Type routine text with TextExpander

Type routine text with TextExpander
Mac Tip #391, 01 July 2009

TextExpander Preferences window

TextExpander Preferences window

Do you ever write anything? I bet you do. Even those who spend their days and nights making photos, music or movies need to write the occasional email or funding proposal.

One of the essential pieces of software on my Macs is TextExpander 3 (affiliate link) (US$30, free trial). It types routine, boring bits of text for me 1 and fixes many of my regular typos.

Set up a new macro

After you download and install TextExpander it puts an icon in the Menu Bar. Choose TextExpander Preferences from the icon. System Preferences opens up and quickly switches to the TextExpander Preferences item.

In the TextExpander window you can actually install various ready-made macros, but I want to show you one way to add one of your own.

  1. Click on the Snippets tab to view existing snippets and add your own.
  2. Click the + sign at the bottom of the Snippets column and choose New Snippet from the drop-down menu.
  3. In the Content area on the right type in the (long) text. This is what should appear after the abbreviation has been expanded.
  4. In the Abbreviation area at the bottom type in the abbreviation you want to use. Be careful, and avoid sequences you might regularly type. For example, the abbreviation ple for please respond to this email [blah blah] would have been triggered when I typed the word example earlier. A better trigger might be prtt.

Type standard words and phrases

Every time you type something you probably need to use certain standard words and phrases. Typical examples are the name of your city, street or suburb, your email address, the date, a web page address, captions in your photo album software. Set up TextExpander macros for the ones you use frequently.

I use a lot of macros that create HTML coding for me.

I live in Hataitai, Wellington, a fine suburb, but it has too many ‘t’s, ‘a’s and ‘i’s. So I’ve given up, and let TextExpander handle it. I type htai and it automatically replaces it with Hataitai.

Expand long text

But that’s just one word. Sometimes I need a page or two of ‘dummy’ text. I type lipsum and 450 words of ‘lorem ipsum’ text fill the page. You know it, you’ll have seen it before, it starts like this: Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit…

Alternatively I type lipshort for 60 words of dummy text.

I could just as easily type a whole standard letter or email, web page template, or invoice template.

Typing Expander saves typos

Always typing teh instead of the? Add your regular typo as an abbrveiation and let TextExpander correct it.

Type dates and times

TextExpander has some nice ready-made macros — I type the abbreviations ddate and ttime (spot the doubled letters at the start that allow me to still use the words ‘date’ and ‘time’ without problems), and they expand to the current date and time.


Essential software

As far as I’m concerned TextExpander (or other similar text macro software) is an essential application on any computer. It’s saved me time and sanity, and paid for itself hundreds of times over.

Take the free trial for a spin and see if it helps you. And please, leave a comment below with your experiences.

1 TextExpander on my Macs reports I’ve saved at least 17 hours of work time by using it. It’s expanded 16,630 snippets, and saved me 309,650 characters of typing. That’s more than 2 days work. Impressive!

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  1. Miraz Jordan said:

    Hi Nick,

    it’s been years since I used any other software like this. I’m very happy with TextExpander.

    Probably if you google you’ll find comparisons.

  2. Nick said:

    Have you tried Typinator? I picked it up recently and have liked how it works. Curious if TextExpander has any advantage…?

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