Do you find yourself typing the same words or phrases over and over again? Maybe you get business inquiries by email, which require the same reply each time. Or perhaps you have the need to write the same paragraph repeatedly in a Word document. Whatever the situation, you can save a good chunk of time by using a text expander.
A text expander basically just stores a collection of your commonly used phrases, and whenever you type a certain key combination, the text expander converts it and spits out one of your designated phrases.
The one I use and recommend is called Phrase Express. It is free and can be found at PhraseExpress.com.
Here’s an example of how it is used:
Let’s say you’re a business owner, and you get inquiries each day by email about the features of your products. So every day you reply to these emails, individually, with this message:
Thanks for your question about our widgets. They do come in 3 different sizes (small, medium and large) and you can also choose from an assortment of colors (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo or violet). You can get more information at our website, www.mycompany.com. Feel free to call or email with any other questions you might have.
Maybe you’re a fast typist so it only takes you a minute or two to get that message out. That is still a waste of time. Not to mention, if you type that out by hand each time, you will probably have a typo or two that you either have to spend more time correcting, or you don’t notice it and it goes out to the recipient.
What makes a lot more sense is this. Whenever you need to type that paragraph, you just hit Shift + Alt + R (or whatever key combination you want) and PhraseExpress spews out that exact message, word for word. So you have just spent .5 seconds creating a perfect section of text, instead of 2 minutes creating one that might have errors. To me, that’s a no-brainer.
One way I use it regularly is for my eBay auctions. Every item I sell is different, so there is no way of automating the actual description of the product. However, at the end of each description is my standard statement about shipping. I only ship to the lower 48 states (sorry Alaska and Hawaii) and I don’t offer local pickup or combined shipping.
I used to type out those 3 or 4 sentences each time, but now I just hit a couple of keys and there they are, all typed out immediately.
If you use MS Word, this feature is already sort of built into that program. It’s called AutoCorrect. It’s really designed to fix a word when you make a mistake. For example, if you happen to type “computor” it will automatically fix the spelling for you and put “computer” instead. You can set that to happen on any set of letters. You could set it so that each time you type “tyftg” Word would type out “Thank you for the gift”. Problem is, that will only work in Word – it doesn’t transfer over to your email program or a website form like I use for eBay. PhraseExpress works across all these areas, anywhere in your computer you happen to need some text.
The download is pretty standard. However, since it is coming from cNet, watch out for anything unusual. Back in the day, cNet was considered the primary legitimate source for free software you could reliably download and use. Now, they make money from deceptive advertisers that have big “Download” buttons in their ads, and from piggybacking malware on top of whatever you are actually trying to download. This time, I didn’t see any of that happen with PhraseExpress.
Couple of things to be aware of during the installation:
When it asks, I recommend choosing “Custom Install” (that is my standard choice for any installation, so I can be sure of exactly what is happening). I also unchecked “Firebird SQL Server Support”
I also choose the option of having it autostart. This means it is running in the background all the time. You may not choose to have it do this, but for me I find it more convenient than having to start it up each time I want to use it.
As far as using the program, it’s not too hard to figure out. In fact, it already has a lot of corrections built in (like the ones mentioned above in Word – but these will work anywhere, not just in Word, as long as PhraseExpress is running in the background).
You can add your own automated words or phrases, and have them get activated either by typing certain letters or by hitting Hotkeys (a combination of Shift, Ctrl, Alt, Win plus whatever other key(s) you want to throw into the mix).
So have fun with it, and I hope it saves you a bunch of time!