Open Library Series: Jennifer Burnett's Snippets

Open Library Series: Vince Crighton’s Extraordinary Snippets

As the Support Lead at TextExpander, Vince Crighton is constantly challenging himself and his team members to use TextExpander in cool and unique ways. “We’re trying to be the highest level users of TextExpander to support our customers better,” he says. 

We chatted about some of the extraordinary Snippets he’s created and how he uses TextExpander at work and in his personal life to do things more efficiently.

First things first. When someone asks you what TextExpander is, what do you say?

I describe it as a time-saving tool. Something you use if you type a lot of the same emails or text. I have many friends who are gamers and streamers on Twitch who can benefit from using a Snippet to share repetitive content.

On average, how many Snippets do you expand per month? How much time do you save?

I expand about 600 Snippets, saving around 23 hours per month!

Do you use TextExpander outside of work? Give us an example.

I have a spreadsheet to track my workouts, so I use a Snippet with multiple fill-ins to log in the weights I’ve done for the day. So, instead of having to go into my sheet and go into each cell and type, I just go ahead and open up a Snippet and put in my numbers for the day.

My Snippet has multiple options, for like, what day it is, so Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and so on; my workouts change every day. 

I do this for charts and stuff, so I can see my progress for my weight loss and my strength gain. So, for example, last year I was really pushing to get to a 500lb deadlift, and with this process, I was able to track how much I lifted each day.

That’s amazing. Do you also feel like you’re getting better at using TextExpander?

I’m always trying to get better. I try to challenge myself to use TextExpander in new ways because one of the OKRs we have as a Support team is to become TextExpander gurus. 

Right now, we’re learning JavaScript so we can create ways to make TextExpander even more powerful.

Do you have any tips for leveling up your knowledge of TextExpander?

We’re excited to create content that will make it easier for users to become TextExpander gurus. While we’re waiting on that, my tip is to ask questions like, I do this thing every day, how do I make a Snippet that will save me time doing that? And then explore the TextExpander features. 

I know that can be daunting for someone at a basic level, but that’s the best tip I can give right now. We have an ever-growing Learning Center that’s filled with guides and videos on how to use TextExpander in cool ways.

Let’s get back to the basics. What’s your process for creating Snippets?

As a team, we try to answer customers quickly, so we don’t create Snippets on the spot. But in review, when we do our weekly check-ins, we look at our cases for the week and sometimes we’ll go, I’ve never seen that answer before; is there a Snippet for that? If it’s a no, we create it. 

What’s your abbreviation system?

It’s really simple. I try to identify what the Snippet is for and then make a shorthand that’s super readable with camelcase. I’m very much into programming. In programming, when you label variables, you try to be descriptive and short and use camelcase, so it stands out. 

When creating Snippets for Support, we use a group prefix, like HOWTO. For example, HOWTO.billing, HOWTO.refund. We keep it short and descriptive and easy to remember—so HOWTO. and whatever the topic is.

Do you use Inline Search or memorize shortcuts? Why?

I tend to use Inline Search more frequently because I like to look at what we have in our database of answers. 

I also like to clean up our Library whenever possible, to remove duplicates and outdated information. Inline Search gives me multiple opportunities to do that throughout the day.

Expansion sound: on or off, and why?

Mine is on but I almost never hear it because I always have headphones on. When I do hear it occasionally, I know I’m on the right track. I know I’m saving time, TextExpander is working, and I’m doing a good job. 

Public Groups. Have you created any?

We’re working on our first one, which uses JavaScript for date math. It will have a companion article explaining the functionality more clearly and how to create these types of Snippets. 

Great. Now, let’s talk about your Snippets.  

What’s your most recent?

My most recent Snippet helps customers with issues with setting up TextExpander on a Virtual Machine. I wanted to make sure our team in Support had a common language to help customers with that quickly.

One you use frequently?

In Support, it’s our greeting and signature Snippets. We spice them up with JavaScript so that we can address a customer differently based on the time of day, and randomly generate signoffs.

The Random Signoff Snippet uses a randomizer from 1 to 7, so whenever you expand it, it rolls the dice from 1 to 7, and whatever number you land on changes the signoff. The signoffs we have are Regards, Sincerely, Best, Cheers, Respectfully, Have a great day, With gratitude. So whatever the dice rolls gives you one of them.

The Time-Appropriate Greeting Snippet takes your system time and runs a JavaScript logic to check the time window and give you the appropriate greeting. So if it’s between 6 am and 9 am, it gives you Good morning, and if it’s between 12 pm and 4 pm, it gives you Good afternoon.

Your most clever?

It’s in the works. I’m creating a group of JavaScript Snippets to pull data from a Google spreadsheet leveraging Google Sheet’s API (an API is a call to an internet service to get information).  

Say you have a Google spreadsheet with a lot of information in it, and you want to access that information. You could do that using a TextExpander Snippet. 

So if you have a Google spreadsheet with people’s first and last names and their email addresses, you can search and pull some of that information using TextExpander. For example, you can search for and pull a person’s email address based on their name. 

I’m also working on a Snippet with a stock ticker that will output the current trading price for a particular stock.

The most unusual?

A magic 8-ball where you roll the dice to get answers like Yes, No, Maybe. It started off as a team project for learning how to use JavaScript. The magic 8-ball was the original idea, and it evolved to become the Random Signoff Snippet. 

Is there anyone in your life you’d like to convince to use TextExpander?

My girlfriend. She’s a baker. I bet there’s a lot of repetitive typing she does for orders that can be shortened to save her time at the desk and give her more time to bake!

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