One of my favorite most used Mac applications by far is TextExpander, created by the folks at Smile Software. In fact, I probably use TextExpander hundreds of times a day and when I’m at a computer that doesn’t have TextExpander installed, I feel lost. The amount of time that I save with this application is incredible – it helps me to do my work much quicker than I ever could without it.
What Is It?
TextExpander is just what its name implies – it expands text shortcuts into text – even long paragraphs of text – that you use the most. How it works, is that you type in a couple of characters and the application inserts the snippet associated with that shortcut. For instance, if I type in, xpcm, it will insert my PCM Courseware signature as below. Best Regards, Roger Hyttinen
Roger Hyttinen PCM Courseware, LLC rogerh@pcmcourseware, com http://www.pcmcourseware.com If I type in xty, TextExpander automatically inserts text for a thank you message that I send out to my customers whenever I receive an online order.
Use it for Typos
Do you make the same typos over and over? TextExpander comes with a snippet file group called AutoCorrect that automatically fixes common typos as you type. What’s even better, is that you can add your own frequently misspelled words in the group or create even create your own group. For some strange, unknown reason, I have a tendency to misspell my own name so every time I type: rgoer text expander automatically inserts Roger
Quick Insertion of Dates
Given that I have a paperless office and tend to save all of my bills, invoices and receipts to my hard drive, the ability to quickly insert a date in a variety of formats is a key feature for me. For instance, if I wanted to insert a date in the 2014-10-01 format, I would use the code: %Y-%m-%d. You can also insert dates such as one day ago (%@-1D%Y-%m-%d) or one month ago (%@-1M%Y-%m). When I save my monthly bills to my computer, I usually use a simple month and day format, along with the company name. For instance, typing xc1 inserts the following text in the Save As dialog box: 2014-10 – Capital One Business Bill – that is to say, this snippet inserts the year and month separated by a dash, a space, another dash, space and the words “Capital One Business Bill”. The field that generates this snippet is %Y-%m – Capital One Business Bill (this is all entered in the Content area). Some companies send a bill that is a month behind. For instance, I receive my September American Express bill in October. In this case, I need to subtract 1 from the month field: %@-1M%Y-%m – AMEX Bill
Creating Form Fields
With TextExpander, you can create form letters using fill-in-the-blank snippets to enter variable data in multiple fields, with TextExpander prompting you for the field data. Using this feature, you can send out standard form letters that you can personalize by inserting the recipient’s name, product name, or other custom text.
Pictures and Formatted Text
You can also insert text formatted the way you like as well as images. I’ve created an image that contains my signature that I insert into my e-mail messages with a simple keyboard shortcut. This feature comes in handy for inserting company or corporate logos as well.
To create your own snippets, open the TextExpander application and click the New Snippet icon or choose File ➪ New Snippet from the menu. You can also use the ⌘ and N keystroke combination. In the large content window, type the text of your snippet. This is the text that you want expanded and can include such things as the a standard e-mail message/response that you send out regularly, email signatures, date and time codes, instructions that you provide to others – whatever it is you want automatically inserted for you. The Label field is simply the name you want to give to your snippet, such as “American Express Bill” or “Thank You Letter”. In the Abbreviation box, type in the keyboard shortcut that will cause the content to be inserted. This is also called the “trigger” – characters that will cause the associated snippet to be inserted. I like to preface all of my abbreviations with the letter “x”, as there are very few words beginning with x that I regularly use so I’m unlikely to activate a shortcut accidentally. For instance, I use “xamx” to insert: 2014-09 – AMEX Bill. Other people like to preface their shortcuts using a period (such as: .amx ) or with another keyboard symbol (such as: &amx). What’s important, is that you find a consistent method that works for you.
Insert Fields Into The Snippet Window
On the bottom of the TextExpander window are two drop-down list icons. The leftmost drop-down list allows you to insert fields such as month, day, year, in a variety of formats, as well automatically perform date and time math. Additionally, there are options to generate keystrokes such as Enter, Tab or Esc as well as insert form fields. This is where a lot of the power resides within TextExpander so it’s definitely worth your while to spend time exploring the various fields you can use.
TextExpander provides numerous Preferences that you can set, rendering the application easier and more in-tune with your own workflow. For example, you can choose to trigger a snippet immediately when you type a shortcut or after you type a specific delimiter after the shortcut. You can also set such things as:
- Default snippet format
- Case sensitivity
- Choose to trigger snippets in specific applications
- Capitalize new sentences automatically
- Sync with Dropbox
- Hotkeys to open TextExpander, disable TextExpander, create new snippets, and more
- Hiding/Showing TextExpander in the Dock
- And much, much more….
TextExpander is an essential application in my workflow, saving me many, many hours of time. According to my recent TextExpander statistics, it has saved me almost 54 hours of time since I last installed it on this computer earlier this year. That’s a lot of hours! Smile does offer a free trial on all of their software so you can take it for a test drive before buying. You can check out the application HERE. They also offer an iPad and iPhone version called TextExpander Touch, that is worth a look as well.
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