Saving time with TextExpander and URLs

How I save time jumping between URLs on various browsers

I wanted to quickly share a tip originally shared by Stacy L. Carlson on LinkedIn which is to use //blah as a quick way of accessing frequently visited URLs.

In her post, she mentioned that if you need to think about a URL and dig it out of a bookmarks bar, that could easily take 15 seconds, which over a year adds up.

15 seconds x 20 times a day x 261 work days = 21.75 hours accessing websites.

I accessed URLs faster than 15 seconds; however, I access URLs way more than 20 times a day, so the maths certainly works out. I was excited to try this.

The first thing you need is TextExpander. I’ve written at length about why I love TextExpander; I even have a full TextExpander review. It lets you type something short, like //ght, and it will expand to (in this case) https://github.com/tosbourn-ltd/tosbourn.com/.

Once you have TextExpander set up, you need to think about which URLs you want to shorten. I took a very pragmatic approach, and for a few days, anytime I went to a URL, I thought “would this make a good snippet?” I start typing many URLs, and my browser always knows where I want to go; it didn’t make sense to relearn how to access them. There were plenty that are painful to access, and it was worth learning a new way to access them.

Why is this a big deal for web developers

As a web developer, I’m visiting URLs constantly, often in different browsers and often deeply nested pages, not just homepages.

For better or worse, in a given week, I’m visiting about five different flavours of localhost, and my browsers will never remember the correct one for a given project. I also need to jump between several Github projects. With this in mind, even using the following has helped me;

  • //5000 - localhost:5000
  • //4000 - localhost:4000
  • //ght - https://github.com/tosbourn-ltd/tosbourn.com/
  • //ghx - https://github.com/another-github/project

The trick with naming things to make it easier is consistency. I don’t have any other snippets that start with //, just URLs. Github URLs will always start //gh.

These will work across browsers and devices; anywhere you have TextExpander installed will be able to make use of these.

It isn’t just about time

I often make the mistake of just talking about the time saved when I speak about TextExpander. I run my own business and have an illness that makes me very tired a lot of the time, so I have an impetus to do more with less time. But if you’re a salaried worker, why should you care about shaving a few minutes or hours off your week?

Once you develop the muscle memory to reach for //blah, you’ll find it an intuitive part of your workflow. When something is intuitive, you can use it without breaking flow. Anyone who has had to try and remember a lot of context around the changes they are making will know that distractions can be incredibly frustrating.

This removes frustrations; saving time is just a nice side effect!

Thank you so much, Stacy, for sharing this tip; you’ve removed a pain point from my development process I didn’t even know I had!


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