Automatic text expansion is one of those things that you don’t understand how useful it is until you are on a machine without it.
What is automatic text expansion
Automatic text expansion is a utility that runs in the background and expands a short piece of text to a longer piece of text.
For example, I have
;d; set up to expand to the current date, for example
I use this shortcut when I’m naming files I’m working on, or other places where I may need today’s date.
Another one I use is to expand the meta information on a blogpost such as this one.
I can open an editor and type
;meta, which will expand to the following
Date: 2022/08/28 13:21
images: [ "" ]
Yes, there are apps that let you expand text within that app, but by using an utility that is running all the time, I can use the expansions in any app.
I like to bounce between different browsers and editors, using an application for text expansion means I only have to remember one set of expansions, not how each application may do text expansions.
Starting with TextExpander
Once upon a time I was checking out automatic text expansion with TextExpander.
This worked really well, but then removed the ability to sync your expansions in Dropbox along with introducing a subscription model, so I started looking for something else.
That’s when I came upon Espanso.
Espanso runs on Windows, Linux, and Macs.
The application is open source, licensed under the GPL 3 license.
The expansions are stored in regular text file.
I sync my expansions using git and a private repo on GitHub.
Since I use 2 or 3 different computers in a day, Git allows me to keep all of my expansions in sync.
There are three types of expansions that I use:
- Regular text expansions: Replacing short text with longer text. One expansion is
;em, which expands to
[email protected]. There is also
;o; which expands to the degree symbol(°).
- Calculated text expansions: Replacing short text with the output of shell commands.
date to calculate tomorrow’s date and expand out the text to read
tomorrow, August 29.
- Emoji: There is an addon pack to let you type emoji’s in text, like expanding
:wink: to 😉. It’s usually faster than using the emoji picker.
A lot of their examples use the colon as the start of the shortcut. It doesn’t have to be a colon, it can be whatever you want as long as it is unique.
I use the semicolon to start a lot of my snippets because I didn’t like having to use the shift key to type the colon.
Espanso is such a great program.
It’s so good that I sponsor the project, and that says a lot!
My main complaint is thatI can’t use it on a Chromebook, but that’s pretty minor in the grand scheme of things.
If you’re looking for an easy way to be more productive, be sure to check out Espanso.