App Spotlight: TextExpander

Trying to think of the inagural app spotlight is difficult. But after thinking about it for awhile I couldn’t think of any better selection that TextExpander. In short, TextExpander does exactly what its name says, it expands text. I’m not really sure what I would do without this app. It has become part of my everyday life on the Mac that it has become second nature to use it.

At the most basic level you can set it so you can write a short snippet of text and it will expand it for you. For example, if I type nname it will expand to Brian Renshaw or if I type esig it will expand my personal email signature. While these are handy for everyday use TextExpander is much more powerful than this. If you really want to get snazzy you can incorporate AppleScript and JavaScript in your snippets[1].

I thought about doing a comprehensive guide to TextExpander but there are already some really good ones out there, such as Asian Efficiency’s. So here, I just offer some of the ways that I use the app. The examples I give lend its hand for “academics” but I use it all areas of my life from blogging, work, school, journaling, and much more. It’s worth the investment.

Common Use Cases  

  1. Words with accents, umlauts, and other annoying features to type: If I am writing a paper or taking notes where I come across certain words and names that have these features I will go ahead and create a short snippet. Also, currently I am going through part of a book and updating the transliteration of all the words. It would be pretty annoying to try to type ʾašrê everytime so I created a short snippet that expands when I type ashre;. Now if I was writing the paper I would create these snippets before hand so I don’t have to type them everytime. This ensures both consistency and efficiency
  2. Dates: I have several different date snippets. Whenever I keep notes I always put the date in front of the note. For me, it makes sorting and finding things easier. So i have .ds, which expands to 2015–06–13. Brett Terpstra has created a handy snippet group using JavaScript that allows you to type the date of the next X. For example, if you want to type the date for next Friday you would type nd.fri.[2]
  3. Pasting: Have you ever tried copying text from one app to another and the formatting is all jarbled? Yeah, me too. With TextExpander’s clipboard feature I just type ppaste and it will paste it in plain text. You’d be surprised at how handy this comes in.
  4. Emails: Do you find yourself typing the same emails over and over? Yes, TextExpander works great for this too. Another handy feature they have is “Options”. This allows you to create a snippet that has several different options that you can choose from.
  5. Templates: I use all kinds of templates for class notes, reading notes, personal notes, meetings, conference notes, and more. TextExpander allows me to keep these templates consistent so I am not going back to the previous file, copy/pasting in a new one while removing the previous text. Whenever I am reading a book or a paper I like to try to have a consistent format for them. The key information that I want to have in everyone is the author, title, date started, summary, and notes. TextExpander can create a “fill-in field”, which allows me to tab through different fields as I type.

Let’s break this down[3]:

The title and author are considered fill-in fields. The date uses the .ds snippet mentioned above. And finally, the %I makes sure my cursor goes there after the snippet.


That is just a small taste of what this app can do. Just think about anything that you type often and that can be changed with a snippet. One feature that was recently added is the ability for it to notify you if you are typing a certain word or phrase all the time and suggest a snippet for it. Can’t remember your snippet? No problem, they have a keyboard shortcut that brings up a little search box that allows you to search any part of your snippet and paste it right in.

TextExpander has become part of my everyday life that often times I forget that I am using it. When I get on a machine that does not have it I often times feel lost.

And just in case you’re wondering I’ve saved around 92 hours of writing with this powerful app.

Buy | Education Discount

And yes they do have an iOS app. See the videos here and this review. They also have a keyboard on iOS.

Helpful Links

  • If your looking for the complete guide to TextExpander check out Asian Efficiency’s great work. (Link)
  • A helpful list of TextExpander snippets from MacSparky. (Link)
  • Another guide to TextExpander from LifeHacker. (Link)
  • Brett Terpstra is always posting helpful snippets. (Link)

  1. I use these functionalities but don’t really create them on my own but from others have shared on the web.  ↩

  2. Go here: and then from the dropdown menu choose Next X  ↩

  3. Note: the astericks around the headings are for Markdown syntax, which will be covered in a later post.  ↩

Brian Renshaw is pursing a Masters of Divinity at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is currently a member of the Evangelical Theological Society, North American Patristics Society, and the Society of Biblical Literature. His research interests range from the Gospels, Catholic Epistles, history of interpretation, theological interpretation of Scripture, and discourse grammar. Regarding his involvement with the Center for Ancient Christian Studies, Brian serves as Director of Digital Production and is also on the editorial staff. Currently, he attends Sojourn East with his wife, Jen Renshaw. You can follow him on Twitter @renshaw330, he blogs at his personal website.