How I Use: TextExpander and OmniFocus Together

For those of you who aren’t familiar with TextExpander, it’s a utility that runs on macOS, iOS (and Windows!) that takes small snippets of text and expands them into much larger pieces. For example, I can type in an abbreviation such as xsig1 and it will transform into an email signature. I can (and do) use similar snippets for letters to clients, creating date stamps, sending messages, filling in forms and much more. 

I also use TextExpander when creating tasks or updating notes in OmniFocus. If you use OmniFocus (or any task manager for that matter), I’m sure you find yourself repeating the same text again and again. Phrases such as Follow up on or Create Report for, as well as Send Email to or Phone are very common to us all. You’ll have your own set of common prefixes to tasks based on your own vocation.

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Open Safari Content in Chrome with TextExpander

 

Have you ever opened a web page in Safari and thought to yourself “Dammit, I was supposed to open that in Chrome”?

I do - far often than I’d like to admit!

Still, it’s not a problem for me, as thanks to a quick bit of searching, as well as a great post on the Smile Blog, I can use a TextExpander snippet to run an Apple Script that will take the current tab in Safari and open the contents in Chrome. Pretty handy!

All you need to do is create a new snippet with the settings as per the screenshot below. I’ve also added the code for the AppleScript separately underneath so that you can easily copy and paste whilst creating.

browse1.png
property theURL : ""
tell application "Safari"
	set theURL to URL of current tab of window 1
end tell
if appIsRunning("Google Chrome") then
	tell application "Google Chrome"
		make new window
		set URL of active tab of window 0 to theURL
		activate
	end tell
else
	tell application "Google Chrome"
		do shell script "open -a \"Google Chrome\""
		set URL of active tab of window 0 to theURL
		activate
	end tell
end if

on appIsRunning(appName)
	tell application "System Events" to (name of processes) contains appName
end appIsRunning

Thanks Smile for this tip. Oh, and for TextExpander as well. It’s still saving me a whole lot of time!

Public Groups with TextExpander

 

Back in the days before TextExpander went all cloud-based on us, there was a feature called Predefined Groups . These were groups of snippets built into the software with their content pre-loaded. We had groups for AutoCorrectSymbolsInternet Productivity amongst others. 

Now that TextExpander has provided the ability to access our snippets from a web interface, the potential for these Predefined Groups has grown. Now, they have evolved into Public Groups, a far more scalable and accessible solution. 

Public Groups are, at their core, groups of snippets shared by TextExpander users. They have consciously made these groups publicly accessible and there are some great ones available. Here is the universal way to find them:

1) Log into your TextExpander account via a Web Browser

2) On the Snippet Groups page, select Add Public Group

3) Here, you can scroll through the page to find the groups that you wish to add. When you find the group that you wish to add, click Subscribe. A new page will appear with one further box - Subscribe To Group. Click this and you are off to the races. You can view the contents of this group from the web interface, or from your locally installed application. 

In this example, I’ve added the group Accented Words by Jean McDonald. While adding accents to characters is a relatively easy process on macOS (simply hold down the key for a second and a list of accents appears on screen), remembering which ones form the word correctly is not so easy. This is a great group to have!

 
 

It’s important to note that you cannot make changes to a Public Group, although you probably worked that one out already, being the astute reader that you are. You can, however, Duplicate the group so that a copy of the snippet group appears in your own personal snippet library. From here, you can use the Public Group as a base and add your own snippets as you wish. Any changes made to the Public Group by the owner won’t reflect in this duplicate you have created. 

Creating Your Own Public Group

You may have a set of snippets that you have lovingly curated and you wish to share with the wider public or members of your own team. This is an easy process, as you would expect. We’ll run this example from the web interface once more. 

1) Log into your TextExpander account via a Web Browser

2) Click on the Group that you wish to share

3) Click on the Sharing tab and towards the bottom of the screen you will see a section called Public Sharing. Check the radio button called URL Sharing and then click Publish In Public Groups.

4) The resulting window allows you to change the TitleAuthorCategory (General, AutoCorrect, Symbols, Internet or Medical) and specify whether you have the legal rights to publish the groups content. 

Once this is complete, the request is sent to the team at Smile Software for review. If rejected, contact them and ask what actions need to be completed to remedy this. They are a great team and will help all they can.

There we have it, a brief overview of Public Groups but certainly enough to get you started.

TextExpander - Adjusting When a Snippet Expands

 

There are occasions when I will expect TextExpander to expand a snippet I type, only to be greeted by a stony silence and no magic on my screen. The reason for this is that, by default, TextExpander will only expand when preceded by white space. While this is great for those abbreviations that actually form part of a word, as many of my snippets form part of a Markdown link, which is preceded by parentheses, this became frustrating in a short space of time. 

I didn’t realise, however, that this behaviour can be changed. 

The team at TextExpander actually recommend that you keep the default settings, whilst creating a separate group that will contain snippets which expand directly next to other characters. 

This can come in very handy when expanding email address, HTML code, anything in parentheses - the list is lengthy. 

Adjusting a Groups Settings

1) Click on the Group Name

2) Select the Drop down list next to Expand When

3) Choose your new setting. 

expandwhen.jpg

Very quick and easy tip. 

 

Using Predefined Groups in TextExpander

When playing about with some of the features within TextExpander for MacOS last week, I happened across a small feature which, I have to say, I'm a little embarrassed that I hadn't noticed properly before now (and I've been using TextExpander for a long time!)

For those of you who don't know (and you should - you really should), TextExpander is a great utility from the team at Smile Software that allows you to type short snippets/abbreviations and these will expand into longer form text, frequently used phrases, symbols, images - pretty much anything that can be created from your trusty keyboard. When you get slightly more advanced, TextExpander can perform calculations based on date/time, run scripts - it's a really powerful tool that you need to have if you want to maximise the time you are at your machine for.

PreDefined Groups

These were hiding from me in very plain sight. Clicking the + button in the bottom left hand corner of the main TextExpander window presents you with the option of adding a PreDefined Group. These are groups of snippets that the developers have kindly put together that are linked to a particular theme.

1) Accented Words - You may have need to type a letter, or communicate with someone who uses accented language. Now, rather than hunt for the correct key, you can use one of the predefined snippets

2) Emoji - Need I say more? What better than being able to type a phrase such as :turd: to be express your dissatisfaction at a more appropriate level.

3) HTML & CSS Snippets - Not being a coder myself, I have it on good authority from those in the biz that this is a pretty comprehensive list of snippets.

4) Internet Productivity Snippets - These will run AppleScripts to shorten URLs using tools such as Bitly.

5) Symbol Snippets - I wish I'd known about these before, as it took me ages configuring snippets for ⌘, ⌥, ⬆ etc. Turns out they existed all along, I just installed the app in a hurry...!

6) AutoCorrect Snippets - This is the only Predefined Group that I find myself adding snippets to! A list of some of the most common mis-spelt words are in here. As a fast touch-typist, I find myself making the occasional SNAFU. If I see any common words that I'm making mistakes with, I'll add the correct spelling to this folder. Real time saver.

There are Predefined Groups for AutoCorrect in many different languages.

So - I'm sure the majority of you knew about this, however for those of you who didn't - well, you're welcome.