Macintosh Text Expansion Options

Do you type the same information into email messages or Word documents? If so, you would benefit from using a text expander. Text expanders let you create abbreviations then whenever the abbreviation is typed it inserts a word, phrase, sentence or paragraph that you designated. For example, you could create the abbreviation ‘addr. When you type ‘addr the abbreviation vanishes and your street address appears. Apple includes a basic version in OS X and iOS. If you need more features you can use a third party text expander.

OS X’s Built-In Text Expander

In order to use OS X’s built-in text expander feature you need to have OS X Lion or newer (aka OS X 10.7). LifeHacker has an excellent tutorial with a video demonstration as well as step-by-step written instructions for setting this up.

For example, many people I know don’t want to include an email signature at the end of every email. Instead, they want to insert it on-demand. This tutorial shows you how to set up one or more email signatures using OS X’s text expander feature.

You can also set up text expander abbreviations on your Mac and have them appear on your iPhone or iPad as described in this video tutorial by Kyre Lahtinen.

Third-Party Alternatives

If this built-in feature isn’t sufficient for your needs you might like to consider a third-party alternative. Two of the stalwart products in this category are TextExpander ($35) and Typinator (25 Euros). Other competing products are TypeIt4Me ($20) and aText ($5). Many of these apps will sync between Macs and iOS devices, but TextExpander is unique in that it also supports Windows-based PCs.

For the past 6 months, I’ve been using aText with my client coordinator, Ericka. We needed a text expander that let us sync abbreviations between two Macs using different Dropbox accounts. Initially we tested Typinator, but I didn’t like it’s interface. It didn’t handle a mixture of text and graphics, or at least I couldn’t get it to work. aText has met our needs and syncing worked properly once we started to use the version of their app sold directly on their web site, not the version in the Mac App Store. I’m sure this issue is a bug that they have or will fix.

I encourage you to set up the built-in text expander feature, at a minimum. It can be a great time-saver.

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