TextExpander Touch: Your Mobile Writing Assistant

If you do a lot of typing on your iPhone, this review is for you. When creating content on your iPhone—whether it’s emails, blog posts, outlines, or something else—you want to get that creative idea out with the least amount of friction. TextExpander Touch is out to fill that niche exactly.

Read on to see why you should be using TextExpander Touch to speed up your iPhone writing sessions!

When you open TextExpander, you’ve got two main panels that you can shift between through the tabs at the top. These are the “Compose” and “Groups” tabs. Let’s start with the “Groups” tab.

Groups

Tap the “Groups” tab and you’ll get a list of all the snippet groups you’ve created. It’s easy to add another one: just tap the “+” button in the lower right corner. This will bring up a menu of four things you can add/create. At the top, you’ve got “Create New Group”; this will obviously do just that. You’ll get a prompt; enter a name for your new group and that’s it.

While you can make snippet groups on your iPhone, it will probably be easier to create them from your Mac. Thankfully, it’s super easy to import groups you’ve made on your computer. Tap that “+” button again, and this time choose “Add via Local Network.” TextExpander Touch will search the local network for Macs with TextExpander installed; choose your Mac, and then choose your snippet group.

There are some common groups that TextExpander has predefined to make it easy for you to get your snippet library up to speed. Tap that “+” button again and choose “Add Predefined”; then, you can add one of the following groups: AutoCorrect, CSS, HTML, Accented Words, or Symbols.

Handling Snippets

Handling Snippets

The final option on the “+” menu is to “Add via URL”; you’ll be prompted to enter the URL of the TextExpander snippet group file. The Smile on My Mac blog has a post with instructions for how to use this feature to import bundles from Texter, Lifehacker’s TextExpander counterpart for Windows.

So you’ve created a group; what next? Well, tap on the group to enter it; then, start adding snippets! To do this, tap that “+” button in the lower right corner. You’ll then have to enter the abbreviation and the content for your snippet. When you’re done, tap the “snippets” button in the top left corner to go back.

Once you’ve filled a group with snippets, there are several things you can do with them. To start with, you can move the entire group back to a desktop version of TextExpander; to do so, tap the button in the lower left corner of the screen; you’ll have the option to “Send via Local Network”. Once you tap that, you’ll get a list of Macs you could send it to; tap the one you want. You’ll have to accept it on the computer end!

To manipulate an individual snippet, you can tap the icon at left side of its list entry. You’ve got three options now: first, you can “Send to Mail.” This will open a new message in Mail.app, with that snippet as the contents. The second option is to copy the snippet to the clipboard. Finally, you can send it to a twitter client (which you’ll choose in the settings).

Well, so far all we’ve looked at is managing snippets. But you bought this app to save you keystrokes, so let’s look at using those snippets.

Composing

Let’s go back to the Compose panel; it’s the first tab at top of the main screen. Here’s where you can write to your heart’s delight, using your snippets as you tap, of course. There’s not much more to it than that. Once you are finished with your message; you can do a few things with it.

First, it’s good to know that TextExpander automatically saves your piece … as long as you don’t hit that eraser in the lower right corner. To see a list of all the compositions you’ve written, tap the drawer button at the middle bottom. From there, you can remove entries via the “Edit” button (top right) or create a new one via the “+” button (bottom right).

Inserting Snippets

Inserting Snippets

So you’re in the compose panel, and you’ve just completed a witty paragraph-or-two. Obviously, TextExpander is only the beginning of your writing’s life; it’s the catalyst that starts it all. Now, you want to move it to another app. Tap the options menu in the lower left corner. You’ve got three options: you can “Send to Mail” (which works just as we saw with individual snippets); you can “Copy All Text” (self-explanatory, and maybe most useful); or you can send it to your Twitter client.

App Integration

The beautiful think about TextExpander on the Mac is that you can use your snippets in any application … and they just work. On the iPhone, apps don’t run in the background, so this doesn’t work. However, TextExpander Touch does has an API that several apps have integrated with. Chances are, you can use your snippets inside several of your favourite apps; these are my favourite three:

  • SimpleNote
  • Tweetie
  • TaskPaper

There are many others; look for your favourites on the complete list.

Settings

When you’re on the Groups tab, you can see the settings button down in the lower left corner. Mostly, these are just the “On/Off” type of settings. They include ignoring letter case, expanding snippets immediately (not waiting for a space or other character after the snippet), and playing a sound when expanding a snippet.

Settings

Settings

You can enable/disable auto-capitalization and auto-correction, and choose whether or not to enable sharing of groups and snippets. Finally, you can choose your default Twitter client. Currently, the options are only Tweetie and TwitterFon (now called Echofon).

That’s It!

Well, that’s a wrap on TextExpander Touch. If you do a lot of writing and communication on your iPhone, TextExpander is practically required for efficiency. You can get it at the App Store for $4.99.

Do you use Text Expander Touch? If you do, let’s hear some of your favourite snippets!


Summary

If you do a lot of writing and communication on your iPhone, TextExpander is a great solution to make everything considerably quicker. In addition, the API offers other app developers an easy way to integrate the functionality into their software.

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