Save Time and Energy with System > Keyboard > Text > Replace/With

Save Time and Energy with System > Keyboard > Text > Replace/With

A not-very-fancy illustration of how to use the replace/with feature on a Mac.

I don’t remember who it was that clued me in on the System > Keyboard > Text method of typing long phrases with a few keystrokes, but whoever it was — thank you! I’ve set up a few combinations and it’s saved me lots and lots of typing. I’m not lazy, by the way; I just like to be efficient.

So, here’s what I mean. As a genealogist, I have need to type “Family History Center” over and over and over. But now, after a few seconds of set-up, whether I’m typing a report or creating an email or writing a blog post, all I have to do is type “fhc” and–poof! My computer expands it out for me.

And how does that work, you might ask? Well, I can explain the set-up process for a Mac, but if you use another type of computer, you’ll have to Google to figure out how it works on your machine.

So, here we go.

First, go to SYSTEM PREFERENCES. (It’s the gear icon.)

Next, click on KEYBOARD. (The keyboard icon, of course.)

And then click on TEXT.

There are two columns–“Replace” and “With” and the goal is to tell the computer to replace short groups of letters with expanded text.

Click on the plus (+) in the bottom left corner.

Type an abbreviation of your choosing, hit TAB, type (or paste) the longer text, and hit TAB again.

That’s all there is to it. Now every time you type the abbreviation, the longer text will replace it.

I’m not sure if there are limits to the number of characters that can be entered into the “With” field, but I’ve had no problem adding census citation templates that are a few lines long.

There’s only one downside to this. Up at the top of this post, when I wanted to type “fhc” I had a hard time doing it because it kept changing to “Family History Center.” 🙂 But, really, that’s almost never an issue.

So, how can this be used for genealogy?

It’s worth taking the time to add frequently-typed text:

us1910 — 1910 U. S. census, x County, STATE, population schedule, CITY, Enumeration District (ED) x, sheet x (stamped), sheet x (penned), dwelling x, family x, PERSON; digital image, Ancestry ( : accessed 2019), citing National Archives microfilm publication T624, roll X and FHL microfilm X.

Italics have to be added by hand, but how long does that take?

It’s also worth the while to set up temporary project-related replacements:

7pc — Seventh Presbyterian Church

pfp — party of the first part

If I’m doing newspaper research at, say, Genealogy Bank, I will take the time to change the access date in the saved citation text so I only have to tweak it once.

What other time-saving tips do you have for fellow genealogists? Feel free to post a comment to share!

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