short hand in a digital world

Ever wondered why could there not be a magic wand that let one work directly rather than create the same redundant code again and again, that would be a productivity booster. For text there are templates that house the outline with blanks where one can fill in their details. There are some code blocks that do a similar thing.

Some that recognise the logo above, know where this is heading, SmileOnMyMac has this wonderful tool TextExpander, both in the desktop and the iOS version. However for this review we did not get a copy of the touch version (Apple did not SmileOnMyMac and they ran out of promo codes for the iOS version) In a very few concise words, TextExpander is, as the name suggests a Text Expanding utility. Think of shorthand for the digital world. The idea being similar to MS Word autocorrect, particular text triggers the utility to change that text with a predefined text, so it can be used to correct mistakes, most common ones like "recieve" to "receive" or teh to the. It has pre-defined snippets for HTML, CSS and one can create their own set of snippets, Students working with Chemicals can type in smaller formulas or vice-versa.

One functionality in TextEdit that appealed to us most was that of creating user defined fields in the expansion. More like mailmerge, for those that have not used mail merge, let me explain. Let's say Mr. Bob runs a widget company, everyday his job is to send out quotes to clients. So he has to type the same text over and over again. However some portions of this text would change like the quantity, the terms & conditions, the price and the Name of the client. So let's say Bob set's the text quoteWidget as the trigger text and the correct text to "Dear ___, we are in receipt of your request for ___ numbers of widgets, we can supply you the same at the price of $___. The payment terms for the same would be ___ days. Thank you for your business, sincerely Bob" Now there are blanks, these blanks can be overtyped in the email/document and changed accordingly, but wouldn’t it be fun if it was fixed automatically? TextExpander allows a new type of a field called %fill:VARNAME% this results in poping up a dialog to enter text as in the image below.

This is a very useful and important feature, which helps to fill in details as required. Apart from this there are two other features that are exclusive to TextExpander, one is synchronisation with DropBox or MobileMe and the other being the ability to share the sets of backup with friends and colleagues and even the iOS devices.

TextExpander can not only expand to text, but also formatted text and images apart from using Shell Scripts and Apple Scripts. Imagine complex command line scripts setup to be executed on the commandline to manage or work with servers. The latest update also has the facility to use keystrokes like Enter, Esc, Tab and Return. So combine these and the combination is a deadly arsenal of tools and scripts.

The barrage of features do not end here, when text is expanded, the cursor can be positioned, so for example if an expansion is an html tag and the cursor is at the end of the tag, it is kind of useless as it requires moving the cursor back to in between the tags to edit the contents.

The system variables all start with a % sign, and some of the common system variables are
%key:enter% , %key:esc% , %key:tab% or %key:return%
%< , %> , %^ , %v for cursor key movements
%clipboard for the clipboard

On the iOS side of things, there is the teTouchSDK that allows for integrating textExpander Touch in iOS apps and the sample project has a pre-compiled library with a few expansion keywords, it works quite well. There is also a long list of apps that have integrated TextExpander Touch to work with them. Textastic, one app that we reviewed a while ago integrates with teTouch. However maybe we will get a copy to review and we could let you know how it went.

TextExpander also have a comparison table that lists how Text Expanded compares to it's competition, Typinator (one that we reviewed a while ago) and TypeIt4Me. Text Expander is the most expensive of the lot but then has the maximum number of features, it can register as a service to create snippets from selections or the clipboard. The ability to include Apple Scripts, Date and Time functions, Using Tab, Return and Esc keys, Fill-in-the-blanks snippets and scripting nesting are some of the notable features that do not exist in other apps. These features alone are worth the little extra that one might have to pay for Text Expander.

Text Expander is available for USD $34.95 and with the exchange rates in favour of the AUD, it is available for $33.54 a good time for Aussies to get this.

Software : TextExpander
Version : 3.3
Publisher : SmileOnMyMac LLC
Website :
Twitter : @TextExpander
Platform : Mac OS X (10.6.x or higher)
Demo : also has a 90 day money-back guarantee
Price : $34.95
Store :

And we have a copy of TextExpander for one lucky winner, all you need to do
1. Follow @whatsin4me
2. Retweet the message "Read, follow @whatsin4me and RT this msg. You might win a copy of @TextExpander from #SmileOnMyMac"
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