technofile template iPad macros can type words and phrases for you

The iPad quickly spewed out the text when I typed the trigger word.
Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously available online since 1983


iPad macros can type words and phrases for you

July 22, 2012

By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2012, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2012, The Post-Standard

Tucked away in the iPad's Settings App is an amazingly effective time-saver. It's a macro function that can type anything, whether one word or a couple of thousand, when you type a trigger phrase.

Macro software isn't unusual in business computers and among power users in general. But this kind of facility in a tablet computer is an unexpected treat. Because this function also works on the iPhone, its presence is a double surprise.

A macro is simply a way to save yourself a lot of typing. If you create a macro that contains your address, for example, you could assign that macro a trigger of "myaddr." Typing that trigger word would convert "myaddr" to your entire address in the message 0r word processor document on your screen.

Macros on Macs and PCs are usually unlimited in number and length, and my tests of the iPad macro function showed it also has no limits. I was able to assign an entire chapter of a book to the macro "bookchapter," and the iPad quickly spewed out the text when I typed the trigger word.

A short warning before I go on. As far as I know, the macro function is available only in version 5 or higher of the iPad's operating system, known as iOS. (I'll be referring only to the iPad for the rest of this article, but everything I say applies to the iPhone and Apple's semi-secret weapon for pocket computer fans, the iPod Touch.)

You can check the version number by opening the Settings App, choosing General and touching "About." The version number is shown about halfway down the screen. Plug your iPad into your computer using the white cable and run iTunes to get the latest version from Apple.

The macro function is set up in the Settings App, under General. Scroll down a ways and choose "Keyboard." You'll find "Shortcuts"in that screen.

Use "Add New Shortcut" to create a macro. You'll be asked to type a word or phrase and then a shortcut that triggers the macro. If your macro's contents already exist in a message or document, just copy the text and paste it into the "Phrase" field.

Macros can be very flexible. Obviously it's handy to have your address or personal philosophy spill out into any document you're writing just by typing something like "mystuff," but you also can create macros that correct spelling or capitalize certain words. For example, I have one that looks for "ipad" and changes it to "iPad," and another that changes an "i" all by itself to "I."

Be careful. If you name a trigger something like "mony" to fix a word you commonly misspell, you'll get "ceremoney" every time you type "ceremony." Full-bore macro users sometimes stick an odd character at the beginning of every macro trigger, like this: "&addr." This keeps the trigger from showing up unintentionally in normal writing.

Because some often-used characters are not on the main iPad keyboard, I've created macros that insert such items as double quotes or dashes, using triggers consisting of multiple periods. They're not hard to remember, and they save a lot of time.