Do you ever find yourself typing something and feeling like it is, perhaps, the millionth time you’ve typed it. You feel your fingers hitting that same exact pattern and you think, “Man, deja vu.” It may be something as short as your favorite email sign-off or something as long as a response you have to use repeatedly. Yeah, you could use copy/paste but it starts to feel frustrating after a while.
These things are tedious and mind-numbing, and yet we do them all the time, especially when we’re at work. While we obviously love Dashlane for securely storing your personal info like your credit card number and mailing address to quickly autofill forms, we know forms aren’t the only thing slowing you down online. Here we’ll show you how you can create your own bot to type these things for you using tools already built into your phone or through an app.
Using iPhone/Android personal dictionaries to autofill commonly typed text
Your phone has a custom dictionary feature, and you can set it up so that typing in a secret word will autofill whatever you want! One of the most common ways I’ll use this is when I just get back from a vacation and I have to respond to a ton of emails with the same thing. Something like, “Sorry I missed your email while I was out of the office. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to make this event. Thanks for the invite though!” Another great usage is for words with accents, or symbols that you always forget how to type, like the copyright symbol.
Here’s how to set it up.
Choose a good fake word
You’re going to make up a word that, when you type it, your phone will replace it with your chosen text, so you want it to be a word you’d never type except when you want that text replaced. For example, for my work address I use “waddress.” For my phone number I use “phhn.” For email, I might use, “eeemail.” You get the picture. That way it doesn’t autofill when you’re just trying to write the word out. Okay, now here’s how you do it on Android and iOS.
- Open Settings, then tap System.
- Scroll down to Language & Input, and then click Virtual Keyboard.
- Select Gboard (or whatever your default keyboard is).
- Then hit Dictionary > Personal Dictionary > English (or whatever your language is).
- Once there, hit the plus symbol (+) at the top of the screen, and you can now add custom words and phrases.
- Where it says “type a word” you will add whatever phrase you want to appear. For example, “Call my cell at (555) 555-5555,” and then under Shortcut, write “phhn” or whatever shortcut you will remember.
- That’s it! Hit the back arrow and you’ll see it in your list of custom phrases. You can always edit or delete them later.
- Open up a document and then hit the “More” button (the three dots).
- Click Settings, then tap Auto-Correction.
- Make sure Text Replacement is set to ON.
- Tap the Replacements List, and then hit the plus button (+).
- Under Shortcut, type the secret word you want to use (e.g. “hhhhh” for your Hotmail address.
- Under Phrase, type whatever it is you want to say (e.g. email@example.com).
It’s as easy as that! You can create as many shortcuts as you want.
Using apps like TextExpander
TextExpander has been around a long time but there are other similar tools, including a free version that can save you roughly a kajillion keystrokes over the course of a year. Here’s how to use TextExpander to cut time out of your common tasks.
What is it?
You know how your phone has autocomplete? Think of TextExpander as autocomplete on steroids. A lot of steroids. In principle, it’s not that different from using your phone’s custom dictionary described above. This is a far more robust solution, though. Essentially TextExander is an app for your computer (Mac, PC, or Chrome) that allows you to type a keyword that you choose and instantly replace that keyword with whatever body of text you want. This works across all applications, whether you’re using Word, writing an email in your web browser, or texting in iMessage—it doesn’t matter.
How to use it
The app is somewhat spartan, and it’s extremely intuitive. It’s always running in the background, but it’s not a memory hog. It’s as simple as opening the app, hitting New Snippet, filling in the text that you want to appear under Content, and then choosing an abbreviation. For the abbreviation, make sure it’s not a word that you would ever naturally type.