Tuesday, June 28, 2011

TextExpander Touch for the iPad: Quick Review

It was only a matter of time before my recent discovery of the usefulness of text expanders to reduce keystrokes and enhance productivity in my translation work naturally spilled into devices beyond my desktop computer. And since there's an app for everything, I figured there had to be an app for text expansion... and there is!

It is called TextExpander Touch, by Smile Software. It's a universal app, which means it works on both my iPad and iPhone.

While I dislike and immediately turned off the native autocorrection feature in my iPad and iPhone, text expansion that is defined by me is a different story.

With TextExpander Touch I can save and later use commonly used sentences, canned responses, etc. that I can insert in practically any other app for documens, text messages, emails, etc. with Copy/Paste. I tried it with QuickOffice, Mail, Neu.Notes, Note Taker HD and it worked fine. For this, it works like a clipboard, where you store your notes for later retrieval.

But the most powerful feature of the app is its actual text expansion capabilities, which allow you to save a "snippet" of practically any length, with line breaks, etc., assign a certain letter combination to it, and then quickly expand the letter combination into your original full text. But there's a catch. This only works with TextExpander-enhanced apps (114 to date). You can access the list of apps at the developer's website or from within the app itself to see if you already own any ot those apps.

As luck would have it, I only have one of these apps, so I headed over to Egretlist to try my first snippet. It didn't work at first. I entered my abbreviation "cnf" (for a confirmation email template) and nothing happened. The help files indicated TextExpander had to be enabled in the target app. It was. But still nothing happened. I was ready to give up when it occurred to me that maybe the abbreviation was case-sensitive. After trying it again, making sure that the first letter of my abbreviation wasn't capitalized by Egretlist, it worked! Three keystrokes and I saw a whole email message appear before my eyes, as if by magic.

I am now ready to go and explore other TextExpander-enhanced apps, because if text expansion makes sense on a computer, it makes even more sense on a mobile device.