Using Keyboard Shortcuts in iOS

Working on the iPhone and iPad is great, but when you're typing the same text over and over again, it can be somewhat tedious. I find I do this a lot, especially when responded to emails and texts. Here's an example of a text that I send just about every day...

HaPpY BiRtHdAy, _!! 🎁🎉🎈

I maintain a list of several hundred birthdays (friends, family, colleagues, etc). When it's their birthday, I like to send him/her a text to them to wish them a happy birthday. With the exception of their name, everything else about the text is the same from person to person. This is where keyboard shortcuts in iOS can really help.

You're already familiar with the concept of auto-correct (when you misspell a word, iOS detects it and auto-corrects it for you when you press space to go to the next word). Keyboard shortcuts work very similarly with one difference... you define a sequence of characters (rather than a dictionary), and when you hit space, those characters are replaced with something else. In the example above, I have my iPhone configured so that "hb" automatically converts to "HaPpY BiRtHdAy, _!! 🎁🎉🎈". After it expands, I then go back to replace the "_" with the recipient's name. Makes sending birthday greetings a snap!

To set up your own keyboard shortcuts, go to Settings > General > Keyboard on your iPhone or iPad. Near the bottom of that screen, you will see a section called "Shortcuts". To create a new shortcut, tap on "Add New Shortcut..." at the bottom. From here, just fill in the blanks as I show in my example below:


When you're done, tap "Save" to save your new shortcut. Now, let's use it. Following my example above, I'm going to wish Tim Cook a happy birthday. To do this, I will create a new text message. In the message field, I will type "hb", followed by a space. iOS will detect the keybaord shortcut and replace it with my  "HaPpY BiRtHdAy, _!! 🎁🎉🎈" message.


Now that you've set up your own keyboard shortcuts, let us know what your favorite is? How do you use this feature?

Posted on April 4, 2014 and filed under Design, How To, iOS, iPad, iPhone.