Make mobile typing easier with TextExpander

If you use a Mac or iOS device and you don’t use TextExpander [Mac – $34.99, iOS – $4.99], you need to start NOW. This text replacement app allows you to save commonly used words or phrases with an easy to remember abbreviation, then when you type that abbreviation, TextExpander will replace it with the complete phrase. Since typing can be a chore on a mobile device, TextExpander is a must here. For example, to create the hash symbol (used extensively by Twitter users) you must tap thru to a 3rd keyboard to find the character. Set up snippets for your most commonly-used hashtags and you’re saving yourself all kinds of typing frustration. Another Twitter tip . . . I frequently retweet updates from the same users and I like to include their name or blog as the source. I’ve saved snippets for each of the ones I use the most and just type a couple of characters to enter a complete source. Think of what it could do for formal citations . . .

While you might think the price of TextExpander for the Mac is a bit steep, my copy has more than paid for itself. TextExpander snippets can include HTML code as well as text. The Details box you see here is included on every book posted at Moultrie Creek Books. [When was the last time you stopped in for a look?] All I type is “ddetails” and TextExpander enters the HTML code to build the box, types the word DETAILS at the top of it and creates bullets with Author, Publisher and Formats – in less than a  second. All I have to do is fill in the variable information for each book. Other ways I put it to use is to add an appropriate signature block in emails, and add the badge graphics I include on blog posts to identify them as part of a series.

Creating a snippet is easy – just type your text, then copy/paste it into TextExpander and add an abbreviation. If you can’t remember an abbreviation when you need it, just click the TE icon at the top of your Mac’s screen and select it from your collection. You can even organize your collection into groups – something that becomes useful very quickly as you find more and more snippets to add to your collection. And, TextExpander has already created some very useful groups for you. The Autocorrect group has dozens of commonly misspelled words set of as abbreviations for the correctly spelled snippet. There’s also a group of accented words – like fiancé. Just type the word and TextExpander replaces it with the accented version automatically. Last, but not least is the symbols group which gives you things like a copyright © or trademark ™ symbol in the flash of an eye.

You can keep your TextExpander dictionary synched between your desktop and devices using Dropbox. This insures that a snippet created on one device is available on all of them. I’ve found it easier to build snippets on my desktop – even those mostly used on my iPad – and then just wait for everything to sync.

You may be saying to yourself that you can’t think of enough frequently-used snippets to justify the purchase. That was me too. Within a week of purchase, I had four groups of snippets and more than half of them were – and still are – used daily. I keep trying to type those abbreviations on my work computer and find it frustrating that TextExpander isn’t there when I need it. TextExpander is one of those tools that quickly becomes so much a part of your workflow that you wonder how you ever managed without it.