Indispensable Mac App: TextExpander

Whether you're willing to admit it or not, I bet that each of us runs into situations where we find ourselves typing the same thing over and over and over again. I do it all the time (form letters, text messages, etc). This is more common in work situations, but it also happen for personal reasons as well. Case in point: on the first day of every month, I send an email to about 10 - 12 people with the same text as I sent the month before (these are reminder emails to gather information from them).

In order to accomplish this task, I have a few options: A) I could manually type the email each month, B) I can take the time to find the previous email, then copy/paste the text, or C) I could use an app to help automate this process. Because I like to be as efficient as possible, I will choose option C. Today, I want to introduce you to one of my favorite apps... "TextExpander".

TextExpander (developed by SmileOnMyMac) is exactly what it sounds like... it looks for key words (technically, strings of text), then replaces that string of text with something a little more meaningful. Here's a very simple example:

I use TextExpander to replace the string of text "hb" with "HaPpY BiRtHdAy, _!! 🎁🎉🎈". The string "hb" will now be automatically changed to "HaPpY BiRtHdAy, _!! 🎁🎉🎈" every time it's typed. I can then go back and replace the underscore with the person's name. The final result with look like this: HaPpY BiRtHdAy, Chuck!! 🎁🎉🎈

That sort of functionality is only the tip of the TexExpander iceberg. One of the more powerful features of TextExpander is the ability to use variables. A variable is a placeholder for information that will be populated in real-time when the text is expanded. In the example above, I can use a variable instead of an underscore. When I expand the text (in other words, when I type "hb"), TextExpander will not only replace the text, but ask me for the recipient's name in the form of a pop-up box (in other words, it will ask me what text to use in place of the variable). Once I have entered the recipient's name, TextExpander will finish expanding the text, including the variable.

Here's a short video showing how this works:

These variables can be in the form of text entered by the user manually at the time the text is expanded, or system information such as date, time, current clipboard contents, etc. TextExpander also allows for the use of tabs, the enter key, etc., making this a very powerful utility.

As you begin to use TextExpander, you will find many, many ways to implement it into your workflow. As you find creative ways to use TexExpander, you may run into a challenge... how to manage all the snippets you're creating. Fortunately, TextExpander allows you to easily manage your snippets into groups, keeping them nicely organized.

TextExpander costs about $35, but is well worth it to me. I highly recommend TextExpander.

Posted on April 8, 2014 and filed under How To, Design, Mac, Opinion.