PhraseExpress – A Great Alternative Text Replacement Tool

peHead   PhraseExpress   A Great Alternative Text Replacement ToolI wrote about a favorite application of mine called Texter last week. You can see that post here. A lot of readers wrote in asking about alternatives due to the fact that Texter sometimes interferes with people’s systems ““ especially when working with Portuguese and Japanese.

I guess I configured mine properly to stay out of my hair and not interfere with my other applications ““ and I do not work in Japanese, Portuguese or any other language other than English. But when I heard from Tamar Weinberg, she also expressed interest in a Texter alternative text replacement tool and MakeUseOf does not disappoint, so without further ado I bring you Phrase Express Beta 7.0.94 (for Windows). The download is available from their website at PhraseExpress.

For those of you who want to see it in action, there is an animated gif at the bottom of this post.

pe1   PhraseExpress   A Great Alternative Text Replacement Tool


For those of you not familiar with the Texter text replacement tool, Phrase Express is a text replacement solution. It can replace phrases or keywords with canned text. This can be useful for replacing initials with a full signature or addr1 with your full mailing address. Trust you me you will find many uses for this application and it is free for personal use.

Once you arrive at their website you will see several versions – we will be working with the USB version. The network version is very nice with central server files for all workstations ““ but it is not free. So back to the USB version. Download, extract and run the executable to begin.

pe2   PhraseExpress   A Great Alternative Text Replacement Tool

Above you can see the main interface window. You can always bring up this screen by right clicking on the system tray icon and choosing Settings

pe3   PhraseExpress   A Great Alternative Text Replacement Tool

On the interface you can click New Phrase or right click on the system tray and choose New Phrase. You will need to fill in the Autotext, which is what you will type in. The phrase content is what your autotext will be replaced with and the description is to help you easily identify your rules. Make sure the autotext check box is selected on the left and you have options like match case, exact match and match whole word to help prevent accidents.

pe5   PhraseExpress   A Great Alternative Text Replacement Tool

Click OK at the bottom of the screen and you have created your first Phrase Express rule. When you type sig now it will automagically be replace by your signature.

Let’s try some more complex ones now:

pe6   PhraseExpress   A Great Alternative Text Replacement Tool

Now I can replace my initials with my full (real) signature. But that’s not all, this is not a one hit wonder. It can import all of your Microsoft Word autotext rules and bring them into every application by doing the following:

pe7   PhraseExpress   A Great Alternative Text Replacement Tool

Then once the import is complete you will see a new set of rules like so:

pe8   PhraseExpress   A Great Alternative Text Replacement Tool

So now when I type a R with an a after it ““ it will automatically write a Registered symbol like so: ® . It will also prompt you to disable Word’s similar feature so the applications will not be competing.

But there is still more!

pe9   PhraseExpress   A Great Alternative Text Replacement Tool

There are functions that are called macros and they can do tasks when you type in a keyword like to insert the current date, time or both. You can have the clipboard pasted, create an email, open a URL, execute a application, open a file or folder ““ even switch the focus to another application!

pe10   PhraseExpress   A Great Alternative Text Replacement Tool

This text replacement tool is very sweet and it did not interfere with any of my other hotkey programs ““ and as a bonus it works on Windows 7 and Vista!

pex5 ani en thumb   PhraseExpress   A Great Alternative Text Replacement Tool

Do you have another favorite text replacement program that is free? We would love to hear about it in the comments!

The comments were closed because the article is more than 180 days old.

If you have any questions related to what's mentioned in the article or need help with any computer issue, ask it on MakeUseOf Answers—We and our community will be more than happy to help.

28 Comments -

0 votes

Waheed Akhtar

Interesting one. Thanks for sharing

0 votes

Ouchh.com

Nice alternative.

0 votes

Jerry

I use this program every day and boy I tried them all (including texter).

But this one beats the cra** out of the rest and I could not live without it. One of the best utility programs I ever found.

Just wonder why you did not mention the self-learning autocomplete feature? THIS is some real magic in Phrase Express.

Jerry

0 votes

Michael

@Marton: Yes, you can transfer the single data file to another computer: http://manual.phraseexpress.com#location

Alternatively, the dedicated PhraseExpress Network Edition that allows you to share a central phrase file with multiple users in a network: netman.phraseexpress.com

Michael
PhraseExpress Team

phraseexpress.com

P.S.: By the way, we offer free video tutorials for PhraseExpress at text-expander.com

0 votes

Marton

Can I sync my data between multiple computers?

0 votes

Caterina

A nice alternative to Phrase Express is Direct Access
Have a look at it at http://www.nagarsoft.com

0 votes

Marton

it’s not freeware

0 votes

Andrea

DirectAccess is crap. I tried and it crashed so often that I uninstalled before the trial ended.

DirectAccess is a waste of time.

I agree with Karl. PhraseExpress rocks!

Andrea

0 votes

James

DirectAccess??? Holy Sh**, I regret ever trying this buggy junk. In no way is this software an alternative.

James
Dallas, TX

0 votes

Shrad Benji

Tried Direct Access and it crashed my computer. I would not recommend it.

I was looking for a better alternative and found Karls posting. I am now using Phrase Express and it rocks so far. Really cool program.

Shrad

0 votes

Andrew

This is NOT freeware. After a while it wants you to buy a commercial copy even though you are using it for personal use and then even tells you it is watching your system and spotting phrases that are “commercial” and that you have to buy a license or they will get you. This is also spyware too in my opinion. Make Use Of please vet out these softwares more, this is like the third one I have been burned on. The first two were buggy.

0 votes

Michael

Hi Andrew,

PhraseExpress IS free for personal use.

You may hopefully agree that using phrases like “your order” or “including VAT” can be considered commercial use.

Please learn more at http://www.phraseexpress.com/freeware.htm

Of course, PhraseExpress is no spyware. PhraseExpress never transmits your personal information over the internet. The verification is done locally only, based on a internal list of commercial phrases. It would be absurd to believe that a 11+ years old, offically registered German company could publish spyware as you suspected. We would have been sued numerous times.

Michael
PhraseExpress Team

0 votes

Gary

Sorry, but I hate Phrase Express. I used this supposedly free program for less than two weeks before it started demanding $50 for the Pro version. The reason why Phrase Express is the only company on earth that uses this approach is that no one else is that obnoxious.

0 votes

Svent

Gary, amazing how upset you are for something you have not paid a dime. You should ask for a refund.

Svent

PS. Somehow you smell like a cheesy competitor.

0 votes

Stefen

PhraseExpress’s “free for personal use” is deceptive. I recommend a good alternative Typing Assistant.

http://www.sumitsoft.com

0 votes

Paul

What ridiculous spam attempt.

0 votes

James

Hey, Sumitsoft spammer, you are a bit late.

Make better software. Then you do not need to use such desperate “marketing” schemes.

James
Dallas, TX

0 votes

Stefen

Oh no. I just recommend a similar tool that I like, can’t I? I tried Typing Assistant, Type Booster, Breevy, as weel as PhraseExpress. I just select my favorite one.

0 votes

Paul

This must be a lie for several reasons:

1. Typing Assistant is by far the worst of all programs you mentioned.

2. You spam your lousy software under different fake accounts whereever Phrase Express is mentioned.

3. Why recommending a poor software from a maker who steals from others: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F7EuL_nNN1Y

Paul

0 votes

Stefen

I am a common user of Typing Assistant, just tell my truth. Perhaps everyone can see who spam under different fake name.

User will draw his own conclusion after tried each one, isn’t it? I just provide more candidates for others. It is a pity to waste my time here, bye.

0 votes

SB

I’ve installed PhraseExpress after reading about it in Makeuseof while looking for an automation/macro type tool/program.

I was evaluating a few choices, and PhraseExpress was one of them.

Background:
I use it on my home computer, which I use occasionally to handle work-related stuff like emails, form submissions, etc. Which sometimes are unavoidable since it might be urgent, or less of an hassle to open up my work laptop just to reply an email, etc.

I mainly use it to replace commonly used text/chunks of text, etc from one language to another, eg. English to Korean, English to Chinese, English to Japanese, etc. This saves me time since I do not have to switch IME to type those, and a short english shortcut phrase will auto-substitute it for me.

The macro option is an added bonus, which most probably separates it from other ‘text-replacement’ type program.

I am not sure how the program works, I guess by spying/keylogging your actions on the PC, but it will trigger a popup box that cannot be closed until about 3 seconds later. The popup box is in relation to how the program believes that it is being used for commercial and requires you to purchase a copy instead.

I am fine with the popup box actually, since it was stated on their website it is only free for personal use. But as with winzip (which also do the same thing, popping up a box which you can close after a few seconds prompting you to purchase the copy), it should be labelled shareware, and not truly freeware. But it is my personal opinion.

Another reason why I was fine with the popup was because to me, I am still evaluating the program. Evaluating this type of program takes at least a few days to a week, to see if it is indeed productive to use this tool on a regular basis, as oppose to using other tools. If at the end, I am happy with the program, and decide to choose to use it longterm, I will purchase it.

In the end, I decided to uninstall it, to try other alternatives before making up my mind if PhraseExpress is the one. (I understand it is not compulsory to uninstall it to try others, but it is my habit to uninstall stuff that I am evaluating)

The uninstall process ended with my browser being launched automatically, to PhraseExpress site with a survey form asking for feedback on why I uninstall their program.

I did fill up the form, and stated my reason, but what happen next actually close the lid on me ever considering this program.

After submitting the feedback form, the PhraseExpress site redirected to a page that states something like:

“Thank you! We have received your feedback.
Commercial use detection

It seems that PhraseExpress has detecteded commercial use on your PC.

Click for more information”

NOTE, this is after I have supposedly uninstall the software.
And this message is being shown on an internet page at their domain. (http://www.phraseexpress.com/…uninstall.php)
Meaning, somehow or another, information from my computer have been transmitted to PhraseExpress site via the internet without my knowledge.

Spyware is a subjective term, in my case, not knowing where and when and what information have been transmitted is scary.

And also the fact that after uninstalling the software, the PhraseExpress site can still do “detection”, means that the uninstallation did not remove all PhraseExpress files, and I am not sure what hidden files have PhraseExpress hide away in my computer.

This is not a comment/post review to bash PhraseExpress. It is just my honest opinion after evaluating it.
(Note to PhraseExpress: It might be necessary to keep your list of commercial words hidden, but at the very least inform the user which phrase/words trigger the commercial detection box. At least the user can choose to eliminate that phrase/words from their usage to abide the personal use rule)

Anyway, the current program I am evaluating is AutoHotKey (which Texter is based upon). It is freeware, open source, and can do all the things PhraseExpress do, and more I think.
I am evaluating with the Unicode version to allow me to use all my language based text-substitution.
Though it is more for advanced users than novice users. (Or at least users that are willing to read simple beginner tutorials)

And with AHK, at least, I do not have to worry about what information is being stored and transmitted on my PC.

0 votes

Michael

@SB: I am not sure whether it makes sense to write a reply to your comment for a couple of reasons:

1. This review about PhraseExpress here is quite old and buried among new postings. Too often, the people commenting on aged postings like this here are just jealous competitors, scanning the web for competitor’s product names and writing “Try this alternative xyz”, etc.

2. Bonus points for your anonymity while making false statements and insulting accusations.

3. It is needless to say that our registered company, established in 1998 would certainly not exist anymore if we really would offer a malware. This is strictly forbidden and we would be in jail if even trying it. PhraseExpress is available for more than 7 years, major PC magazines have reviewed PhraseExpress and it is used by many hundred thousand users. Do you really believe that we could hide such data transmission?

4. Why not ask us at first before publishing such bold accusation? We gladly help if you have questions about our license policy and clarify any doubt or question you might have.

In short words: Of course, PhraseExpress never transmits personal information over the internet. Period!

> AutoHotKey (..) can do all the things PhraseExpress do, and more I think.

Autohotkey is worth a look if you are interested in advanced scripting/automation but AutoHotKey has only basic text expander capabilities:

* No text formatting
* No support for bitmaps
* No text prediction feature
* No popup menu for phrases with the same Autotext
* Etc…: http://www.phraseexpress.com/features.htm

Michael
PhraseExpress Team

0 votes

SB

Sigh. Michael, please do calm down.
As I said, I am not bashing your software.
If it helps, during my evaluation, PhraseExpress is promising, and I’ve stated that the macro portion is an added bonus.

I posted a comment here because Makeuseof have already been one of the sites I turn to for reviews on tools I might want to use. And it is this review that actually prompted me to give PhraseExpress a try (same with the Texter review this author posted, which prompted me to try Texter and hence found AHK).
This article review is posted about 2 mths ago, I do not think it is OLD in relation to perhaps, 1 or 2 mths ago.
I am not a jealous competitor. I do not sell software of any kinds. I am an IT Consultant who make use of productivity tools to make my life easier.

Maybe if I did not include AHK, you will not be so defensive (or offensive, depending on perspective).

Point number 3 is totally defensive. And I never state your company is a fraud. And I did offer a constructive suggestion on offering more clarity to users. It is an honest opinion coming from me, an end user, after evaluating your software. Whether you take in constructive criticism is beyond my control.

Point number 4. I am merely stating my experience and what I’ve encountered after uninstalling your program. Truthfully. And merely stated my concerns, and worries as a personal opinion. The incident on the uninstall.php page definitely alarmed me as I saw the word “detected on your PC” on a www page. And I copied and pasted the text from the uninstall page so I did not make it up. Maybe you could explain that so I can understand what is going on in the background to spur that message after uninstalling?

“Of course, PhraseExpress never transmits personal information over the internet. Period!”
I believe you!
But besides personal information, is PhraseExpress usage information on my PC considered personal in your perspective?

And lastly, thanks for highlighting the points which PhraseExpress does more than AHK. During my evaluation period, I did not have use for those, so did not really explore those features. For others who needed the formatting, bitmaps (I bought Textexpander for use on my Mac laptop, and it have that too, it is quite cool), text prediction features, of course PhraseExpress is worth a look.

And I did say that AutoHotKey is more for advanced users rather than novice.
In that aspect, PhraseExpress have a better GUI.
But for my use, and due to personal concerns, I am more comfortable using AHK for now.

Michael, if you spent more time explaining than being defensive and lash out at people who comments/write reviews, it will definitely help build up a positive image for your software, as well as help other readers gain more insight and helpful knowledge for your software.

End users are entitled to their opinions/reviews.
But as a company representative/spokesperson online, it will definitely be a big plus if you stop attacking and start being more graceful in your replies. As it does reflect on your company.

0 votes

Michael

> End users are entitled to their opinions/reviews.

There is a difference between sharing personal opinions which is absolutely fine and publishing potentially defamatory statements.

You may understand that we react to defamatory accusations. This is certainly not to “lash out at users” but just to show that we take user’s afraids serious.

No offense intended.

Michael

0 votes

Jason

@Michael. Given your affiliation with PhraseExpress, I suggest you tone down your snark or else give your brand a bad reputation. Personally, I really like what PhraseExpress can do, but the Commercial Use pop-ups are waaaay to annoying to justify using this – even as freeware.

The secret formula used to detect Commercial Use is rubbish. I sign off my emails with “Regards, Jason”…and, when misspelled, the Commercial Use pop-up disrupts my flow 50% of the time. How is that for commercial use???

AHK is the go. End of discussion.

0 votes

Michael

@Jason: I welcome you to this three months old posting.

I understand that you are upset and irritated, but I would like to express my apologies for that; it was not my intentions to do so and I would like to say, I’m sorry.

And it is understandable to see why you would want to stop purchasing PhraseExpress, but I think we can get past this issue, if we can understand the initial problem a little better.

The PhraseExpress team takes every suggestion and feature request seriously. Each submission is recorded and ranked, and depending on the number of requests, determines the priority.

I completely understand your initial issue and request, but right now our developers feel that this is the best way to deploy PhraseExpress to the public. Many people have made similar requests, and we have had many discussions about having a completely ‘freeware’ version, but it hasn’t yet warranted the change. Please do not forget that PhraseExpress is not a hobbyist software and we need to generate income to allow us to provide the quality that last-but-not-least made you use our software.

The freeware policy is explained in detail at http://www.phraseexpress.com/freeware.htm

The commercial use detection dialog is not triggered when you enter a commercial phrase in particular because users could then simply avoid the trigger phrases. PhraseExpress rather generally switches into a mode where it randomly show the commercial use dialog once a commercial use detection has been detected for the first time.

We invite you to send in your phrase file to http://contact.phraseexpress.com and we gladly check it for you free-of-charge.

PhraseExpress values it’s customers very highly and I hope this helps to settle some of your concerns.

If you have any questions, please let me know.

Michael
PhraseExpress Team

0 votes

Jason

@Michael – why do you keep harping on people for commenting on an old thread? Do articles on the internet have a shelf life? Should we not continue to discuss and give advice to people considering your product? People are obviously still reading the article or we wouldn’t be here, would we?

It’s laughable that you get so defensive in the face of constructive critism.

0 votes

Michael

Dear Jason,

You are using our software and I offered you additional personal assistance in case you have difficulties to use our software. All at no charge. There is not much more that I could do.

I do not understand why you reply in such upset manner but I thank you sincerely for your constructive criticism. if reading your replies I get a good understanding about an appropriate “tone” of a message you seem to be missing.

Your feedback is very important to me. Thank you for your help.

Michael
PhraseExpress Team