macOS Text Replacement: How to Use It and Fix If It’s Not Working

Tips • June 29, 2023

macos

When used properly, the text replacement feature on macOS is a real time-saver. Of course, you need some time to set it up based on your needs and their nature. For instance, you may have to use a specific group of abbreviations in your line of work. But it is convenient that macOS comes with the feature built in.

However, like most things in the world of computing, the macOS text replacement feature does not always work perfectly. So, it is possible that you may come across a scenario where it is not working. On the bright side, resolving the issues with macOS text replacement is no Herculean task.

In this rather brief guide, we have explained everything you should know about text replacement on macOS. We shall first explain how to use the feature and move to the potential issues you may face and solutions to keep it working properly.

macOS text replacement – how to use it

As we said, the text replacement function is built into macOS. More importantly, you can access the options from System Settings. There is no need to open an app or install anything. You can follow the steps we have given below to set it up.

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Open System Settings on your Mac and go to Keyboard > Text Replacements. Alternatively, you can use the Spotlight Search interface to directly search for Text Replacements.

Click ‘Text Replacements’ to continue.

You can now see the available text replacement options. If you are using this feature for the first time, you can find only three entries: btw, maam, and omw.

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But as you can guess, you can click the + button below to add an entry to the collection. For instance, below, I have set up the feature to replace aka with also known as. So, the next time I enter aka on my Mac, it will be replaced by also known as.

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In the same way, you can add as many combinations as you want. As we said, if you take a couple of minutes to add custom combinations, the text replacement function can save minutes, if not hours.

By the way, the method we discussed above works for Macs running macOS Ventura. So, if you are using a previous version like macOS Monterey, you can access the features by going to System Preferences > Keyboard > Text, where you can find the existing text replacement options. You can add and remove entries as you wish. Depending on your Mac, additional options may also be available in the section.

Syncing issues with text replacement on macOS

As you know, most elements on macOS are designed to sync with iCloud. Therefore, it is not surprising that text replacement entries are also synced sometime. However, this process does not always go smooth. So, you may need a few steps to fix the situation.

  1. For instance, if you want to turn off text replacement syncing between iPhone and Mac, you can turn it off by going to iCloud settings. But, you will have to turn off ‘Documents and Data’ syncing in its entirety, causing problems eventually.
  2. Alternatively, if you would like to remove these chances at all, you can use third-party text replacement tools on your Mac. So, unless you install a complementary app on your iPhone, the text replacement will not happen.

But we believe Apple will introduce a better way to deal with text expansion and replacement systems in the upcoming versions of macOS.

How to fix it if text replacement is not working

As you have seen, setting up text replacement on macOS is easy! But this feature sometimes does not work as you wish. Therefore, we should know how to fix the feature if it is not working. We have listed the most common reasons why text replacement doesn’t work and some handy solutions for those problems.

Solution #1 Restart Your Mac

Here is a magic solution that can solve not only this issue but most system-level issues. If you find that text expansion has stopped working on an app that worked fine before, you should consider restarting your Mac. While the process may take up to a minute, you can solve the issue almost instantly.

To restart your Mac, you can go to the Apple menu > Restart. In a few minutes, you can possibly continue using the text expansion feature.

Solution #2 Confirm App Compatibility with Text Replacement

First and foremost, you should check if macOS text replacement is compatible with the app where you come across issues. Even though it is a system-wide feature, some apps may not go in sync with the option. On the bright side, you can check the compatibility of an app in a few clicks.

To check whether an app lets you use the macOS text replacement feature, you have to open the Edit menu and see whether an option called ‘Substitutions’ is present.

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As you can see, the macOS app for Microsoft Word does not support text replacements. So, in case you are wondering why your abbreviations don’t expand within the Word app, you are not alone. On the other hand, you can effortlessly use the text replacement feature on apps like Notes and Reminders.

As you can guess, it also means the feature needs to be enabled by the developer. So, if you run the older version of an app, it is a good decision to install possible updates. It is likely that the new version has native support for text replacements.

Solution #3 Manually Enable Text Replacement

If you do not know, Text Substitution is a broad term as far as macOS is concerned. There are a number of features that you can choose between. Therefore, you have to make sure that the option ‘Text Replacement’ is chosen. It may be required even if you find that an app supports Substitution options.

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To check whether Text Replacement is enabled, you have to open the Edit menu > Substitutions and ensure that the option called ‘Text Replacement’ is enabled.

You can use the same interface to turn on features like Smart Quotes, Smart Tags, Smart Lists, and Smart Copy/Paste. So, if you find that any of these options do not work, you know where to look.

Solution #4 Re-add Text Expansion Entries

Do you find that only a newly added text expansion entry fails to work? In that case, the problem might be with the particular entry. Therefore, it makes sense to remove the entry and add it again. However, ensure that you test all these options within a compatible app.

To remove and add entries, you can go to System Settings > Keyboard > Text Replacements. There, you can access the list of available combinations, remove the latest one, and add the content once more. It should be working fine, and you can follow this up with a system restart.

Solution #5 Update macOS

Even though it is very unlikely, system-level bugs may also prevent the macOS text replacement system.

Therefore, if none of the methods have solved the issue, you should consider updating your Mac to the latest version of macOS. You can do it by going to System Preferences > General > Software Update. You can use the feature after the update is complete, and you should be good to go.

Third-party apps for text expansion on macOS

As you may have noticed, the text replacement option on macOS is not the most compatible one. You also do not get additional customization features. Therefore, it is a suitable option to consider third-party text expansion apps that enable text replacement on macOS.

You can choose between free and paid text expansion apps for Mac if you are wondering. Because such apps offer advanced options, you can feel a boost in productivity as well. You can also get team-based sharing and collaboration abilities.

Final thoughts

We hope this guide helped you get started with macOS text replacement and fix the problems you had faced while using the feature. While we understand that these issues may come about, there is no denial that the text replacement feature on macOS is impressive.