Tools – Text Expansion


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:

Image: “Selectric II” by Etan J. Tal – Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons –

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. 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
You know the drill
em e-mail address
url homepage
iban new way too complicated bank number
iphone iPhone
kr, Kind regards,

Longer snippets

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=""></a><br>
+31 6 19 410 888<br>
<a href=""></a><br>
<a href="">@m_a_rnix</a></p>

See? That will give me nicely formatted html… This works in any program/browser/environment.

Special characters

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 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  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

Dear Sir/Madam,

I’d love to show my skills and enthusiasm in person.


Marnix van de Veen
+31 6 19 410 888

Getting started

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:

  1. Your name
  2. Your company name
  3. Your personal e-mail address
  4. Your work e-mail address
  5. ?

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!

World Travel Gear part II – Electronics


I find it hard to imagine travelling without all my toys. All the surprises would be lovely, but so is being sure the driver is actually taking you to your hotel…

This is the second part of my Gear post. You can read the first part here.

Electronics on the road

Ahh, electronics for travel. It’s a very nice contradiction. You leave to get away from it all, but you bring your electronics to stay in touch, or make your frenemies jealous when you return. If you’re like me, you want to make photos, triage them, book hotels, create blogposts, navigate and a whole lot more. We used the following stuff.

Camera: Sony DSC-RX100 (three versions by now)

In short: the best camera that you can fit in your jeans pocket. A sensor that’s a lot bigger than those in other cameras makes everything better. Combine it with a f:1.8 wide-angle lens and low light photography, depth of field and dynamic range become best in class. If the best camera is the one you have with you, I’ll happily bring this one. By the way, The Wirecutter agrees with me:

If I could have any point-and-shoot camera under a grand, the one I’d get is the Sony DSC-RX100 II. It’s $750, which puts it in the price range of cheap DSLRs, but make no mistake—this is the best pocketable camera out there for less than $1,000 thanks to its large sensor, fast lens and small size.

There are three versions, all great. Get the one you can afford.


If you bring a small camera, you can also bring a smaller tripod. We haven’t used our gorilla pod often, but when we did it was super nice for selfies and night photography.

Phones and Pads

We’re a pretty Apple-centric household (because of me). We brought our iPhones for navigation, reading, music and hotel booking. The iPad mini got used for triaging photos, reading and exploring TripAdvisor. Which brings me to apps. We couldn’t do without:

  • Content creation
    • Drafts: Where all our blogs started life. Also perfect for writing down those wi-fi passwords.
    • Tumblr: Where all our blogs got published.
    • iPhoto: This made sure we came home with 15000 photos instead of 25000.
  • Exploring
  • Booking
    • Agoda Best prices, but you pay in advance.
    • (and their Tonight app for discounts): 
    • Air Asia, Nok Air, etc.:Flights!
  • Communication
  • Entertainment
    • DS File: Yes, we downloaded complete movies…
    • Spotify: Mister music, will you play?
    • Pocket Casts: News and entertainment for me.
    • Reeder: This has to be the most used app on my phone.
  • Information
    • 1Password: You don’t know what this is? Buy it and let me help you change the way you live.
    • Dropbox: Keeping all of the above together.

It’s surprising how little we used things like and the various weather apps. Usually you’ll deal with the weather when it gets to you…

Sometimes we put the phones into a waterproof case by Lifeproof. The Frē model for the iPhone 5 sucks! It has a vanity window at the back so you can see the Apple logo. After a month, this had fallen out, so no more waterproof joy for me. The version for the 4(s) is fine.


Yes, we brought an electric toothbrush (actually, we brought two!). It will be hard to brush three times a day, so you might as well do a good job of it. It’s a shame all electric toothbrushes are so terribly designed, but that’s a different rant (watch this space).


All Those electronics need a steady stream of electrons to keep them going. That’s why we bought the ‘mother of all chargers’. This is a USB charger with 6(!) ports. Have you got an iDevice with a Lightning port? This device will make your touchscreen feel adventurous, since it becomes wildly inaccurate. Still, it’s a lot better than bringing six chargers… And you can share with fellow travellers!

We also brought a world plug and a triple plug plug of course.

Would we bring it all again? I would, although I’m not sure about Jacqueline…

Have you read read the first part of this blogpost?

Het is tijd voor #Appmashing!


Hoeveel apps heeft de gemiddelde lezer van mijn blog op zijn of haar telefoon? Wat jammer dat al die Apps niet met elkaar praten! Ik wacht al een tijdje op integratie van Shazam in Spotify. Welke apps zou jij graag met elkaar zien praten?

XP gevirtualiseerd in Windows 7


Interessant nieuwtje op Technologizer: Windows 7 kan Windows XP virtualiseren, voor als oude programmatuur onverhoopt niet mocht werken. Erg verstandig van de guys uit Redmond. Wat me echter nog handiger lijkt is als ze dat virtualiseren nog wat verder zouden ontwikkelen, zodat Microsoft legacy support (dat je oude programma’s ook op je nieuwe versie van Windows werken) kan bieden zonder dat het zich vast moet blijven houden aan de antieke opzet van Windows.

A headshot of Marnix


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