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text expansion tipsIn a recent article, I reviewed a free text expansion program called DashExpanders that automatically types designated words, phrases, sentences, or entire paragraphs, based on an assigned abbreviation. So for example, if I type “bkc”, the text expansion program I use will replace it with my full name. For every article I write, I use at least a dozen text expansions to speed up the process. I use text expansions for words, names, and phrases I type frequently.

In addition to DashExpander, there are several other text expansion programs, including TextExpander, TypeIt4Me, Typinator (which is what I use) Swift Keys and FastFox, for both Mac and PC users. All of these programs work pretty much the same way, so in this article I will share some of my favorite text expansion Mac tips and strategies. I invite other text expander users to share their own tips in the comments section below.

Screen shot 2011 09 26 at 11 30 10 AM

Abbreviation Basics

When you assign an abbreviation to a word, phrase, or longer piece of text, you most likely want that abbreviation to represent as close as possible the word or snippet it will replace. So if your snippet is a template thank you letter, the abbreviation might be “tty”. For this article, I’m using the word “abbreviation” a lot, so the expansion I assigned is “abbt”.

text expansion tips

You can create thousands of abbreviations like these without them interrupting your regular typing. Your text expansion utility should let you know if the abbreviation you’re using is already taken. Sometimes it’s a good idea to go through and delete abbreviations and snippets you no longer use.

how to expand text

So now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s look at some other ways to use text expansions.

Short Abbreviations


If you use contractions in your writing, you can save a few keystrokes by setting up expansions for words like “can’t,” “don’t,” and “I’ll”. To save the trouble of typing the apostrophe, the abbreviation for “can’t” can be “cant” which would of course would be replaced by the correct spelling of the word. The same goes for words like “youre,” “theyre,” and “ive”.

how to expand text

In the case of “I’ll”, “Ill” would not be a good abbreviation because the first three letters will conflict with other words like “illustration.” But if your text expansion program has a whole word feature, you can set up the “Ill” abbreviation to expand after those three letters are typed and the space bar is pressed. I do the same thing for the pronoun, “I.” I type a lower case “i” and after I hit the space bar, it changes to uppercase. Call me lazy, but it’s a quick little time saver.


Putting a comma before an abbreviation helps make sure that it doesn’t conflict with regular words you type. For example, you could use “,add” as an abbreviation for your home address, and “,badd,” for your business address. “,date” could be used to expand the current date, if your program includes that feature.

how to expand text


You can easily use expansions to change “pdf” to “PDF,” “osx” to “OS X,” or “dvd” to “DVD,” for example. This saves the trouble of pressing the shift key for these types of abbreviations. One of my favorites is “eg” which turns into “e.g.”.

Name Initials

You can use the initials of someone’s name for their email address, such as “clm” for “” When you need to remember that abbreviation, you simply think about the initials for that person’s name, followed by another letter that represents the server address.

Website URLs

I use “my” as part of the abbreviations for my blogs, social network pages, and other sites I write for. For example, “mymuo” will type the URL for my MUO author page. The same goes for “mytwitter.”

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Misspelled Words

There are some words that I can never remember how to spell. Don’t ask me why, but I can never remember how to spell “convenient” correctly. So I created an expansion snippet that correctly types it for me.

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Programming Codes

If you’re starting to learn and use a programming language like HTML code, you will definitely want to save lots of time by creating snippets for the codes you frequently use.

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Punctuation Marks

Again, call me lazy but every time I use parentheses or double quotes, I know I will have to punch those keys twice. So to avoid the redundancy, I set up a snippet for them. When I type “(“, it automatically expands to “().” In this and other similar expansions, Typinator includes a feature for setting the position of the cursor when an snippet is expanded. So in this case, Typinator puts the cursor between the double parentheses, and I can go ahead and type the text between them.

text expansion tips

If I want to type the “+” sign, I simply use “==” for the expansion, which saves me the trouble of using the shift key.

It may seem like a lot of trouble to set up these abbreviations and snippets, but the more you create, the more you will see a boost in your typing. Another utility program TextExpander includes is a feature that logs just how many keystrokes and time you have saved by using the utility.

So those are my tips. If you have any of your own, please add them in the comments below.

Image Credit Shutterstock

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  1. Vaibhav Vgc
    November 29, 2011 at 12:32 pm

    according to you which is best text expander ? for me its textexpander, because it uses hotkey like [tab] to expand snippets & uses dropbox to sync all our snippets .

    • Bakari Chavanu
      November 29, 2011 at 5:05 pm

      Yes, I agree that TextExpander appears to be the best option, but when I tried in the past it was buggy on my computer. However, it does seem to have some of the most advanced features.

  2. Kristien-harris
    October 23, 2011 at 7:33 pm

    Isn't that just the same as Symbol & Text Substution in System Preferences?

    Looks like the same tool. What are the pro's of this one?

    • Bakari Chavanu
      October 24, 2011 at 1:37 am

      The default text substitution in OS X is not as powerful as third-party programs. That's why I didn't include it. This article, though, just focuses on tips for using text expansion programs.

  3. Matej Kramny
    October 5, 2011 at 6:08 pm

    So which application has been screenshotted? are there any free?

    • Bakari Chavanu
      October 11, 2011 at 8:00 am

      Matej, DashExpander is a free one. You can get it in Mac App Store.