Over the years we’ve found that, once TextExpander users scratch the surface of what’s possible, the universe opens up its secrets to their deep conscience. Have you seen Doctor Strange or The Matrix? It’s kinda like that. But with fewer plot twists and backflips. After all, being able to type a couple characters and have it turn into your usual followup email, (or your company name, or a script, or…, or…,) is quite amazing and satisfying.
Once you’re past the surface-scratching phase, it’s a good idea to develop a strong organization habit for those snippets of text you expand with TextExpander. Read on for some of our favorite tips for building a memorable abbreviation system, and keeping your snippets in order.
Keep in mind, you don’t really need to remember abbreviations to use snippets. You don’t technically need abbreviations at all if you use search. Inline search, the default hotkey already setup for you, Mac: Command + / and Windows: Control + /, will open your search window right where you’re typing so that you can enter any snippet results with a click.
1 – Abbreviate snippets with purpose
Use an abbreviation system that is easy to remember and based on the categories or types of snippets you use.
For example: your email address snippets might begin with an “e” and a period, then a letter for the particular address domain. For example, “e.g” might expand to your gmail address. Affiliate links might start with “a.” and follow with a letter for the service:
abbreviation = a.hoot content = http://hootsuite.com/p_6030
Web link snippets begin with “l.” and follow with letter or two for the site.
abbreviation = l.ft content = http://finertech.com
This type of system will scale as you add snippets down the road.
2 – Keep tidy with folders
You can also organize snippets into folders in TextExpander. This makes them easier to find in the app, easier to search in the apps, and easier to edit when needed down the road. Every person’s needs are different, but we recommend at least starting with folders based on the type or purpose of your snippets. Folders for ‘Work,’ ‘Links,’ and ‘Email Responses’ would be a good start. Bonus points if you’ve started a ‘Personal Typos’ group.
3 – Special characters are your friends
One popular trick we’ve seen recommended around the community is using special characters to prefix or punctuate your snippets. It’s a good way to separate your “writing mode” from your “snippet mode,” and to ensure you don’t get tripped up by autocorrect systems. For example, using slashes at the start of any URL snippets.
abbreviation: //wiki content: http://www.wikipedia.org
You can see this in the abbreviation examples used in tip number one earlier. TextExpander understands over thirty special characters for snippet purposes. Check out this support document to learn more about them and how to use special character “delimiters” to help trigger snippet expansion.
4 – Special characters can help you remember
Some people like to designate certain special characters for specific kinds of snippets.
For example, you could use the pound sign # (or in today’s parlance, hashtag) to prefix abbreviations for phone numbers (such as #hn to expand your home phone number, and #mn for your mobile number). The exclamation point, or another symbol that’s easy for you to use, could be for your most-used snippets.
Play with this trick to see if it helps you better categorize snippets in your mind, and recall them more quickly in practice. This also means that when you search for a snippet you can just search on things starting with # if that’s all you remember, and that will still narrow down the search.
5 – Ignore some snippets
If you use some snippets only on your Mac or PC, you can tell TextExpander to ignore that group of snippets on mobile. Of course, this assumes you follow tip #2 here and organize your snippets into groups.
To ignore a group of snippets on iPad or iPhone, open TextExpander, then tap the (i) icon next to any group. Flip the “Ignore on iOS” switch, and that group of snippets will no longer expand on your mobile devices.
More community tips
Over the years, the TextExpander community has contributed a plethora of good tips, workflows, and core snippet ideas you can use for inspiration. Here are just a few of our favorites:
- A Comprehensive Guide to TextExpander – Lifehacker
- TextExpander: The Simple Guide to Getting Started with Text Expansion – Asian Efficiency (an older article, but still good tips, and thorough)
- How to make great TextExpander snippets so that you will remember them – Productivity in Academia
- Master TextExpander with these helpful tips & tricks – Envato Tuts+
- Just about everything under Brett Terpstra’s TextExpander blog tag
- 7 Tips for Automating Your Mac with TextExpander – MakeUseOf