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Quickview: My Four Favorite Text Shortcuts

These snippets have prevented all sorts of minor frustration as well as some potential embarrassment for typos.

Bill Winterberg, 04/18/2013

Regular readers know I'm a big proponent of personal productivity, and I try to identify and recommend apps that simplify mundane tasks and increase efficiency. One app I've been using for nearly two years is TextExpander (Mac OS X, $34.95), recommended in my column back in July 2011 (see Save Time, Reduce Errors with Text Expanders).

Recently I received a few questions on how I use TextExpander in my business to save time and minimize typos. For this month's Quickview update, I'm going to highlight the TextExpander "snippets" I find most beneficial.

But first, to illustrate the productivity I've personally gained from TextExpander, here are my most recent statistics captured by the app:

--Snippets expanded: 8,342
--Characters saved: 296,883
--Hours saved: 14.14 at 70 words per minute

Here are the top TextExpander snippets I routinely use.

Snippet: .ymd
I run a paperless office, so I scan many documents on a regular basis. Part of my file-naming convention when scanning documents is to insert the current date in year-month-day format at the beginning, e.g. 20130423. Labeling files this way facilitates sorting when viewing folders of many files. Yes, adding the year-month-day text is a little redundant, as one can sort by the "Date Created" field in a file explorer window, but I find the label saves several clicks when I'm trying to search for files by date range.

Snippet: .gv
GV is an acronym for Google Voice, the VoIP phone service I use for my business phone number (see Quickview: Upgrade Your Outdated Phone System). I'll never again transpose the digits in my phone number when typing it, giving out the wrong phone number to a client. Expanding my snippet results in my 10-digit number properly formatted including the parentheses and hyphen.

Snippet: .pst
PST is my acronym for "paste," which pastes information from my computer's clipboard. I constantly copy and paste text between Word, PowerPoint, Keynote, Google Chrome, and other programs, but I hate absolutely it when I paste text into a program but also get the formatting along with it (e.g., bold, Calibri font, Heading 2 style, etc.).

Instead of using a program's Edit menu to select "Paste Special" followed by an OK button for "Unformatted Text," I simply type my ".pst" snippet, and TextExpander inserts the plain text of whatever is in my clipboard. I can't even begin to guess how many mouse clicks this has saved me over the years!

Snippet: the
The word I must misspell the most is "the." Too many times I type "teh" and have to go back and fix my mistake, wasting time. Generally, word processors will autocorrect "teh," but there are plenty of times where I type outside of such programs and don't benefit from autocorrect. My life improved dramatically as soon as I created the "teh" snippet. Maybe that statement is a bit overdramatic, but I think you'd agree that you experience the same frustration with one common word you mistype all the time!

Why the Period?
You likely noticed that nearly all of my TextExpander snippets start with a period. This is a technique that I borrowed from electronic medical record systems used by physicians, specifically EPIC. EPIC allows physicians to enter their diagnosis or billing codes using "dot phrases." The preceding dot, or period, is a mnemonic device so physicians know that they are executing one of the built-in shortcuts to generate their long-form text. I use the same mnemonic in my TextExpander snippets so I don't unintentionally expand one of my snippets when I'm typing regular text. 

TextExpander and other similar apps do so much more than the simple functions I highlighted above, but in daily use, these four of my favorite snippets save me from all sorts of minor frustration as well as some potential embarrassment for typos.

If you find yourself constantly typing the same types of things as I do, apps like TextExpander might be an ideal solution to save time and reduce errors. Not operating a Mac? Windows users will want to explore PhaseExpress, Texter, or AutoHotKey for text-expanding needs.


Bill Winterberg, CFP, is a technology and operations consultant to independent financial advisors. His comments on technology have been featured in a variety of financial industry publications. You can view more information about Bill and see his schedule of upcoming speaking engagements at his Web site, FPPad.com. The author is a freelance contributor to MorningstarAdvisor.com. The views expressed in this article may or may not reflect the views of Morningstar.

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