TextExpander Review

In this TextExpander review I cover what it is and why I have been using it for years to be more productive.

I scored this a 5 / 5

TextExpander lets you store snippets containing text, images, or code to execute and will automatically insert that snippet once you type a short code.

I’ve been using it for several years and love it, I don’t know why I’ve never done an in depth review before, but that is what you’re reading today.

Disclaimer

A lot of my reviews are moments in time, I will be reviewing a particular version of some software, or a particular edition of a book. This review is going to be “evergreen”. I will be updating it regularly as I spot new things I like or dislike.

However reviewing TextExpander isn’t my full time job, so there may be new features added or removed that I don’t end up sharing straight away.

The links I use in this review are affiliate links, however I became an affiliate because I love the product, not the other way around.

I have also written for TextExpander’s blog before. They reached out to me after reading a post I made about TextExpander snippets I love. I made that post before knowing they had an affiliate programme.

I have been a paying customer for many years, I have not been paid to write this review and I haven’t been given any freebies for doing it. (Smile, if you’re reading this, please give me freebies! I have no shame, I will take anything ;-))

What is TextExpander

TextExpander is a tiny program that listens for certain shortcut words being typed. When it sees a shortcut being typed it will remove that shortcut and replace it with a snippet of text, an image, the result of some code running, or all of the above.

It is made by a company called Smile Software, who also make tools like PDFPen. I’ve never used PDFPen but I hear good things.

Here is a gif of it in action, here I am typing the shortcut llorem which I have told TextExpander to change into a long sentence of Lorem Ipsum.

expanding some lorem ipsum text
Expanding some Lorem Ipsum text

What I use TextExpander for

I’m a freelance CTO/Developer/Tech Writer who runs multiple websites and balances several projects at any one time.

A typical day will see me:

  • Writing sales emails
  • Answering support requests
  • Talking with remote co-workers about issues
  • Writing code
  • Writing copy

I use TextExpander for all of these things.

I have snippets that include information I just don’t want to have to remember, like my business bank account details.

I have snippets that have stuff I know but I couldn’t be bothered typing out in full, like my email address.

I have snippets that put all the meta information I need when writing blog posts. I’ve used TextExpander about 4 times already just getting to this part of this post.

I have snippets that correct common typos that I make way too regularly.

I’m not going to go into detail into what specific snippets I use, it would make this review longer than it already is going to be! Here are some of my favourites though.

Where I use TextExpander

This review is covering TextExpander as a service, but that service has to reside on a device of some sort.

I normally use TextExpander on:

  • MacBook Pro
  • iPad
  • iPhone

For the sake of this review I tried Windows (more on that later) and attempted to get something working for the Chromebook, but they aren’t setups I would use regularly.

TextExpander features

I want to talk in more detail about the actual features of the service.

Text expansion

I’ve mentioned the text expansion, I can type a small code and my text will appear in its place.

Fill-ins

Along with the text we can also have fill-ins. These are for when you need customised inputs on the text. For example you might have an email template you like using, and all you want to do is add in the name.

Each time you call the snippet you will be prompted to add in their name and it will become part of the snippet.

Date and time

You can automatically add dates and times to your snippets, including doing date and time math. This is fantastic for snippets that need to do some basic calculations at the point they get made. An example could be an email that will say when an invoice is due (today + 15 days).

Scripting

If you know any JavaScript, AppleScript, or Bash, you can write scripts that will execute and paste in the result.

This becomes incredibly powerful when it comes to things like grabbing content from programs and including it in your snippet. Here is how you could quickly generate a string that included the current tab you have open in Safari using AppleScript

tell application "Safari"
set w to first window
set t to current tab of w
do shell script "echo Check out this amazing URL: " & (URL of t as string)
end tell

Tabbing

It isn’t just characters of text you can ask TextExpander to output, it can be most of the keys on the keyboard, including the tab key.

This means you can tab through a form, autocompleting each field.

This becomes incredibly powerful if you want to send lots of emails and things like the BCC, subject, and body copy are going to be identical.

iOS

One of the issues I have on iOS is that quite a few apps that I really love using don’t have TextExpander support. If using the onscreen keyboard you can use the official TextExpander keyboard which works 100% although I feel it isn’t as responsive as the native iOS screen keyboard.

TextExpander keyboard
TextExpander Keyboard

If using a physical keyboard attached to your iOS device then unfortunately this won’t work.

The work around for now is to either use the TextExpander app and copy/paste the result into the app you want, or to switch to the on screen keyboard.

I don’t really like either of these options.

Luckily more and more apps are supporting TextExpander with built in integrations, or as TextExpander calls them – TextExpander-enhanced apps.

Two examples that I use daily are:

  • OmniFocus - for task management
  • Bear - for note taking

MacOS Catalina support

Catalina is the latest and greatest version of MacOS, it is currently in beta. For better or worse I decided to run the beta of Catalina on my main computer.

I am happy to report that TextExpander works on Catalina. I’ve spotted no issues whatsoever.

Windows support for TextExpander

I don’t use a Windows machine for day to day work but I did start up a virtual machine running Windows 10 and installed TextExpander to give it a go.

It works exactly how I imagined it would, it is just as smooth as the Mac version and if for some reason I had to use Windows for work or pleasure, this would be one of the first apps I would install.

I don’t have access to a Windows mobile device, but my understanding is TextExpander doesn’t work on Windows Mobile right now. I can’t see anything that would suggest support is coming either.

Chromebook support for TextExpander

When I initially wrote this review there wasn’t any Chromebook support for TextExpander and I couldn’t see anything in the works.

This has changed with TextExpander announcing Chrome and Chromebook support with a Chrome extension.

I personally don’t use my Chromebook that often, but when I do it is for churning through emails or writing content, both things that benefit heavily from TextExpander.

The next time I have cause to use my Chromebook I will properly review this functionality. I have tested in on Chrome on MacOS and I’m happy to report it works exactly as you’d imagine.

Sharing snippets between machines

I’ve mentioned the various places that TextExpander is supported (and not supported) which begs the question how do you share snippets between one machine and another.

Back in the day you could sync with Dropbox, which is what I used to do.

Now with your TextExpander account your snippets are synced with their servers so anywhere you log in you will get instant access.

I’ve tested creating a snippet and immediately turning on my phone and seeing if I can access it. From what I can tell there is no noticeable lag. When I was testing on Windows I was able to get up and running in minutes.

Using TextExpander offline

I often do my best work with my computer being offline. I’m actually writing this review on my iPad whilst flying to Disneyworld!

With my talk earlier of syncing and having a TextExpander account, you might be wondering what offline access is like and if you need an internet connection to use TextExpander.

The good news is, you don’t. Snippets are synced to your computer when there is a connection.

You can create new snippets when offline, but they won’t be saved online and accessible from all devices until you have an internet connection.

TextExpander pricing

This is a paid service.

A while back TextExpander moved to monthly/annual pricing. Which seemed to split the community somewhat, with many people loving to support the product over the long term, and many others much preferring the static pay-once model.

I have no huge opinions on paying for something once or recurring. As long as I think I’m paying a fair price for something I’m generally happy.

At the time of writing TextExpander costs $4.16 per month or $39.96 per year for one licence. To me this represents excellent value for money.

When they switched to this model I don’t think I even hesitated or saw out any grace period I had with the version of the app I was running, I immediately started playing.

Access to the iOS, MacOS, and Windows Desktop apps are free, but you will need a subscription in order for them to be of any use.

Latest pricing can be found here.

Trying TextExpander for free

There are no free plans for TextExpander, but all plans come with a free 30 day grace period for you to see if TextExpander would be right for you or your team.

If you’re a relatively heavy computer user then 30 days is an excellent amount of time to see if this is going to be worth your money.

You can sign up free here.

TextExpander for teams

Something I can’t comment on it TextExpander for teams, it sounds like a great idea but I’ve never worked in or with a team that has used it.

The pricing for teams is $7.96 per user per month if paid for annually.

TextExpander Community

Something TextExpander have been improving over the years is their notion of community and shared snippets. I found that when I first started I had to rely on finding people who wanted to share how they used TextExpander and either manually copying and pasting their snippets into my TextExpander or sometimes they had packaged them up as a download.

Now there is a central place for people to share snippets, this is great for inspiration and to get started with the product.

Maybe I’ve just been lucky, but there hasn’t been anyone in the community who I’ve spoken to who has been elitist or dogmatic about “how thou shalt use TextExpander”.

My final thoughts on TextExpander

I’ve covered a lot in this review so I’m going to end it here for now. My final thoughts are:

This service has saved me hours of time and made me more productive.

I’m positive it will do the same for you, with relatively little effort on your part.

You should check it out.

Your thoughts on TextExpander

Hopefully you enjoyed this review, it is one of the more in depth ones I’ve done and as such I would welcome lots of feedback!

  • How did you find reading this review?
  • Are you more or less likely to check out TextExpander as a result of reading this review?
  • If you’re using TextExpander, what are you using it for?
  • Have you been left with any questions about TextExpander that I haven’t covered?

Please comment below with your thoughts.

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