How I'm using TextExpander

I’ve always had a problem remember my TextExpander shortcuts, to the point that I wouldn’t use it at all. (The only way I ever found it useful was if I used very obvious shortcuts, but that ran into its own problems when the shortcuts would expand accidentally) With Version 3, I’ve managed to come up with a workflow that meets my need for memorable shortcuts, and that also takes best advantage of its new features.

The first thing I did was changed the delimiter to only be tab. That’s it. No expansions at the end of words or sentences. This makes it work pretty much like auto-complete shortcuts in many text editors. It also lets me put in extremely obvious expansions, so I remember them. (e.g. “rep” creates an AppleScript repeat block, and now I don’t have to worry about expanding when I want to reference a customer service rep in my script’s comments)

The second thing I did was made similar expansions have the same prefix. So the various repeat block snippets for AppleScript, all begin with “rep”. This lets me take advantage of TextExpander’s new “Suggest Matching Abbreviations” feature to quickly pick from many similar options. So I can type “rep” and hit option-V (you can set the shortcut in TE’s preferences), and I’ll get a nice drop down menu letting me select from among Repeat n Times, Repeat Until x, and Repeat with x in y. (Each of which also have fill-ins to make it even cooler) Of course, I can also just type, say, “repw” to get “repeat with x in y”, but I don’t have to remember it.

The one downside of this approach is that I lose the benefit of auto-correction dictionaries that fix common typos and capitalization errors. But I consider this a small price to pay for my increased productivity.

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Written on April 14, 2010