PhraseExpress – I like these TextExpander apps

They go by many names – AutoCorrect, AutoComplete, Word Expander, Text Expander and Text Macros just to name a few, however the idea is basically the same, take a shortcut piece of text and replace it with something much larger to save time and typing. It’s a great idea for mobile devices, but is it worth the effort when it comes to a desktop machine. Until recently I would have said no, but I’m beginning to change my mind.

Most Text Expansion tools give examples of inserting your signature or a greeting, which doesn’t really do anything for me. I don’t write that material so why do I need this tool. But then it dawned on me, I can use these tools to expand all those stupid three letter acronyms I have to deal with. Sure, I know what they mean, but does the poor sap I’m sending an email to understand them? And TLAs are being recycled through every industry so OAB or ATM isn’t the same thing across the board. Go ahead, look up ATM and see what you get…

After looking at a couple of different programs I started working with PhraseExpress. Unlike Word’s AutoCorrect, this program works at the OS level, meaning it’s available to every application. I can use it within FocusWriter, FireFox, IE, Outlook, Word and Notepad. It became clear this was going to be useful. I can write in OAB and have it convert to Offline Address Book. I can put in DL and have it convert to Distribution List. This is good. I still use the same shortcuts, but now everyone can be on the same page.

I also see that it can be used for repeated game titles like Need for Speed. You can also get fancy and turn text into something much more. I’ve actually got PowerShell commands connected to key phrases. I can get Message Tracking commands to put up just by typing the word. I can make links to web pages appear just by typing in the subject. Instead of jumping over to OneNote on a regular basis to copy the same command over and over again, I can type the first part and have the whole thing appear in whatever editor I’m in. Ok, now that’s pretty cool!

PhraseExpress is free for Personal use, which means you can use it for blogs, emails and anything else to save you some time. If you plan to use it for a corporate environment or it’s part of your paying job, then there is a fee.The $50 price tag is a little high in my opinion, but you have to weigh the time savings against the cost. If you do a ton of writing and especially if it’s riddled with jargon, the $50 could easily be worth it. The fact that it’s available everywhere is also a nice bonus.

Another bonus is the AutoCorrect feature. We all know it from Word. You can put in your common spelling mistakes and they will be corrected for you. PhraseExpress delivers the same functionality to all your apps. It comes with a downloadable dictionary and you can add as many words as you like. Whenever you type it out, and get it wrong, it will be corrected. Again, this works in FocusWriter, IE, Firefox, etc. That’s pretty impressive.

Tools like PhraseExpress take the idea of TextExpander and go a step further. It makes shortcuts and text available to all your apps. Create a link to a website and use it over and over again without having to write the code. Enter a key command sequence and get it to play with just a single word. Write about the same company or product all the time and you can get to it with just a couple letters. Looking at these apps as something far more than simple Greeting or Signature apps and it opens up a myriad of possibilities. Use your jargon, but get everyone on the same page. Speed up typing. Remember hard to recall words and get AutoCorrect everywhere.

PhraseExpress – Check it out.

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