Smart Text Expansion

Text expansion allows users to type in a short snippet and have it expand to some pre-set text. e.g.

omw ———becomes———> On my way!

It’s an incredibly useful time saver but it could be much better. Text Expander ($34.99), the current king of expansion, is limited by the fact that all snippets have to be pre-set. (With the exception of simple things like date or time.) I would like to see text expansion functionality expand in two ways: communication with other apps, and communication with the internet. While this may seem like an odd evolution I see the potential for text expansion to become a simple language used to make writing, sending information, and more, easier. Allowing those who learned the syntax to be able to stay in one app and get information from other places quickly and easily which could have a profound effect on mobile computing. Imagine your texting a friend and having them ask for a mutual friends contact info. Instead of leaving the conversation and going to find their phone number you would just type ‘Here it is C#:John Appleseed’ and it changes to ‘Here it is 555-1984’. The less stop/start in computing the better, especially on mobile.

An Example Of What You Can Do Now

Text Expander currently allows you to do some cool things like expand text into fill-out-able forms, expand to an image, insert the current date or time, and move the cursor where you want after inserting a snippet.

Where Text Expansion Could Go

Linking To Other Services


For very valid security reasons password fields don’t allow you to use text expansion in them. Keeping your password written in plain text and easily expandable with a few keystrokes would be incredibly stupid. (Even if it would make entering passwords easier.) I think I have a solution to make it incredibly easy to enter in passwords while remaining secure. It would require Text Expander and 1Password teaming up to create a secure connection. When 1Password is unlocked simply typing ‘ppassword’ into the password box would expand the correct password for that app or site. Users don’t have to remember their passwords and it would be even quicker to input them then going to the 1Password’s extension or app. This could also work for credit card info. Just type ‘cccard’ into the field and the secure connection takes the information from 1Password.

I’m not sure if this would work because I don’t know what is stopping text expansion in password fields. It would be easy to solve if it was the text expander stopping it but if it is programmed into the password field itself it may be impossible. If it is programmed into the password field I would suggest 1Password makes a keyboard shortcut for saving the password for the current site/app to the clip board to easily paste in.

Other Apps

Sending things like contact info or map locations to friends is a minor inconvenience today. It would be seamless if you could just type ,,mylocation or C#:Wario to have your location or Wario’s phone number automatically appear in the text field. To be clear this should be automatic, the user shouldn’t have to program in all his contacts to be able to send contact info every once in a while.

From The Web

Distance, Cost, And Other Stats

As I’m sure you know Google is trying to give you the answer when searching as a card above the search the results. If you could replicate this with text expansion you wouldn’t even need to leave the current app to find out what you need. For example, if I type ,,D:GoodSpirit I’d get the distance from my current location to Good Spirit Lake. So ‘I am ,,D:GoodSpirit from the lake.’ Becomes ‘I am 1k from the lake.’

Or when writing a school report about the Eiffel Tower. ‘The Eiffel Tower is ,,H:EiffelTower.’ Turns into, ‘The Eiffel Tower is 324m tall.’ Better yet make the system even smarter so typing: ‘The Eiffel Tower is ,,H:.’ Becomes ‘The Eiffel Tower is 324m tall.

Text Expansion Apps

Text Expander ($34.99 Mac) The king but too expensive for some peoples needs.

aText ($4.99 Mac) Very competent, very cheap.

Built In To Apple Devices:

On Mac:

  • System Preferences
  • Keyboard
  • Text

On iOS:

  • Settings
  • General
  • Keyboard

Final Words

This could really change how people write, especially on mobile devices. iOS 8 extensions look promising but this could be a real game changer. The less stop/start a user has to the better and accessing the extensions menu to get some fact or info from another app would take much more time than just typing something out. Hear’s hoping text expansion advances.

Agree? Disagree? Comment Below.

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