Referral Friday: TextExpander for the Mac


If you’re like me, you type the same stuff over and over again, without even knowing it.

  • Your name.
  • Your address(es).
  • Your (too many, and growing list of) phone numbers.
  • Etcetera.

I’ve written before of my awesome and abiding love for TextExpander, the text expansion program for the Mac. After mere hours of use, I wrote about it so glowingly that they used my quote as a testimonial (and an awesome and abiding, albeit virtual, friendship with Smile On My Mac’s evangelist, Jean MacDonald, was born). Other people, Merlin Mann, from whom I learned of it (and many other Tools and Practices of Goodness), and Gina Trapani, of Lifehacker and many other flavors of worthwhile celebrity, have done a better job than I’ve the time or brain cells to pull off (especially since my brain feels like it’s permanently expanded, and in the bad way, in this heat.)

Still, I’ll share what have become my favorite uses for TextExpander snippet storage:

  • Email signatures (I have many!)
  • Amazon affiliate links
  • Evergreen frequently-linked-to stuff (my newsletter signup page, my filthy motivational song, etc.)
  • Evanescent linked-to stuff (PresentationCamp, the workshop I did with Pam Slim, etc.)
  • Etcetera (biggest category, always thinking of new uses)

Bonus screencast of TextExpander in action, communicatrix-style

Regular readers have likely noted (I hope) that at the top of most posts, I use a carefully chosen photo from the Creative Commons Attribution-Only pool on Flickr to illustrate my posts. Extra-careful readers have probably also noted that there’s a line tucked into the bottom of those posts that looks like this:

Image by CrazyFlickrName via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

That’s two links and a bunch of italicized text every time. Or, it’s three keystrokes, f-f-l (without the dashes), that invokes all this data:

<em><a href=”%|”>Image by  via Flickr</a>, used under <a href=””>a Creative Commons license</a></em>.

The super-magical part, as Merlin explains in his post, is that there are some nifty shortcuts built into TextExpander itself, like the “%|”, which is a command for the cursor to travel back from the period at the end of whatever your long text thread is to the place where the “%|” resides.

Here’s a little screencast I put together to show you how it works:

In case the video doesn’t play, you can click here to watch it. Also, you might want to embiggen it via the button with the four arrows in the lower right-hand corner, since it’s all about the minute details. Still working on the encoding and such, but this is at least legible.

Let me know what you think of the video, okay? And TextExpander, if you buy it!


UPDATE (5/27/10): If you have to suffer through a second computer running on the Windows platform, check out Breevy, by Patrick McCann: it also invokes text via self-designated shortcuts, and you can import your TextExpander snippets directly or via Dropbox. And let me know how you like it, okay?

*For any of you especially hawkeyed viewers, that long-ass link is not an affiliate link, but it is the one they sent me in the email this week. As someone who obsesses over my own stats, I can totally appreciate this desire to know from whence come the links. But no, not making an effing dime off of it.

**Ditto on this long-ass link. Also, it takes you straight to the iTunes store, don’t freak out! Just breathe!


  1. While I don’t have a Mac and didn’t understand most of the brilliance in that message, I did peek at your Filthy Motivational Sond (who could resist). My eyes are a little wet as I am still laughing.

    I haven’t heard anything this good since the opening act for John Prine led 1200 people in a group sing of the one line song … “I’ve got all the funking work I need”!

    By the way, excellent guitar playing – your practice really showed.

  2. I wanted to watch the video but it’s marked “private” and wants me to log in. :(

    Great tip–might get this, especially since it’s on sale!

  3. Anne – Where do you live? When I come through town next, let’s have us a hootenanny!

    Seriously, thanks. I’ve been dreadfully neglectful of my guitar playing this year; you’ve inspired me to get back on it.

    Jamy – So sorry! I’ve fixed it on the Vimeo end, so it *should* work now. (Thanks, Peleg, for the heads up, too!)

    If anyone else has problems of any kind with the video, will you let me know? I’m new to this video stuff…obviously. :-)

  4. I’ve always noticed your image attributions. It’s one of the things I like about your blog.

    Enjoyed the vid though I didn’t see how to view it larger. Not a big deal in this case because I get what you were doing, but to better see what the cursor is doing/what you’re typing, larger would help. That’s probably just me not noticing something to click on though.

  5. That is an ungoldy number of icons on your dock. Of course, I say that having been a mac user not even 3 weeks. I’m probably going to get there sometime in the future.

  6. I do like the screencast and vote for more, for whatever! And embiggen is a lovely word. “A bargain at twice the price” makes me love the “old you” of the advertising era.

    And I have Mac envy. Mine is not happy these days. But it’s not its fault. It’s the fault of Snow Leopard meets a corrupted database in MS Entourage and way too many contacts to be using a consumer-based piece of software on the wrong platform anyway. Bleh.

    But yes, more screencasts. Very the good!

  7. PP – Oh, noes! Also, shit! Hope you can get it up and running again swiftly. The good news is that Apple does deliver pretty great customer service for those hefty prices you pay. And definitely check out TextExpander when you can. It’s way fun!

    Claire – Thanks for noticing my little attribution links. I studied lots of other ones before coming up with this for myself.

    As to embiggening, there’s a button with arrows going in four directions in between the volume lines and the Vimeo logo. Click that and it will make it huh-YOOGE.

    Jason – And that’s just what I have on the dock. You don’t wanna know how many apps I really have. It’s…excessive.

    Bon – I loved Entourage but even at low-level usage–1,500 or so contacts–I was forever wrassling with that f#!king database. I’m not nuts about Address Book, but at least it’s relatively stable.

  8. Just wanted you to know, in case you hadn’t noticed, there’s a link at the top of flickr pics that says “All Sizes”. You may want to click that because it gives you the option of downloading the full size version of the photo. I know for web use, it’s probably not that critical, but nice to know that option is there.

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