Do you spend a fair amount of time on repetitive tasks? For example, retyping the same text, going to the same URLs, or replying to similar email inquiries. Of course, we all do, but we’re just not conscious of it. In this article, I’ll show you how TextExpander can help boost your productivity and reduce errors. And I have a link to save you 20%.
What is TextExpander?
TextExpander is a powerful productivity tool designed to boost efficiency by automatically expanding abbreviations into text snippets. You can create custom shortcuts for frequently used words, sentences, or paragraphs.
Below is a picture from their interactive product demo illustrating how a text expansion works. In this example, I clicked on Scheduling (1). The demo shows the abbreviation or shortcut of ;meet30 (2). Once I type that code into the textbox, TextExpander converts the code to the full text equivalent (3). This is an example of a rich-text snippet with a hyperlink to Calendly.
As a result, you can focus on more important tasks by eliminating the need for tedious typing. Moreover, you can type these codes in many applications. Here are some examples I routinely use:
- send email reminders for upcoming conference calls
- add HTML code to various keyboard commands like Alt
- make special characters and symbols
- send an SMS asking if I can pick up anything at the grocery store
- navigate to URLs
- answer unsolicited link requests
Now, those are just quick examples I regularly use. I merely type a few letters wherever I need the text to expand. It might be Gmail, Microsoft Word, browser address bar, VS code, or my messages app.
How Does TextExpander Work?
TextExpander works by recognizing the abbreviations you type, then replacing them with the associated full-length text. This process is called text expansion, and it can reduce time when typing repetitive or commonly used phrases.
The program’s interface allows you to define shortcuts and group them if you wish. For example, you can see in the image below I like to group mine by function. But the program doesn’t box you in unless you create two snippets with the same abbreviation. The software will color code conflicts.
[A] A list of my groups. The program does split out Personal groups from Public ones.
[B] Suggested Snippets – based on my behavior, the program offers some new snippets for you.
[C] A list of all the snippets in the selected group. I’m in my WordPress group.
[D] The editor area where I built the snippet.
[E] The abbreviation for the snippet. I also have the program prepend my WordPress snippets with a “w”.
Create Snippets Using Different Content Types
While it may not be apparent from my account above, the program can use different content types.
- Plain Text: Use this format for simple expansions without any formatting. It’s ideal for quick responses or standard replies in emails and messages.
- Rich Text: If your response requires bolding, italicizing, bullet points, or other formatting options, use Rich Text snippets to maintain these styles upon expansion. You can also add images and hyperlinks.
Add Functionality with Editing Bar
Like most programs, you can access additional features using the toolbar. Just above the formatting icons, you have a series of toolbar buttons. I’ve outlined the area in red. Each button provides additional capabilities. For example, I used the Fill-in button to create the letters prompt below.
When I execute this shortcut, TextExpander will open a pop-up window where I can enter my “letters”. It will then wrap the entry with the HTML keyboard codes. I could also create a pop-up list that had predefined options I could select.
The additional Editing bar actions include the following:
- Date macros
- Time macros
- Date/Time math
- Keyboard macros
- Cursor macros
- Special characters
I particularly like the keyboard macros. Using that toolbar button, I can append my text with an Enter or Tab key. This is beneficial if I’m working through form fields. Or, I could import my clipboard contents or even nest another snippet. For example, a salesperson could build a proposal and reuse certain data elements like the company name. They could also add fill-ins that allow the rep to add standard verbiage for various features.
Quickly Access Your Snippets Library
Your entire collection of snippets is stored within the app’s library so that they’re always available. Over time, you may accumulate hundreds of these snippets. And while you can assign a group prefix such as “w” for my WordPress entries, sometimes your muscle memory doesn’t kick in.
If you forget an abbreviation, type Ctrl + / to bring up a search bar. For example, in the image below, my partial search yielded two entries from my library matching “grav”.
The program’s search will look within the abbreviation, code, and label description.
Leverage Public Groups
One of the most valuable features of TextExpander is its ability to leverage public groups. You can add these pre-built libraries of text snippets to your collection. The grave accent symbols above came from a public HTML & CSS library. This particular group has 87 snippets.
The public groups available within TextExpander cater to a wide range of users and roles. These cover common spelling corrections and email templates to specialized coding snippets for developers. There’s something for everyone in these public groups.
To access these public groups in TextExpander, navigate to the “Public Groups” section within the app. Then, browse the available selections and click any that piques your interest. Once added to your library, all included snippets will be accessible.
In the listing above, you can see people have created groups to have TextExpander work with other programs like SaneBox and StatNOTE, to name a few. Still, others deal with specific roles such as Customer Support or Recruiting. You can see why companies elect to get a team plan.
One caveat to using a public group is that you’ll subscribe to all the group’s snippets. Sometimes, that can be too many if you want a few, even though they are free. In this case, you can duplicate the snippets you want and put them in your group. From there, you can unsubscribe from the public group. The downside is you’ll miss updates.
Sync Your Snippets Across Devices
With TextExpander, you can sync your snippets across multiple devices. For example, I use both Windows 10 and Windows 11 computers. The last thing I want to do is to build snippets on each device. With my luck, I would duplicate them and assign different abbreviations.
While the software works flawlessly on Windows, I don’t get the full functionality using my Chrome OS notebook and the Chrome extension. I can use shortcuts in applications, just not in the Chrome address bar. According to support, this has more to do with Google’s handling of extensions and restricting the address bar.
Tips for Using TextExpander Effectively
When using TextExpander, it’s best to consider your structure when naming the shortcuts so they are easy to remember and use. Using descriptive names for your shortcuts is also helpful. However, you can resort your snippets by several means. Here are some tips on how you can make the most out of this tool:
Create a Snippet Naming Convention
To ensure consistency and ease of use, develop a simple naming convention for all your text snippets. This will help you quickly locate and utilize them as needed. For example, if you have multiple email signatures, name them “.work,” “.per,” or “.vol” instead of generic terms like “signature-work.”
Also, think about your first letter and the overall abbreviation. This serves two purposes. First, you want something easy to remember but won’t conflict with another word. Some people prefer to start with a character that will never conflict, like a semicolon or period. For example, I used to have an abbreviation, “wra” which was for WordPress Related Articles. It worked fine unless I wrote the word “wrap”.
There are no rules when it comes to naming. I only suggest using something that doesn’t tax you on the keyboard. In other words, the distance between the keys is short, and you’re not using the Shift key to use something like a ~.
Organize Snippets into Groups
TextExpander allows users to group related snippets. Organizing your snippets into logical groups makes it easier to find what you need and helps keep everything tidy within the app.
- Emails: Store canned responses or common phrases used in emails.
- Coding: Keep code-related snippets such as HTML tags or CSS properties.
- Social Media: Save hashtags, mentions, or links frequently used across social platforms.
If you don’t like your groupings, you can always move snippets around.
The primary benefit of using TextExpander is the ability to create text snippets that automatically expand into longer pieces of text when triggered by specific abbreviations or shortcuts. This feature significantly reduces repetitive typing and speeds up workflows.
Versatility Across Platforms and Applications
TextExpander’s versatility extends beyond just plain text expansion; it also supports rich text formatting, enabling users to include formatted content such as bold, italicized, or underlined text within their snippets. In addition, this auto-text expander works seamlessly across multiple platforms like Windows, macOS, iOS devices, and web browsers through its Chrome extension.
Improved Accuracy with Spelling Corrections
In addition to saving time on repetitive typing tasks, TextExpander ensures your writing is accurate by offering built-in spelling corrections for common mistakes – ensuring that your output remains professional.
A side benefit is security. I continually mistyped the Cloudflare domain until I created an abbreviation. The problem is that typo-squatters bought these misspellings and would throw up flashing fake security warnings on my screen. Now I type “xcf” in my address bar to access my Cloudflare account.
Bottom Line & Offer
TextExpander is an invaluable tool for anyone who wants to become more productive and efficient with their software. It can help you reduce errors and streamline your workflow by providing shortcuts that quickly expand into larger pieces of text or code. In addition, the ability to customize prompts for flexibility and leverage public groups for collaboration makes it worth trying out if you still need to do so.
The program is normally $40 per year for individuals. However, since I’m an affiliate, the company offers 20% off the first year bringing the cost down to $32. Team memberships that include employee sharing are also available but at a higher price.
This article contains an affiliate link below, which means that I may earn a small commission if you make a purchase through my recommendation at no additional cost to you. As an affiliate, I only promote products I genuinely believe in and think will benefit readers. My primary goal is to provide valuable and unbiased information, and any earnings generated through affiliate links help support the continued operation of this website.Get 20% of TextExpander