Academic Workflow: Text Expander

Introduction

This is a slight step back from my normal posts on biblical studies and theology but it is still related. I love technology, productivity, and academics. I spend a lot of time thinking the best way to integrate technology into my every day life to help me be more productive without distraction. I am often asked by fellow students and friends what I use on my Mac for school. I thought I would provide a series of blog post explaining what I use and how I use it. First on the docket, TextExpander (Mac and iOS only).

I had trouble figuring out what I wanted to talk about first. So much of what I do is integrated with each other it was hard to choose what to do first. I decided to begin with Text Expand because it is at the core of what I do and how I function on my Mac and iOS devices.

TextExpander is one of my all-time favorite Mac apps. It makes typing repetitious items and words a breeze. As part of this academic workflow series I want to highlight how I use Text Expander to increase my productivity in my studies.

First, a description of what the app is. At the core text expander follows your keystrokes on your Mac and will expand certain combinations of letters and characters into a predefine format. In addition to this you can have it paste from your clipboard, format dates however you want, and insert your cursor wherever you want. For example, one of my most used snippets is a date stamp. I use this so I have a systematic way of typing the date every time (and it is more efficient). To do this all I have to type is “.ds” and it will produce the current date in my specified format: 2013–04–26.

Or another common expansion that I use is an email snippet. I type “xgm” and it expands to brenshaw833@gmail.com. I also have many other peoples email in different snippets so I don’t have to worry about looking up their email. As you can see I have a couple different methods for creating my snippets. The goal is to create a shortcut that you would not type in any other scenario. This is the very basics of what Text Expander does.

Form Fields

It also has the ability to do form fields. Form fields bring up a dialog box where you can either enter in certain information or choose different templates you have predefined. For example, one way I use the form field is to form vocabulary lists on Accordance. I often times forget the syntax (or don’t want to type it in) so I created a form field snippet to do this. For this I type “crx” and it brings up this dialog box:

All I have to do is type in the frequency that I want and then the range of verses that I want it to search and it is done. I don’t have to remember which search words to use and whatnot but just the Text Expander snippet.

Optional Selection Form Field

Another dialog box is the optional section. This comes in handy if you do something that is very similar but may require different responses. For example, email signatures. I have different email signatures depending on who I am writing to. Yes, you can input them all into the Mail app or Gmail but this allows for one central location where you can change your signatures and it is easy. I just type “esig;” and it brings up this optional dialog box:

I just click which email signature I would like to add and it inserts it into whatever email client I am using.

HTML Snippets

This is also very helpful in blogging. One aspect that is extremely helpful is providing the correct HTML code for Greek and Hebrew text so my site correctly renders them in the correct font. For example, any text in Greek needs the code

<span lang="el"></span> 

What is great about Text Expander is that I can actually have this snippet and then tell Text Expander do insert either my cursor or copied Greek text (from Logos or Accordance) into the correct location and then place my cursor at the end of the HTML code. That way if I copy a verse out of Accordance I then come to my text editor and type “,,pg” and it will expand to

<span lang="el">Δεῦτε πρός με πάντες οἱ κοπιῶντες καὶ πεφορτισμένοι, κἀγὼ ἀναπαύσω ὑμᾶς.</span> 

That way on the blog it looks like this:

  • Δεῦτε πρός με πάντες οἱ κοπιῶντες καὶ πεφορτισμένοι, κἀγὼ ἀναπαύσω ὑμᾶς .

Instead of this:

  • Δεῦτε πρός με πάντες οἱ κοπιῶντες καὶ πεφορτισμένοι, κἀγὼ ἀναπαύσω ὑμᾶς.

Misspelled Words and Capitalizations

One more use is for commonly misspelled words and capitalizations. All you do is add different snippets on how you typically misspell a word. For example, I am terrible at misspelling the word “tongue.” Almost every time I type the word I spell it “tounge”. So I added a snippet that if I type “tounge” it automatically changes it to “tongue”. I also have a list of common miscapitalizations such as iPhone. If I type in iphone or Iphone or any other odd combination it will expand correctly to iPhone.

Conclusion

This is just the basics of TextExpander. In the following posts on my academic workflows I will show different Text Expander snippets that improve my efficiency in the app that I am using. There is no limit to the use that Text Expander to improve your productivity.

The app is $34.95 and can be purchased here. It is well worth the investment. Here is the link to other videos of how TextExpander works. I encourage you to at least try out the free trial and I think you will become a believer too.

If you have any questions or want to know more how I use it feel free to email me at brenshaw833@gmail.com or leave a comment below.

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