Text Expander Newbie

So after hearing about this for what must be 15 years across the Apple podcast world, I finally made the jump today. So any suggestions on what people use it for would be great? Also any links to blogs/must reads that might be give me a jumping off point would be greatly appreciated.

There are a handful of shortcuts I use every day for work - they are pretty simple but make life easier:

  1. I have a shortcut ‘xof’ that inserts my OmniFocus e-mail address into the Bcc field.

  2. I usually end all of my e-mails with ‘Thanks, space Brian’ and it’s amazing how many times I can screw up my name. I know it sounds strange but it happens. So I have ‘xtha’ and that puts what I need at the bottom of e-mails to sign off without looking like I don’t know my name.

  3. I’ve got a few projects that will exist over a long period of time. I want to use the same prefix in the e-mail subject lines … For example, ‘Chicago CapProject: XXXXXX’. If I type ‘xchi’ It will insert the 'Chicago CapProject: ’ part and leave the cursor there. I then type the more detailed explanation of what the e-mail is about, say ‘Closeout Documents’. That way someone always knows when they can their inbox what project my e-mail is about. Saves me from typing the project name, literally thousands of times, over the life of a project.


Dates are useful for me. Like @BrianInChicago start using your signature, project titles, address and so on straight away. There is a wide variety of Date formats available and I would look up @MacSparky shortcuts on those. He has some which do past dates, next Monday etc etc. they are excellent. I think they are in the ‘made by users’ collection online. Use that too, it will help a lot to get some ready mades.
I think David uses a group prefix which I would recommend; having not done it myself and got into a memory problems as a result. Number one problem for me on TE was remembering trigger strings. I use KeyCue now which works with Keyboard Maestro but not TE.

First keep in mind regarding what I say that I don’t have, by some standards, a large amount of snippets. Less than 50 at present. Some just capitalize words, some though are apple scripted date modifiers. Get into the more complex ones straight away I would and don’t let it become a ‘spell checker’ only.

Most of my snippets could be done with Keyboard Maestro and in fact I did recreate most of my date snippets on that. So that I could look them up easier.

I keep Text Expander though since they use less ‘space’ and doesn’t go through clipboard and that kind of under the hood thing. I am told tect expander make more complicated snippets easily. I also am a legacy subscription user, about $20 a year I think, were it to cost any more I would just use Keyboard Maestro, which costs less over all over a two year period even, as I said that is because I have so few snippets and am not likely to ever need much more.

Text Expander has some nice features for grouping expansions by prefix which I would explore if you have a lot. Do it straight away as the sooner you get habits the better, some will become muscle memory. I didn’t do that and it slowed me up on TE a lot. Possibly partly why I use Keyboard Maestro so much more for expansion still? I find searching on TE has friction for me, so I only keep snippets I have in muscle memory there. That is about 12 at present.

1 Like

This is my #1 use for TE. I use “xds” for a date stamp (e.g. 2019-10-30) every day, and even one time wrote it by hand out of habit! Great for starting off files, dating meeting notes, etc. Nice to never need to actually think about what the date is.

My second is signing my name, same reason as Brian - messing it up.

Beyond that, I use it for some specific reply emails, and for some common emails that have a lot of fill in blanks (dates, times, directions, topics etc).


You will get good use out of text expansion then. same format as I use exactly too. As I said, if that was all you needed it for Keyboard Maestro would do that for you without any strain. @MacSparky 's date collection is a must have if you use TE though. I have considered not renewing my TE sub several times, but it is only 20$ a year on my legacy sub? It is nice to support good apps too frankly. All my dates and signatures are, as it happens, now on Keyboard Maestro. Let us know your learning curve and what strategies you settle on: it would be interesting to see out of the blocks as it were.

1 Like

I use it for grading all of the time. (Teach virtually). My Expansions I use most

  • Ddate - 2019-10-30

  • cpdf (see pdf for feedback)

  • xwa (wrong assignment (high school kids are the worst sometimes)

  • tvhead (expands to a formatted note head with the date - space for input of reason I’m making the note - music and then presses tab to move cursor to note field)

  • Tvnote (expands to mode of contact (selected by drop down), grade (blank text box), reason for contact (drop down) and puts the cursor to input notes)

  • Xlvm (left voicemail at primary number)

  • Xwd (well done!)


Common typos that you make are a good usage. For some reason I often type change and cahnge. Easy enough to make the substitution. Also teh instead of the.

Eml for my email address.


some useful links:




I have done that writing by hand thing too!! I am thinking of using it for citations: do you know of anybody who does that with TE? I never heard of anybody.

I use “xdt” but I have to format in a precise way date and time stamps too, I use ‘xtt’ for those. I think I followed Sparky’s conventions initially? I can’t even remember now. It is more important now that I keep the same shortcuts than the apps I use.

Over here still going strong on the non-subscription TextExpander 5, on Mojave (10.14.6).
Are there TE 5 users who already upgraded to Catalina, and, if yes, are there any issues with TE5 on 10.15?


I don’t get nearly enough use out of it.

But I can’t get rid of it because I use it to add dates in a few different formats.

I have a date that I use at the end of file names: type fdate and get 19-10-31
A date that I use for proper dates type ddate and get October 31, 2019

I use those several times a day. And when I try to use it in an app that doesn’t support text expander on ios and it doesn’t work, I get a little panicked.

I typo my last name a lot, so I made an expansion that fixes that issue when it happens.

I always forget to use it for my address or email addresses.

I need to use it for more, and I’m sure there’s more I could be doing, but I don’t have a lot of low-hanging-fruit, obvious use cases beyond what I’ve mentioned above.

1 Like

OK the question for me really, is not whether I could do without text expansions, I can’t, but rather what app I really need for them. I do have some expansions, ones I am very familiar with on Launchbar as it happens.

You are in a very similar place to me. I could manage the dates and signatures perfectly well on Keyboard Maestro: @peternlewis himself explains, quite often, that it is useful to have a dedicated app like TE. There are cogent reasons: I was on one thread once with somebody who had thousands of expansions, I think he was a coder? I can’t even imagine needing that, it was obvious he needed a dedicated app.
I am thinking about this at present and maybe should apologize for making a thread about TE one about Keyboard Maestro !?

If you are careful with expansions on Keyboard Maestro it works well I find. I set most of mine to ‘type’ rather than ‘paste’ for example. You need to watch that they don’t end up filling the clipboard if you use paste, I put a ‘delete clipboard’ action in the macro for that reason and it is easy enough. Seems fussy but TE needs some setting up very often too?

In other words you have to think it through a bit and that might make TE easier to some? There is an issue I don’t understand about the amount of ‘space’ expansions can consume on Keyboard Maestro. I have never found that an issue though. As I said I have less than 50 there at present and not a huge library of macros anyway. I know about group licences for TE but I have found mine and others expansions quite idiosyncratic. It would be interesting to hear opinion on that.

Right. I think TE is way more user friendly, and syncing to iOS is a major benefit to me.

Though I have been considering giving KM a go for other automations, I haven’t used it in five years or so.

1 Like

I use Typinator myself because I don’t think such a utility warrants an annual subscription as these features in more basic forms are included in apps like Alfred or Keyboard Maestro.

I use Typinator for light coding work and popping in SQL statements in addition to your bread n butter boilerplate stuff. Eventually I’ll get around to futzing around with the Javascript actions.

I feel these apps are so mature you’re just not going to get a lot of new features that justify paying every year.

1 Like

Ahhh of course the ios thing. I don’t use ios much for typing, I found for messages TE fussy to use and didn’t bother, I guess that might change and is something to be said strongly in favor of TE, thanks for the reminder I will incorporate that point.
I would really give Keyboard Maestro a shot though. I had it for about three years before I really started to use it. Partly after getting Sparky’s Field Guide.

I agree, nice point. I find that in some cases ‘improvements’ and new features are not even welcome, not by myself anyway. Simplicity for some ‘single purpose’ apps is a virtue?
I think even Ulysses is getting ‘bloat’, partly on account of the subscription model and price?

DEVONthink and Keyboard Maestro upgrades are in a different category and I am starting to think of them in their own category almost. I think now that even osx updates are coming too fast. I don’t need a new operating system every year. I really don’t. I feel developers are spending too much time keeping up with it all too?

1 Like

I use TextExpander for the following text expansion examples:

  • Commonly misspelled words that I misspell
  • Famous brand names
  • Dates
  • Twitter messages I repeat with an updated date
  • Foreign currency symbols I frequently use
  • Arrows and Mac modifier key symbols
  • Opening greeting for people I frequently email
  • Personal and work email addresses

Lastly, I would check out Brett Terpstra’s website for cool text expansions and TextExpander tools.


Fortunately … we have an abundance of riches on the Mac. I’ve got a bunch of my favorites TE snippets available for download at macsparky.com/tesnippets.


One really handy use for text expansion is to quickly access the Apple symbols: ⌘ ⌥ ⌃ ⇧ ⇪ ← → ↑ ↓ ⇥ ⇤ :leftwards_arrow_with_hook: ⌤ ⌫ ⌦ ⇞ ⇟ :arrow_upper_left: :arrow_lower_right: ⌧ ␣ ⎋ ⏏ & ⌽. I use aText and usually access the symbols from the Menu bar drop-down — I guess Text Expander has that…

I have auto closing of brackets: ( becomes (|), [ becomes [|] & { becomes {|} where | indicates the cursor position. I use the + suffix for expansions and use this auto close html terms such as <b+ becomes |



That brackets thing is good. I hadn’t thought of it!