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Take Control of TextExpander
Type 120 words per minute and have fun doing it with TextExpander!
Join expert Mac writer Michael E. Cohen as he helps you enjoy the power of TextExpander 4, the award-winning text expansion utility from Smile. If you're a TextExpander newbie, you'll learn how to create "snippets" of text (like your address) that you can insert into any text by typing a short abbreviation (for example, addd).
Once you're comfortable with TextExpander's core controls and options, it's time to learn the more sophisticated options for inserting a snippet. You'll also discover how to add optional snippet groups created by Smile and others, create and share your own groups, move groups between Macs using Dropbox, and get the basics on integrating TextExpander with AppleScript and even with the command line.
The ebook also explains how to share your snippets with your iOS devices and access them using Smile's TextExpander touch app.
Running TextExpander is like embedding a superhero typist in your Mac. Read Take Control of TextExpander to learn how to:
Reply faster: If you frequently send similar bits of text—directions, chunks of legal writing, bios, product descriptions, company names, addresses, URLs, and so forth—let TextExpander quickly type all that text for you, making it a snap to respond quickly to customer questions or requests from colleagues, and a breeze to send other routine correspondence ("Dear Mom, I'm still not pregnant. Love, Me"). You can even create fill-in snippets that ask you for details and fill in all the rest of the text automatically.
Make typing more exciting: Discover how to grab and insert the URL in your browser’s frontmost window into whatever you’re writing, to insert HTML or CSS tags in a flash, to automagically add the date to filenames as you save, and more. It's like having another set of fingers.
Type more accurately: Find out how to add the auto-correct dictionary groups from Smile and to create your own auto-correction options, so you’ll spend less time fixing common typing mistakes or going red-faced when you spot an egregious error too late.
Enjoy life more: When you let TextExpander handle your routine typing, your brain will be free to think more creatively about the rest of what you type. And you just might knock off work a little sooner some days.
Specific questions answered in this ebook include:
This ebook was created in collaboration with Smile. Thanks to everyone at Smile who helped us make the book even more detailed and useful!
iPad & Kindle
About the Author
Michael E. Cohen has taught English composition, worked as a programmer for NASA’s Deep Space Network, helped develop the first commercial ebooks at the Voyager Company, co-founded a major university’s Humanities computing center, and played with a lot of new technology. He's the author of a number of books, including Take Control of PDFpen 7, Take Control of Pages, Take Control of iBooks Author, and Take Control of TextExpander.
Table of Contents
Read Me First
This book covers how you can use Smile’s TextExpander 4 text-substitution utility to make your writing, programming, and editing far more efficient and enjoyable. It was written by Michael E. Cohen, edited by Tonya Engst, and published by TidBITS Publishing Inc.
In my introduction to the first version of this book, I described how, as someone who preferred to drive a Mac with as few add-on software utilities as possible, I nonetheless became a TextExpander convert and enthusiast.
Now, a year later, I remain just as converted and enthusiastic. In that year, according to TextExpander’s Statistics feature (which I don’t cover in this book because it’s nothing you need to take control of beyond clicking Statistics in the TextExpander window’s toolbar), TextExpander has saved me 129,345 characters in typing and has expanded 7,948 snippets. At 80 words-per-minute, those saved characters comes to 5.39 hours of my time saved. That’s a lot of snippets, a fair chunk of time, and, at my normal hourly working fee, worth far more money than TextExpander’s price!
And, a year on, I still revel in how TextExpander fixes so many of my own idiosyncratic typos with a satisfying “pop”! I still delight in how it can fetch the URL of a Web page I have open and insert it magically with just a few quick keystrokes into an email message that I’m composing! I still smile (or ☺) every time I realize that I won’t ever again have to open and search through the Character Viewer whenever I need to type a ⌘ or a ⌥ or a ⌦!
Finally, I still am happy to proclaim, I ♥ TextExpander!
This Quick Start guide offers an overview of what you’ll learn in this ebook.
If you have never used TextExpander, I suggest that you Meet TextExpander and Run the Snippet Creation Assistant. After that, explore how to Create and Use Complex Snippets. Those two chapters should give you a sense of what TextExpander is and what it can do; after that, feel free to read around as your fancy dictates.
If you have used TextExpander before, you might benefit from reviewing Customize Group Settings and Set Expansion Options, and be sure to read Don’t Forget These Fine Features!, ahead a page or so. If you’re an advanced user, you may find that Script with Snippets can take you even further than you have gone before.
For all readers, I strongly suggest that you learn how to Back Up Your Snippets Automatically.
TextExpander has many useful features that even experienced users sometimes overlook. The following are among my favorites:
This version takes into account improvements in TextExpander itself in its transition from TextExpander 3 to TextExpander 4, as well as some changes in how it fits into Apple’s ecosystem.
Other minor changes have received coverage (such as the addition of two non-English AutoCorrect dictionaries), some minor errors have been fixed, and most of the screenshots have been replaced with newer, shinier versions.
TextExpander 4 works with OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion and 10.7 Lion, but not with 10.6 Snow Leopard. TextExpander 3 remains available for those running Snow Leopard; anyone still using 10.5 Leopard or earlier is out of luck.
Good news! Yes, the ebook will be entirely helpful. There are only a handful of changes between TextExpander 3 and 4, and the ebook is careful to note those differences when they come up.
TextExpander is developed by a company called Smile. Check out the TextExpander page on the Smile Web site for lots more info. Also, you can download a demo from the Smile site.
There are lots of great ways to read our ebooks on these devices. For more details, please read our latest Device Advice.
Feel free to ask us if you have a question about this title!
How could we not publish such kind words? If you'd like to send us your comments (good or bad, though we hope they're all good), just click the Feedback link on the cover of your copy of the ebook. Be sure to let us know if we can publish your comment. Thanks!
December 16, 2014 -- With TextExpander 3 now available for iOS, it's time for us to start thinking about creating a new edition of this title. We are currently talking with Smile about when in 2015 would make the most sense for a new edition, and we are talking with author Michael E. Cohen about his schedule. For now, it looks as though we'll be publishing a new edition in April or May. The new edition will cover up-to-date versions of TextExpander for iOS and Mac. If you buy this ebook now, you'll get a free update to the new edition. [March 19th: Looks like May or June now, but not April]
August 1, 2014 --
Posted on Smile’s blog today are instructions for building a TextExpander snippet that can do currency conversion. It requires that you install the JSON Helper for AppleScript app (free from the App Store). Once you have the snippet set up, you just type the dollar amount, a space, and the snippet abbreviation to run it. Slick!
—Michael E. Cohen
July 18, 2014 --
If you need to share groups of TextExpander snippets with a team and want to avoid abbreviation conflicts, hie thee hence to the Smile blog for Tips on Shared Snippet Groups. These tips are also useful even if the only person with whom you share TextExpander snippets is yourself!
—Michael E. Cohen
December 22, 2013 --
In iOS 7, Apple changed the rules about how apps can share data, and these changes have affected how TextExpander touch shares snippet data with apps. Because of this change, TextExpander-savvy apps have to change how they work in order to get snippet data from TextExpander touch. Smile has let app developers know about the new, Apple-approved, mechanism for data sharing, and over the next few months, updates to TextExpander-savvy apps will bring back full compatibility with TextExpander touch. In the meantime, apps that worked with the previous version of TextExpander touch will be able to access the older, “stale” snippet data made available from that version, but not new or changed snippets. Smile provides the details of the Apple rule changes and their consequences on its Smileworthy blog.
—Michael E. Cohen
December 11, 2013 --
Smile Software has released TextExpander 4.2, with a number of tweaks and fixes. Most of the fixes are minor, such as one that provides the correct keyboard focus when displaying a fill-in snippet window that has no text fields, while a few others improve the user experience, such as a tweak that displays the URL or the file path of an external group when you select it in the TextExpander window so you know where you got it. The complete set of release notes are here.
To update TextExpander, open TextExpander’s Preferences, click Update in the window’s toolbar, and then click Check Now.
—Michael E. Cohen
October 25, 2013 --
If you have recently upgraded your Mac to Mavericks and discover that TextExpander no longer seems to work for you, don't panic: TextExpander 4.1.1 is completely Mavericks compatible, but you may have to adjust some Accessibility settings in System Preferences. According to the Smileworthy blog entry, TextExpander and Mavericks, you need to do the following:
—Michael E. Cohen
September 25, 2013 --
Getting a jump on the forthcoming release of OS X 10.9 Mavericks, Smile has released TextExpander 4.1 with support for the new Security & Privacy settings, a collection of fixes and enhancements, and a new shared snippet collection of Emoji characters. A complete list of changes is available, some straightforward (“Allows typing Command-Return to complete the fill-in window”) and some arcane for non-developers, at least; e.g., “Allows capitalization correction in ‘AXScrollArea’, which allows it to function in applications which don't fully implement the Accessibility Protocol”. But I have to say that it’s the Emoji snippet collection that has stolen my ♥.
—Michael E. Cohen
September 18, 2013 --
iOS 7 changes how shared snippets work with TextExpander touch. The Smile blog provides the details about what you need to do to use shared snippets in TextExpander under iOS 7.
iOS 7 changes how shared snippets work with TextExpander touch. Greg at Smile takes to the Smile blog to tell you what happened and what what you need to do to use shared snippets in TextExpander under iOS 7.
Here's what Greg says do:
When you update to iOS 7, you may find that TextExpander doesn't work in some apps which did work on iOS 6. Due to a change in iOS 7, those apps no longer have access to shared snippets. We have communicated with developers whose apps support TextExpander, and we've provided them an updated SDK with a new way to share snippet data. Many developers are working hard to ensure their apps are updated. Bear in mind that review times and other issues are beyond their control.
Please update to TextExpander touch 2.1.1, and allow it access to your Reminders. After you install iOS 7, we recommend that you turn on automatic app updating so that when app developers deliver updated TextExpander support, you'll get it right away.
In case you’re wondering what Reminders has to do with it, Greg delves into the gnarly technical details in his blog post.
—Michael E. Cohen
May 28, 2013 --
Smile recently released version 2.0 of TextExpander touch, a free upgrade to users of the previous version of the $4.99 iOS app. The latest version brings with it a number of features familiar with users of the Mac version, including styled text in snippets and fill-in snippets. You can find out more about the new features in this release in the TidBITS article, TextExpander touch 2.0 Gains Features from Mac Version.
Appendix A in Take Control of TextExpander (version 1.1) still remains accurate with the exception of this sentence (found at the bottom of pg. 90 in the PDF): "Keep in mind that the text-editing environments on an iOS device, including the one in TextExpander touch itself support only plain text." That is no longer the case: iOS has supported styled text in apps for some time, and now so does TextExpander touch 2.0. However, apps that use the TextExpander API to implement snippet expansion on iOS must be updated before they can use the styled text snippet feature of TextExpander touch 2.0.
—Michael E. Cohen
August 16, 2012 --
Safari 6.0, which Apple released into the wild at the same time it did Mountain Lion, lacks the preference option for setting the default proportional font and fixed-width fonts. Fortunately, you can still set them using other methods, as described in the TidBITS article Fix Your Fonts in Safari 6. One of those methods involves issuing a series of shell commands in Terminal.
If you use TextExpander, though, you don't have to launch Terminal. Instead, you can create a shell script snippet that can issue the necessary commands, including commands to quit and restart Safari so that the changes take effect. As a bonus, the fill-in capabilities of a script can be used so you can specify the fonts and sizes you want when you expand the snippet, as seen in the following shell script snippet (developed by Michael and Norman Cohen):
#!/bin/bash if [[ $(ps -ax | grep -i safari | grep -v grep | wc -l) -ge 1 ]] ; then osascript -e "tell application \"Safari\" to quit"; fi defaults write com.apple.Safari com.apple.Safari.ContentPageGroupIdentifier.WebKit2StandardFontFamily '%filltext:name=font-face:default=Lucida Grande%' defaults write com.apple.Safari com.apple.Safari.ContentPageGroupIdentifier.WebKit2DefaultFontSize %filltext:name=default-font-size:default=14% defaults write com.apple.Safari com.apple.Safari.ContentPageGroupIdentifier.WebKit2FixedFontFamily '%filltext:name=fixed-font-face:default=Consolas%' defaults write com.apple.Safari com.apple.Safari.ContentPageGroupIdentifier.WebKit2DefaultFixedFontSize %filltext:name=fixed-font-size:default=11% osascript -e "tell application \"Safari\" to activate"
To use it, create a shell script snippet containing the above text, assign an abbreviation to it, and then type the snippet abbreviation in any text environment; Safari's location/search bar works just fine. A fill-in window appears with the commands ready to execute, and with fields present in which you can enter different fonts and sizes. Enter the fonts and sizes you want, click OK, and the shell commands are executed.
—Michael E. Cohen
June 10, 2011 --
Chuck Joiner's popular podcast features an interview with Michael E. Cohen, the author of Take Control of TextExpander this week. You can enjoy the dulcet tones of Michael's voice in the audio version of the podcast at http://www.macvoices.com/wordpress/macvoices-1175-michael-e-cohen-takes-control-of-textexpander/. Or, if you wish to gaze at his striking visage as well, go to the video version at http://macvoices.tv/macvoicestv-1164-michael-e-cohen-takes-control-of-textexpander/.
—Michael E. Cohen
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