Type 120 words per minute and have fun doing it with TextExpander!

Take Control of

Second Edition
Michael E. Cohen

Put more effort into creative thought and less into repetitive typing with TextExpander, the award-winning text expansion utility from Smile. Whether you want to type faster or you already use TextExpander but want to harness its power more fully, author Michael Cohen helps you save time and leads you to typing nirvana.

All Take Control books are delivered in two ebook formats—PDF and EPUB—and can be read on nearly any device.


Note: This book is slightly outdated. TextExpander has changed very little since 2015—the features and user interface are largely the same. However, the way you license the app and sync your data has changed to a subscription model, which this book does not cover. After some discussion with Michael (the author of this book) and our friends at TextExpander (formerly Smile Software), it has been decided that Take Control of TextExpander will no longer be updated.

Join Mac expert Michael E. Cohen as he helps you enjoy the power of TextExpander 5, the award-winning text expansion utility from Smile.

With Michael’s guidance, 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). You’ll find steps for easily expanding your collection of useful snippets with the Snippet Creation Assistant and the Suggestions feature, and learn how to create more sophisticated snippets, including snippets with formatting, clipboard contents, fill-in fields, macros, and scripts.

You’ll discover how to add snippet groups created by Smile and others, create and share your own groups, and sync groups with Dropbox or iCloud Drive. And, you’ll find directions for taking advantage of your snippets on an iOS device with Smile’s TextExpander touch app.

This ebook was created in collaboration with Smile. Thanks to everyone at Smile who helped us make the book even more detailed and useful!

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 type all that text for you quickly, 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 for details and fill in all the rest of the text automatically.
  • Make typing more exciting: Automagically add the date to filenames as you save, to shorten URLs or to insert HTML or CSS tags in a flash, and more. It’s like having another set of fingers.
  • Type more accurately: Add the autocorrect dictionary groups from Smile and how to create your own autocorrection options, so you’ll spend less time fixing common typing mistakes or going red-faced when you spot an egregious error too late.
  • Automate easily: Unleash the power of TextExpander to automate tasks on your Mac with JavaScript, AppleScript, and Unix shell script snippets.
  • 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:

  • How do I register my demo copy of TextExpander or buy a family pack?
  • What are some common uses of TextExpander that I can try as I learn?
  • How can I quickly insert special characters like emoji, smileys, and stars?
  • How do I use TextExpander to timestamp my text automatically?
  • How can I make a TextExpander snippet that expands into a fill-in form?
  • How do I work with formatted text and pictures in snippets?
  • How do I handle capitalization and snippet expansions?
  • How can I get to TextExpander quickly, and hide it when I don’t need it?
  • What do I do if I can’t remember a snippet’s abbreviation?
  • How can I edit my snippets quickly?
  • How do I insert a snippet immediately after a quotation mark or bracket?
  • I do a lot of HTML and CSS coding. TextExpander sounds great, but how can I leverage someone else’s work and not have to create my own HTML and CSS expansions?
Michael Cohen

About Michael E. Cohen

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, and co-founded a major university’s Humanities computing center. He has authored several books, including Apple Interface Mysteries, Take Control of PDFpen, Take Control of Pages, and Take Control of TextExpander.

This edition covers TextExpander 5, which has been redesigned for (and which requires) OS X 10.10 Yosemite or later. It also covers the latest iOS app, TextExpander touch 3.5. Here are some the new features in TextExpander 5 and TextExpander touch that this edition covers:

  • Suggestions: This completely new feature is covered in Use Suggestions.

  • Inline Search: This recasting of the old Suggest Abbreviations command is described in Search Inline.

  • Cloud syncing: Learn new ways in which TextExpander can sync with cloud services, including iCloud Drive, in Sync with the Cloud.

  • JavaScript scripting: Script with JavaScript explains how to add executable script snippets in this language to TextExpander.

  • TextExpander touch keyboard: This addition to TextExpander touch brings TextExpander snippets into any app; read Use the TextExpander Keyboard to find out about it.

In addition, lots of little bits of new information, too numerous to list, have been incorporated into the book.

What versions of Mac OS X does TextExpander work with?

Here's the compatibility breakdown:

  • TextExpander 5: 10.10 Yosemite and later
  • TextExpander 4: 10.7 Lion, 10.8 Mountain Lion, 10.9 Mavericks
  • TextExpander 3: 10.6 Snow Leopard

If you buy this book today, you'll get the second edition, which covers TextExpander 5. In the second edition, you can access the Ebook Extras and look in the blog to download a free copy of the first edition (version 1.1), which documents TextExpander 3 and 4. There are only a handful of changes between TextExpander 3 and 4, and the book notes those differences when they come up.

TextExpander sounds cool. Where can I learn more about it?

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.

  • Introduction
  • TextExpander Quick Start
  • Meet TextExpander
  • Create and Use Complex Snippets
  • Organize Your Snippets
  • Find Your Snippets
  • Set Text Expander Options
  • Create Snippets as You Go
  • Share and Sync Snippets
  • Script with Snippets
  • Appendix A: Use TextExpander touch
  • Learn More
  • About This Book
  • Suggestions for Snippet Abbreviations

    Posted by Michael E. Cohen on September 11, 2015

    If you sometimes find yourself stymied when coming up with abbreviations for your snippets, check out 12 Great Ways To Choose TextExpander Abbreviations on the Smile blog to see how the experts do it.

    Michael Expands on TextExpander with Chuck Joiner

    Posted by Michael E. Cohen on July 21, 2015

    One of the best parts of finishing a Take Control book (aside from the royalties, of course) is the chance to spend an hour chatting with Chuck Joiner about it on MacVoices. As usual, Chuck and I had a great time discussing not just the book but the TextExpander software and why we like it so darn much.

    (Not So) Stupid TextExpander Trick — Currency Conversion

    Posted by Michael E. Cohen on 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!

    Smile Posts TextExpander Tips for Shared Snippets

    Posted by Michael E. Cohen on 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!

    Take Control of TextExpander on MacVoices

    Posted by Michael E. Cohen on 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/.

    November 23, 2022—This book is slightly outdated. TextExpander has changed very little since 2015—the features and user interface are largely the same. However, the way you license the app and sync your data has changed to a subscription model, which this book does not cover. After some discussion with Michael (the author of this book) and our friends at TextExpander (formerly Smile Software), it has been decided that <i>Take Control of TextExpander</i> will no longer be updated.

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