Blissful shortcuts on your computer


03/01/2014 by Chris Green


One of the ways I waste time on the computer, is by typing the same stuff over and over.  The same email addresses.  The same websites.  The same information.  Know the problem?  It was the kind of thing that we were supposed to have left behind with typewriters.

Enter the world of text expanders.  These are brilliant programmes that simply translate any sequence of keystrokes you choose to specify into a much longer body of text. I’m a recent convert to these, because I thought they sounded quite techy.  But actually they’re really simple and helpful, and I’m persuaded.

So now, if I type ~me (a series of letters I’m unlikely to use in real life), on the screen it appears as, my email address. ~mnb appears as ~tx is ‘Thank you so much for your email’.

There’s no limit to this: it’s like an infinitely expandable cut-and-paste feature, and it just sits quietly in the background, waiting to be used. Standard templates for letters or emails don’t need to be searched for to be used, because they are always around.  And they are always correctly typed.

I’ve even taught it my most common typing blunders that spellcheck doesn’t pick up, and it corrects them, without a tut of disapproval. It does more sophisticated stuff too, like automatically inserting the current date or putting your cursor in the place you specify within a body of text, like after ‘Dear’ and before a comma.  If you still use commas.

  • Mac users: My favourite is Typinator but there are good alternatives:  aText, TypeIt4Me, and TextExpander all have excellent write-ups.
  • Windows users: AutoText seems to do the same job, but I haven’t had first-hand experience.

Have you tried them? What do you think?  And, yes:  I know that this isn’t an overtly ‘spiritual’ blogpost.  But it helps me keep my mind clear for more important things. (And yes, computer sophisticates, I’m sure there are ways to use code to achieve the same ends.  Enjoy them)

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6 thoughts on “Blissful shortcuts on your computer

  1. James Taylor says:

    Thanks, Chris. You’ve reminded me to install aText and set it up on this new(ish) MacBook. I’d forgotten how useful it was previously and hadn’t got around to setting it up again.

  2. ateamjapan says:

    I hadn’t realised you’d gone Mac.
    I read somewhere else about these useful bits of software recently… but my iPad & Macbk Air seem to be able to do it without any extra software, which is quite useful for typing strings of Chinese characters in Japanese (that sounds like it doesn’t make sense but it does!)
    I can’t actually remember how I did it now…

  3. Chris Todd says:

    Caught me out a couple of times at college. I’d set one up to replace “som and “sog with Son of Man and Son of God respectively. Unfortunately in a couple of essays (where I was in last minute panic mode) it appeared that I had the typing equivalent of tourettes. That was nothing compared to my attempt to use voice recognition software!

    • Chris Green says:

      Yes, Ive never really got on with Voice Recognition. But they key to this kind of package, I think, is to use a character combination that wouldn’t naturally occur. som will cause a problem with a word like ‘some’, where ~som wouldn’t.

  4. James Oakley says:

    Having entered my e-mail, name and website in the boxes using shortcuts, I can now type my comment. I use AutoHotKey ( for Windows. It’s the only one I’ve ever used, but it’s pretty powerful – you can also set it to work differently depending on the application you’re in.

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