Keywords on macOS & iOS

While we continuing waiting for a proper keyword manager in Mylio, I’m using the macOS/iOS “Text Replacement” feature as a solution of sorts for applying keyword “sets” to images. For example, if I had a picture of a cardinal that I wanted to keyword as “animal” and “bird” and “cardinal,” I just have to type “ccardnial” on any of my devices and it will expand to “animal,bird,cardinal” automatically. Because the text replacement list is synchronized between all devices logged into the same Apple ID, it’s easy to maintain the list on my desktop, laptop, or iOS device.

For large scale keyword list changes, I do edits in a spreadsheet with three columns:

  1. Shortcut
  2. Text replacement
  3. XML code for the replacement (a calculated field based on the other two)

To make those edits available as a text replacement on all devices, I would:

  1. Export the text replacement list from the System Preferences by dragging the list to the Desktop (generating a .plist file).
  2. Open that .plist in a text editor (e.g. BBEdit).
  3. Copy the XML column from my spreadsheet.
  4. Select everything between the " " labels and paste the spreadsheet XML data.
  5. Save the file.
  6. Drag the file onto the text replacement list in the System Preferences.

Within seconds, the new replacements are available on all my devices.

It’s certainly not a substitute for a good keyword manager, but it’s helped me get a lot more work done on my iPad Pro.


Although this probably requires me remembering the shortcuts which probably won’t happen. Very ingenious. But curious about two things

How did you know to drag the list (Step 1) and visa versa?

And where is that list stored?

XCode may be a better editor, although it is a bit tedious to install.

Dragging and dropping into the Text Replacement list was something I learned after doing a Google search for how to export the entries. I suppose Apple doesn’t make it obvious as the resulting file isn’t something most folks would know what to do with.

I’m not sure where the actual Text Replacement data is stored. I thought about monitoring for preference file updates after I made changes, but since the export/import process was so easy I didn’t pursue it.

Xcode would definitely work well for editing the plist file, but it’s not great for actually maintaining the list based on how I use it. The spreadsheet lets me sort and filter easily, and has the side benefit of supporting a return to Typinator (or another expansion tool) in the future, if so desired.

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