January 2015 Archives

Txtg Shrtcts (Texting Shortcuts)

This falls in the category of ‘tiny optimizations for modern life’, or ‘probably overthinking it’. And on a level this seems like an obvious thing to me, but I've never seen anyone else talk about this, so.. I will.

iOS and Android both offer a feature where you can make your own custom typing shortcuts which the device expands into longer phrases. (For specific instructions, see any of the many articles with specific steps out there.)

I've never used any of the example shortcuts I see given. Some are:

  • btw = “by the way” … this is a pretty widely known abbreviation at this point, probably obvious to your correspondent, so why make this expand? Should we map ‘mr’ to ‘Mister’?
  • drv = “Can't text, driving” … this one's a little funny—how long will it take to safely peck out “d-r-v” while you're going 50mph?
  • omw = “On my way” … this is at least a useful message, but typing ‘o-m-w’ (top right of keyboard…bottom right…top left) doesn't strike me as a large improvement over typing the whole phrase.

My criteria for a truly time-saving shortcut are:

  1. Be really easy to type.

    • If I'm jumping all over the keyboard, I may as well be typing words.
    • Typing it should be as eyes-free an operation as possible. If you could type it without looking, that would be ideal. This is next to impossible on a touchscreen, but you can still make it easier on yourself by applying Fitts' Law:

      “The time to acquire a target is a function of the distance to & size of the target”

      The easiest letter to reach from the letter you just touchscreen-typed is? The same letter.

      If you make your shortcut a series of the same letter repeated, you're making it about as easy for yourself as you can.

  2. Don't collide with other things I might type. If it's a series of characters I might actually use (like ‘ooo’), then it's not good to repurpose that string as a shortcut.
  3. Be easy to remember. As with any other keyboard shortcut, giving it some kind of connection to the original phrase will help make it something I will actually recall when I need it.

My most commonly-used shortcut is ‘hhh’, for “Heading home”. The only key I have to find is the H key, then poke it three times fast, then find ‘Send’. It's fast, the phone doesn't think I'm typing some other word, and it works great for me every day.

Here are some others which serve me well:

  • ccc = Checking out — used when out shopping, to give some sense of how far along I am in the process
  • ddd = Drop ok — school dropoff of child accomplished

If I used ‘on my way’, I'd probably use ‘www’ since I don't want to use ‘ooo’.

Along a similar line, this Lifehacker article recommends using “@@” as a shortcut for your own email address, with “@@@” for a second address and so on. (If I actually gave out my email address much from my phone, I would use this.)

One nice side-effect of using this style of shortcut: since they don't look like regular words, your phone has a good chance of auto-correcting to the right thing even if you don't get it exactly right. I typed too many ‘h’s once and my phone helpfully suggested “Heading home”, which was indeed what I meant.

What are your shortcut secrets?

Development Diaries

One weblog I have specifically admired in the last year and want to follow in the footsteps of is Brent Simmons' inessential.com.

Specifically, his habit of writing out software-development diary entries discussing what decisions he is facing and either how he is solving it or what he is stuck on (and then his readers will often jump in with useful advice on Twitter & elsewhere.)

One big example is his Vesper Sync Diary series. There are others too -- this is a Google search of his site for 'diary'.

I have a lot of posts along that line I could make about a tool I made and released last year: SankeyMATIC, "a Sankey diagram builder for everyone".

It really deserved several blog posts here but never got any; I plan to remedy that and pick back up the thread of its development, as there are several improvements left to make before I can consider it properly done.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from January 2015 listed from newest to oldest.

December 2014 is the previous archive.

December 2015 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.