The key to saving keystrokes

For many years I’ve been a fan of TextExpander on the Mac, a utility which converts a short sequence of keystrokes into a much longer one. For example, most of my email messages end with

All the best,

which appears when I type ‘atb’ and hit space. There are many much more complex things you can do with TextExpander, which is good, because it’s a little pricey for a small utility, but in the end I realised that 35 bucks wasn’t too much for something I use dozens of times every single day.

But typing efficiency is even more important when you have a sub-optimal keyboard, like the iPhone or iPad’s. One of my favourite tips is that you can get an apostrophe or quote mark by pressing the comma or full-stop key briefly and sliding upwards; there’s no need to switch into punctuation mode. (I wrote about this before once, but I think it must have been on Twitter or Facebook, which means I can’t find it now. Note to self: always keep useful stuff on blog.)

Anyway, one of the recent iOS updates added a very handy but somewhat hidden keystroke-expansion feature, and I’ve realised that I’m using that all the time too.

Under Settings > General > Keyboard you can create shortcuts, which will let you do something similar to my ‘All the best’ trick, and can be very handy if you have a silly long name like mine: ‘qqsf’ expands into ‘Quentin Stafford-Fraser’, complete with capitals and punctuation.

But the thing I’ve found most useful is to have abbreviations for my main email addresses, since an increasing number of sites use them as login usernames. I find I’m always having to type, say, ‘’ on my little iPhone keyboard, and it was a real pain until I replaced it with ‘qmc’ and a space.

One small note: if you use it this particular way, there are some sites that get confused if you leave the space on the end. So I actually tend to type ‘qmc<space><backspace>’, but that’s still a great deal easier than the whole address.

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