You really need a text expander

AutohotkeyText expanders take something you type and turn it into something more, considerably more if you so desire. Trust me, if you use your computer for any significant amount of typing, you need a text expansion program. New York Times technology correspondent and Missing Manual writer David Pogue—for my money, the best IT writer on the planet—estimates that a text expander cuts his typing effort in half.

A text expander does just what the name implies. It expands text. For example, you can set up your text expander so that when you type addy, it outputs your address complete with carriage returns.

Some examples from my Autohotkey script:

General typing

fwiw » for what it’s worth
w7 » Windows 7
llib » my library card number
llor » gives me some paragraphs of dummy text: Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, ………. voluptas nulla pariatur?
mwu »
mse » Microsoft Security Essentials
ggml »
ssas » SUPERAntiSpyware
ttx » text expander
kkb » keyboard
kkbs » keyboard shortcut
kkbss » keyboard shortcuts

As a spell checker:
cafe » café

With carriage returns

Home: 01 234 5678
Mobile: 034 567 8910

hhome »

Joe Bloggs
123 Umpteenth St
Suburbia 4567
New Zealand.

Recording macros

Type Ctrl+Alt+n »

Run Notepad++

For coders and scripters:

I type pprt and I get:

<p style=”text-align: right;”>{Enter}</p>{left 4}
which ouputs:
<p style=”text-align: right;”>
my cursor appears here

You can do the same thing in Microsoft Office programs using autocorrect, but that has a significant problem: it doesn’t work outside of Microsoft Office.

There are several programs available: for Windows users there are PhraseExpress, ActiveWords, and the free Texter, but I prefer the also free, super-light-weight Autohotkey. It looks a little geeky on first sight but it only takes 5 minutes to learn the functions a normal non-geek would use.

There’s a free version of PhraseExpress for home use but I don’t recommend it. It includes a spying function that reports your usage back to Big Brother so that he can check whether or not you’re using it commercially.

For Mac users TextExpander gets the most publicity but I preferred Typinator. For Linux users the only option is Autokey which does the job but doesn’t foot it with Autohotkey for Windows.

The Autohotkey documentation could be considered a little overwhelming for beginners so I’ve written an Autohotkey getting-started page right here. If you are really technophobic and can’t cope with Autohotkey, try Texter.

Give Just Wondering some much-needed encouragement, leave a comment below.


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