TextExpander

I’ve written about TextExpander before, because I’ve been a constant user for a little more than seven years. And now, with TextExpander 5, it’s even more useful.

Smile Software’s TextExpander is a macOS and iOS utility that saves keystrokes by expanding a short abbreviation that you type, with whatever text you have previously associated with that abbreviation (a TextExpander Snippet). When you type the abbreviation, TextExpander automatically expands it to a short phrase, a date, a name, a paragraph or or pages of text—whatever Snippet you’ve assigned to that abbreviation. You can even create Snippets that manipulate or format text from your clipboard before you paste the copied text to a document. You can share Snippets between your macOS app and your iOS apps.

I use TextExpander all the time for email, for Web pages, for HTML and CSS and for creating templates for various kinds of notes and glosses. I use ddate, for instance, any time I want to insert today’s date in a document, and TextExpander inserts the current  date for me. I write a lot html; while I use BBEdit for most CSS and HTML, when I’m writing blog posts in particular, I rely on TextExpander to quickly insert tags. TextExpander is particularly helpful in terms of short cuts for CSS I and tags like cite or blockquote that I use a lot. I type ,blockquote or ,cite and TextExpander expands the abbreviation to the paired tag, with my cursor right between the open and close tags, so I can easily paste the quotation or or the book title that I’ve previously copied.

TextExpander is a core part of my workflow, for writing of all kinds. I use TextExpander to add closings and sigs to my emails, letting me quickly customize the closing to suit the occasion without taking my hands off the keyboard to reach a menu,  and for the body of emails that I send frequently. I also use TextExpander for boiler plate paragraphs and URLs that I frequently need to send to people. I particularly like that I can rely on TextExpander for names of products and publishers, and be sure that I’m using the canonical name every single time. I have a group of snippets for words that I frequently misspell or mistype. TextExpander inserts the correct spelling for me. I also use TextExpander for templates for documents I create frequently. I have a review template, HTML templates for several kinds of Web pages, a proposal template, and, perhaps most importantly, an invoice template.

I send a lot of emails that are essentially the same, except for the name of the addressee, and a few variables. TextExpander makes that much more efficient and saves me time and keystrokes. Let’s pretend you’re thanking someone for a donation to a charity you volunteer for. Type the abbreviation you assigned to the form letter Snippet, and TextExpander creates a popup form. You enter a name, the amount of the donation, choose a category that the donation will go to from a list, and click OK. TextExpander generates the letter, places it on your clipboard, and you can paste it in whatever document you want, in whatever word processor or email app you favor. The new “Snippet Creation Assistant” (see below) walks you through creating similar Snippets yourself (In fact I stole this example from the Snippet Creation Assistant).

Snippet Creation Assistant

One of the new features in TextExpander 5.x is a Snippet Creation Assistant. This interactive tutorial walks you through creating your own Snippets—and it’s available at any time via the Help menu in TextExpander. The Snippet Creation Assistant walks you through adding several particularly useful groups of Snippets: Auto Correction, which automatically corrects commonly misspell and mistyped words, like that for that; a group of words that strictly speaking require accents, for instance, correcting crêpe to crêpe; and a group of CSS and HTML Snippets that will even create paired tags.

Shared Snippets

Other TextExpander users have created snippets that they share; you can download and install shared snippets, or, if you’re using the subscription version of TextExpander, shared snippets called Public Groups can be added to your TextExpander account.

TextExpander saves me time and keystrokes. At this point, I wouldn’t want to write without TextExpander. I even use TextExpander Touch on my iPhone and iPad. I have access to all my Snippets on my Mac, my iPhone and my iPad via DropBox syncing. With a yearly subscription, you can keep all your snippets (and share them with friends or the public) on TextExpander’s servers.

Suggested Snippets

A new feature of TextExpander 5 and later are “Suggested Snippets.” TextExpander watches in the background while you work, and when it notices you using the same phrases frequently, adds the phrase to a list of “Suggested Snippets.” You can choose to turn Suggested Snippets off of course, but it’s useful to leave it on for a while. You might be surprised at how often you use the same phrases, and Suggested Snippets makes it very simply to turn those repeated used phrases (and sentences) into a Snippet that can reuse with a few key presses.

I occasionally turn Suggested Snippets back on when I start working on a new book or project, and it makes creating project-specific Snippets a breeze.

Take Control of TextExpander

Purple cover of Take Control of TextExpander bookThe built in Help (via the TextExpander Help menu) is quite good, as are the user guides for the macOS and iOS apps, but I got a lot more out of TextExpander after reading Take Control of TextExpander, which is organized so that you can skip around and use the specific parts you need at any given moment, if you don’t want to read Take Control of Text Expander cover-to-cover. It also covers TextExpander Touch for iOS.

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