Matthew Lindfield Seager

Matthew Lindfield Seager

Text Replacement Pro Tips

If you’re in the Apple ecosystem1, Text Replacements are a powerful tool on Mac and iOS/iPadOS. If you’re using both, you can even sync your text replacements between all your devices via iCloud.

Here’s some tips to help you make the most of them:

  1. Use a character that’s usually on the iOS soft keyboard as your shortcut prefix to make typing replacements easier. I use z or zz for most of mine but choose what works for you
  2. Enter your name (I have a long surname), company name, addresses or frequently used Google map links quickly:
    • zmlsMatthew Lindfield Seager
    • zacmeAcme Corporation LLC GmbH Pty Ltd
    • zaddw432 Cheerful Drive, Happyton NSW 2345 (My mnemonic is z address work)
    • zaddh123 Long Avenue, Pleasantville NSW 2222 (z address home)
    • zmapw (z map work)
    • zmaph (z map home)
  3. Enter email addresses with ease e.g. replace@@e with Even if you don’t have a long name like me this can still be a timesaver (I have 5 email addresses set up this way)
  4. Type currency, unusual punctuation, keyboard shortcuts or symbols without having to look them up (or remember option key combinations on Mac):
    • zeuro, zbaht฿, etc (or use a code like zGBP£)
    • zdiv÷, zsqrt, etc
    • zcommand, zshift, ztab, etc
    • zsquare, -> (typing that last one felt a bit meta)
  5. Type an emoji or emoji sequence quickly e.g. replace zspew with 🥴🤢🤮 or zlove with 🥰😍😘
  6. Type complex (or simple) emoticons easily e.g. zshrug with ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
  7. Override autocorrect changes that you don’t like:
    • tata to be able to informally thank people (Note: The shortcut and replacement can be the same… Adding the “misspelling” to your dictionary might also help in this scenario)
    • Replace ;) with ;) to stop autocorrect changing it to 😉
    • Or replace ;) with 😘 if you want it to use a different winking emoji
    • I sometimes mistype “my” as “mu” on my phone but someone has that surname in my address book so it autocorrects to “Mu” instead of “my”. I have two autocorrects to fix this; mumy and Mu to Mu.
  8. On that note, replacements are case sensitive so you can have different expansions for the “same” text if that makes sense to you
  9. Type in information without having to memorise it or look it up each time:
    • Bank account details for friends to pay you back
    • Meeting codes for regular Zoom/Google meetings
    • Zoom passwords to take on host privileges
    • Wifi passwords to share with guests
    • Infrequently used phone numbers
    • Business registration numbers

Bonus tips:

  1. Build up your replacements slowly. Next time you have to look up some often used but rarely changing information, create a text replacement and use it a few times to build up your muscle memory
  2. Print out a cheat-sheet for yourself or colleagues if you use lots of replacements at work
  3. Export/import text replacements on macOS as a .plist file
    • Back them up in case you have iCloud problems
    • Share snippets with family or colleagues
    • Programatically create or update snippets
    • Parse the file to generate or update a cheat-sheet you can print out
  4. Not all text entry areas support text replacement. Here’s a workflow that might make sense sometimes (other times it will be quicker to just type it out manually) and doesn’t require you to lift your hands off the keyboard:
    • bring up a text field that will work (Spotlight) with command-space
    • type your shortcut (followed by space to expand it)
    • press delete to remove the space you just added (optional)
    • select all with command-a
    • cut or copy with command-z or command-c
    • escape to close Spotlight
    • paste with command-v
  5. If you need more capabilities, investigate power user tools like Alfred, Keyboard Maestro or TextExpander.

  1. If you’re not (only) in the Apple ecosystem, TextExpander is cross platform and has a teams plan that lets you share snippets with your colleagues. [return]