iOS Shortcuts for the Lab

tldr; Take me to the downloads already!

icons of iOS shortcuts

So we started playing around with the new OCR capability in iOS 15.1 called LiveText and were wondering how we could use it in the lab. Android users told us they’ve had that for a while now.

Could we do something useful with the scanned text? With some sort of built in script/automation…like the Shortcuts app?

So chemists, you know when you’re in the lab and the reagent label is missing some useful info, like bp or density, and you have to manually type in a CAS Number or chemical name to find the missing info?

Because Siri can’t understand simple IUPAC nomenclature?

One for QBT and die car boxlike acid

No more!

Call up a Shortcut, scan a label, your phone will OCR the text, look for a CAS Number in the format [32846-66-5] or (32846-66-5) or just 32846-66-5,* and then search NCBI PubChem, CAS Common Chemistry, or NOAA CAMEO Chemicals by CAS Number. [late addition: RSC ChemSpider]

If a CAS Number can’t be identified, a list of the OCR’d text will be presented to you. If you see the reagent name, click on that and the search will be by name instead.


part label scan of imidazoleOCRd text from imidazole label


A separate Shortcut is available for each of PubChem, CAS Common Chem, or CAMEO Chem. [late addition: ChemSpider]


By the way, CAMEO Chemicals is a really useful source for incompatible reagents. They have standalone apps available for iPhone and Android that every lab chemist should have.


So anybody got any other cool use cases for LiveText or Shortcuts?


Don’t say: Hey Siri, what’s the mp of 1,4-cubanedicarboxylic acid?

Do say: …(silently triple Back Tap your phone to launch the Shortcut)…

Do say: Hey Siri, PubChem Label Scan!

Do say: Hey Siri, CAS Label Scan!

Do say: Hey Siri, Cameo Label Scan!

icons of iOS shortcutsicon of iOS shortcuts


  • iOS 17.2
  • LiveText capable iPhone
  • Before loading these shortcuts, you must run one of the Apple Shortcuts at least once. You may be asked to “Allow untrusted Shortcuts”.


Enjoy! CC-BY


Select the “Files” tab and download the Shortcut files.

iCloud links (direct to your iPhone)

CAS Common Chem
CAMEO Chemicals

* New version with better filtering of CAS Numbers to avoid some false positives. We accidentally called a certain company in Milwaukee a few times testing these short cuts. Sorry about that! 😅

† Late addition ChemSpider



2023-12-12 Updated for iOS 17.2