Text expansion is a simple idea that has powerful consequences. The basic idea of text expansion is to take a repeatedly typed piece of text and to give it a shortcut. This shortcut is automatically expanded to the longer piece of text when typed.

It’s a simple idea, but when applied judiciously, can result in many hours saved if your job entails typing a lot of text.

What can I use text expansion for?

The basics

As previously mentioned, any piece of text that you need to type repeatedly can benefit from text expansion.

For example, if you find yourself repeatedly typing in your phone number, you can write a shortcut for that. Personally, I have a shortcut for my home phone, htel, and for my mobile phone mtel.

I also have shortcuts for my various emails, the url of my blog, my email signature and my home address among many other things. These are pieces of text that I find myself repeatedly typing. Creating shortcuts for them saves me a lot of typing.

Of course, you can get more creative and create more complex shortcuts. The next section discusses some of my more complex text expansion ideas.

More advanced ideas

I find myself repeatedly typing the same message to my family every morning before I go to work. It usually consists of wishing them a good morning and confirming that I’ve done a number of things that they depend on me to do daily.

I usually need to write this message in the morning when I’m heading out to work. Ever since I’ve been blessed with a baby, sleep has been a rather rare commodity. I need every minute from the time I wake up in the morning to the time I get into my car to get ready for work.

In order to speed up my morning routine, I wrote a shortcut that expands to the body of the message I need to send to my family in the morning. I now have to type just one word instead of several paragraphs when I finish performing the required tasks — this saves me several precious minutes to get ready for work.

I also use text expansion to handle common email replies. For example, I get a lot of requests for grades and letters of recommendations in my job. In order to be able to handle this quickly, I’ve created a couple of shortcuts that expand to the body of the email replies I need to send to these common requests.

These emails need customization. For example, they need to be tailored to include the name of the person I’m talking to, the grade of the student in the exam being inquired about, etc.

Fortunately, most modern text expansion software allows you to define fields that request input. This means that you can create a shortcut that asks you for certain input when it is triggered. It then uses this input to compose a piece of text that includes the inputted values.

So, for example, I can write a shortcut that, when typed, asks me to entered the name of the person I wish to talk to and a grade out of 20. The shortcut would then create an email addressed to the person whose name I entered informing him/her of his/her grade (which I also entered). I’ll upload a YouTube video very soon to show you how this, and other uses of text expansion, works.

Example text expansion software

There are many text expansion software tools on the market, but here are my favorites categorized by platform.


  1. TextExpander
  2. Built-in keyboard text replacements


  1. TextExpander
  2. Alfred


  1. AutoHotkey

These are my favorite text expansion tools categorized by platform. In subsequent posts, I’ll show you how I use each of these to accomplish the desired tasks. But for now, I hope that you get a general idea about how text expansion can speed up your work — especially if it involves typing a lot of text. Until my next post, bye for now.

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