Speed up your typing with Text Substitution on a Mac

Updated June 16th, 2019.

I got tired of typing my very long email address, so I made a shortcut for it. That went so well I made one for my phone number, and another for the name of the website. Here they are. The first part is what I type, and the second part is what the Mac expands it into

cbem –> macman@christianboyce.com
cb# –> 424-354-3548
ommm –> oneminutemacman.com

These three examples save 45 keystrokes! Let’s save some for you! It’s easy:

First, go to Apple menu/System Preferences/Keyboard, then click “Text.” The window looks like this:

Then, use the “+” at bottom left to create new shortcuts. Any word (or words) that you type frequently is a good candidate for a shortcut. Be sure “Use symbol and text substitution” is checked at top left or it won’t work. Type the shortcut in the box on the left, and what you want it to expand into in the box on the right.

The substitution is triggered when you type the shortcut, and then one more non-text character. For example, a space. Or punctuation. The shortcut alone doesn’t do it. This is so you can use “ta” as a shortcut for “Troy Aikman” without it triggering when you’re typing “talkative.” Experiment and see.

The really great part about this is you are setting it up for the whole Mac, not just one program. It will work in Mail and Safari, and most Apple apps. Microsoft apps notably don’t use these shortcuts but you can set them up a second time in Word’s preferences.

The other great part of this is, the text expansions never make a typo. I know what my email address is, and I know how to type it, but it’s really long so there are lots of chances for mistakes. Typing a four-character shortcut/trigger drastically reduces the possibility of a typo.

Note: older systems had the Text substitution feature in a different place. Rather than in the Keyboard preference pane, some systems have it in the Language & Text preference pane. It works the same way, regardless.

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