If you spend a lot of time working at a computer, you might notice that you spend a lot of time typing the same phrases over and over again.
Annoying, isn’t it? Thankfully, tools exist that allow you to write reports and finish documents in record time by converting sentences and phrases into short, succinct abbreviations.
One of these is called PhraseExpander 4, by NagarSoft. It promises to make data entry easy, fast and accurate for doctors and customer care specialists. This package unashamedly targets these sectors, and is unambiguously an enterprise package. But, as consumers, is it worth your time? I think so. Read on for why this package will enhance your productivity.
‘… But I’m sure you’ve written about something like PhraseExpander before’
Good eye. Yes, we’ve previously covered a text expansion tool called Breevy. It’s similar to PhraseExpander 4, in that it allows you to create sentences and phrases from short acronyms or synonyms.
With that said, there are a few major differences between PhraseExpander and Breevy.
- PhraseExpander offers suggestions for abbreviations (and their translations) whilst you write. This is different to Breevy, which requires you to memorize the abbreviation and then press ‘tab’.
- PhraseExpander has a hugely collaborative focus. Collections of phrases (known as glossaries) can be easily shared between users of the software, which is ideal for large-scale installations in enterprise environments.
- PhraseExpander also costs more than Breevy. A license for the standard sets you back about $59, whilst the professional version comes with a $149 price tag. Meanwhile, Breevy only costs $35.
We have tested PhraseExpander as early as 2012, back when it was a different beast. My colleague Joel Lee was enamored with it, saying ‘I’ve never seen a program like this. After only one week with PhraseExpander, my productivity has increased and I’ve saved a ton of time on typing.’
For this article I could test the professional version. This differs from the standard edition, as it comes with an integrated spell checker, enhanced suggestions, better customization of phrases, as well as improved interoperability with Microsoft Excel and allowing the importation of phrases of third-party datasources served from CSV files.
‘… Okay, sounds sweet. Now show me how it works’
The core of the PhraseExpander operation is also where you add, manage and update definitions. These can be grouped into logical selections and managed from here.
To create a phrase, you double click and create what’s called a ‘short’. This is the abbreviation that you type in order to form the phrase you define. Then, you define the ‘hint’. Confusingly, this is the term used to describe the expanded phrase.
Managing your glossary is easy. You can delete duplicate definitions in each of your glossaries with the press of a button. You can also prioritize glossaries based upon the context in which you will use them.
So, how would you use that? As a technology journalist, I might find myself writing about Apple and Google with some regularity. In pieces about Apple, there might be words and phrases I use on a regular basis (Tim Cook, Macbook Pro, OS X). As a result, when writing an Apple related topic, I would want to see Apple related phrases prioritized over Google phrases.
With that said, it’s possible that I might also need to discuss Google in these articles. With that in mind, I don’t want to remove Google related phrases from the suggestions PhraseExpander gives me. By prioritizing Apple phrases, I can ensure that the most relevant phrases to me are present in my suggestions, whilst ensuring that other ones aren’t removed. Handy, right?
Another distinguishing feature of PhraseExpander is the ability to apply formatting to the text that gets outputted. As expected, you can underline, bold and italicize text. What wasn’t expected was the ability to add images, tables and change the line spacing.
It’s also worth adding that PhraseExpander is hardly a performance-hungry beast. It ticks along quite happily consuming only around 35MB of RAM, and causes virtually no slowdown.
Using PhraseExpander is pretty easy. Just start typing the first couple of letters of your abbreviation, and it will start offering suggestions. You can accept the suggestion by pressing any of the shift keys.
PhraseExpander is a polished, refined product that allows you to manage a gallery of phrases. It has a gentle learning curve, is beautifully designed, and is guaranteed to make you a more productive writer. And it will probably help you stave off the debilitating effects of repetitive strain injury (RSI).
PhraseExpander comes with one major downside – it isn’t cheap. However, if you can swallow the $149 cost of buying the package, you will certainly recoup the initial cost of ownership in time saved and increased productivity.
Want to give it a try? You can get a 21 day free trial on PhraseExpander.com
Will you be giving it a try? Let me know. Comments box is below.