How to use Apple iOS text replacement

Ideally, we would probably all like to spend less time staring at our phones or tablets. Whether it’s work-related issues keeping you hooked, or you’re just aware of the latest post, quitting isn’t always easy. Tools like Apple’s Screen Time feature can help you manage the amount of time you spend on certain apps, but that won’t work for everything.

For example, Screen Time can’t save you any time when you have to enter your address for food delivery, even though you chose to save it multiple times in the past. Fortunately, there’s Apple’s text-replacement feature, which lets you take in frequently used words or phrases, like “On my way!” or your email address, and assign them text shortcuts that will expand any time you type.

Here’s how to set up some text shortcuts to save you some time the next time you need to text in a hurry.

I know the acronym

Credit: Apple

While it is somewhat limited compared to apps like TextExpander or aText, Apple’s text replacement feature is very powerful.

Getting started is simple. Go to Settings app on your iPad or iPhone, and go to public Section. From there, you will see a section called keyboard Which will give you a whole bunch of options for different keyboards (hardware and software), as well as toggle things on and off like autocorrect and smart punctuation.

The third option on that screen should be replace text, Which will let you convert small strings of characters into whole phrases or sentences. Once you’re there, tap the little plus sign in the top-right corner, and this will allow you to create custom shortcuts to expand as desired.

On the replace text screen, there will be two fields to fill in: Phrase and Abbreviation. In the Phrase field, put the complete phrase or sentence with which you want to replace the impending acronym. Then, in the Abbreviation field, put a smaller piece of text that is easier to remember, so that you can type it any time you need a longer phrase or sentence.

So, if you want to create a quick way to enter your email into an online form, you can set your email address to the phrase, and use an abbreviation like “”, which will be easier to type.

Notes for inspiration

If you’re looking for a place to start, try something as simple as connecting your phone with strong wires to allow for a word or two. (It is very annoying when autocorrect starts!) Moreover, start jotting things that you write often, and think if there is a way to shorten it.

I have a short string of characters that expands to my newsletter, as well as another that converts two hyphens to an em dash because I simply can’t commit the actual shortcut to memory, no matter how hard I try.

You can also create an abbreviation for your phone number, using a string like “;p;” Or anything else you wouldn’t accidentally type while writing a normal paragraph. So, you don’t want your phone number abbreviation to be something like “phon” because that will trigger anytime you type that exact string, even if you’re trying to type something else.

Some limitations

Although there is a lot you can do with Apple’s text replacement feature, it is limited compared to a full text expansion app like TextExpander or aText.

For example, Apple won’t let you format your text with things like line breaks, fill in the blanks with whatever’s on your clipboard, or automatically insert the date or time.

These features will cost you, though (TextExpander costs $40 per year and aText has a one-time fee of $5), and it’s still impressive how much you can do inside Apple’s Settings app without spending a cent. With a little time, and a knack for cutting corners, you can make typing on your iPhone or iPad more comfortable, and save yourself some time along the way.

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