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Using Text Replacement

Text replacement is a feature of most operating systems which substitutes one string of characters for another. Think of them as specialty text shortcuts. You type a shortcut and it immediately replaces what you typed with something else that you’ve specified. These shortcuts can be incredibly useful in making some typing tasks easier.

Most common things I type

The most common text replacements I use are for my own contact information. When I type eml, it replaces it with my email address (emll is my secondary address, emlll is my vip/friends-only address). Phn is for my phone number. Adr is my address. It’s incredible how useful these can be, especially your email address. In modern online life, that’s your personal identity.

When I was working in public lands conservation, I’d often need to type out the full name of a particular protected place, land management agency, organization, or law. Text replacement worked great for this.

So afnm became “Agua Fria National Monument,” ncl became “National Conservation Lands”, clff became “Conservation Lands Foundation”, flpmaa became “Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976”. Note the extra letter I’d use on CLF and FLPMA, which was important because I’d also use the acronym in less formal contexts, like messages to colleagues.

Hard to type items

I also have a number of replacements for emoji and special characters I use commonly, or ones I just hate having to look up.

I type this:to get this:

I also use a variety of specific hashtags in some of my social media posts, especially those on OnePhoto.Club. So I have opco transform into “#opcOnThisDay in ” so I can easily type the year. Same with opcw, which becomes #opcWeeklyTheme 📷. When I want to post my GoQuesting hashtag for my quest to visit every US County, I type gqcounties and #GoQuesting1640 appears.

Fixing problems

Look, the word I tried to type was definitely not the word “duck,” ok autocorrect? So I actually have that “duck” text replace to the other word. I also have a bad habit of mistyping particular words, like hitting a b instead of the n when typing Sunday. Autocorrect doesn’t seem to fix Subday for me (a secret deal with Subway?), so I have it replaced with Sunday. Same with fir; I almost always meant to type “for,” so I have it auto-substitute that.

Temporary situations

While most of my shortcuts are generally permanent, I occasionally add some temporary ones if I’m in a situation where I’m going to be typing something repeatedly.

For instance, I used to use a specific hashtag for posts during each of my trips, and I’d designate qqq for whatever hashtag I was using for that particular trip. So I’d just set it once at the start, and then all trip long I just kept using the muscle memory of qqq.

Or if I’m having to do some manual data manipulation, I may add some text replacements if it’ll help shuttle the task along more quickly.

Getting Started

Here are instructions for how to implement this in MacOS, iOS, Android, and Windows (whoops, you’ll need a third-party app like Text Expander instead).

Fancier options

While text replacement functions are built into most operating systems, there are a number of third party solutions that offer more complex functionality. I haven’t personally used any of them—yet!—but many people have and there are numerous guides and reviews out there if you’re interested in expanding further.


  1. Coining this today as a replacement for comments, pingbacks/trackbacks, and webmentions. Looks like I know what Wednesday’s post will be!

    EDIT: Here’s the post on Webnotes. ↩︎