7 Ways to Type Faster with Text Expansion
For those who are unfamiliar, text expansion software allows you to type a few characters (snippets) which automatically expand into longer words, phrases, or paragraphs. The process can be as simple as expanding a few letters into a word or as complex as expanding into a formatted form that can be edited.
For years the two most popular apps for Windows and Mac OS users have been PhraseExpress (Free) and TextExpander ($40/year), respectively. However, recently TextExpander changed their licensing terms from a one-time fee to a subscription-based service which caused many people to jump ship. So much so that they had to go back and lower the pricing. For most users, the subscription fee is still overpriced and Atext has proven a more favorable option with a one-time $5 license fee.
Once you download the text expansion app, creating snippets is fairly easy and there are a number of videos as well as preset snippets you can download. Therefore, rather than going through the setup process, I'll explain the various ways I use text expansion on a daily basis:
Email signature - I have four different email signatures which I use for school, work, and personal accounts. Instead of setting up separate signatures for each account, I simply type 'sig1, sig2, sig3...' at the end of the email and it expands into a full email signature. I prefer this method because I can send work emails from my personal account and personal emails from my work account.
Email addresses and websites for blogging - Running a blog requires constantly linking in the same web addresses so I have created separate shortcuts to expand the web address, email address, and twitter/facebook addresses for The Professional Student.
Common email responses and templates - Since I started running a listserv, I've received repeated requests to join or post information to the group. Rather than retyping a new email each time. I have a snippet (;listserv) which converts into an email thanking them for joining and linking to all of the social media and web sources where they can follow us.
Pasting unformatted text - Often times I quote text from pdfs and websites where the formatting usually doesn't conform with my word document. Thus I created a snippet (;v) to strip the formatting from the text in my clipboard and paste it as plain text.
Data entry - Filling data in excel sheets can be tedious and to alleviate the pain of repeatedly typing the same data over and over again, I created temporary snippets, for things like dates, locations, and other text I find myself using constantly.
Naming files - When I'm editing a word document with a group of people I like to add the date to the file name so we know which document is the most recent. When I rename a document, typing 'dddate' expands into the current date formatted as 'YYYYMMDD_filename'. This saves me time from having to look up the date each time.
Transcription - Many transcription programs have text expansion built-in but since I type my transcripts in Microsoft Word, I prefer to create temporary snippets to include the interviewer/interviewee's last initial, a colon, and tab the cursor to the right (A:__). This little snippet has greatly improved my transcription speed.
These text expansion snippets are fairly simple and most programs can handle tasks that are much more complex.
With a few tweaks in the Settings menu of your mobile device you can also do basic text expansion on your iPhone or your Google keyboard on Android devices for free. For more complex operations, you can download more powerful text expansion apps as well: Texpand (Android) and TypeSnippets (iOS).
How do you use text expansion software? Let me know if you would like to see a video tutorial of how I set up PhraseExpress on my computer.