Make yourself more productive by cutting down on the time you spend typing.
Typing the same thing every day in emails, documents and online can feel like a waste of time. No-one enjoys the trudge of repeating the same sign-offs, using the same structure for every document, or the tedium of replying to emails with the same responses over and over.
While the likes of Ctrl+C, Ctrl+V can save you time if you have a big list of phrases and document snippets you can use, even that can be time-consuming. Thankfully, there are easy ways to shave seconds off these menial tasks and free yourself up to focus on bigger problems.
1. Reply to emails lightning-fast
Replying to emails can be a slow and tedious task, but some email services provide built-in tools that make it less of a chore. Gmail, for example, offers a Canned Responses feature that lets you save (and then insert) the replies you use most frequently with only a couple of clicks.
To activate Canned Responses:
- Open Gmail's settings.
- Click Labs.
- Select “Enable” next to Canned Responses and click Save Changes.
- Next time you're about to send an email, click the down arrow next to the Trash icon and choose “Canned responses”.
- Select “New canned response” and enter your reply.
- Click “OK” to save this to your list of “Canned responses”.
Enabling this feature also lets you set “Send canned response” as an action for Gmail filters, choosing a specific reply for each one. Note that doing this adds a suffix to your email address, so recipients will see that your replies are automated.
Unfortunately, canned responses are not available in the mobile version of Gmail, but TypeApp offers a similar feature called Quick Replies. Simply tap the three-dot button next to an email, scroll down and select Quick Reply to choose from a number of message templates including “Yes”, “No”, “I'm running a little late” and “I will get back to you later”. You can customise these responses according to your tastes and, in the app's “Configure Action Buttons” menu, you can add a Quick Reply shortcut to make the whole process even quicker. TypeApp supports all popular email providers and is available on iOS as well as Android.
Google's new email service, Inbox (available to all Gmail users), goes one step further than user-defined canned responses with its useful Smart Reply feature. When you open an email in Inbox, it analyses the contact and suggests three possible quick replies that you can send with a single click. It's a really useful feature, especially when you simply want to acknowledge a message with a one-liner that appears authentically human, and it's now available in the Inbox apps for iOS and Android, too.
2. Auto-fill those arduous web forms
Google Chrome has a feature that helps you fill in web forms quickly by saving personal details including your name, phone number, address and email address. It should be enabled by default, but if you want to reactivate Auto-fill:
- Open Settings | Show advanced settings.
- Tick “Enable Auto-fill to fill in web forms in a single click”.
- Click “Manage Auto-fill settings” and add, edit and delete addresses and credit card information.
To activate Auto-fill in Chrome for iOS and Android:
- Open Settings.
- Tap “Auto-fill forms” and flick the slider to “On”.
- Auto-fill information is synced from your other Chrome-enabled devices using Chrome's Sync feature.
Firefox also helps you fill in forms quickly by displaying a list of information you've entered in the past when you start typing in a particular field. You can see all entries for a particular field by pressing the down arrow when the textbox is empty, and each suggestion can be deleted by highlighting it and pressing Delete.
You can stop Firefox saving information by:
- Clicking menu | Options and Privacy.
- In the dropdown menu for “Firefox will…” select “Use custom settings for history”.
- Untick the box for “Remember search and form history” and close the settings page.
If you've ever finished filling in a long form only to lose all your entries because the internet connection timed out, you may be interested in the browser extension “Lazarus: Form Recovery” for Chrome and Firefox. This handy browser add-on auto-saves everything you type so that you never need to enter the same information twice. The data is encrypted and stored on your own PC so there's no risk of it ending up in the wrong hands.
3. Stop typing on your phone's terrible keyboard
Your phone's default keyboard app probably offers predictive text, but by downloading a good third-party keyboard like SwiftKey, you can benefit from far more sophisticated suggestions and type entire sentences using only a few taps.
To take advantage of the app's excellent Personalization feature, you need to sign in with a Gmail, Facebook or Twitter account, after which it starts learning the words and phrases you use most often, so you need never type your address or phone number in full again. The app also has a feature called Flow, which lets you simply swipe your finger or thumb between letters rather than tapping the keys. This makes one-handed text input much more straightforward. The same feature is available with Google Keyboard and Swype, among other apps, so you might have it already and just not know it.
4. Use shorthand to type full sentences
Android text-expansion app Texpand saves you a lot of typing by letting you create text-based shortcuts for your most frequently used words and phrases. By assigning your address the shortcut “addy”, for example, you can enter your address in full simply by typing the four-letter word followed by the app's floating tick.
Unless you want it to, Texpand won't expand shortcuts when they're typed within other words, and you can use its floating button to undo unwanted expansions, as well as for browsing suggestions.
Most impressively, the app lets you create shortcuts for phrases containing dynamic values, which makes inserting the time and date or pasting content from your clipboard quicker and easier than ever. Texpand is a brilliant tool and is compatible with most third-party keyboards including those mentioned in the previous tip. The app's free version only lets you create 10 shortcuts, but if you want more, the premium version represents good value for money at just over $4.
Similar tools to Texpand are available for Windows and OS X, too. In fact, if you're using a Mac, a simple text-expansion function is built into the operating system. From System Preferences, choose Keyboard and Text and you can create your own shortcuts using the Replace and With columns. When a shortcut is typed in an Apple program, it displays a suggestion box, which you can approve by tapping the Spacebar or cancel using the right arrow key.
Phrase Express Text Expander is an excellent Windows text expander tool that's free for personal use. Unlike the Mac OS X feature, it works in all programs and can also be used to sync phrases to your Android device.
5. Become a faster typer through games
If you think you could benefit from learning to type faster, there are plenty of free tools that can help you do so. Web application Keybr.com uses sophisticated algorithms to create tailored lessons that help you learn to touch type. Once you've honed your skills on the website, click its Multiplayer option to test your typing against others. Alternatively, visit Typeracer.com, which challenges you to type passages from books, movies and songs as quickly as possible and also lets you take on other users from around the world.