Real Uses of Text Expansion

Just out of curiosity…

How are people using text expanders daily, especially flexing them in a way that can’t be accomplished with Apple’s built-in System Preferences > Keyboard > Text (which I use a TON)?

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The system expansion manages caps very badly (in my experience). For instance, I have in my novels the title of someone (the Title being Capitalized) but it’s also the title of one of the books (The Title being Capitalized). I can differentiate between both in Typinator. (You can’t in the system expansion, right ?)

Fill in snippets are also quite useful for templating blog articles or tasks.


I do some. I use an Alfred workflow that lets me type a two character code to enter a search/autocomplete mode for the snippet I want. These are mostly difficult-to-remember project numbers, webhook keys, etc. For me, the autocomplete and the habit of using Alfred is the reason to use a third party tool. But I do also have some system substitutes set up for things like common misspellings and others where I inadvertently type one thing and always mean another.


Nope. The built-in expansion isn’t case-sensitive.

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Apple built-in text expansion will not work on shell emulator, or the one I use
I write code with vim, and often use date related expansion to use epoch time as ID.

I have the same listings of text expansions between Apple built-in and Keyboard Maestro. The differences are all expansion that requires variable like date can only be done in KM, also the built-in uses k as prefix while the KM uses ;.

Example is the Discourse compliant of shrug with escaped MD syntax ¯\\_(ツ)\_/¯:

  • built-in: kshruk → ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
  • KM: ;shruk → ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
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One of my most-used text expansions is today’s date (in YYYY-MM-DD format) which can’t be done using the built-in expansion (something that annoys me to no end on iOS devices).


Indeed, there’s also this.
I’m also using such a macro to build my Zettelkasten UIDs several times a day.


The default text expansion doesn’t work for me in Electron apps, and I use a few of these like Obsidian. Therefore, I use Alfred (and the built in text expansion of my email client on iOS).

I use them every day for a range of tasks, from auto filling recipients in emails to dates throughout different apps.

I also use the built in text replacement for Safari on Mac and iOS, as that works across platforms.


I use the system expansion as much as I can, since that works on all platforms.
On the mac I’ve recently moved all snippets from TE to Keyboard Maestro.

My “non-system” snippets mainly deal with data math, creating UID’s and work related templates.

Also: For my work using KM is essential since our Citrix implementation does not allow pasting text, but it does allow typing, so I use the “paste by typing” option a lot.


I use RocketTypist and have collected a large amount of text blocks with longer replies to my freelance clients in multiple languages. Most of them use smart inserts. The most common ones are dates (“in 14 days (20th of July 2021)”, the date is calculated) or the recipient’s names (usually from my clipboard). RocketTypist will ask me a bunch of questions in pop-up form and then paste the compiled text accordingly. For mails it is useful that I can use rich text to beautify links and occasionally bolden/italicize a world in my text.

At my jobby-job a lot of long mail addresses and URLs are used for our internal services. If I need to refer someone to a colleague or point them to a specific site, I will also use text expansion by filtering the results box of RocketTypist’s search. It works similarly to Alfred’s fuzzy search. I have both full textual reply blocks with brief explainers, as well as individual shortcuts that only expand the mail address/URL. Those also work as short command phrases that replace my typed text in-line in the editor without any pop-up (similar to the macOS built-in text exp. feature). Those usually start with the prefix ;... like ;mailxyz for a mail address of person xyz). I keep various mail addresses (my own and common colleagues or functional addresses), as well as URLs and also email signatures and closing salutations in it. I manage them in RocketTypist to have a GUI to comfortably edit them and also have the option to browse if I can’t remember the in-line text command. Examples:

  • ;bestb (b for brief: would be expanded to a brief “Best + my name” salutation)
  • ;bests (s for signature: would do the same + an added signature, which is required at the work place)

But I also use RocketTypist to expand note and journal entry templates (markdown syntax).

However, I also use the macOS built-in text replacement engine if I do not need to use the search feature of RocketTypist. I split the two, because those common phrases would clutter my search results in RocketTypist. Typing those commands instead of words and phrases has become muscle memory. There are a few common and workplace-specific abbreviations. Acronyms like asap or imo, but also workplace lingo (with the ; prefix) for example or ;pc for “profit center”, as well as common English words like nec. to “necessary”, prev./prevly. to “previous”/“previously” etc. The same goes for phrases like “thanks a lot in advance” (talia). It essentially is my own shorthand.


Never heard of kitty before - looks pretty cool, and the name is (of course) fantastic, especially that the “plugins” are called “kittens”. As a long time iTerm user, I am not sure I could switch, but I will be checking this out! Thanks for the link!

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I use +sun for next Sunday’s date in this format: 2021-07-11

and +SUN for: July 11th, 2021

and -sun for 2021-07-04

and -SUN for July 4th, 2021

I also use a signature which is multi-line and Markdown formatted.

I have them for home and work addresses as a block, and I have them for phone numbers which insert them emulating typing with [tab] after the area code and then after the prefix.

I also sync them using Keyboard Maestro and Typinator, so I have them instantly the same on all my computers. I have found macOS and iOS’ built-in expansion to be not great at syncing, and not even great at deleting. I have replace ‘omw’ as ‘On my way’ about 1,000 times, but iOS still wants to make it “On my way!” and I don’t need or want that exclamation point.

If I can’t trust text expansion in a little thing like a ! how can I trust it with anything more significant?


Interesting… I’ve been impressed by how it has synced nicely between all my Apple devices.

So you’re using Typinator as your main expansion app?

I use Typinator for:

  1. Expansions that I wish to use in specific apps (i.e., not globally).
  2. RegEx based expansions.
  3. To replacie an accidental double space at the end of a sentence, or between words, with a single space.
  4. For expansions that require user input in order to complete. (For example, a single expansion to accompany a post on any of the DEVONThink, Photo Mechanic or Scrivener forums which includes details of my current macOS version and version of the relevant app. I may need to change/update the latter two but details of my MacBook Pro remain constant.)
  5. For alternative methods of expanding the same text (for example, an address—where you might want it in a single line if emailing it to somone or with a tab between each line when completing a web form).
  6. For choosing from a list which of my social media IDs I wish to give.


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Nice and interesting list! :slight_smile:

Could you explain this further? Syncing what/how? Includes your iOS computers? Thx

My use of native text expansion (/replacement?) on i(Pad)OS is actually quite light. I’ve had a couple of moments where I’ve thought to make better use of it, and added a raft of keywords and phrases, but few of them actually stick. Looking at my set-up, there’s a ton of cruft in there, but I only really consistently use a couple of “slash commands” for emoji e.g. “/wink”, and a keyword for my primary email address.

Before I started using iPads for so much of what I do, I used to appreciate TextExpander; now, on i(Pad)OS I use LazyBoard instead (I’ve mentioned it elsewhere). Now THAT, I use all the time. It’s like a lite-r version of TextExpander, but I far prefer the way it works, given iOS’s limitations.

Thinking about it, it functions more like a custom keyboard than a text replacement tool. I use it for:

  • inserting dates and timestamps, varying formats
  • date format masks
  • url schemes
  • Fantastical calendar shortcodes
  • some of my most-used hashtags for personal filing and knowledge management
  • some markdown syntax (specifically links and image links)
  • client shortcodes…

I journal with a snippet. I use it in Drafts and it pops up a massive fii-in snippet with drop down menus for my daily physical activities, the food I ate at each meal, what I read, what tutorials I watched or books I studied divided into 4 optional parts for two foreign langauges, programming, or adobe., then an optional miscellaneous field set for thoughts, other stuff I did, etc.

I then send it to DayOne then add any photos or graphics I need.

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I’m using Typinator and that is the one I use all the time. I’ve added a trailing underscore to mine to malke it YYYY-MM-DD_ since I most often use it as part of a filename and all new filenames are Unix compatible with no spaces in them.


I use text expander for things like my date, my name, and for the class I teach. One snippet for teaching is about three sentences describing how to get a free writing tutor. I have a two key combination that says “You did a great job on this assignment.” It’s all little things, but saves two or three hours per month (according to my monthly text expander report).