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.

Upgrading from Windows 7 RC to Retail — easily!

Well, being the cut­ting edge kinda guy that I am, I had the Win­dows 7 release can­did­ate (RC) on my sys­tem from the first day it was released. Of course, that means that I was enjoy­ing all the Win­dows 7 good­ness on my sys­tem, with the know­ledge that I’d even­tu­ally have to upgrade to the full retail ver­sion some time in the future.

That day hath cometh!

Like many of you, I’m sure, I’d put off installing the retail ver­sion until the last pos­sible moment. And Microsoft forced my hand. As of tomor­row, March 1st, the RC of Win­dows 7 will start shut­ting down every two hours. Damn incon­veni­ent, but hey, we’ve had the RC to play with for the last 4 months or so, we can’t really com­plain.

So tonight I’ve taken the plunge and installed the full retail ver­sion on my sys­tem. Not without minor chal­lenges, but it’s done. I’m writ­ing this on a full retail Win 7 install.

Which means that, yes, I will be doc­u­ment­ing my upgrade pro­cess in the very near future! From WinXP to Win7 RC to Win7 Retail, the whole enchil­ada.  But not tonight.

Tonight I rel­ish the last 2 weeks of Olympics, of Cana­dian Pride (what a weird concept) and of Pils­ner, ‘eh!

3 windows applications improve your desktop’s appearance

Lately I’ve been try­ing to keep my win­dows desktop icon and clut­ter free. In my case, this has meant that I’ve been sav­ing less to my desktop (my default save-to loc­a­tion) and more to work­ing dir­ect­or­ies. And, since a cluttered desktop reflects a cluttered mind, I like to think of this as a bit of per­son­al men­tal-floss. …more

This post is an excerpt from one of my weekly posts on the Future Shop Techb­log. Check out the full post here.

How to add a network activity monitor to Windows 7

I like Win­dows 7. But there’s one thing that I noticed miss­ing right off the top, a net­work activ­ity mon­it­or in the Taskbar.

Sure, you could ad a gadget/widget thingie to the desktop, but when you’re work­ing on some­thing, odds are you’re at full-screen resoulu­tion and the mon­it­or is behind whatever y ou’re work­ing on.

Well, thanks to this cool little site (and the point­er from Down­load Squad) Win­dows 7 now has a work­ing taskbar-moun­ted net­work activ­ity mon­it­or, com­plete with anim­ated blink­ing screen. To quote the developer:

This util­ity is a stan­dalone execut­able. Run the pro­gram, you’ll see a new sys­tem tray icon.

Now you can mon­it­or your net­work traffic in Win­dows 7 using XP-like ‘two mon­it­ors’ icon in the Sys­tem Tray.

To cus­tom­ize pro­gram set­tings right click the mouse on the Sys­tem Tray icon.

Pretty straight­for­ward, and func­tion­al. And light weight! The Net­work Activ­ity Indic­at­or for Win­dows 7 weighs in at a tiny 57kb down­load.

You can down­load it here