Apple iOS Text Replacement: Save your Screen Time 

 April 2, 2022

Typing can bring up a good piece of your day, but text replacement can help save you some time. A hand holding an iPhone 12 Mini, inside a green case, with iOS’s Text Replacement feature on-screen.

Several shortcuts are shown on-screen, including two @ symbols, which expand into an email address. Ideally, we’d like to spend less time staring at our phones or tablets.

But, unfortunately, pulling away isn’t always easy, whether work-related woes keep you glued or you’re just tuned into whatever the latest buzz is. Tools like Apple’s Screen Time feature can assist you in managing how much time you consume on specific apps, but that won’t work for everything.

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Screen Time can’t hold you any time when you have to input your contact for food delivery, despite having elected to keep it multiple times in the past. Luckily, Apple’s Text Replacement feature lets you take frequently-used phrases or terms, like “On my way!” or your email address, and allocate them text shortcuts that will boost any time you type them.

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

Three iPhone screenshots next to each other, showing the various Text Replacement screens on iOS. First is a dashboard of all created shortcuts, followed by iOS’s keyboard settings page, and finally, the screen to create a new shortcut.

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Getting started is easy. Run into the Settings app on your iPad or iPhone of iOS, and proceed into the General section. You should notice a unit called Keyboards, which will give you many options for different keyboards (hardware and software) and toggling things on and off like auto-correct and intelligent punctuation.

The third choice on that screen should be Text Replacement, allowing you to turn little series of symbols into full-on phrases or sentences. Once you’re there, click the plus sign in the top-right corner, letting you create custom shortcuts to expand at will.

There will be two areas for you to fill out on the Text Replacement screen: Phrase and Shortcut. First, put the whole phrase or sentence you want to replace your impending shortcut in the Phrase field. Then, in the shortcut field, put a minor bit of text that’s easy to recognize, so you can tap it out whenever you need that more extended-phrase or sentence.

So, if you want to get a quick way to input your email into an online form, you could establish your email address to the phrase and utilize a shortcut like “@@,” which will be more comfortable to type in a pinch.

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If you’re scrutinizing for a place to begin, try something easy like hard-wiring your phone to permit a cuss word. Beyond that, start noting items you type and consider if there’s a way to shorten them.

You could also make a shortcut for your phone number, using a string like “;p;” or something else that you wouldn’t accidentally type while writing a standard paragraph. So, you don’t like your phone number’s shortcut to be something like “phon” because that would start any time you typed that exact string, even if you were attempting to order something else.

While there’s a lot you can accomplish with Apple’s text replacement feature, it’s restricted compared to a full-fledged text elaboration app like TextExpander. For example, Apple’s feature won’t allow you to format your text with line breaks, replenish in blanks with whatever’s on the clipboard, or automatically set the date or time.

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Those elements will cost you, though (TextExpander is $40/year and aText has a one-time fee of $5), and it’s still impressive how much you can do within Apple’s settings app without spending a cent. With just a short period and a knack for cutting corners, you can do typing on the iPad or iPhone just a bit more conveniently and save yourself some time.


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