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How to set up text substitution in Pages

Text substitution can be used as a quick method for entering commonly used phrases or symbols into a document. Here is how to do this in Apple's Pages word processor for OS X.

Text substitution is a convenient option for quickly composing documents without needing to learn special methods for accessing symbols or full names or phrases that you regularly use.

This option is so commonly used that OS X has a central text substitution service that you can set up in the system preferences; however, not all programs are built to use this. Unfortunately many word processors, such as Microsoft Word and Apple's Pages, do not use central text substitution services, and instead incorporate their own text substitution options. As a result, if you set up text substitution in the OS X system preferences, you will need to do this again in these programs in order to use them.

If you are familiar with Microsoft Office 2011 for OS X, you may know about its text substitution options that are available by going to the AutoCorrect pane of its preferences and creating custom text substitution options for use when composing documents, but people who might be interested in trying Apple's Pages word processing program as a cheaper alternative to Office (currently $19.99 at the Mac App Store) might not know where or how to set this up, especially if they assume Pages ought to use the central OS X text substitution service.

If you have downloaded Pages from the Mac App Store or have purchased the retail box and have it installed, you can easily set up your text substitutions by following this procedure:

  1. Open Pages and go to the Preferences in the Pages menu
  2. Go to the Auto Correction section of the preferences
  3. Check the "symbol and text substitution" check box to enable the service

At this point you have enabled the autocorrection features in Pages, and can make use of text substitutions. Apple offers some default common and basic substitutions such as the conversion of "(c)" into the copyright symbol, or "teh" into the word "the" (along with a number of others that you can enable by checking), but you can also set up your own by clicking the plus symbol at the bottom of the window. When you do this, you can enter a short phrase in the Replace column field, followed by the desired phrase in the With column field. While most people might use acronyms typed in from the keyboard, you can customize this list with symbols and characters from other languages if you wish.

To add symbols to this list, first enable the OS X character viewer window, and then open the window. In here you can browse or search for a desired symbol or character and then drag it to the With column field for the text substitution entry you are trying to set up.

Text substitution setup in Pages
You can add any text or symbols as the phrase to replace the input text with. In this case the common text for a heart " Screenshot by Topher Kessler

A couple of things to keep in mind about text substitution in Pages is that it does not recognize capitalized versions of the input text as being different, so if for instance you set up the word "inc" (lowercase) to change to the word "incorporated," if you capitalize the input word to read "INC," then Pages will substitute it with "INCORPORATED" in all caps instead of assuming this is a different version of the word that should be left as-is.

This assumption by the program has its uses, but you may run into situations where you would rather keep the shortened form of the word as you typed it instead of the substitution. While you can disable the word or the service altogether in the preferences, an easy alternative is to quickly press Command-Z when the substitution occurs, and Pages will revert the substituted word to the text you typed.

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