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Quickly expand short text snippets into large boilerplate passages, and more.

By March 21, 2010June 6th, 2022No Comments

TextExpander is a wonderful utility (Mac only) that allows you to have short snippets of text that trigger an expansion of that text into a larger chunk of text (this works in any application, or any context). Your imagination is the limit when it comes to thinking of ways to use this, but I’ll give you an example of something I use it for constantly.

My email program has a ‘signature’ function that allows it to paste my signature into an email. The problem is I have to navigate over to invoke it. I’d rather just be able to type a short phrase when I want to include an email signature. So, for example, if I type ‘ssig’ and hit the spacebar it will produce the following text:

Screen shot 2010-03-21 at 2.20.53 PM

You’ll note that it can insert formatted text, as well as graphics (which is what my name ‘Ernie’ is). Now you might ask, why not just do that in the email program? The answer is that application-specific macros are too limiting.  Once you start regularly using any kind of application-specific text-replacement, you’ll quickly find yourself wishing that you could use the text replacement shortcut across all applications. That’s the real power of this tool. You create snippets that work in any context and in any application.

Another snippet I use involves my telephone and fax numbers. If type ‘ccell’ it expands to: ‘(504) 669-5150 (cell).’ If I type ‘ffax’ it expands to: ‘(888) 425-1232 (fax)’.  People are always asking what number they should call me on when they email me to set up a conference call. As I said, there are lots of ways you can use these kinds of short snippets once you start thinking about it.

The latest version added a couple of new features that make this program indispensable. First, it now allows synchronizing of your ‘snippets’ via the cloud service DropBox (see above). So if you use TextExpander on more than one computer, as I do, you can have all of your snippets reflect up-to-the minute changes you make on any of your computers. Not to mention, your valuable snippets are automatically backed up to the cloud.

Perhaps even more enticing is the new feature that allows you to insert chunks of boilerplate text, and then be prompted to enter variable values. I use this for creating my form engagement letter for new clients. Typically, I need to input the ‘client name,’ the ‘client address,’ and a ‘short description of the matter’ I’m representing them on. Sure, I could open a template in my word processing progrm and then replace certain passages, but that’s more cumbersome and tedious.  TextExpander is much faster, and the TextExpander prompt-method assures that I’ll properly fill in each variable.  Why?  Well, because it forces me to look at each and every variable field. Setting this up is not intuitive, but once you figure it out it’s easy to remember and do.  The power of this function cannot be overstated.

You can think of dozens of ways you would use this application once you start to use it. And once you do you’ll consider its price of $35 to be ridiculously inexpensive, especially given how much time (and agony) it saves you.

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