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How to Create Text Macros

Get tips on how to choose good abbreviations for your text macros.

By
Stever Robbins
February 21, 2011
Episode #167

Bernice is infatuated. Fortunately, it's with Melvin, her boyfriend. Melvin's an introvert, and he doesn't talk very much. This is a Godsend for Bernice. Not only does that give her ample opportunity to hear herself talk, but it means Melvin is her perfect, er, man (biologically, at least). I hear him say "Hello" to her on the way to his desk. She rushes over to me, gushing. "Did you hear him? He's so romantic! He just promised to help pick out china patterns for our new home." "He did? What new home?" "The one we're going to buy once we return from the Bigfoot-hunting expedition we’ll be taking for our honeymoon!"

What Are Macros?

Bernice is hearing a bit more than what Melvin actually said. He says one word, and she fills in the details. All of the details. Bernice, when infatuated, is a text macro. You surely remember my episode on how to use text macros and templates, a mere 159 episodes ago. Macros let you type a few short characters and have those expand into much longer text.

Some handheld devices like the Blackberry have this capability built in. It's called autocorrect on the Blackberry. You tell the Blackberry what your abbreviation is and what it should expand into, and voila, you're on your way. Many desktop products also offer autocorrect capabilities.

How to Create Text Macros

Once you have the ability to turn abbreviations into full-fledged text, you need to have some abbreviations to expand! Marlena wrote in asking how to choose abbreviations for macros and expanded text. After all, if you use a lot of abbreviations, it becomes hard to keep track.

I have different abbreviation conventions for different kinds of text I might want to type. The easiest is phrases you use over and over again. For example, I use several different email signoffs: "Best wishes, Stever." "All the best, Stever." "Cheers, Stever," and of course, "I have a restraining order, do not write me again. Stever." For phrases, my abbreviation is just the first letter of each word. When the phrase comes to mind, it's easy to remember to type just the first letter. "All the best" becomes a-t-b. For very long phrases, I only use the first few letters: i-h-a-r-o is the abbreviation for "I have a restraining order, do not write me again, Stever."

If one of the words is "for," or "you," or "see," I often use the digit 4, the letter u, or the letter c at that point in the abbreviation. Common two-word combinations become super-easy. "For a" is 4a, "See you later" is c-u-l, and so on.

How to Come up with Macro Abbreviations

Create macros for phone numbers by abbreviating and using the first three digits of the number after the area code.

But what if you just have one word? You can’t just use the first letter. Omphaloskepsis and omelette would both be abbreviated "o." Typing "Will Bigfoot enjoy a jellybean o?" would come out "Will Bigfoot enjoy a jellybean omphaloskepsis?" What an absurd sentence. No one would ever want to write that. To abbreviate common words, keep the first letter, remove the vowels, and remove double letters. Weirdly, your brain can usually still read them. F-r-m, for example, clearly means "from." Omelette becomes o-m-l-t. Omphaloskepsis becomes ... well ... I'll leave that as an exercise to the reader. Meditate on it for a while.

For days of the week, I use the first four letters as the macro. M-o-n-d is Monday, T-u-e-s is Tuesday. The expanded abbreviation is capitalized correctly, so I type lowercase m-o-n and get properly capitalized Monday. I do the same for the months of the year.

How to Create Macros for Numbers

I'm sure you've realized by now that phone numbers are tricky because they don't have vowels, or first letters. But they do have first digits. Create macros for phone numbers by abbreviating and using the first three digits of the number after the area code. Bernice recommends her massage therapist Scott to friends to everyone. She puts his phone number—212-555-8932—on the macro 555. She also abbreviates her work and cell phone numbers to their first three digits.

How to Create Macros for URLs

If you have URLs you type a lot and need to abbreviate, use u-r-l plus a single character. U-R-L-G for getitdone.quickanddirtytips.com or U-R-L-E for EggBeaters.com (when it's midnight and you're craving a delicious liquid egg taste treat). 

This is an example of a general technique: for related abbreviations, start the abbreviation with the same few characters each time so it serves as a memory hook for all of those abbreviations. If you have a home address, a work address, and a post office office box, name your abbreviations a-d-d-r-h, a-d-d-r-w, and a-d-d-r-p, respectively. It's easy to remember the "addr," because you know you're typing an address. Then you just add the first letter of the address you want.

How Macros Can Help You Search the Web

Suppose you often use Google to search my articles for tips containing a certain word or phrase. To do that, type the phrase into Google, followed by site:getitdone.quickanddirtytips.com. Or to search my personal articles, use site:steverrobbins.com. Abbreviate the "site:" part as "siteg" for Get-it-Done Guy and "sitesr" for SteverRobbins.com and these sites become part of your daily reference.

How Macros Can Get You a Promotion

If you swear a lot, macros will save you! Make your favorite swear words abbreviations for socially acceptable words. You type, "Dear boss, your instructions are ****. You are ***, and ***, and your mother *******." With the magic of macros, it comes out "Dear boss, your instructions are brilliant. You are logical, and capable, and your mother would be proud." Voila—you blow off steam and get a promotion.

Combine these techniques to save tons of typing time. Just today, Bernice typed d-m, c-l, scott (in lower case), at 555 4a swedish mss. I hurt ms pckng beans to mk bf a jb omlt usng eb. yfb." What came out was: "Dearest Melvin, Please call Scott at 212-555-8932 for a Swedish massage. I hurt myself picking beans to make Bigfoot a Jellybean omelette using Egg Beaters. Your snookie-snookums, Bernice." I know you're thinking that y-f-b should become "Your fiancee Bernice," but she hasn't actually raised that issue with Melvin, yet, so I made fiancee a macro for "snookie-snookums." She gets to indulge her fantasies and save her relationship. Macros. Gotta love 'em.

Work Less, Do More, and have a Great Life!

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