Say More and Type Less with TextExpander

The Techie Scheky series offers tips and tactics for being more productive and creative through technology (especially with a Mac).

With Dropbox behind us, let’s start getting geeky with one of my favorite and probably most essential applications, TextExpander. Almost two years ago, I made the decision to have every last customer service email come to my inbox. The insights from these emails have been invaluable, although that is another post for another day. However, the task would have been impossible if not for this amazing piece of software. At its core, TextExpander takes short text abbreviations and expands them into larger snippets.

What on earth does that mean?

Do you find that you are constantly typing the same thing over and over (and over) again? Well, now you can write entire emails in seconds by typing “shortcuts.” For example, at the top and bottom of every Techie Scheky post, you see the exact same into and outro. When I start writing the post, I type “tsI” and it expands into the full intro, complete with the italics and all of the links. At the completion of the post I hit “tsO” and poof, we have an outro1. You can add images, links, create pop-ups for adding unique information (such as a customer’s name) and even place the cursor anywhere in the snippet2.

But I Don’t Repeat Myself

Every time I tell someone about this app, I am always met with the exact same response: “But I don’t repeat myself.” Sure you do, and I am willing to bet that you do it a lot. Granted, you might not use TextExpander to write long-form emails (although it is AMAZING if you constantly send the same messages), but if you really think about it, the potential uses are endless.

My name, type two characters. Our company name, type two more characters. Our web address (linked properly), two characters. My email address– well, you get the picture… To avoid any crossover with real words, I just capitalize the second letter. This may seem like no big deal, but over long periods of time it will save you hours of your life. Plus, the more confident you become with TextExpander, the more uses you’ll come up with for it.

So what can I use it on (and whats it gonna cost me)?

There are currently two versions of TextExpander, one for the Mac as well as one for the iPhone and iPad.

  • TextExpander for the Mac – Even at $35, this is where I get the bulk of my value out of TE. More often than not, I need to customize most of my snippets to specific customer requests, so the pop-up boxes (or Fill-Ins as they are called in TE) that are only available on the Mac are an essential part of my workflow. TextExpander works with every application on my system and in my experience, it works flawlessly. It is easy to use and even a beginner will be setting up snippets in no time.

  • TextExpanderTouch for iPhone and iPad – A measly $5, but to be totally honest, I am just starting to feel like I am getting my money’s worth out of it. This really isn’t Smile’s (the company that makes TextExpanders) fault as much as it is a limitation of the iPhone/iPad. Apple’s native applications (read: your email, calendar, text messages) don’t allow TextExpander access. Also, the lack of pop-ups means that I need to have multiple versions of frequently used snippets. However, there are several apps including Simplenote that become a lot easier to use with TextExpander3. For the sake of full disclosure, the syncing is not the easiest and will likely require a future post.

Does it really make a difference?

While I can only speak for myself, I purchased TextExpander just over a year ago and it has already saved me over 24 hours of typing4. Try to imagine yourself typing at a keyboard for a day straight and you start to understand why I geek out about TextExpander. Your milage will vary, but that will only be a byproduct of your own imagination. The bottom line: even if you use it poorly, you’ll still get your money’s worth.

Quick Tip

Have two computers? Three? You can seamlessly sync your snippets across all of your computers through our good friend Dropbox. Go to Preferences > Sync and select Dropbox. Do the same on your second computer and like magic, every change you make will be reflected across all of your Macs. I’m still crossing my fingers that this feature will come to the iOS (read: iphone and iPad) soon!

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  1. See that outro above there, three friggin’ keys! Well, four if you count the shift button…  

  2. For the super geeky amongst you, it is even easy to add Apple Scripts and Shell Scripts into snippets.  

  3. More on this when I nerd out on Simplenote!  

  4. 25.31 hours at 80 words per minute, and over 1,857 snippets for a grand total of 607,490 characters saved at the time of writing for those keeping score.  

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