How-To: Get A Handle On macOS – iOS Autocorrect And Text Replacement

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With the advent of the modern macOS and iOS and their myriad of time saving features, none have been as frustrating, infuriating — and funny — as auto correct; or in Apple lingo — text replacement. Entire websites have been devoted to posting hilarious auto corrections. But for those who may want to forgo these oft embarrassing missives, this How-To is for you. This How-To will cover ways to help you stop either you Mac or iDevice from usurping your preferred words with ones that may not be anywhere near what you intended. We will see the interfaces may be slightly different in macOS vs iOS, but the outcome will be the same once completed.

There are a few ways that both macOS and iOS change or suggest words you may be typing. One way is what Apple calls “Predictive Text”.

Predictive text is an input technology that facilitates typing on a mobile device by suggesting words the end user may wish to insert in a text field. Predictions are based on the context of other words in the message and the first letters typed. Because the end user simply taps on a word instead of typing it it out on a soft keyboard, predictive text can significantly speed up the input process.

Another method is Auto Correct.

Auto-correct is a type of software program that identifies misspelled words, uses algorithms to identify the words most likely to have been intended, and edits the text accordingly. Auto-correct is commonly a feature included in word processors and messaging platforms of various types. Apple, Google and Microsoft products all have their own versions of auto-correct programs.

Now that we know what we are dealing with, how can we tame those funny and infuriating mishaps? In both macOS and iOS there are system level preferences that reside in each OS’s Keyboard Preferences. Though the Keyboard Prefs interface for each OS is different, they will both be able to share any “Text Replacement” shortcuts or definitions you add, on any of your iCloud connected devices.

On your Mac go to the Apple menu > System Preferences …


1: Select Keyboard prefs icon.

text replacement

2: Select the Text tab.

text replacement

The function of this text replacement preference is to allow you to add words that you frequently use, and always get auto corrected to a word you don’t want. This is fairly simple. The same word you never want corrected goes in both fields of a new entry. I often use this feature, especialy if I’m trying to type only the begining of someone’s eMail address. So if I don’t want autocorrect to correct “bking” I’d create a shortcut with “bking” in both “Replace & With” fields. You can do this for ANY word you never want autocorrcted — especially for explicatives — for those who might use them. And this can be done on both macOS and iOS.

3: Click the plus button in the Text preference window.


4: Type shortcut text into “Replace” field.


5: Type replacement text into “With” field.


I tend to use easily remembered shortcuts, and also use the same “prefix” for shortcuts that are actual words; i.e.: I use “aazip” when i want to add my zipcode to a field or line of text. I could use any prefix characters, though I try to use “aa” because it can be more easily typed on an iOS keyboard. On a Mac it doesn’t matter much. But to have to go to a second screen on an iOS devise, can be annoying, when you’re trying to cut time using a shortcut. You can also use any prefix you’d like; or none at all. It’s all about personal preference.

The only issue with not using a prefix, is on the Mac if I type the word “zip” I get a Mac text replacement menu pop-up
showing me the zip code replacement text. If I hit the space bar, to type the next word, zip is replaced by 07712; my zip code. But I have to be conscious to hit the Escape Key if I DON’T want that to happen and just type the word zip. Yes … welcome to the quirks, oddities, and annoyances of text replacement.

Once you have at least one text replacement set up, you can turn it on or off in any program by selecting Edit > Substitutions > Text Replacement, if the app supports it.


Shortcuts & Text Replacements
Once you get use to the concept and ease of use, you can go text replacement crazy — or not. I use text replacement for multiple eMail addresses. Typing the “@” more than once will step through my eMail addresses in the order I have set them up: personal, eMac, etc. Huge time saver. I also use shortcuts for typing characters like “©”, “”, “⌘”. I use the “##” for my cell number, and ### for home. You get the idea. The possibilities are endless.

There is no character limit on the size of a text replacement, it can be a single character, or several paragraphs/pages of boilerplate text you use frequently, email signatures, full addresses, ad infinitum. The biggest thing is devising a system that works best for you, and that is easy to remember and perform on both macOS and iOS devices.

The added beauty — for those using iCloud — is your shortcuts and replacements will also be copied and work on any iOS device. If you add new shortcuts on your iDevice it will also be copied to your other iCloud connected devices. It is this iCloud connectivity feature that makes text replacement really shine. Being able to type long phrases with a few keystrokes on any supported device.



1: Open Settings App, Select General


2: Select Keyboard


3: Select Text Replacement


4: Click The + Button


5: Enter Phrase & Shortcut


6: Click Save


And that’s how to create a text replacement shortcut in iOS. Apple has a tendency to not use the same terminology to describe the same function on macOS and iOS. Sometimes this can be both annoying and confusing — especially confusing to new users. On macOS they use “Replace & With” as their text replacement terms, while on iOS they use “Phrase & Shortcut”. Um … WHY? To make it even more confusing they flip the input fields. In macOS you enter the shortcut first “Replace” in iOS you enter the replacement text first “Phrase”. Apple? Really? I know it confused me when I first encountered it in iOS. Just baffling! It’s not bad enough they don’t use the same nomenclature, but flipping the input? Well done Apple! Not! I say this more to make people aware, and less a rant. Yeah … I’m baffled, bothered, and bewildered.

How To Use Text Replacement In iOS
1: Type the shortcut.


2: Hit Space Bar to insert text.



It’s that easy. Type the shortcut into the text field, hit the space bar to insert the text replacement phrase. If you don’t want to insert the text replacement, select the first predictive text button. So if I wanted the insert “@@@” rather than my eMail address, I’d hit the first predictive text button “@@@”. Another “trick” .. if you don’t have the predictive bar showing in your app, iOS will use text menu pop-ups, like macOS does.
If you want the text replacement, hit the Space Bar, if you don’t want the replacement text, hit the “X” on the pop-up to close the bubble.

And there you have it: How-To: Get A Handle On macOS & iOS Autocorrect And Text Shortcuts. If you have any question, leave a comment or contact me directly.

5 Comments On:

How-To: Get A Handle On macOS – iOS Autocorrect And Text Replacement

  1. Looks like Apple have now added a character limit as one of my very long text replacements was deleted so I could not understand why until I tried to reinstall it and realised I got an error I then had to split into two separate text replacements

    1. Hi Terence …

      How many characters is the replacement in total? When you reinstalled/recreated the text replacement, did you hand type the text or copy and paste it? If the full text pasted is larger than Apple will allow, try breaking up the copy and paste into smaller chunks in the single new replacement & see if that works. Let em know if that works. Thanks.


  2. Thank for this. Really helpful.
    I am using macOS Sierra. I set up a replacement using “j@” to expand into my email address. This works as I am writing this in your comment field, but it often does not work in fields on web forms, like a login box (or like the email field on your post comment dialogue). It used to work in previous incarnations of OSX/masOS, but no longer. Any thoughts?

    1. Hi Julian …

      Yeah, it’s a new Apple security “thing”. You can’t use text shortcuts in many login screens in the OS, especially for iCloud, iTunes et. al. It’s like this for iOS 10.x too. One of my ways around this limitation in macOS i with the macro utility Keyboard Maestro. I create other shortcuts for typing or pasting text into any field using a keyboard key combination of my choosing. I can’t tell you how much I use this utility & so worth the $36.00. I use to use a similar utility called QuicKeys back in the day. But they stopped developing it somewhere in the early versions of OS X. KeyboardMaestro has certainly taken its place admirably & is also updated regularly. You can create all kinds of time saving shortcuts with it. There is also excellent support, via eMail, forums, and a healthy user community that share information.

      The other program / utility I use for passwords on the Mac & iOS is 1Password. It does what Keychain does in Safari but on steroids, with fewer limitations. It can remember passwords, form data, credit card data, store software licenses, and more. You can fill in login info with the addition of the 1Password extension for any of the Mac browsers. You can also sync your info with iClod, DropBox etc. This way you have login info on any of your devices iPassword runs on.

      Hope this helps some; you’re not alone, nor crazy. Apple in it’s never ending quest for OS security has started to to make the macOS a little more user hostile; which is very sad indeed — but in their eyes seemingly necessary.

      Good luck … Joe

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