Saving time with Text Replacement utilities

I write a lot. Blog posts, pro­pos­als, reports, reviews, email…you get the pic­ture. Often times I end up cre­at­ing new doc­u­ments that share sim­il­ar format or con­tent, and I cut-and-paste from older docs into new­er ones. But I’m lazy, and always look­ing for easi­er ways to get the job done…

I’m Lazy
Over the past year I’ve been slowly learn­ing how to save time and key­strokes by using text expan­sion soft­ware. In the old days we called them Macro keys.

Basic­ally, what you do is cre­ate a data­base of com­monly typed words, phrases or lay­outs and assign unique key trig­gers to each snip­pet of text. For example, I usu­ally sign my email thusly:

Brad Gri­er

Brad Gri­er Con­sult­ing
Life­style Tech­no­logy & Com­munity Media

Lots of char­ac­ters and format­ting, no?  Here’s the cool thing, all I typed to get that email sig­na­ture was ‘.mysig’ (minus the single quotes). The soft­ware did the rest.

Anoth­er example? Sure!
Ok, the bright ones amongst you will be email­ing me to say that most com­mon email pro­grams have a place for a sig­na­ture, and it’s auto­mated whenev­er you com­pose a new email. True. Save you’re email. But this was just one example. Here’s anoth­er.

Let’s say you’re a web design­er, and you use com­mon CSS or HTML snip­pets. It’s a simple mat­ter to add this code to the data­base, and call it with a few key­strokes. This Lor­em Ipsum lay­out text block, for example:

Lor­em ipsum dol­or sit amet, con­sect­etur adip­is­cing elit. Nunc mat­tis arcu sed quam tin­cidunt et lobortis nunc volut­pat. Phasel­lus lacin­ia nulla quis lect­us molestie in com­modo maur­is blan­d­it. Nul­lam in ves­ti­bu­lum velit. Donec libero est, volut­pat non accum­san ac, rutrum vitae odio. Cur­abit­ur pre­tium maur­is non nisi ves­ti­bu­lum tin­cidunt. Aenean tri­stique quam sapi­en, vel dapibus ligula. Mae­cen­as com­modo faucibus pulvin­ar. Donec eleifend ante eget pur­us luc­tus ultrices. Nulla quis sem magna, eget feu­giat dui. Ves­ti­bu­lum ante ipsum primis in faucibus orci luc­tus et ultrices posuere cubil­ia Cur­ae; Etiam sodales enim in dui ultrices in dapibus ligula porta. Aenean adip­is­cing ipsum id massa luc­tus vel sus­cip­it metus ele­mentum. Morbi ven­enatis maur­is eget metus tin­cidunt luc­tus eget quis elit. Cras eget ligula quis diam phare­tra luc­tus vel ut tortor.

That was gen­er­ated by me typ­ing ‘.lor­em’ and hit­ting the Tab key. Much easi­er than past­ing it in from the .txt doc I keep in my design snip­pets dir­ect­ory.

As well, text replace­ment soft­ware can eas­ily auto­ma­gic­ally enter oth­er dynam­ic data such as the cur­rent date (.d) [ Thursday, Octo­ber 28, 2010  ] or time (.t) [ 10:09 PM ] in a bunch of formats. You get the idea.

The Soft­ware
On win­dows, I’d recom­mend the free Tex­ter pro­gram, cre­ated by Life­Hack­er edit­or Adam Pash. And look­ie here, there’s a video:

For iPhone and iPad, I use Tex­tEx­pander Touch. Same fea­tures, with a few extra bells and whistles such as applic­a­tion integ­ra­tion.

For OSX, I don’t have one. I don’t do any writ­ing on our Mac, it’s my wife’s com­puter :smileyhappy: But Tex­tEx­pander Touch has a coun­ter­part (called Tex­tEx­pander, of course) that runs on OSX and oth­ers con­sider it the ‘bench­mark’ for Mac text expan­sion and script­ing tools.

texter.jpgSav­ing time?
One oth­er thing, Tex­ter actu­ally tracks the key­strokes you’ve saved, and provides this fun little report show­ing how much time you’ve saved using it, and provides a handy print­able chart of all your replace­ment mac­ros.

Hello coders and writers, do you use a text replace­ment applic­a­tion? If so, weigh in on your app-of-choice, or per­haps a favour­ite replace­ment macro you use often.

This post of is one of many I pub­lish weekly at the Future Shop Techb­log. Read more of my stuff here.

Published by Brad Grier geek.hack