Sometimes in life you discover certain things and quickly wonder how you ever managed without them. If you spend any length of time sitting behind a computer keyboard, this TextExpander review could introduce something that sits firmly in that “indispensable” category.
Regardless of what you do with your computer, you probably find you often type the same things over and over. If you’re applying for jobs, for example, you might repeatedly say things like “You’ll find details of my past work here” or “I look forward to hearing from you.”
In the course of running HomeWorkingClub, there are LOTS of things I have to type more than once per day. Responses to journalists typically include a short personal profile, for example. I also say “Best Wishes, Ben” at least 100 times each day on emails and comments, and reply to many many reader emails, helping people find (often the same) content on my websites.
Typing that same information over and over again is time-consuming and tedious. And that’s why I don’t do it.
What is TextExpander?
TextExpander is a software application that automatically expands preset snippets of text when you type a short abbreviation. It’s available for Windows and MacOS.
Since configuring the software for this TextExpander review, I don’t have to type the strings of text I use repeatedly. When I type “lkfwd,” I get “I look forward to hearing from you” on my screen. When I type “bwb,” I get “Best wishes, Ben.”
But it can go much further than that.
Say, for example, a new reader emails me asking for some articles to help them out as an aspiring writer. I type: “tsu aspring bwb,” and this is what I get:
Now I’d like to emphasise at this point that this isn’t how I reply to every email! If I’m asked specific questions I pride myself on making the effort to answer them personally (so don’t be offended if you’ve received an email like the one above!)
However, as there’s a huge amount of crossover in the things people ask, having “building blocks” of text like this not only saves time, it’s what actually makes it feasible to process the amount of email I do every day.
Uses for TextExpander
Regardless of what you do and what you type, there are likely to be plenty of ways that TextExpander (or a similar product) can speed you up and make you more productive.
In the same way that I don’t reply to every email with the same “boiler-plate” response, it’s a terrible idea just to fire off lots of identical pitches or applications. (Find some pitching tips here). However, even when you’re doing things properly, you will still inevitably say lots of the same things across many of those communications.
All you have to do is work out which things you say repeatedly, set up snippets for them, and you NEVER have to type them in full again.
What this means is that you can churn through MUCH more work MUCH more quickly. It’s a small time saving each time, but it adds up to something truly significant. I really cannot overstate this – I use my text snippets hundreds of times, every single day.
Using TextExpander for Forms
If you find yourself filling out lots of forms on your computer, TextExpander will definitely save you a lot of time. As an example, I sign up for dozens of online accounts each month in order to review software for this site, and join lots of affiliate schemes, most of which want exactly the same information.
It can get really tiresome putting the same things in again and again, but it’s much easier if it’s cut down to just a handful of quick abbreviation snippets. It’s even better if you’re filling out the SAME forms repeatedly, because you can even include tabs in your snippets, allowing to to fill out an entire form in one go!
TextExpander is sold on a subscription model. The standard prices for individual users are $3.33 per month for those who pay annually, and $4.16 per month for those who prefer to pay monthly.
TextExpander also has a team option with considerable extra features for collaborative working. This costs from $7.96 per user, per month, but isn’t the focus of this review.
Like many products, there are discounts available if you have a look for them. For example, if you use this link to sign up, you can get 20% off the annual “Life Hacker” plan. This brings the price down to just $2.66 per month. This, for me, was a “no hesitation” purchase.
There’s also a free trial.
It’s fair to say that some people don’t like paying for software on a subscription basis, but it’s increasingly the way things are done.
I completed my TextExpander review on a Microsoft Surface Laptop running Windows 10, but the solution is also available for the Mac.
You then choose what you want the abbreviation to be, and how the program handles upper and lower case input. One option I’ve seen discussed online is to choose abbreviations in capital letters, then they remain easy to remember, but won’t end up being typed in by accident.
The image below shows an example of one of my snippets. Whenever I need to add this short profile to a document or email, I just type “abme.”
Options and Settings
You may find you don’t need to do much beyond setting up your snippets, but for the purposes of this TextExpander review, I had a good delve into the other settings.
You can control whether a sound effect plays when expanding text, something I like and have left on. You can also fine tune the timings and delays around inserting snippets – something that can prove handy if you need the program to adapt around your typing style. You also have fine control over behaviours around delimiters such as spaces, line breaks and tabs. It is worth working through these settings to get things as perfect as possible.
You can also set up hotkeys to control TextExpander’s own functions, such as creating new snippets. Personally I have no need to change snippets frequently enough to warrant this.
The key thing with any kind of program like this is how well it works. The good news is that TextExpander works almost perfectly. I can flick quickly between programs inserting my text snippets wherever I like, and all in all, using the software speeds up my daily workflow massively. I do seem to have one issue when I try to use a few snippets in quick succession in one of my email programs. The final one often fails to expand, causing me to delete it and type the shortcut letters again – something that’s still far quicker than typing the whole string of text.
While this is an annoyance, I’m reluctant to place the blame entirely at TextExpander’s door. The problem only occurs in that specific program, which has various other reliability issues of its own. It’s a small issue, but one I should point out.
One thing that does deserve a mention is the quality of TechExpander support. While I appreciate that this will all be automated, it’s good to receive emails explaining functionality and helping with the use of the product.
There’s also video tutorials and an extensive online knowledge base. Best of all, it’s easy to find a support contact form, with replies promised within 24 hours, seven days per week.
It’s important to mention that TextExpander is far from the only tool available that can do this kind of stuff. Perhaps you’re already thinking about the AutoComplete functionality in Microsoft Word?
While it’s true that you can achieve similar things, AutoComplete only works in MS Office. The key difference with programs like TextExpander is that they work system-wide. This means your text snippets expand regardless of the program you’re using – so they work in your word processors, your email clients and your web browsers.
TextExpander isn’t the first system-wide solution I’ve tried for this either. I’ve used various programs over the years, including the very competent TypeItForMe for the Mac. Having recently made a (likely temporary) switch to a Microsoft Surface device, I needed an alternative product, which is how I came into contact with TextExpander. In truth, there’s little to choose between them.
TextExpander Review Conclusion
I’ve been using software to speed up my typing for many years, and for many different purposes. I can’t imagine anyone struggling to find a use for such software, and – as I said at the start – it’s the kind of thing you simply MUST have once you’re used to it.
If the idea of something like this is new to you, it’s well worth checking out a free trial and getting into the habit of using it. TextExpander is a good example of this type of software, and you may well find you want to keep using it once you notice the impact it has on your output.
As HomeWorkingClub grows, there’s absolutely no way I’d be able to reply to all of the emails I receive from new readers without something like this. As such, it gets a recommendation from me.
TextExpander Pros and Cons
- Easy to use.
- Saves a HUGE amount of time.
- No impact on system performance.
- Extra handy features for coders.
- Strange glitch with one email program.
- Some may object to a subscription pricing model.
Don’t forget you can get 20% of an annual membership if you access TextExpander using this link.