Book Review: Take Control of TextExpander


Book Review: Take Control of TextExpander
Sunday, 24 July 2011

Until I read Take Control of TextExpander I thought I was an expert user of the software. Now that I’ve found out how much more I could be doing with it I realise I’m just a long-standing user who had quite a bit to learn. Newbie or old-hand: this book will teach you how to really make your Mac do the typing for you.

TextExpander cuts down the typing

See my previous Tips:

I’ve been using TextExpander for such a long time now that certain abbreviations have become second nature. For example, I never type my email address in full, but only ever the letters zmz. That abbreviation expands to miraz@firstbite.co.nz.

I have dozens of such abbreviations.

One piece of work I do for a client regularly requires me to send standard emails to their customers. Each email is several paragraphs long, and many include URLs that may change according to circumstances. Each of these emails types itself out after I input a 2 or 3 letter abbreviation.

TextExpander has saved me at least 40 hours of typing.

TextExpander has saved me at least 40 hours of typing.

TextExpander itself tells me that in the time since I last installed a clean set of preferences for it I’ve saved at least 40 hours of typing. And I probably last restarted the stats around 12 months ago. [Hmmm, shouldn't I be taking those 40 hours as a holiday?]

I think though that in all my years of using TextExpander I have probably never read the manual. That’s why when I noticed Take Control of TextExpander I asked for a review copy. The Take Control books always teach me something I should know. And boy was I right in that thinking!

Take Control of TextExpander

I’m an experienced user of the software so when I received the ebook I first looked at the table of contents and jumped immediately to page 76, Script with Snippets.

TextExpander triggers a timesaving script

Page 76 and following talk about using TextExpander to run AppleScripts — a fairly advanced topic. I use AppleScript extensively in my work and thought this section might have something of interest for me.

Take Control of TextExpander

  • By Michael E. Cohen
  • US$10
  • 93 pages
  • Version 1.0
  • Published Jun 01, 2011
  • 2.0 MB download
  • ISBN: 9781615421374
  • Free sample with Table of Contents, Intro, Quick Start, and section starts.

And indeed the script at the top of Page 77 has already saved me probably 5 minutes per day since I started using it a month or 2 ago. That means my work has been speeded up by several hours, which in turn means I earn more for slightly less work.

Thanks to that 5 line script, working in conjunction with TextExpander, I can now add the URL of the front Safari window to the piece of text I’m writing, simply by typing a couple of letters.

I do this simple thing at least 5 times a day when I write my Tech Universe column for the NZ Herald online. That’s at least 25 times a week I no longer have to switch to Safari, copy the URL, switch back to BBEdit and paste.

Of course, I sometimes also want to grab the URL of the front Safari window when I’m writing an email or developing another article or blog post. This new technique is such a simple thing, yet has a big impact on my work.

Filenames with dates — the easy way

Every day when my Tech Universe column appears online I save it as a PDF with a filename that includes the date. I don’t know why I’d never thought of using TextExpander to enter the filename and current date for me. Previously I had rather laboriously changed the name and typed in the date by hand.

I need a different format for dates in my spreadsheet.

I need a particular format for dates in my spreadsheet. TextExpander can do that easily.

The silly thing is that I do use TextExpander to do some date maths for me. If I need to enter yesterday’s or tomorrow’s date I already have abbreviations set up to do that for me.

date+1 gets me tomorrow’s date, like this: Monday, 1 August 2011. Meanwhile date-1 gets me yesterday: Saturday, 30 July 2011. Can you tell that as I write it’s ddateSunday, 31 July 2011? I could also enter that as tdy31-Jul-11 — which is the format I need in a spreadsheet I work on.

It’s easy to set up any date you like: in 2 weeks time, in 12 months, 2 days ago …

Once again Take Control of TextExpander has saved me perhaps a minute and a great deal of irritation each and every weekday. Page 31, Include Dates and Times, reminded me that I already use TextExpander to help me with dates. Why wasn’t I using this to help me with those filenames?

A minute doesn’t sound like much? One minute per weekday equals around 260 minutes per year — around 4 hours. That’s enough time to watch a movie and grab a coffee afterwards.

It’s a book for newbies too

OK, so as an experienced user of the software I just jumped right in to the middle of the book and was instantly rewarded with timesaving tips I either hadn’t known about or hand’t thought of. Obviously other experienced users of TextExpander are likely to learn something useful too.

But once I’d got over the excitement of playing with these new tools I went back and started reading from the beginning.

A good Label lets you quickly spot the correct abbreviation in a list.

A good Label lets you quickly spot the correct abbreviation in a list.

Cohen has written a book that’s perfect for new users. It takes the reader easily and gently through the process of creating their first expansion and abbreviation. It explains the importance and usefulness of clear labels — something it took me a long time to learn about.

It also shows how to import ready-made groups of expansions, how to share them with others — or just with yourself to use with TextExpander touch on an iPhone or iPad.

The book also explains different ways of working with the program — for example by using the menu icon rather than the window, and of course, how to set the preferences to suit your style of working.

Then there’s the handy Hotkeys that you can set up or ignore as you prefer. Now I’ve discovered it, I frequently use the Hotkey to help find an abbreviation I want to use.

This is essential software and a book to make the most of it

TextExpander itself is one of my most essential apps. Take Control of TextExpander is an invaluable companion whose tips will save you the cost of the book in no time.

If you do any kind of writing on your Mac I urge you to buy both TextExpander and Take Control of TextExpander and then use both. You may save time; you may save money; you’ll almost certainly save both.

Buy the books and software

Products you buy through this site help me fund MacTips. I only do affiliate sales for products I believe in, and usually, have used myself. Please use the affiliate links below to buy these and other Take Control books.

Take Control of TextExpander.    TextExpander.

Buy Take Control of TextExpander.

Buy TextExpander 3.

Buy TextExpander 3 Family Pack.

Take a look at the whole Take Control ebooks catalogue (affiliate link). I do some of my best learning from this series.

If you’ve read this book please tell us in the comments what you thought of it.

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