Text Expansion — Speed Up Mac and iOS Typing

Every day we spend lots of time writing on the computer or smartphone. Inevitably we repeat some sentences quite often. As I write at least dozens of emails a day, here are some examples that appear in my own writing quite often.

To schedule a call — “I’ll love to catch up. How about a call in the coming weeks? You can find my availability at <URL>. Please feel free to pick a time.”

To ask for a copy of the fundraising deck before the call/meeting with startup founders — “Can you please send us a copy of the fund-raising deck? It’ll be helpful to review beforehand so that we can focus on the key topics during the meeting.”

To promote our portfolio companies to potential customers — “Have you heard of/tried the online grocery service by Weee! (www.sayweee.com/en)? Weee! is one of our portfolio companies that has shipped over 4 million orders since inception. They operate in the San Francisco Bay Area, LA/OC, Sacramento, San Diego, Seattle, Portland, NYC, Boston, NJ, Philly, DC, and Houston. FREE delivery on orders over $35.”

If I build a library of these texts and try copy-and-paste each time, it is still quite inconvenient. So I did some research and found a better way to do it. Nowadays, I can simply type “bc30”, “fyfd”, and “pcwe” to instantly complete each of the above three sentences.

Interested in how I do this? Please read on.

macOS has a cool function called “text expansion” that has been there for a long time but most of us have not heard of it. It provides an easy way to create a customized library of texts that can save lots of time.

To start, open “System Preferences” and click “Keyboard”.

Then click “Text” to open the library of text expansion.

Below is the screenshot from my Mac which shows a portion of what I have created for the frequently used text.

To add a new entry, simply click “+”. Under “Replace”, add the abbreviated text. Under “With”, add the full sentence. As shown in the above screenshot, “b851” through “b1701” refers to the venues which I would suggest for in-person meetings (oh well, before COVID).

What do you think? Interested in giving it a try to see how it helps you save time as well?

Soon after you start building your own library of FUT, you might start wondering how one can memorize all the shortcuts. Here are some takeaways from my experience.

1. Build a “cheat sheet” and print it out. I have a hardcopy next to me that I can refer to whenever needed. Over time I have naturally memorized many of those shortcuts.

2. Organize all the entries in an Excel spreadsheet with some logical structure. For me, each shortcut has four letters, no more, no less. Below is from my own library.

In each “shortcut”, the first letter or first two letters refer to the category, e.g., “Booking a call/mtg”. Other categories for my entries include “Networking”, “Fundraising”, “Portfolio Company”, “Start-up”, etc.

Next, I write a short message and pick two or three letters from the keywords. To me, “bhac” means “[B]ooking a call/mtg” + “[H]ow” + “[A]bout” + “[C]all”. To write a few words about our companies, I type “pcwe” which means “[P]ortfolio” + “[C]ompany” + “[We] ee”.

If you have any question about “text expansion”, please let me know via email or leave a comment below. If you really like it, please share this post with your friends on social media and follow us on LinkedIn, Medium, and Twitter.

In addition, I have figured out how to quickly batch update the text expansion library on macOS using an Excel spreadsheet. I’ll share another post later on this.