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How to Type Faster on iPhone with Text Expansion



Typing on that small keyboard on your iPhone isn’t ideal sometimes, but you can save time and type faster by taking advantage of text expansion.

Text expansion involves typing in a short keyword that you specify and having it automatically type out a long piece of information that corresponds to that keyword. It’s a lot like a Harry Potter spell, where you say some magical words and then, poof, something magical happens. Except with text expansion, it’s less magical and more practical.

For example, I could make it so that whenever I type in “eml” on my iPhone keyboard, it’ll automatically spit out my email address in the text box, that way I don’t have to type it out manually. This saves a ton of time overall, and it’s way more convenient than having to type everything out by hand every time, especially if there’s something that you type out every day, like canned responses to emails.

There a are few methods that allow you to take advantage of text expansion on your iPhone. Here are a couple options that you can try out, as well as a few examples to get your started.


Text Expansion Apps

If you didn’t already know, iOS already has a built-in feature for text expansion. It’s rather limited compared to dedicated apps that you can download and install, but it’s a great place to start in order to get a feel for text expansion.

We already have a guide on how to set up iOS’s built-in text expansion feature, but we’ll put them here again to cover our bases.

Simply open up the Settings app and navigate to General > Keyboard and scroll down to the Shortcuts section. This is where you’ll set up text expansion phrases. You can see from the photo below that I already have a few phrases set up for things that I type in most often, including my email address, for which I use eml as the keyword.


Tap on Add New Shortcut… to start setting up phrases of your own. In the Phrase text box, type in the word or phrase that you want to pop up when you type in a short keyword or abbreviation. Then, type in that keyword or abbreviation in the Shortcut text box. Once that’s done, tap on Save in the upper-right corner and you’re done.

To add another phrase, just repeat the above process until you have all of the words and phrases you want set up. Once you have more than few phrases set up, iOS will put all of them in an alphabetical list (similar to your Contacts list), where you’ll be able to scroll through them and find specific ones easily. They’ll even sync to iCloud so that you can use them on your iPad and Mac.

Other than iOS’s built-in option, there are a few apps in the iTunes App Store that focus on text expansion. Text Expander is probably the most popular option. It allows users to set up snippets and even format the text with a certain font, color and size. It’s a bit expensive at $4.99, but it’s an indispensable tool if you use text expansion a lot.

Screen Shot 2014-07-09 at 3.04.07 PM

Text Expansion Examples

Now that you know what text expansion is and how to set it up, here are some examples that you can try out in order to get started. The great thing about text expansion is that you can get as basic or as complex as you want with your snippets and shortcuts.

  • eml: Your email address
  • phn: Your phone number
  • add: Your address (although we’d recommend putting a comma before “add” since it’s an actual word you type anyway).
  • omw: On my way
  • sg: Sounds good (I say this a lot, so it just made sense to make it a shortcut)
  • brb, thx, omg, fml, etc.: Common abbreviations that can automatically expand to the actual phrases, if you’d like.
  • fbb: I play fantasy baseball, so I have this shortcut that expands out with my league settings so that I don’t have to type them out all the time. This is a personal example, obviously, but it shows how you can use text expansion for just about anything.

The possibilities are endless with text expansion. Feel free to experiment with different shortcuts and snippets. Furthermore, you can download text expansion apps for Windows and OS X as well, with Text Expander and aText being some of the best options out there, while PhraseExpress is the popular choice for Windows.

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