We spend a lot of our day typing the same stuff over and over again, sometimes getting it wrong in the process. Although it might only be 10 minutes of repetitive keystrokes, this really adds up. That's an hour a week, or more than 50 hours each year. You could do a lot more exciting stuff with those 50 hours. In this post, I'll introduce TextExpander, a great app for saving time and improving accuracy. Here's how it works.
In the app you create snippets of text and assign an abbreviation to activate them. The snippet could be something as short as an email address or phone number, through to an entire page of text. You choose the abbreviation so that it's meaningful to you and then use it in whichever application you're working.
I have the abbreviation ;name for my name (which I mistype embarrassingly often). When I type that abbreviation, my name pops up, along with a satisfying popping noise. Of course, you have to make sure that this abbreviation is a combination you wouldn't type under any other circumstances. Otherwise your name is going to be popping up all over the place. I use a punctuation mark as a prefix in my abbreviations, in this case, a semicolon. Other people use double characters such as tt. It takes a little while to find a system that you can remember and that won't be too cumbersome. If you forget your abbreviations, TextExpander will helpfully remind you. It also suggests that you create an abbreviation for any text that you type repeatedly.
My TextExpander abbreviations include the hex codes for my branding colours, my VAT number, and project names. Although some of this information doesn't take long to type, it can take half an hour to find exactly the right piece of paper with the code.
Perhaps one of the biggest timesavers is my scheduling links. I use an app called Calendly for booking meetings and coaching sessions. If I want to book a session with a student for PhD coaching, rather than trying to find the URL and paste it, I type @@phd and it expands to the full calendar link. I've also got abbreviations for 30-minute, 60-minute and 15-minute sessions.
You can create input fields for your snippets, meaning you can add some extra information. Let's have a look at an example. Here I want to send an invoice to a client. In my subject field, I type ;inv. I then get a pop up window, prompting me for the invoice number and the amount.
I click OK, and it creates the email.
The first part has gone in the subject field. It's automatically tabbed into the main body of the email and added that text with the additional information. It's included my menacing information about late payments without me having to remember.
Here's what it looks like in TextExpander. There's the field for the invoice number. Then I put my tab to move from the email subject through to the main body. The invoice number comes up again because I've already input that. Then there's the space for my amount. TextExpander automatically calculates thirty days from today. You can change this to whatever you want and change the format. Here I've got the day, the month and the year. And there's my other message. You can also use this feature to create dropdown lists and calculations, too.
Another huge timesaver is public libraries. You can use other people's snippets, too. This one is accented words. These are foreign words that we use in English, and it's very hard to remember exactly where to put the accents or where on earth to find them on the keyboard. If I type brulee, it's automatically corrected to brûlée, which makes me look much more sophisticated. It's also great for cheating on Duolingo.
You can find loads more public groups by clicking File > Add Public Group. There's all sorts of stuff here, from yoga pose names through to airport codes.
I was a little bit sceptical about TextExpander initially. I didn't believe it would save me that much time. However, I'm definitely a lot faster and also I don't have to spend ages finding odd bits of information. You can actually see how much time you're saving here by clicking Statistics.
Apparently I've saved eight minutes this month, which doesn't seem like a lot. But of course, TextExpander doesn't know how long I would spend looking for some of that information and cursing. It allows me to focus much more on my work and not have to stop and look things up.
You can try TextExpander for free and you don't have to give them your credit card details. So it might be worth giving it a go and seeing whether it will actually save you time. It works on Mac, Windows, and iPhone and costs $3.33 per month. I bet that's a lot less than your hourly rate.
Then you just need to decide what to do with your extra 50 hours.
This post contains an affiliate link. If you sign up for TextExpander, I receive a small commission. I'm only recommending it because I use the app every day and think you'll find it useful, too.