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(UPDATED AUGUST 1, 2020)
Saving time and effort is one of the best ways to increase productivity. An increase in productivity is one of the most effective ways to increase income. This is especially true for freelancers because for us, time equals money.
If you spend a lot of your working hours on your computer like me, you know that the faster you type, the more you can get done. This is why I was really happy to discover a productivity tool called TextExpander. In this article I’ll tell you exactly how to use TextExpander so you can get more done in less time.
What is TextExpander?
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TextExpander is a productivity tool that helps you type quickly and accurately. It gives you the ability to work faster and earn more money in less time by using abbreviated text snippets in place of full-length text in order to speed up your typing. You can see TextExander at work here.
It is produced by Smile Software, a California company that’s been around for over a decade. It can be used on Mac, Windows, Chrome, iPhone, and iPad.
TextExpander for Freelancers
TextExpander lets you type out short snippets of text in place of longer pieces of text and saves freelancers a lot of time.
I’ve found TextExpander to be a really easy and efficient way to save time and trouble when I’m writing everything from emails to social media posts to this TextExpander review you’re reading right now.
I use TextExpander on my PC and iPhone and am saving an average of six minutes per day according to the TextExpander statistics. Little things really add up.
Working, let’s say, 25 days per month while save 6 minutes a day equals 150 minutes of saved time. That’s 2.5 hours of time saved per month. That is a huge amount of time to save by simply being able to type faster.
Even when you’re not working you can save time using TextExpander snippets to send personal texts, emails and messages.
This productivity tool is easy to use and has many functions. I’ll highlight several of TextExpander’s main functions that I’ve used and that can definitely save you some significant time as a freelancer.
Exactly How to Use TextExpander
Now I will tell you exactly how to use Textpander. To use this productivity tool, you set up words, phrases, sentences and even entire documents that you commonly use as small snippets in the TextExpander app so you don’t have to type these from scratch each time you need to use them.
You also can set up snippets for words and phrases that you commonly misspell. Spell a word correctly just one time in a TextExpander snippet, and it will automatically spell it correctly for you forever.
Each time you insert one of these snippets into letters, reports, emails, text messages, social media posts and even other software applications, the snippet will automatically immediately expand into the correctly spelled and punctuated word, sentence, phrase or document that you designated it as.
You can learn more about TextExpander features here.
Once you’ve installed TextExpander on your computer, you can use it any time. Open the app so you can have it at the ready to look up and create snippets.
To use TextExpander for iPhone, after you download the app, you’ll need to spend a couple of seconds setting up the keyboard in your settings. Now you have a choice of whether to use the TextExpander keyboard or your regular keyboard while you’re on your phone.
On your iPhone you can toggle back and forth between your regular keyboard and the TextExpander keyboard by tapping on the globe icon to the left of your space bar. Now you can insert snippets in anything you type on your phone.
You don’t have to memorize any snippets. Just glance at the TextExpander app while you’re working and you can quickly find the snippet you need.
You can use TextExpander in almost any program – emails, social media, Google docs. If you’re a court reporter or scopist, you can even use TextExpander with Case Catalyst software.
TextExpander comes loaded with snippets for several commonly used expressions. You can either add to these or create all of your own from scratch. I create all of my own.
There are several kinds of snippets that you can create with this tool. The types of snippets I’ll cover in this review are plain text snippets, formatted text snippets, macros, fill-out forms, fill-in fields and nested snippets.
Plain Text Snippets
What is a TextExpander plain text snippet?
A plain text snippet is the most basic kind of snippet you can create. It is simply, as it sounds, an ordinary piece of black on white text that you turn into a snippet so that you don’t have to type it out each time you use it.
I find that plain text snippets are especially time saving when typing Twitter hashtags, and I use them all the time for this. You can learn more about using TextExpander plain text snippets for social media right here.
How to create plain text snippets
You create plain text snippets – and all snippets – in the TextExpander app by clicking New Snippet in the top left of the screen and typing your content in the box.
When you’re finished, you need to name the snippet by giving it an abbreviation. I find that the best abbreviations for my snippets are the first several letters of the snippet’s main words with the first letter repeated twice.
For example, in writing this review you’re reading right now I’ve used the abbreviation hhowsnip several times. I created this snippet because I was typing “how to create a snippet” frequently. I decided to turn that phrase into a snippet to save time. Now each time I want to use that phrase, I save several seconds by typing the abbreviation instead.
In other words…
I type this abbreviation: hhowsnip
and this text appears : how to create a snippet
Formatted Text Snippets
What is a TextExpander formatted text snippet?
A formatted text snippet is a snippet that may contain bolding, italicizing, underlining and other formatting as well as hyperlinks and photos.
How to create formatted text snippets
After clicking New Snippet in the Content bar at the top of the TextExpander app, select Formatted Text, Pictures. A new toolbar will appear, giving you options to add special formatting to dress up your content.
If you’re, let’s say, a blogger who’s constantly introducing yourself in emails, instead of typing out your introduction from scratch each and every time, create a nice formatted text snippet for it.
If you want to link to your website in that snippet, use the link icon on the far right of the toolbar. Now rather than pulling up your site and copying and pasting the link, you’ll spend one second typing the snippet.
I did this and now when I type the snippet ssablowof, this appears:
My name is Sabina, and I own a website called World of Freelancers.
The TextExpander app also allows you to assign snippets to photos using formatted text snippets. Create a snippet for photos you commonly use and instead of spending at least one minute searching for and uploading a photo, you’ll spend one second typing the snippet.
What is a TextExpander macro?
A TextExpander macro is a piece of information that changes with time and that you need to be accurate and updated every time you use it, such as the current date or time.
How to create macros
You can see in the above screenshot that to create a macro here, you simply choose Plain Text for the content type, then click on the first drop down menu on the left top of the Content box.
Select whatever format of year, month and date that you wish to use. Place spaces, commas, or slashes in between each as appropriate. Label it if you wish and give it a good short abbreviation. Then you will have your current date macro all set up.
What is a TextExpander fill-out form?
With fill-out forms, TextExpander can use the tab key and actually tab through documents for you. Using this function you can set up a snippet to write out an email subject line, tab down to the email body and fill that out too.
Fill-out forms also can tab all the way through and fill out your name, address and other personal information when you need to fill out an online form. If you’re someone who has disabled autofill on your computer due to security concerns, you’ll find fill-out forms quite handy.
How to create fill-out forms
This is a bit of a complex function. You can get an in-depth look at TextExpander fill-out forms, including short instructional videos, right here.
What is a TextExpander fill-in field?
Fill-in fields are fields that you add to snippets so that you can quickly and easily turn boilerplate text into customized text.
How to create fill-in fields
To create a fill-in field, click New Snippet and type your content, except for the part which will change from document to document. For the parts that may change, add a fill-in field instead of regular text.
In the above screenshot you’ll see that the Fill-ins dropdown on the editing bar has the options single line field, multi-line field, optional section, popup menu and show at top.
You’ll probably most often want to use the single line field to create your fill-in. Click that option and give that field a name. For example, for a person’s name you can use simply “name.” For a date, you can use simply “date.”
You’ll also see in the above screenshot that I included Return at the end of each line (by using the fourth drop down to the left in the toolbar) to create line breaks. I also included a regular plain text snippet at the end for the phrase “thank you very much. “
When you’re finished, give the snippet you’ve just created an abbreviation like you do all of your other snippets.
When you later type out the abbreviation for this document, a popup will appear for each of the fill-in fields that you created so you can insert the text you wish, as you can see below.
Fill in these fields, hit OK, and your nested snippet will appear in your document with the fields filled in as you just designated. For example:
Hi Ms. Lee,
I’m following up to see if you’ve read the article I sent you on October 15, How to Use TextExpander. Will you please let me know if you’re interested in publishing this in TextExpander Magazine?
Thank you very much.
What is a nested snippet?
A nested snippet is a snippet inside of another snippet. With this function you can use a snippet in more than one place without having to type it or even its abbreviation again. And if the information contained in that snippet changes, you just change it in that snippet one time rather than changing it in all the documents in which it appears.
How to create nested snippets
When you’re writing in the TextExpander app and you want to include a snippet you’ve already created, you’ll nest it by simply using the Insert Snippet function in the toolbar drop down menu.
For example, if you’re a freelance writer who likes to tailor your pitches using slightly different variations of your writing experience based on the publication you’re targeting, you can create a snippet for each variation. Then when you’re writing your pitch, rather than typing out everything you want to say about your previous writing experience, just quickly type in the snippet with the version you want to use in that particular case.
You can do a lot more with TextExpander than I’ve detailed in this review. If you want even more information, you can read more about TextExpander features right here.
If you find that a function in TextExpander stops working correctly, try signing out and signing back in.
If that doesn’t fix the issue, you can contact TextExpander support. I contacted them with a couple of questions and they responded within a few hours. They’re professional and helpful and told me how to fix the issues I had questions about. You can contact them through the help function on the app or by email at support[at]smilesoftware.com.
The more I’ve gotten to know TextExpander, the more I like it and the more functions I use. You really can save a ton of time with this productivity app.
TextExpander has three different plans. The Lifehacker plan is perfect for freelancers. The Team plan is perfect for small businesses. You will receive a free 30-day trial on either plan here.
Right now, you can grab the LifeHacker plan for for 20% off here.
You can use TextExpander on all of your compatible devices – Mac, Windows, iPhone, iPad as well as Chrome. With the Lifehacker plan you will have unlimited usage.
For freelancers, time is money. The more time you save, the more money you can earn and the more free time you can enjoy.
I’ve made TextExpander a permanent addition to my online tools as it is truly an excellent way to save time and effort on the computer. You can get 20% off the TextExpander LifeHacker, plan perfect for freelancers, here.
Sabina Lohr is a lifelong freelancer turned entrepreneur who created World of Freelancers to help others discover how to work for themselves online and live the freelance lifestyle. She’s always really enjoyed the freedom that freelancing brings, including several years on and off of working online while traveling and living abroad.