Like Txt Type? Try Shrtcuts!

We all have 'em - friends who abbrieviate everyday words by dropping the vowels out of them or by typing an acronym instead of the phrase itself.  Seeing things like brb, omw and others can make typing easy, but can be a off-putting to your business associates, friends and yes, even your spouse.

An under-utilized feature in iOS is the ability to type out communly used phrases without typing out every word. Now you can sound intelligent while texting your friends on your iOS 5-enabled iPhone (and iPod touch) by avoiding short-hand text type that drives some of us up the wall.  Here's how:

  1. On your device, navigate to Settings --> General --> Keyboard.
  2. Scroll down (if you need to) and locate the Shortcuts section.
  3. Click Add New Shortcut...
  4. In the Phrase field, enter the phrase you want to spell out.  For example, type Be right back.
  5. In the Shortcut field, enter the text shortcut you want to type instead.  For example, type brb.  When typing, you can use this short phrase to enter the whole phrase, rather then type out the phrase.
  6. Click Save in the upper right-hand corner.

When you go to type the shortcut into a text field, say when you're typing an iMessage or an email to someone, you can type the shortcut (brb) and it will give you the full phrase (Be right back.) as an option in an autocorrect bubble. To select the phrase, tap the return key on the keyboard and iOS will swap out the shortcut for the phrase.  It's important to note that this only impacts outbound messages, so if you're talking to someone on a BlackBerry who sends you a brb message, it won't convert it.  Also, be careful when entering in the long phrase for the shortcut - there's no autocorrect that will save you here.

As of yet, I have not found where custom shortcuts you've added will sync between your iDevices.  Hopefully, Apple will consider adding this capability in the future.

This could prove helpful if you have older adults in your family who text but aren't up on the latest text speak.  It can also be helpful if you have a grammar-and-spelling-nazi for a friend.  However, it doesn't work so well on the "one-letter replacements for three letter words" like u for you and r for are.  Shortcuts are required to be at least two characters long, otherwise you'd be autocorrecting for phrases in the middle of typing out words. Not helpful.  But then again, if you're that lazy you can't type out three successive letters to make a word on your iPhone, why do you have a smartphone anyway?