Technology

Introduction to Text Expander

Text Expander introduction

I love to talk to people about how great Text Expander is and how useful it is for everyone, but it’s one of those programs that until you see it in action, you may not really understand how beneficial it can be.

So I decided to start a little series about how I use it, these will just be short posts, with focussed use cases. The first few posts will be for more general use, and later on I’ll show how I use it to help with my web development.

It’s the kind of program that you can start out small with, and then over time add more functionality to it.

With that being said, let’s get started with the introductory lesson!

Note: Smile (the company behind Text Expander) recently released version 6, as a subscription service. My series is based on Text Expander 5, which is a stand alone Mac-only version, still available and fully supported. I don’t need the syncing features or to use it on Windows, so I’m sticking with version 5, it’s $44.95 and worth much more than that!

What Is It?

If you’re reading this article, I assume you are someone who types. And as someone who types, you probably don’t even realize how many times you needlessly type the same things over and over again.

Basically what Text Expander does is allow you to insert frequently used snippets of text, by using shortcut keys that you define. So instead of manually typing out some long (or short!) sequence of text, you can insert it simply by typing a few characters. That’s a very basic description, it can do so much more, but that is its main claim to fame.

In this first post I’ll provide a bit of background on how the program works, and also will help you set up your first snippet. Keep in mind, this isn’t a review of the program or an advanced tutorial, I just want to provide an introduction to using the program. You can go crazy with adding complex variables and scripting, but my examples will generally not include those.

Ok, enough talk, let’s get started!

If you don’t currently own Text Expander, you can download a free trial here.

Once you install Text Expander, you will find a shortcut icon in your menu bar. We will use it to create our first snippet. Something you probably type a lot is your name, so we will use that for our first example.

Just click the Text Expander icon, then Create New Snippet…, type in your name under Snippet Content, type your shortcut keys under Abbreviation, then click Create. That’s all there is to it!

Creating the first shortcut

In the example above, I used the shortcut ‘jjs’ for my name, John Salvino. You can choose whatever shortcut you’d like, I just used that as a example, I’ll have a post later that talks about some tips for choosing good keyboard shortcuts.

Now anytime you need to type your name somewhere, remember to use the shortcut you just created. Keep in mind this works everywhere in your Mac, so filling in a form on the web, creating an email, working on a document, anywhere. So easy!

Example of text expansion

Next Steps

I know you’re thinking, that’s it? Well let me just say, that is the most basic example, I am going to go over many more use cases in future posts. As I said earlier, I just wanted this first post to provide a basic introduction!

Please let me know in the comments below if you have any questions or if you’d like some help setting up Text Expander!

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