Text Replacement for Small Screens

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I’ve found that using text replacement is an acceptable way to write code on small mobile screens.

Recently, I had to write some code on a small phone screen. Typing code on such screens is a pain since symbols are hard to find and auto-corrections always get in the way. On Android, the problem may be mitigated by a good keyboard such as Hacker’s Keyboard, but I couldn’t find its alternatives on iOS.

Then I realized that I could use text replacement. Different platforms may call it differently, but essentially the idea is to expand a “shortcut” into a relatively long phrase automatically upon typing. On iOS 16 it’s under Settings > General > Keyboard > Text Replacement. For starters, some shortcuts for Java code could be:

In this way, I can speed up typing code with the native iOS keyboard. It’s not perfect for sure, but it did improve my coding experience on a small screen.

In general, I think text replacement is an underrated feature. I’m also using Espanso to save some typing on non-mobile platforms.