I’ve loved the idea of text expanders for a long time, tools that allow you to type a short snippet like “;addr” and it instantly converts into a full string (such as your full mailing address).
Over time though, I’m finding it more helpful to use it for specific quick keys rather than expanding larger blocks of text for a few reasons.
Learn to type quickly
If you spend much time at a computer each day, it’s worth taking some time to learn to type more quickly, as the results will save you many hours in the future. Ali Abdaal has a great video about that, which you can see here:
He encourages the use of the 10 Fast Fingers site, which I agree with. Spend some time working on your typing, no matter how fast or slow you are right now.
Tricky product keys
By typing quickly, I have less need for some of the common uses of text expanders. However, I am finding some great benefit to putting license keys and similar items in there.
For example, with virtually every website that we build we include the Akismet (anti-spam) and SEOPress (search engine optimization) plugins. We have developer licenses for each, which requires us to enter a long product key each time (like “a7we3bvn1plqb”). Rather than looking it up, I can just type “k.akismet” or “k.seo” and it autocompletes into the keys for those products.
The other useful one is for my calendar links. We have a booking system that we use that allows us to share a link with people and it let’s them book a free time based on our calendar. It’s a fairly long link, though, so I can just type “c.30” for a 30 minute link or “c.60” for a 60 minute link. I use those a lot, so this is a great time saver.
The key with a text expander is that you don’t have to “fire” it with a special key; it just looks for a precise text snippet and auto-replaces it. This is why I can’t just have “akismet” as my key, as I often type that and don’t want it to be replaced. I prepend it with “k” (for “key”) to make it unique, while keeping it short. Same with the “c” for “calendar” on the other links.
I’m currently using Text Blaze for my expansion, as it’s a Chrome app so it follows me around to my different computers (including Chromebooks).
If you’re on a Mac, I’ve heard wonderful things about Alfred and it’s likely worth giving a shot.
If you already use a text expander, leave a comment below with some of your best use cases for it.