Tag Archives: Text Expander

Research Essentials – Day One

Cross Creek

Day One on the iPad displaying entries for a specific day.

I have been using the Day One app [Mac, iPhone & iPad] for some time as a personal journal. It’s on my iPhone’s home screen so I can quickly capture a moment with the app’s builtin camera function. In addition to date stamping the entry, it also geotags the location and even captures the current weather at the time the entry was created. Best of all, it’s an “archival quality” editor in that it saves everything in plain text using markdown for formatting. I don’t have to worry about my entries becoming unreadable should these apps become obsolete sometime in the future.

While it’s a great personal journal, I’m beginning to discover its versatility makes it useful in any number of ways. Day One provides TextExpander [Mac & iOS] support so I can quickly add repetitive text by typing a simple abbreviation – especially handy when working on an iPhone and very useful for creating research “forms” for use in a journal entry. Here’s an example of a simple research log form template that has been saved as a TextExpander snippet. The pound sign and asterisks are markdown code used to format the plain text files.

Day One journal form

Research template form being saved as a TextExpander snippet.

Combine this with Day One’s email sharing feature and you’ve got the basis for a very nice email correspondence log for your research. Here’s how:

  1. Open a new journal entry in Day One. 
  2. Add a “correspondence” tag and surname tag(s) for this message.
  3. Type and/or use TextExpander to write the body of your message.
  4. Once finished, email the entry.
PDF export of tagged entries on an iPhone.

PDF export of tagged entries on an iPhone.

That’s it. You can use the tags to quickly find all your journal entries associated with them. You can even create a PDF document of journal entries associated with a tag or tags. (Note: this feature is only available on the iOS apps at the moment.)

It’s not just correspondence either. Use your customized research log template in TextExpander to set up a new journal item as a research log entry. Use tags to identify surnames, locations or whatever you’ll need later to collect associated entries. Each entry is created separately, but Day One’s tag and save as PDF feature can pull together a custom log in a matter of seconds. No longer do you need to manage a notebook full of paper log sheets.

Day One supports both iCloud and Dropbox for keeping your journal entries synched across all your devices. Although using Day One for research support will impact the size of your journal files, the plain text format means you aren’t eating up storage space with unnecessary proprietary code.

One last thought. Imagine finding an ancestor’s journal that not only included entries discussing her day-to-day activities, but also included her genealogical research notes. With Day One, you can leave that behind for generations yet to come.

Text Expander Tip

If you’re a Text Expander user and you can’t remember the abbreviation for a snippet you want to use, just click on the Text Expander icon in the menu bar and select that snippet from the quick access menu. The selected snippet will be inserted at the point of your cursor in the active window on your desktop. Yes, it’s that simple.
Text Expander snippet menu.

Typing Tools

Trying to type on the small screen is a challenge at best. Even the large onscreen keyboard found on the iPad can be a frustrating experience at times. That’s where auto-text apps come in. These apps let you set up dictionaries of words, phrases and even paragraphs and assign each a unique abbreviation. Then, when you want to include that phrase in your text, all you do is type the abbreviation and the app takes care of the rest. Because finding the pound sign on a small keyboard can be a challenge, just setting up your most commonly used Twitter hash tags can save a significant amount of time. And where do you think those smart people get their hearts and flowers updates? Once you start using these apps you’ll find all kinds of phrases you use frequently.

These apps help make typing on the small screen less frustrating. And, once you get used to using them, you’ll want them on your desktop too. Here’s a look at some of the auto-typing apps available for you.

Mac and iOS users can take advantage of Text Expander [iOS – $4.99, Mac – $34.99]. Text Expander works in a growing number of apps and can keep your abbreviations dictionary synched between the desktop and mobile versions.

Mac users will also find the free Typinator and TypeIt4Me apps work quite well.

Android users can take advantage of the Smart Keyboard app [trial – free, pro – $2.99]. It is a complete keyboard replacement app that allows you to fully customize your device’s keyboard. One of its many features is a smart dictionary that is used to save commonly used text. Unfortunately, this app is not available in the Amazon or Barnes & Noble app stores.

Windows users aren’t left out either. There’s AutoText [Win – $22.85] and PhraseExpress [Win – free].

As you get comfortable using these auto-typing tools, you’ll be surprised at how many ways you find to put them to use. It’s the tool that keeps on giving.



G-Notes: Essential iPad – Working Apps

First on my list of working apps is Dropbox. In addition to moving ebooks to and from the iPad, Dropbox is quite handy for making work files available between computers and devices. It’s also extremely useful when you are collaborating with others. In addition to installing the free Dropbox on your iPad, you should also install it on your desktop/laptop.

Notebooks screen shot

Next to Dropbox, the app I use the most is Notebooks for iPad [$8.99]. It’s my todo list, research notes, topic ideas, journal and much more. You can share your “books” (an organizational element in Notebooks) and imported documents to your desktop and/or iPhone via wifi using Dropbox or via USB sych using iTunes.

The iWork apps (Pages, Keynote and Numbers) are available in scaled-down versions just for the iPad. Even so, they are impressive applications and at $9.99 each, not a bad deal. While you can save your documents to the free iwork.com site, you cannot open files from there. You can open files from Dropbox and there’s a work-around for saving them using the DropDAV service.

Quickoffice Connect Mobile Suite gives Microsoft Office [$24.99] users the ability to create and edit Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents and includes a file manager that lets you synch files using any number of online platforms including Dropbox and Google Docs.

GoDocs [$3.99] provides full support for Google Docs.

For photo editing, Photogene for iPad [$3.99] is a great option. It provides all the basic editing and adjustment tools you need plus a few goodies added for good measure.

Bloggers using WordPress, LiveJournal and Squarespace have free apps available to help their blogging efforts. The WordPress app is very usable. The BlogPress app [currently on sale at $2.99] works with just about every blog platform and is a very capable app. MacJournal [$5.99] can be used to post to Blogger, LiveJournal, TypePad, WordPress and MobileMe.

If you’re going to do any serious work on your iPad, I would recommend a bluetooth keyboard. There are many options to choose from, but since my Mac’s keyboard works fine with the iPad I haven’t investigated any others. I’m also getting quite good at two-finger typing with the on-screen keyboard and I take full advantage of the Text Expander [$4.99] app with allows me to save phrases and other commonly-used text with assigned abbreviations. Whenever I type the abbreviation, Text Expander replaces it with the full phrase. A growing number of iPad apps support Text Expander. There’s also a desktop version for Mac and you can use Dropbox to keep your phrase library synched on both. Oh, it also supports HTML so you can set up commonly used HTML to quickly drop into a blog post.

I still do most of my writing on my desktop, but I find that I’m frequently carrying draft projects with me to edit whenever I have a few minutes. Once you get comfortable selecting text with your finger, you’ll find the iPad is quite nice for editing. And, because you’re more likely to carry it with you than your laptop, it’s there when you need it.

On our recent trip to California, we only took our iPads. Travel time each way was about 12 hours and we were reading, listening to music, playing games and doing some work. The batteries held up throughout the trip. It was a very pleasant surprise.

Yes, my iPad is more than just a pretty face