How much of your work day do you spend typing the same phrases over and over again? Things like your company’s address or a signature or a boilerplate paragraph in a document. No matter how fleet fingered a typist you are, that repetition wastes time.
This is where a text expansion app can help. These programs let you insert commonly used phrases and other chunks of text using shortcuts so you don’t have to type out every character. While each shortcut may only shave seconds of your work time, it can quickly add up to hours of saved effort over the course of a week.
Text expansion apps use a few basic mechanisms to make typing less tedious:
Snippets: These are the bits and blocks of text you most commonly use. You set these up once and link them to “abbreviations” (see below) that you will use each time you want to paste a snippet in a document.
Abbreviations: You assign these codes—usually just a few characters—to your snippets; you type an abbreviation whenever you want to insert its corresponding snippet into some text. For example, “pcw” for the PCWorld office’s address.
Macros: Unlike snippets, which insert predefined text, macros are codes that pull in dynamic syntax like the current date or time or your clipboard contents.
Delimiters: If you don’t want a text snippet to expand as soon as you type its abbreviation, you can set a delimiter—essentially a trigger key you must press to insert the phrase. A tab, space, or special character is typically used as a delimiter.
There are many text expanders available with a wide array of feature sets. Here are three of our favorites.