder where you want it to go. Again my example shows the Demo folder on my Desktop

Our final advanced product where the file that we right click or select with the share sheet will be saved to our Demo folder.

Now if I right click a file, go down to Quick Actions in the menu, and hit the name of my Shortcut in the list, that file will be copied and saved into the Demo folder on my desktop (or wherever you’ve set your location).

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