Home Screen Quick Actions for iOS: Getting Started

Learn how to integrate Static and Dynamic Home Screen Quick Actions into your SwiftUI iOS app. By Felipe Laso-Marsetti.

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Quick actions are a great way to provide your users fast access to your app’s common functionality within the home screen. iOS 13 introduced the concept of quick actions, where a user can touch and hold an app icon to display a set of shortcuts or actions to perform right from the home screen.

All apps have quick actions to edit the home screen or delete the app by default:

A menu presented after long pressing the 'Note Buddy' app icon on the home screen with options to 'Edit' the home screen or 'Delete' the app.

Developers can also provide their own quick actions to provide users with powerful shortcuts to common app functionality. The iOS Camera app has actions to take different types of photos or to record a video. A shopping app might let you jump directly to your orders or wishlist, and a messaging app might show your favorite contacts so you can easily access them.

I’m sure you can think of ways that quick actions would benefit your users. In this tutorial you’re going to learn about:

  • Static quick actions, which are always available for your app.
  • Dynamic quick actions, which your app can define at runtime.
  • How to support both types of quick action in the sample project, a note-taking app called Note Buddy.

Getting Started

Download the starter project by clicking the Download Materials button at the top or bottom of the tutorial.

Note Buddy is a note-taking app with some basic functionality:

  • Add, edit or delete notes with a title and body.
  • Favorite a note.
  • Store your notes between launches.
  • Auto-sort notes by last modified date.

Open the project, then build and run. You’ll see this note page:

Screenshot of Starter project 'Note Buddy' after first launch showing a list of default notes and an option to create a new note.

To power Note Buddy’s functionality, you’ll find the Note model and its associated NoteStore class in the Models group.

Moving on to SwiftUI, in the Views group, you have:

  • NoteList: Shows a list of all your notes sorted by last modified date.
  • NoteRow: The view for a note row within the note list. It shows the note’s title, body and whether the user marked it as a favorite.
  • EditNote: An editor for modifying your note’s title, body or changing the favorite status.
  • NavigationLink+Value: A helper extension to make programmatic navigation a little easier when you have an associated data model to push.

Finally, AppMain describes your app with a reference to the NoteStore and a body which sets up the NoteList view within a WindowGroup and correctly injects the appropriate environment values.

Before you dive in to coding, it’s time to take a closer look at what the two types of quick actions are, and how they work.

Static vs. Dynamic Quick Actions

There are two types of quick actions available to you: static and dynamic.

You use static actions for actions that never change in your app, like the Mail app’s New Message action.

Use dynamic actions if your actions might change under certain conditions or depend on specific data or state. For example, the Messages app will add quick actions for all of your pinned conversations.

In both cases, you add code to handle a specific action that gets triggered. Since adding static quick actions is quicker, you’ll start with those.

Creating Static Quick Actions

Static quick actions are a great way to let your users create a new note.

A sheet of paper emoticon with a smiley face.

First, add model code to assist you in handling a triggered action. Right-click the Models group and then click New File…Swift File. Name your new file Action and click Create.

Replace the contents of the file with:

import UIKit

// 1
enum ActionType: String {
  case newNote = "NewNote"

// 2
enum Action: Equatable {
  case newNote

  // 3
  init?(shortcutItem: UIApplicationShortcutItem) {
    // 4
    guard let type = ActionType(rawValue: shortcutItem.type) else {
      return nil

    // 5
    switch type {
    case .newNote:
      self = .newNote

// 6
class ActionService: ObservableObject {
  static let shared = ActionService()

  // 7
  @Published var action: Action?

A lot is going on. Here’s what you added:

  1. You create an enum called ActionType backed by a String. You’ll use the string values later to help identify different types of action your app will perform. The newNote case will identify the action for creating a New Note.
  2. You create another enum called Action that looks similar, but is just Equatable. This might look a little repetitive, but it’ll make sense when you add other actions later on.
  3. Then you create a failable initializer that accepts an instance of UIApplicationShortcutItem. The system uses this type to describe different quick actions.
  4. Here, you ensure that you’re creating an Action for a known ActionType, otherwise you return nil.
  5. Switch on the different possible ActionType values known to your app. You can then use the information available to describe the correct Action.
  6. Define an ObservableObject class you can later pass into the SwiftUI environment as well as provide a singleton accessor for later when you work with UIKit code.
  7. Define a @Published property that can represent an action your app should perform.

The aim of the Action concept is for you to model quick actions your app supports and work with them safely when mapping between UIApplicationShortcutItem.

Now, open AppMain.swift. Above noteStore, add a new property for ActionService:

private let actionService = ActionService.shared

Then update the body implementation to ensure that the service is injected into the view hierarchy and that NoteList can access it:

var body: some Scene {
  WindowGroup {
      .environment(\.managedObjectContext, noteStore.container.viewContext)

ActionService is available in the SwiftUI environment, and it’s time to use it. Open NoteList.swift in the Views group and add the following properties under noteStore:

@EnvironmentObject var actionService: ActionService
@Environment(\.scenePhase) var scenePhase

Not only are you accessing the ActionService class, you’ll also need access to the ScenePhase, which is a property that notifies you when your app becomes active and when it enters the background.

At the bottom of the view, add the following method:

func performActionIfNeeded() {
  // 1
  guard let action = actionService.action else { return }

  // 2
  switch action {
  case .newNote:

  // 3
  actionService.action = nil

This method does three things:

  1. Checks if there’s an action in the ActionService.
  2. Switches on the type of action and invokes the createNewNote() action for Action.newNote.
  3. Removes the action from the ActionService since it was performed.

You need to trigger this code whenever your app becomes active. You’ll use the onChange(of:perform:) view modifier with the scenePhase property that you added earlier.

Add the following code after the closing brace of the toolbar modifier:

// 1
.onChange(of: scenePhase) { newValue in
  // 2
  switch newValue {
  case .active:
  // 3

Here, the code:

  1. Adds a modifier to the List that will fire its closure whenever the scenePhase changes.
  2. Using the argument provided, it switches on the value. If it’s .active, it’ll call your new performActionIfNeeded() method.
  3. Since you don’t care about the other states, such as .inactive or .background, it doesn’t do anything.