Normally we don’t review applications priced over $10, but I constantly run into computer users who don’t use a text expansion program, though they do a significant amount of typing. I shake my head in wonder, because text expansion programs are such huge time savers when it comes to typing.
The three leading text expansion programs for the Mac are TextExpander 4.0 ($34.95), TypeIt4Me (currently $19.99), and Typinator ($24.99), the latter of which I use. All three have similar features, but TextExpander is the only one of which is cross-platform with the iOS devices ($4.99) (and it’s the reason I might switch to it.)
This means that the text expansions you create in the Mac version of TextExpander can be synced to say your iPhone version and used for typing expansions on that device. The iOS version of TextExpander works behind the scene with numerous other iOS apps, but unfortunately not the default ones like Apple’s iOS Mail and Notes.
How It Works
If you regularly type on your Mac, you no doubt repeatedly type your name, certain phrases or terminologies, or you may even write similar email responses to customer complaints or questions. Instead of repeatedly typing such content, what you do with a text expansion program is create short abbreviations that trigger and paste assigned text.
So for example when I want to type my name, I simply type “bk”, and the text expansion program immediately replaces that abbreviation with my first name, “Bakari.”
When I request a review app license from a developer, I use a standard three paragraph letter that gets pasted right after I type the words, “reviewyourapp“. When I need to send someone the URL for my MUO author’s page, I simply type “mymuo” and it automatically pastes the URL which is impossible for me to remember.
Notice the abbreviation or triggers I use are unique and not a group of words or letters I would use otherwise, except as text expansion triggers. I have created several hundred text expansions, and I rarely have problems remembering the abbreviations, because I try to create triggers which reflect their assigned expansions as closely as possible. For some abbreviations, you might put a punctuation mark in front of a common associated word to make it easier for to remember.
So for example, you might use “,address” to expand the office address, and “;address” for your home address. Check out this article for other tips about creating abbreviations and word groupings.
While it does take extra time to input expansions and triggers, you gain back literally hours of typing time as your list of often used your phrases, addresses and other boilerplates are automatically typed for you. TextExpander even gives you a statistical breakdown of how many snippets it has expanded, and the amount of hours it has saved for you in words per minute.
As as you start building your snippet library, TextExpander includes a feature for filling out forms and standard letters. So for example, if you have a basic reply letter for customer complaints, you can create an expansion of the form letter to be triggered by of course an abbreviation or group of words.
But on top of that, TextExpander enables you to set up multiple options for fill-in snippets, such as the current date, time, keyword, current item on your clipboard, or even a pop-up menu of pre-typed words or phrases, that might be unique input for your form letter. Note: I didn’t request a review copy of TextExpander to write this review.
With TextExpander you’re not limited to just words; you can also create snippets for pictures and other files.
TextExpander enables you to organize your snippets into folders, and you can even set up groups of expansions to work only in particular applications. So for example, you may have a group of expansions that only work in iPhoto or iMovie.
In the Preferences of TextExpander you can create or make use of existing keyboard shortcuts for quickly creating new snippets, snippets from a selection or from the clipboard, as well as enable and disable TextExpander. As your snippet library grows you want to use the search hotkey for helping you locate abbreviations and snippets you haven’t used in a while.
If you’re new to this type of technology, a program like TextExpander may feel a little too advanced. But out of all the Mac programs I recommend to beginning Mac users, TextExpander or a similar program is right at the top of the list. If you are looking for the best programs to install on your Mac, look no further than our Best Mac Apps page.
Purchase TextExpander from the Mac App Store, or download a free trial and see how much time you save. If you have never seen it in action, you’ll spend the first day at least playing with it like a new toy. Let us know what you think.