One of the lesser-known convenience features available with the iPhone and iPad keyboards is the ability to create quick keyboard macros known as shortcuts. With these, text input can be partially automated to insert phrases or extended text strings with little effort on behalf of the iOS device's user. Although this process used to require a secondary app or a user to jailbreak the iOS device, current iPhone macro automation is a simple task, whether you need macros for accessibility purposes or want to save time while texting.
What Are Macros?
In the context of iOS, a macro is a phrase or text string that can be inserted by the system keyboard automatically when triggered by a user pressing a short, specific sequence of keys. With a macro programmed into the iOS keyboard, a user can type "tysm" to auto-expand into the phrase "Thank you so much!" or any other phrase of their choice. Originally, macros were an Android-exclusive feature, and iOS macros could only be input through the use of a dedicated iOS macro recorder app like Pastebot, Tapit4Me, or the jailbreak-exclusive Auto Touch. However, iOS updates added the feature to the system keyboard. When macros have been registered in the iOS Settings app, they work without the need for any other configuration.
Simple iPhone Macro Automation
Keyboard macros are programmed into an iOS device through the Settings app. Open it from the home screen, and navigate to "General," "Keyboard" and "Text Replacement." In older versions of iOS, tap "Shortcuts." If you want to modify or delete the default shortcuts provided by iOS, you can edit them from this menu. To add a new shortcut, tap the plus (+) icon (or "Add New Shortcut" button in older versions of iOS) and input text into the appropriate menus. Input the text string you want to automate into the "Phrase" field, write the desired shortcut in the "Shortcut" field and press "Save" to finish programming the shortcut.
Using New iPhone Macros
After you configure macros in the iOS keyboard settings, you can use them immediately whenever you pull up the keyboard to input text on your iPhone or iPad. Type the shortcut, and the expanded phrase appears above the keyboard. Tap it, and the shortcut appears in the text box. This works in any application because it is programmed into the system keyboard.
With the arrival of iOS 12, it is possible to create more complex automation, with or without text, through the new Apple Shortcuts app. By installing the app following the instructions, you can browse existing macros or create your own customized ones. When it is activated, you can use Siri's voice recognition to activate the complex macros.
- Dr. Chrono: How to Create Medical Macros, Keyword Shortcuts in iOS 7
- The Internet Patrol: Most Useful Lesser-Known iPhone Feature: Keyboard Macross)
- AutoTouch: App Documentation
- Apple Insider: Hands on: Create Your Own Siri Commands With Shortcuts in iOS 12
- iMore: How to Use Text Shortcuts on iPhone and iPad
- Cult of Mac: How to Use Text Replacement to Avoid Typing the Words You Hate