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!

Permanent Beta Day 4


Permanent Beta wants to improve the world with a combination of Arts, Science and Technology. June 30th they organized Permanent Beta Day 4, a day full of presentations, workshops and other exciting stuff. I was there from 9.45 until 21.15 and had a great day. I had no problem keeping myself entertained. There must have been over 50 presenters! My most memorable experience was the day itself. The fact that it’s possible to ‘organize’ an event like this (50 speakers, about 300 visitors) by creating an open invitation and letting everything sort itself out is amazing. What we got for free today was much better than a lot of costly conferences in my opinion. This shows how easy things become when you let them happen. On to the my personal best of #PBDag4.


Alette Baartmans (@AletteBaartmans) wants to change education. By following the money she wants to know how the €,- that we pay for education each year is being spent. Her arguments about innovation in education are as follows:
* It’s impossible to monitor the current state of education. The only things that can be checked are the reports that are generated from the bottom up, not the actueal performance of students.
* Every organization (in education) should answer a few questions, such as (we generated these in the session):
– Why was I instituted? Which goal am I meant to achieve?
– What can I do to make myself superfluous?
* There should be room for experiments in education. If we can’t try new things, how can we improve? Just as important, there should be room for failure in these experiments.
I was already inspired by Alette when she spoke at TEDx Utrecht in April. She has an original concept and might actually change the world!

Helping our Hosts

De Nieuwe Stad/The New City (@DeNieuweStad) hosted the event, for free (€ 0,-). The complex consists of (among other things) an old toothpaste factory. It’s an inspiring environment for a day of knowledge exchange, but I wouldn’t want to work in that factory day and night…

The hosts asked us to help them activate their renters. De Nieuwe Stad is not their project, but that of the inhabitants. They are the ones who should do whatthey want. But how do we get them to realize that they are in charge? We talked about this in the MKBuzz. This was the most interactive session of the day. We advised the entrepeneurs to help their inhabitants create the city they want to live in by:
* Helping them find out what they want to change
* Showing them it’s okay to go and do stuff
* Facilitating sessions to help the inhabitants get to know each other
* Communicating the why of De Nieuwe Stad instead of the what. The why is something people can get behind, while the what is something nobody knows yet.

I hope the founders of De Nieuwe Stad will find our suggestions useful. Good luck!

I don’t know either…

Maarten den Braber (@MdBraber) spoke to us about the creepy side of big data. Maarten was one of the first people in The Netherlands who was into quantified self. Now he’s having doubts… What happens to the data your FitBit/FuelBand/Jawbone Up collects? Who really quit WhatsApp when they were acquired by Facebook? Is it necessary to improve everything? And what is the cost of that improvement?

I really like that Maarten didn’t preach a solution. He only tried to get people to think about the data that they create and share. It’s actually shocking to see the lack of thought about this in a crowd of frontrunners. What about society at large?

Who wants to live forever?

Berend Watchus told us about the quest to live forever. There are actually two kinds of life extension: creating a better life for the 120 years we’re programmed to be alive, or extending life to make it longer. The second group can be divided into two groups again, one that wants to enhance our bodies to live longer, and one that wants to leave our bodies for a digital environment (transhumanism). There are exciting developments:
* Did you know we can regrow fingers using a special powder?
Cryogenics and subsequent reanimation has been succesful on a frog?
* Scientists have transferred memories electronically between rats?
* There are animals that are biologically immortal (this means they don’t die unless there is a trauma?

Fascinating stuff to think about! Would you want to live forever?

If you can’t beat them, use them

Brenno de Winter (@Brenno) was tired of the inadequacy of the Dutch Government when it came to ICT-projects. So, he corralled some public servants from multiple institutions and started doing it another way. Dropbox is insecureopaque and very foreign. Time to build a local alternative that’s localsafe and well tested. Localbox is born. And not just born, but in time and on budget.

According to Brenno, the fact that the government is inadequate when it comes to ICT-projects means we have to do them ourselves. A big problem is the lack of capability when it comes to the supervision tasks the government is supposed to carry out. There is no way for the people to perform the tasks of the CBP for example.

Grass doesn’t grow any faster when you’re pulling it

The last talk I attended was that of Boer (Farmer) Bos (@BoerBos), a recovering business man who decided to take over the farm of his parents after all. A wonderful story about sheeppeople and letting things happen. He reminded me a little of the Dude…

I would like to thank the organisers of Permanent Beta Dag 4 again for their initiative and their enabling of the people to create a wonderful day together. I’ll take the inspiration and try to spread my new enthusiasm.

If you want to read more about the day, head to Twitter and search for #PBDag4.

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?

Quick Google Authenticator tip


Do you use two factor authentication on your Google account? No? You should! 

I have a simple tip. If you use multiple iOS devices, you can install the authenticator on all of them. Have them all with you when you set up, and you’ll have a second device to give you your code when the first one is lost/out for repair like my iPhone was.

Just scan the barcode with both devices before you fill in the confirmation field.

World Travel Gear part I – Bags, Clothes and stuff


Before we left for our world trip, I was planning a post titled: “Ik ga op reis en neem mee” (Dutch for “You go on a trip and you take, a well known cargame). Of course that never finished due to us actually leaving for Asia. However, here we go with much more meaningful information. If you ever find yourself travelling in Asia for a long time, I hope you will (not) bring the following items…


Travelling without a bag is like drinking without a cup. Difficult. That’s why Jacqueline and I planned a packing strategy.


Most of you know that I’ve had some back troubles. That’s why Jacqueline and I both bought a rolling bag that can be transformed into a backpack. We both bought an Osprey Sojourn bag. The 60 L version gives you is spacious, very sturdy and utterly practical. However, in Asia, there is one superfluous function. The backpack system. I have not used it once in our 24 weeks of travel. Jacqueline used it once… Mind you, I’m not saying you can use any old rolling suitcase. Ours have more ground clearance and big sturdy wheels. They’re like Range Rovers without engines! Now I can hear you asking: “I don’t see any rolling suitcases on all those hiking pictures you’ve shown me!” Well, it turns out that you don’t bring your big bags on those hikes. Your operator will arrange for them to make the trip on your own. Instead you use your…


Another place where our packing strategy came in handy is the daypack situation. We brought a small one (10L) to use for small trips or for me on the hikes and a North Face Casimir 32L (Thanks Charly!) for full days together or for Jacqueline to carry during the hikes. Lastly you should put your stuff in small bags and not buy these at Xenos, because those will disintegrate in front of your face… We also brought two Camelbaks. They’re water bladders you put in your daypack. A great way to keep hydrated during the day without the sloshing of a bottle.


Clothes are quite easy, if you’re a dude. Just pack for a week and don’t bring a lot of t-shirts. You can buy those cheap everywhere. If you’re a girl, it gets complicated quickly.;-) Ask Jacqueline. Washing clothes is so cheap I’d travel again just to not have to do it myself!


We bought so called ‘trailrunning shoes’. These are lightweight, quick-drying and have some support and a very grippy outsole. Not for real backpacking, but they turned out to be perfect for the hikes we made. Jacqueline says she has never had shoes that were this comfortable. As for flipflops/sandals, she brought Birkenstocks and I brought sandals. The Birkenstocks lasted three times as long as my Teva / Merrell sandals did (I broke two pairs before we even got to Africa). YMMV.


We both have a prescription, so we brought lenses, glasses and sunglasses.


Bring daily lenses if you use them. No cleaning, no problem when (not if) they get irritated after snorkling, and no fluid to take with you. I know it’s not the most environmentally friendly option. 🙁

Prescription Glasses

For the days when you can’t get out of bed, or are in a city that is really to dusty for living (I’m looking at you, Mandalay). We both have glasses that darken in the sun. This saves you bringing an extra pair.


Buy some cheap ones for your hikes/swimming!


A.K.A. How to fill the rest of your bag. 🙂


When we were doing our shopping at the Bever store in Houten, we asked the sales girl whether we had missed anything. She told us to abolutely bring some hooks with a suction cup. We’re glad we did. No matter how dirty the bathroom, we could always hang our toiletry bags.


Of course you need a multitool (unless you’re going to travel without checking any bags, then you would have to buy a new one after every flight). We got a Leatherman Sidekick. It’s a cheaper model and has pliers with a spring action. It was very useful when we came across a Myanmar family with scooter trouble. I handed the father my tool and after a minute the family of four (!) was on the move on their bike. Of course, the most important tool is on the accessory they give you…

Sleeping bag

No, you don’t need a traditional sleeping bag in Asia. However, a sheet that’s sewn into a bag is perfect for nights in ‘not pristine’ hotels.

First aid kit

Bring one. Also bring the spray on plaster. Very useful in the dusty surroundings.

What we missed

Looking back we’re quite happy with what we did and did not bring. The one thing we would bring next time: a UV based water cleaner like the Steripen. We bought a lot of water bottles, which is a shame considering this option. We had just never heard of it before.

That’s part one of our gear post. Can you guess what the next one will focus on? Read it here!

Talkin’ bout a resolution


It seems like the whole internet is talking about an iPhone with a bigger screen. John Gruber and Marco Arment said there would be two possibilities. Bigger pixels or more pixels. Bigger pixels would indicate the same amount of content, just bigger. That would not seem like a worthwhile endeavor to me. So here I’ll analyze the more content on screen possibility.

More content = more icons

There is one place in the system where there are clear dimensions. This is the organization of the home screen. It is a grid of six by four icons. They are each 120 x 120 pixels with 32 pixels in between and on the outside of the grid. This gets us a 640 x 1136 screen. Adding an extra row and line of icons adds 120 +32 = 152 pixels in both directions. This will get us 792 x 1288 screen.

Pixels to size

An iPhone 5s compared to a version with a 792 x 1288 screen. Visualised by Ys-Brand.

If (big if) the pixel size stays the same (326 ppi) that means the screen will be 2,43″ x 3,95″ and give us a diagonal of 4,64″ and a ratio of 1:1,63. I’ve asked my brother Ysbrand to mock me up an iPhone with the bigger screen. On the left is an original iPhone 5s, and on the right you see a version with the bigger screen (click for a bigger picture).

The phone on the right looks big but manageable to me. I would not be surprised if this turns out to be the solution that Apple uses, but something totally different wouldn’t surprise me either. What do you think?

Personal music history – Dedicated to convergence to streaming


My first technology memory is winning a walkman for a poem I wrote about a carillon that was to be installed in my hometown. I was very interested in the walkman! During my high school years I was known as the kid with the earplugs because I would always be listening to my MiniDisc player.

I think I’ve worn out four portables and I didn’t sell my deck and discs (300) until last year. I still love the system for its elegance, sound quality, durability, portability (for the day) and battery life (ditto). Then one day I got myself a new phone, the Sony Ericsson W550i. It’s still the loudest phone I’ve ever owned and had a very reasonable way of filling its 256 MBs of flash. After that, the MiniDisc player didn’t leave the home anymore. Time to put the CDs that I had copied to MDs into the computer.

To read more about my computer story read my blogpost about my personal computer history. My music habits kept changing though. I went from folders to iTunes and after two more featurephones from Sony Ericsson (W850i and W950i) I decided to write my bachelor thesis on the iPhone. This is the first time I would say a convergence device is better at music than a dedicated music device. The Sony Ericssons were more convenient, but their interfaces were clunky compared to an iPod and exchangeable media were still valid as competition for the small internal storage. My iPhone 3G changed all that. Enough space, easier selection, better search and easier management made it a winner for me compared to any dedicated player.

The last big change was from owning to renting my music. I’ve collected CDs for about 20 years. The first one was by The Beatles, and I have no idea which CD I bought last without it being more about supporting the artist than the music on the disc. You can follow me on if you want to know what I am listening to at the moment.

From a young age, music has been a big part of my life. That is just about the only thing that has never changed. What’s your music history?

iMediacy – The iPhone Revolution

Cover image iMediacy

During the last months of 2008 it was time to finish my Bachelors in Communication and Information Sciences with a 5000 word thesis. I decided to focus my attention on the iPhone. The situation was quite different from the current one. The 3G was the current model and the App Store had launched just a few months earlier. I wanted to explore how a product like the iPhone could have such an impact after being on the market for only a short time. My suspicion was that this would have to do with the interface, which is why I focused on the theories of Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin about remediation, hypermediacy and (transparent) immediacy. Hypermediacy and (transparent) immediacy are usually at odds with each other. Making a product that could have qualities of both could make for a great user experience? was this the secret of the iPhone? My research question was this:

Is the iPhone interface capable of decreasing the tension between immediacy and hypermediacy as defined by Bolter and Grusin?

If you would like an answer to this question, please read my thesis. It won’t take very long and I’ve tried to write in an approachable way. Comments are always welcome.

A headshot of Marnix


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