TextExpander saves keystokes


Spoiler alert! I’m going to give TextExpander a good review. I can’t rate it a best buy because it has a very limited usefulness. But if you write a lot, and don’t mind using a different app for your rough drafts, TextExpander is a must buy.


It’s hard to write a regular blog when pollens are in full bloom in Austin. Technically, we have no allergy season because—with the exception of a short window from just after the 4th of July to the end of the month—some plant, tree or fungus is blowing molds, spores and pollen into the atmosphere in amounts that would cripple most Americans.

It’s part of the weird in Austin that will never change. They may take away the Armadillo (oh wait, they did), Barton Springs where the water is 69 degrees year round (oh, wait, they’re trying), and Hippie Hollow with nude swimming and sunbathing (that will probably never happen). But the pollen will never go away.

It’s thick too. During ragweed season in the fall, and cedar season in January, you can knock the pollen and spores around with baseball bats. Every fall and winter the DEA descends on Austin because the pharmacies sell so much Sudafed they’re convinced South Congress is lined with meth labs. You can’t see the suckers but they plug your nose and lungs so effectively you feel like you’ve been smoking four packs a day for sixty years. And that’s when you’re in your twenties and the allergies haven’t broken down your tolerance.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Austin. You just have to realize that for every night club like Stubbs or Antoine’s, there’s an allergy clinic just down the street waiting to administer your monthly allergy shots.

In the meantime, I’ve been sidelined by ragweed for the last few days, which means I’m barely keeping up with the blog. Believe it or not, it’s hard to be brilliant when your head is swollen the size of a pumpkin and breathing feels like sucking salt water through half a dozen towels.

As a consequence, I need an app that will do my work for me so that my brain doesn’t have to transmit any more neurons through pollen incrusted synapses than necessary. Surprisingly, there is a perfect little app for that, called TextExpander.

TextExpander works as an adjunct to other text based apps. It works similar to abbreviations in Microsoft Word. You can assign a shortcut type string to any block of text and TextExpander will use replace the shortcut string with the longer text. So if you want to insert a second email address and cell number into an email in addition to your signature, you simply need to type something like “sig2” and the longer text string string appears in its place.

You can define as many strings as you want, and you can even keep them in separate categories. I still haven’t figured out why you would want more than one category since they all get recognized by the same source. Perhaps to make it easier to keep track of multiple abbreviations, I suppose. But you can sort them if you want too.

TextExpander provides an incredibly simple and usable interface. You simply click the add (+) button, and a new window opens, allowing you to create the clip and shortcut. Once you create your clips you can share them with other users or your desktop over the local network. The clips are fully compatible with TextExpander for the Macintosh.

The interface is extremely elegant and simple.
In fact this is pretty much all there is.

TextExpander also provides a control panel window allowing you to tweak the settings. Among the most useful I’ve found is the ability to disable autocorrect while you’re entering text (the iPad loves to replace your custom shortcuts with real words) and the ability to ignore capitalization, which helps when you’re typing with the virtual keyboard (and discover it capitalizes your shortcut strings).

I actually find it easier to compose HTML code with TextExpander and a simple text processor than to use the HTML editing programs floating around for the iPad. I still have to copy and paste the code into a web editor to preview it, but it’s a small price to pay for the convenience of creating shortcuts for HTML commands.

This really pays off with blog editors such as Blogpress that combine plain text with HTML. I’ve discovered that the convenience of using TextExpander with a simple text program such as My Writing Nook outweighs the extra effort I need to make to copy and paste the finished draft into Office or Pages.

There is a catch, of course. TextExpander doesn’t work with major word processing apps such as Office2 HD or Pages. This means that if it doesn’t work with one of the apps you already own, you will need to download and pay for one that does pair with it. I thought it was worth the extra purchase as well as the extra effort.

Surprisingly, TextExpander can be used with a number of texting and tweeting apps. Now, I’m not big on texting and tweeting, but this doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. Wouldn’t texters and tweeters want TextCompressor? Isn’t the idea to convert, “You’re so hot I have to ask you out” to something like “U boil! ume hng?”

Since I need my text expanded, however, I’m sticking with TextExpander. I no longer have to work with template drafts and copy and paste the HTML code for pics and captions or to plug Siamese Rescue, my wife’s wonderful rescue group to which Jenny Manytoes owes her life. In fact, when I’m ready to close, I simply type “jm” then move the cursor down one line and type “mb/” (six little keystrokes) and I get everything that follows:

Jenny Manytoes rates APP NAME HERE1

Jenny Manytoes would make biscuits all over APP NAME HERE.

The Jenny Manytoes Rating System

Jenny Manytoes, our polydactyl cat
  • When Jenny makes biscuits on a product she thinks she’s in heaven.
  • When Jenny purrs over a product she’s very happy.
  • When Jenny naps next to a product it’s okay with her.
  • When Jenny bunches her tail she can live with a product, but she has higher expectations.
  • When Jenny leaves it in the litter box….I don’t think I need to explain this one.

1I would have to replace “APP NAME HERE” with “TextExpander” and change the actual rating, but you get the idea.back

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About Phillip T Stephens

Phillip T. Stephens disappeared into the Bermuda Triangle twenty years before he was born, creating a time travel paradox so confusing it remains unspoken between physicists and sci-fi writers to this day. Follow @stephens_pt
This entry was posted in 5 Stars - Biscuits, Bloggjng, Utilities and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to TextExpander saves keystokes

  1. Pingback: iA Writer sheds flesh for strong bones | iPad Envy

  2. Robin says:

    Thanks for sharing this indept review of textexpander and the otherone about Writer.

    Looking to get the best out of my ipad for writing, already have the apple bluetooth keyboard and was wondering if you still have the extra keyboard functions in the writer app if you connect it.

    Keep up the good reviews.

    • You should have all the keyboard shortened supported by iPad. I’m not sure they’re all that necessary with TextExpander except for undo and redo, and undo doesn’t work once you save the entry.

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