With TextExpander, there are no rules. You have total freedom to create, organize, and name your Snippets however you want. However, we’ve built up a lot of “best practices” over the years—little tricks that make using TextExpander more enjoyable and efficient.
With TextExpander—or any productivity tool—customers often ask us if they’re using it “right.” How should Snippets be named? What abbreviations should you use? Should you use a prefix or a suffix for the abbreviation to prevent accidental expansion? The truth is, we often have the same questions ourselves.
Rex Mann, one of our Customer Success Managers here at TextExpander, is a walking encyclopedia of these best practices based on his years of experience in psychology and productivity consulting. Until now, his knowledge has only been available through our regular TextExpander webinars, but we decided that these tips need to be written down!
Also see the second part in this series, which covers creating and documenting Snippets.
TextExpander is a typing shortcut tool that helps you write faster. You can save any type of text into TextExpander: words, phrases, paragraphs, codes, URLs, emails, and even entire book chapters.
For each text fragment you save, which we call a Snippet, you assign it a keyboard shortcut or abbreviation. From then on, whenever you want to insert the saved text, all you have to do is type the abbreviation.
For instance, you can create a Snippet so when you type
txp it expands into “TextExpander.”
Type this shortcut below txp
Let’s define a few terms upfront. There are three key components of a Snippet:
- Label: This is simply the name of the Snippet you see in TextExpander and in inline search.
- Abbreviation: This is the string of characters you type to trigger Snippet expansion. In the example above,
txpis the abbreviation.
- Content: What the Snippet expands into. In the example above, the Content is “TextExpander”.
That’s a simple example. TextExpander can do so much more. You can create Snippets with fill-ins, optional sections, and other customization options. It can help you fill out long forms. To get a sense of everything you can do with TextExpander, check out our TextExpander 101 webinar.
Now that we’ve nailed down those basic definitions, let’s see Rex’s tips.
1. Keep related Snippets organized into groups
Organization is a cornerstone of TextExpander best practices. Many TextExpander users have built up collections of hundreds—or even thousands—of Snippets over the years, and without a good system in place, it’s all too easy to forget what Snippets you have. Organization makes your Snippets accessible, which also makes them maintainable.
Take advantage of Snippet Groups to organize related Snippets. It keeps your Snippets organized and offers other advantages:
- It keeps your Snippets in shorter, easily scannable lists.
- It helps you take advantage of Snippet Group abbreviation prefixes to make it easy to create abbreviation patterns for related Snippets.
- It makes them easier to share since you share a Snippet Group instead of an individual Snippet.
- Other than sharing, there are two important settings only available to Groups and not individual Snippets:
- Expand In: This lets you specify which applications the Snippet will expand or not expand in. For instance, you may have a Snippet group of frequently visited URLs that you only want to expand in web browsers.
- Expand When: By default, Snippets only expand when following whitespace. However, there can often be times when you want a Snippet to expand after a character, like a colon or period.
It’s a best practice to make copious use of Groups. When in doubt about where to store a Snippet, create a new Group for it! It’s perfectly okay to have a Snippet Group with only one Snippet. In time, you’ll likely come up with more Snippets that fit in that Group, so this saves you from having to find and aggregate them at a later date.
More Snippet Groups mean more options.
This video teaches you how to create Snippet Groups:
2. Snippet Group prefix best practices
The second cornerstone of TextExpander best practices—after organization—is making Snippets memorable and discoverable.
Back in the day, many of us would try to make Snippet abbreviations as short as possible, usually with an obscure prefix to prevent accidental triggering. For instance, you might set a Snippet so
;yt expands into “YouTube.” That’s fine for expanding short words and phrases—as long as you use a system that makes sense to you—but we’ve learned over the years that longer, more descriptive Snippet abbreviations are more likely to be used.
For longer Snippets, like email templates, it’s worth typing a few extra characters for the abbreviation in exchange for making the Snippet more memorable and user-friendly.
A key feature for creating memorable Snippet abbreviations is Snippet Group abbreviation prefixes.
What is a Snippet Group prefix? It’s a set of characters applied to the shortcut of every Snippet in a group. Here’s an example:
- Say you have a Snippet with the abbreviation of
thanksthat expands into a two-paragraph “thank you” email.
- Since the Snippet is intended to be used in email, you put it in a Group called Email.
- You make the Group prefix
em.to signify email. Note the period.
- To expand the Snippet, you would type
em.thanksinstead of just “thanks.”
thanks by itself isn’t an ideal Snippet abbreviation, because it expands every time you simply want to type “thanks.” The beauty of Snippet Group prefixes is that you can make your Snippet abbreviations easy to remember, like “thanks,” and make them unique and hard to accidentally trigger by applying a Group prefix. You won’t accidentally type
Note that if you move that
thanks Snippet to another Group, it would no longer expand by typing
em.thanks but would adopt the prefix of the new Group. If you move it to a Group with no prefix, it would expand when you type “thanks.” If you move it to a group with a prefix of
cal. it expands when you type
Let’s expand on another way to make Snippet abbreviations memorable.
3. Group name and prefix best practices
Another of our best practices is to make your Snippet Labels and Snippet Group prefixes relate to each other.
- A group called “Calendar” with a group prefix of
- A group called “Email” with a group prefix of
- A group called “Support” with a group prefix of
For the abbreviation, simply use a short form of the Group name followed by a period.
With this method, not only are your Snippets grouped together, they have consistent abbreviations, and they’re easy to remember.
Plus, this makes it easier to take advantage of inline search. If you have several Snippets in a group called Support, type
sup. in an inline search to reveal them all.
4. Take advantage of inline search
TextExpander systemwide inline search helps you quickly access Snippets without memorizing their abbreviations. The default shortcuts on each platform:
- macOS: Command + /
- Windows: Control + /
- Chrome: Control + Period
You can change these shortcuts in TextExpander preferences.
Type in your Snippet name or abbreviation and press Return or Enter to trigger it. And if you name your Snippets according to these best practices, they’re always easy to find!
Here’s a video showing how to use inline search:
5. Split up and nest Snippets
Did you know that you can embed or “nest” one Snippet in another? This makes Snippets modular, easier to maintain and may highlight other efficiencies for your TextExpander workflow. It’s another of our best practices.
Our video on Fill-ins shows examples of nesting Snippets:
A common use of TextExpander is creating email signatures. Typically, an email signature has information like:
- Your name
- Your title
- Your email address
- Your phone number
And looks something like this:
Unlock your productivity. TextExpander keeps teams communicating consistently and accurately.
Learn more at TextExpander.com
Join our TextExpander Webinars! https://textexpander.com/webinar/
But what if Jane gets a promotion to TextExpander Wizard Supervisor? She’ll have to manually edit that Snippet along with any other Snippets that have her title. The same problem occurs if she changes her name, email address, or phone number.
We recommend that every TextExpander user have a Group called My Information with these Snippets:
Use the Group Prefix
my without a dot. Each Snippet is self-explanatory:
myphone is your phone number,
myname is your full name, etc.
Then, create an email signature Snippet with those personal Snippets embedded where you want them.
Now, if any of those bits of information change, you can update them in one central place.
You can use this trick to standardize email signatures across your organization. If everyone in the organization sets up those basic Snippets, you can share a standardized email signature Snippet. Because no personal information is embedded, it simply pulls in each team member’s personal Snippets.
We hope these tips have given you some insight into better ways to use TextExpander. And if you don’t use TextExpander, has it whetted your appetite for learning more? Try TextExpander yourself with a 30-day free trial and discover what TextExpander can do for you and your team. When you’re ready, contact our sales team to supercharge your productivity. Team-based pricing starts as low as $8.33 per user per month.
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