Further TextExpander thoughts

TextExpander is one of the most useful utilities on my Mac — I’ve used it since it was called Textpander, many years ago — and it’s becoming more and more important on my iOS devices too, since almost every app I use, with the notable exception of the Apple ones, now supports it. And the configuration synchronises across all my devices automatically, making things even easier.

It’s arguably more useful on iOS, where it can help overcome some of the limitations of the keyboard. Typing email addresses can be tedious, for example, so I have three-letter abbreviations for most of mine. (Simple expansions like this can also be done using the built-in keyboard shortcuts available in Settings, which will work anywhere, but they don’t have the power of the TextExpander ones.)

A current favourite example, since I’m writing more and more in Markdown, is my .mdl abbreviation. It inserts a Markdown link, taking the contents of the clipboard as the URL (which I’ve typically just copied using the little ‘share’ button in Safari), and positions the cursor at the right place to type the link text. A link in Markdown, for the uninitiated, looks like this:


If you work out how many key presses are needed on a standard IOS keyboard just to do the brackets, you’ll realise that, though this is already a lot better than writing HTML, to do the equivalent with just .mdl and have it position the cursor in the right place, is a great help if you do it regularly. Which I do!

All very clever, and a great timesaver. But today I added a very simple abbreviation, vvv, which also makes use of the ‘insert the clipboard here’ capability. In fact, that’s all it does: as soon as you type the third v, all three are replaced by the contents of the clipboard, a bit like typing Cmd-V on a regular keyboard. I find this rather easier, particularly in small text boxes on a phone screen: to have a keyboard-based paste function, instead of having to move from the keyboard and tap carefully in the right place, with the right precision and timing not to select anything.

It really is too bad the Apple apps don’t support it, but I hope it may be useful for others anyway.

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© Copyright Quentin Stafford-Fraser