Best App for Typing Faster

Screenshots

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TextExpander Screenshot

Shorthand: Create a list of abbreviations, or “snippets,” for commonly used phrases, phone numbers, URLs, even entire messages. Set the app to insert your full mailing address when you type “aaddr,” for example, or driving directions to your office when you type “drdir.” TextExpander gives you several sample snippets to get you started, but you can create as many as you like, even organizing them into groups for similar subject matter.

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TextExpander Screenshot

Scratchpad: Although some other apps (like WriteRoom) support TextExpander’s snippets, most do not. At least for now, that means you have to get in the habit of using TextExpander’s notepad to type your notes, emails, tweets, and SMS messages. From there, you can send your completed text to Mail to create a new email, send it to the Twitter app of your choice, or copy the whole shebang to the clipboard to paste into another app.

TextExpander
Top Pick

TextExpander

Version: 1.1
Website: SmileOnMyMac

Face it, we’re all thumbs when it comes to the iPhone, and blazing-fast typing doesn’t come easy—unless you have TextExpander. The app lets you create abbreviations which expand into full text when you type them, a huge timesaver for common phrases or boilerplate paragraphs. The app gives you a scratchpad to speed-type your text, and when you’re done, slings it into a new email or, using copy/paste, into any app you want.


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3 Comments

A few pointers for making the most of this super-handy app...

1. SNIPPET SHARING

If you're already a fan of the TextExpander desktop software for Macs, there's good news: You can import all of your snippets from your Mac over your WiFi network, and just continue to use your familiar shorthand on your iPhone. From the Groups screen, tap the + button and then tap "Add via Local Network." You can export snippet groups, too, sharing your shortcuts with other iPhones and Macs on the same WiFi network. To do this, navigate to the group you want to share, then tap the Action button and choose "Send via Local Network."

2. USING IN OTHER APPS

TextExpander lets you use your snippets in other apps, but only if those apps have been specifically coded to allow it. For the moment, I believe WriteRoom is the only other app that lets you do this, but more are on the way, including Tweetie 2.0, the forthcoming Twitter app which should be in the App Store in the next week or two. To turn this feature on, tap the Settings icon from TextExpander's Groups screen and then turn on Snippet Sharing. In WriteRoom's settings, turn on Enable TextExpander, and you're done.

(Interesting curiosity: To enable this sharing between apps, TextExpander stashes all of its snippet info in your Address Book, one of the few "common areas" that iPhone apps are allowed to share. It does this by creating a contact named TextExpander and puts its data in the note field. Don't delete the new address-book entry for TextExpander, or you'll break snippet-sharing in other apps.)

3. PREDEFINED SNIPPET GROUPS

When you first fire up TextExpander, it gives you a single snippet group ("Sample Snippets"), but it also has a bunch of other prefab snippets hidden behind the scenes, with snippets for HTML, CSS, Symbols, Accented Words and AutoCorrect. That last one has common misspellings and their corrections (teh turns into the, for example). To add one of these, go to the main Groups screen, tap the + button, and then tap "Add Predefined."

4. CREATING YOUR OWN SNIPPETS

You add your own snippets by choosing a group in the Groups screen and then tapping the + button in the group's Snippets screen. From there, enter the abbreviation to use and the text you want it to expand into. The two things you need to keep in mind when you create a snippet is that it should be short and that it should be a set of letters that you're unlikely to type accidentally, particularly as the start of another word. (Duplicating an abbreviation's first character -- ddate or ssig -- is a good way to dodge that last problem.)

5. DATE AND TIME PLACEHOLDERS

TextExpander lets you include special placeholders in your snippets to stand in for date and time info. Putting %Y into the expanded text of one of your snippets, for example, will insert the current year. Here's the full list of the available date/time placeholders:

  • %Y : year, four digits (2006)
  • %y : year, two digits (06)
  • %B : month, long name (January)
  • %b : month, short name (Jan)
  • %m : month, number w/leading zero (01)
  • %1m : month, number w/out leading zero (1)
  • %A : weekday (Monday)
  • %a : weekday, abbreviated (Mon)
  • %d : day of month, w/leading zero (01)
  • %e : day of month, w/out leading zero (1)
  • %H : hour, 24-hour clock, 2 digits (14)
  • %1H : hour, 24-hour clock, w/out leading zero (9)
  • %I (capital letter i): Hour, 12-hour clock, 2 digits (09)
  • %1I (capital letter i): Hour, 12 hour clock, no leading zero (5)
  • %M : Minute w/leading zero (09)
  • %1M : Minute, no leading zero (9)
  • %S : Second w/leading zero (05)
  • %1S : Second, no leading zero (5)

Happy TextExpanding!
Josh

This just in: Greg Scown, founder of TextExpander creator SmileOnMyMac, dropped me a line to let me know that as of version 1.1, TextExpander no longer tucks info in the Address Book to share snippet info with other apps:

Instead, TextExpander touch 1.1 writes to a persistent clipboard behind the scenes and so the user need not worry about deleting their entry. (I'm grateful to [Tweetie developer] Loren Brichter for that idea, and I'm thrilled he's including TextExpander support in Tweetie.)

Thanks, Greg!

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