As I mentioned last week, I email myself frequently with URLs of articles I want to read on a different device; links to products I want to research later; and general “notes to self” where the email message acts as a handy reminder in my Inbox. Similarly, there are a couple people—my wife, for one—whom I email frequently.
Given how many times I send email to these addresses, it’s a bit of a pain to manually type them over and over and over. An alternative is to enter a nickname in a person’s record in the Contacts app; you can then use that nickname as a quick shortcut when addressing email messages. For example, if my friend’s name is Jake, I can enter
JJ as his nickname in Contacts, and then just type JJ in iOS (or OS X) Mail to send a message to him. However, if the person has multiple email addresses, I must still manually choose, from a list, which address to send to. Similarly, if any other contacts have the nickname text anywhere in his or her contact record (say, JJ’s Roof and Fence Repair), those people will also appear in the list.
The solution I’ve chosen is to use iOS’s keyboard-shortcuts feature (located in Settings -> General -> Keyboards -> Shortcuts) to create unique shortcuts for my favorite contacts. (There are already a bunch of shortcuts in there; you may discover some that are quite useful.) If you tap the plus-sign (+) button, you can configure a new custom shortcut that, when typed, inserts the text you specify.1 You just need to make sure that your new shortcuts are unique, so iOS doesn’t get confused trying to figure out which text to insert.
The trick, for this particular use case, is to create shortcuts that are both unique and easy to type when addressing an email message. And this is where my favorite part of this tip comes in. The @ character is common to all email addresses, and when addressing an email message in iOS Mail, the @ key is on the main keyboard—you don’t need to switch to the number/symbol keyboard to access it. At the same time, no email address contains multiple @ characters, and none of my contacts have a name or other info containing multiple @ characters. So I’ve created shortcuts that are essentially sequences of the @ character: I’m @@, my wife’s personal address (the one I send to most frequently) is @@@, and another frequent contact is @@@@.
Now, whenever I need to send myself an email message, I just tap @@; to send my wife an email, I tap @@@.
Even better, assuming you’re using the same iCloud account on your iOS devices and your Mac, these shortcuts sync across devices. (In OS X, they’re found in System Preferences -> Keyboard -> Text.) Granted, the shortcuts aren’t quite as necessary in OS X, but I still find them to be really useful.
- I could use TextExpander Touch to configure snippets for my most-frequent recipients, but given how kludgy iOS 8 is when it comes to switching to and from third-party keyboards, I end up using TextExpander mainly when I need to paste longer snippets or when I’m typing text with a bunch of snippets. ↩