If you’ve known me for a while, I’ve probably bothered you to use a Text Expansion program. Since my efforts have not yet resulted in many conversions, I’ll try to inspire you here…
These programs help you typing oft-used phrases, correct spelling and can even be smart in the way they help you. In this article I will share the way I use TextExpander, but you can substitute this with a lot of other programs (for some reason, more for the Mac than for Windows). It’s one of the best reasons to use a computer instead of this:
Wth[ What the Hell is Text Expansion
A Text Expansion/replacement system lets you set abbreviations for text that you type. This combination is called a snippet. So, I type the abbreviation, and my ‘special key’, the [ and the computer spits out the right words, numbers or sentences.
Wth[ What the Hell do you need this for?
Well, you don’t need it of course. However, it can help you save quite a bit of time. My simplest example is my name. Whenever I have to type it, I key in mxv[, which expands to “Marnix van de Veen”. That’s 14e[ fourteen characters saved characters saved. If you count pressing the Shift button, it’s even more! By the way, anything italic that ends in [ in this blog post was typed using a snippet. Below are some simple snippets everyone should use in my opionion (text between parentheses is optional) and I’ve used Sherlock as an example:
sh (initials) Sherlock Holmes (full name)
s (first initial) Sherlock (first name)
st (221b) Baker Street Street
pc NW1 6XE Postal code
net (the) Netherlands
3 You know the drill
em e-mail address
iban new way too complicated bank number
kr, Kind regards,
Using these snippets will not only save you time, but also prevent spelling errors. That’s a great start. But… Text Expansion can do more! You can create multi-line snippets, so I can quickly type my e-mail signature sig[:
Marnix van de Veen
+31 6 19 410 888
If the field accepts html, I’ll use sigh[ instead:
<p>Marnix van de Veen<br> <a href="mailto:email@example.com">M@rnix.nl</a><br> +31 6 19 410 888<br> <a href="http://www.rnix.nl">www.rnix.nl</a><br> <a href="http://www.twitter.com/verbal_kint">@verbal_kint</a></p>
See? That will give me nicely formatted html… This works in any program/browser/environment.
You can insert special characters into your snippets. This means when I type kr[, it doesn’t just expand to "Kind regards," , but also inserts a ‘return’, so I’m starting a new paragraph after that. The same goes for tabs, and you can even choose where to put the cursor when you’re finished. So when I have to type a http: etc, I type h[ instead, and get http://www..com/ and my cursor will be inserted at the right place.
TextExpander is smart. Ever need to insert the current date? Just type t[ and you’ll get 6 augustus 2014. Need a different notation?ymd[ gives 2014–08–06. W[ gives me the current week. Atm[ At the moment that’s 32. I can never remember that one.
Most of you know I’m not a coder. I can’t remember html for the life of me! I do most of my typing in Markdown (something for another blogpost), but when I need an html link I type link[, and I’ll get <a href=""></a> with the cursor in between > and < and my clipboard contents pasted in between the "s.
When I start a new motivation letter for a job opening, I type moti[ (en is for English, I have a Dutch snippet as well) and get the following. The cursor is on the line below “Dear Sir/Madam,”. You see the date, multiple lines and cursor positioning.
Utrecht, Augst 6 2014
I’d love to show my skills and enthusiasm in person.
Marnix van de Veen
+31 6 19 410 888
As with all timesaving apps, it’s impossible to implement everything at once. So start simple. What are the things that you type most often? Start with just 5 snippets. My recommendation:
- Your name
- Your company name
- Your personal e-mail address
- Your work e-mail address
See how this works out, and expand from there.
There are many Text Expansion options for the Mac:
- Built-in text replacement. Just go to System Prefererences >[ ➔ Keyboard >[ ➔ Text and you can create simple snippets. No fancy stuff. They sync to your iOS devices over iCloud. A great place to start!
- TextExpander by Smile Software ($34.99). The old guy. You cannot go wrong with this one. Also syncs with an iOS counterpart which will get a lot better with iOS 8.
- TypeIt4Me by Ettore Software ($19.99). Has most of the tricks of TextExpander. No iOS counterpart though.
I haven’t really looked into the Windows side of things, but this Lifehacker post should get you started.
Thats it! Have you got any great snippets I should use? Which of my ‘boring’ tools should I cover next? Let me know in the comments!