Apple

Pro tip: Create custom text shortcuts for easier typing on iOS

By creating custom text shortcuts, you can type long expressions much easier with just a small short code that you can create to expand any longer phrase while typing.

iOS shortcuts

Tools have existed on the Mac for a while that let you easily type long phrases out using only a single short code. TextExpander is one of the best known on the Mac side, but did you know that you can easily tap into the power of iOS autocorrect to do the same thing on your iPhone or iPad? It's true, and it couldn't be easier to integrate into your standard workflow. Let's take a look at how to define your custom shortcuts and use them with your standard typing practices.

Defining a custom shortcut

Creating a shortcut is the building blocks of using this autocorrection functionality. To define a custom shortcut that autocorrect will use to expand to the larger portion of text (or phrase) you wish to enter while typing, follow these steps:

  1. Navigate to Settings | General | Keyboard
  2. Select Add New Shortcut (Figure A)
    Figure A
    Figure A
  3. Enter a phrase that you wish to be expanded when you type the shortcut, then type in a shortcut that's both easy to type and to remember (Figure B)
    Figure B
    Figure B

After completing these steps, the newly added shortcut will be listed in the Settings | General | Keyboard Shortcuts section. You can remove items from this list by swiping from right to left and tapping on the Delete button.

You can also edit existing keyboard shortcuts by tapping on any of the keyboard shortcut table cells that appear underneath the Shortcuts section of Settings | General | Keyboard. Doing this will put you back into editing mode (as shown above in Figure B).

Using custom shortcuts when typing

Once you've defined your own custom shortcuts, you can then use them while typing in iOS with any application that supports the standard iOS keyboard (or Bluetooth external keyboards).

To use your shortcut code, perform the following steps:

  1. Begin typing as you normally would
  2. When you wish to insert the phrase that is assigned a keyboard shortcut, type in the shortcut that you defined above
  3. When the expanded phrase is presented as an autocorrect recommendation, pressing the space bar will accept the autocorrect and insert the long phrase into your text editing area (Figure C) — or tapping the longer phrase that appears will dismiss the correction
    Figure C
    Figure C

Overview

As you can see, using these keyboard shortcuts can make typing boilerplate text much easier when you're on the go. You could also set up signatures and other information using this method for easy inclusion in emails or other forms.

Do you use TextExpander on the Mac or keyboard shortcuts on your iOS devices? Share your experience with these tools in the discussion thread below.

About Cory Bohon

Cory Bohon is an indie developer specializing in iOS and OS X development. He runs a software company called Cocoa App and is also a developer at MartianCraft. He was introduced to technology at an early age and has been writing about his favorite te...

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