One of my most used and essential automation applications has always been Smile’s automation application, TextExpander (affiliate link). Because I type hundreds and sometimes thousands of words a day, it’s essential to my productivity that I’m not manually typing regularly used snippets of text over and over again.
With my library of over two thousands custom text expansions, TextExpander saves me hours of typing over time, and it also helps me reduce misspelled words, names, and URLs.
Back in 2016, I wrote an article about why I use both TextExpander and Keyboard Maestro for text expansion automation. Since that time, TextExpander, in its sixth version, has received additional useful features that make it even more useful and worth the price of subscription.
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My TextExpander Stats
TextExpander preferences includes a statistical proof of how many snippets of text it has expanded for you and approximately how many hours of typing time it has saved you based on your typing speed and how long you’ve used the application.
Sadly, I’m a pretty slow typist. One a good day, I can type upwards to 40-50 wpm. I would love to punch a 100 wpm, but I can’t think that fast.
But TextExpander increases my typing speed each time I trigger a snippet expansion. So far in writing this paragraph, I have used TextExpander to expand the following words (using the abbreviations in parentheses):
- TextExpander (txp)
- I’ve (ive)
- I’m (,im)
- including (icg)
- parentheses (parath – I always misspell that word)
- writing (wrt)
The above word expansions are 6 out of the 1873 words and snippets of text in my TextExpander library.
Since I started using TextExpander seven years ago, I have expanded 217,355 snippets and over a million characters. And according to the application, I have over time saved 95.49 hours of typing.
But even if I weren’t a slow typist, TextExpander would still come handy for the numerous names, titles, technical words, and email addresses that I can’t seem to keep stored in my mental bandwidth. TextExpander saves me time in remember content that I need while I’m working.
Typically, I use text expansions for the following tasks:
- Email addresses
- Name and titles
- Numerical Years
- Punctuation marks
- Template letters
- Fake text
- Fill-in text
- Accented words
I suspect some people have trouble using a text expansion program because they are not quite sure how to create abbreviations that don’t conflict with their normal typing, or they think they will have trouble remembering the abbreviations they assigned for different snippets of text.
I can see how creating and remembering abbreviations could be challenge especially if you don’t do a lot of typing on a regular basis. But if you’re wanting to use TextExpander or some other text expansion program, here some suggestions I recommend for creating abbreviations:
Abbreviations: Use abbreviations that reflect the spelling of the snippet you want expanded. For example, for my name, I use bk for Bakari, for “MacAutomationTips”, I use mtips, for “Apple Watch” I use apw, and for “however,” I use hw.
Title Abbreviations: Some abbreviations I use are for expanding the title case of a word or name. For example, I type paypal for “PayPal”, popclip for “PopClip”, iftt for “IFTTT”, and racheal for “Rachael”.
Beginning Letters of Long Words: Some words I regularly type are so long that I just use the first few letters of the words for the abbreviations, as long as the first few letters don’t conflict with another abbreviation or actual word. For example, when I type abbr it expands to “abbreviation”, and when I type bettert, it expands to “BetterTouchTool.”
Punctuation Mark Before an Abbreviation: I also sometimes use a comma before an abbreviation especially if the abbreviations will conflict with another abbreviation or a real word. For example, I type ,ht for the hashtag character (#).
One of the reasons I use TextExpander is of its very useful hotkeys which I mainly trigger using Keyboard Maestro and BetterTouchTool. I also use the menu bar utility app, PopClip to select a word or snippet of text and create text expansion. Here’s how it works:
Video demo Using PopClip:
My problem with keyboard shortcuts is I can’t remember most hotkey combinations, and I also prefer to keep my fingers on the main keys when I trigger actions. I also prefer to trigger hotkeys when my hand is on my trackpad.
Because of TextExpander’s hotkeys, I can trigger regularly used actions inline while I type. Let me give you a few examples.
Enabling and Disabling TextExpander
When I need to disable and re-enable TextExpander, instead of lifting my hands off the main keys, I trigger TextExpander’s shortcut Command+Shift+T using what’s called Keyboard Maestro string trigger.
When type the assigned letters, ptx in the macro it triggers the shortcut. Using the string trigger faster than taking my hands off the main keys to type the shortcut, and string trigger is easier to remember. In my mind, ptx is an abbreviation for “pause TextExpander.”
Editing Last Snippet
There are occasions when I have created an TextExpander abbreviation that conflicts with a real world. In those cases I need to edit the abbreviation or delete it from my library.
TextExpander includes a shortcut of editing the Last Expanded Snippet. By default, the shortcut is Command+Option+5. I’m definitely not going to remember that shortcut, because I don’t use it enough. But I do remember my assigned string trigger, esnp (edit snippet.)
Other TextExpander Features
TextExpander has other features that I don’t use, but will particularly useful for collaborative teams and coders. When you install and subscribe to TextExpander, your library is kept and sync via your TextExpander web account which allows for easily sharing groups of snippets.
The web account also makes it easier to keep your TextExpander library synced and updated between your Mac, iOS, and Windows platforms.
You can download public groups of snippets, such as HTML & CSS shortcuts, Star Trek Quotes, Medical Abbreviations, Emoji Flags, Mac Keyboard Symbols, Lettings in Circles, and my very own Any Character Precedes Snippets. You need to be signed into your TextExpander account in oder to select and download public snippets into your library. You can submit a group of unique to the public library. See more about public TextExpander groups in this article.
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