TBT 115 | TextExpander

 

What would you do with an extra 50 hours? Saving precious time, TextExpander lets you instantly insert snippets of text from a repository of emails, boilerplate and other content. In this episode, Jeff Gamet, a TextExpander Evangelist talks about saving time through TextExpander and how he became an Evangelist for it. Get to know how Jeff and his team use TextExpander not only to speed up their productivity but also to save precious work hours to work on more productive things.

Listen to the podcast here:

TextExpander: Saving Precious Time With Jeff Gamet

I am excited to have Jeff Gamet with me. He is with TextExpander. He is a TextExpander Evangelist and quite a productivity expert, I might add, in my many discussions with Jeff. He’s been making and expanding snippets for years. He’s also a podcaster, public speaker, writer, and a technology fan, which is no surprise since this is based off of a technology. Jeff, welcome to the show.

It is great to be here. Thank you for inviting me on. It’s great to see you.

It’s great to see you too. Didn’t you use to work with a magazine that used to evaluate different types of tools?

Yes, but before I worked with TextExpander, I was the managing editor for the Mac Observer.

You know tools and choosing to come to TextExpander says a lot for what you think about the tool, I would believe.

When you spend as much time as I did, as a technology journalist, it’s easy to get jaded to a lot of the apps, tools, the products that are out there because you see – many things come over and over in different forms. To be excited and enthused about an app or service, it has to be good. That says a lot about TextExpander for me, the fact that I used it for years. When they were looking for an evangelist, it seemed like a perfect fit for me.

I have to say that TextExpander is one of those apps that if my computer went down and I lost everything, it would be one of the first apps that I would reinstall. That’s why people were bringing this to you because this is an absolute must-have, no-brainer. What I love about it is that on a weekly basis it sends me how many hours I’ve saved. That is always a good feeling when I’m like, “Yes.”

Being able to look at those statistics and see how much time I’m saving is great. It’s interesting for me because I’m working in the company. We’ll share our stats with each other and I thought that I was expanding a lot and saving a lot of time, but then I saw what our support team does. There’s no way that I can expand as much as they do.

I can’t wait to hear some of the things that they do with it. That’ll be interesting. I’m writing that as a note to myself, to talk about your support team.

It’s a critical tool for our support team.

I know it saves me about two-plus hours, depending on the week. How many hours does it save you? The reason I’m asking you that too is, I set a goal for 2020 that I want to help people to save 220,000 hours. I’m getting that launched and started to be able to track. TextExpander is going to be one of those tools that are going to help me track for people because I’m going to introduce them to it and along with other things and I want to be able to track and say that at the end of the year, I was part of helping people save 220,000 hours.

I have saved typing 1.19 million characters.

That’s a lot of characters.

I’m under 50 hours saved.

For what time period?

I am looking at a couple of months.

Probably since the beginning of the year? Is that what you’re thinking?

Yes. I’m up to almost 50 hours.

That’s huge. What would you do with an extra 50 hours? You’d figure out something to be able to do with it. If we took that, that’s one quarter, multiplying that by four, it would give you 200 more hours a year, which is huge.

I’ve already saved a full work week of time in one quarter.

That’s awesome. That’s a huge testament to the tool. Let’s talk to people about how to best use the tool. You said that the time that you spend doesn’t even compare to the savings that your support team does. Let’s talk about how your support team is using TextExpander. Maybe I’m jumping the gun. For people who don’t know what TextExpander is, can you give them a high-level overview of what it is and what it does?

You have to type all the time. There are a lot of things that you type over and over. Take all of those things that you’re typing repetitively and put them in TextExpander and then assign abbreviations to each of those things. When you need to type, whatever that is, on a basic level, your name, your phone number, your email address, stuff like that or complex forms that you need to fill out web forms that you fill out repetitively, it could be pretty much anything.

Maybe to add here some of the things that I use it for, I send my bio out a lot. I have three different versions of my bio. I have those each listed. I have certain marketing things that I send out on a regular basis or I might put into a LinkedIn connection with somebody and those different types of things that I use over and over again. Marketing messages, diagrams of what my program is that I’m going to be doing, in one quick hashtag, it’s there.

It’s great being able to type something, a little abbreviation, and watch it expand out into a word or paragraph or a contract or a form that automatically fills itself out. 

Developers and IT people can put the command line stuff they do repetitively in TextExpander. Click To Tweet

People might say, “I want to customize things for people because it seems generic if I have the same blurb for everyone.” Tell them how that’s handled in TextExpander.

Here’s a snippet that I show in some of the webinars that I do. It’s a snippet where the idea is, you’ve been to an event, you met someone that has another product. We’re going to share products with each other to learn more about what each of these products are. Here’s a bunch of stuff you can do in a snippet without having to spend a lot of time cutting and pasting or anything. You can customize something. I can fill in a blank and make this more personalized. You need to type in product names and people’s names, things like that. Let’s say that we met at a conference. I can say, “Hi, Penny.” Let’s make up a whole new product for you. I can’t wait to start using your new product. There’s more than TextExpander. There’s PDFpen and PDFpenPro.

How cool is that? You can drop-down lists and things like that so that it becomes easy to customize it.

These green blocks of text, these are optional. I can include them or not. I’ll uncheck the one that I don’t want and I’ll click OK. I’ve created a whole email that’s customized and personalized for that specific person. All I had to do is a couple fill in the blanks and a pop-up, a checkbox, and click OK and I have this whole message.

What about images and things like that? Somebody might say, “I want to make this look a little fancier.”

In this case, there’s that graphic you asked for, but I took it up a step. This also includes a hypertext link with a signature.

There’s a huge amount of flexibility with different elements that can be added.

It’s easy to customize the content that you’re making with snippets so that it fits whatever it is you want to do, as opposed to trying to use, let’s say, a macro and having to deal with whatever that is and then have to go back after the fact and edit that. You don’t have to do the editing. You can have the fields that you want to fill in and use and make it all happen when you’re expanding that snippet.

Is there anything else that you want to show us that would be something that people could take advantage of?

How about something with dates? A date is the thing that people use a lot.

I didn’t do this yet, but I started to do a test, but I didn’t finish it. You can create meeting agendas and things like that that are somewhat dynamic. Is that right?

Sure. You can set up a snippet that does pretty much anything you want. How about if I make a snippet real quick?

That’s good. With dates, like you said.

Let’s say that I want to have an email that starts off with someone’s name. I’ll say, “Hi,” and then I’ll set up a single line field. We want to have today’s date in here. I can go to my date menu and pick the month and then the day and the year. “It was great meeting you today.” I gave it a quick little abbreviation. If I expand that out, I have a place where I can type in your name and that date popped right in there.

That’s the way that you can use dates. It’s easy to create a snippet. Is there anything else that you wanted to show us there? I also wanted to then go into how your support team might be using it, workflow and team use.

As long as we have this open, the snippet we made, how about if I put that signature into it that has the graphic so that we don’t have to type that manually? I can go to my keyboard menu and I’ll choose insert snippet. I remember the abbreviation for that. To make sure this work, I have to change my content type to format a text picture, because that signature has a graphic in it. It didn’t work. That’s what ends up happening when I try and do something.

You did a colon instead of a dot.

This one is semicolon. Let’s make sure I have that set up right. I must have had a typo in it and didn’t catch it the first time. I was able to reuse a snippet. The nice thing is, if I ever change anything in the snippet that has a signature, it’ll automatically be updated in the original snippet that we made. That’s the whole email.

Huge advantages to working with templates. Other than saving time, what are some of the other big advantages?

This gives you a way to make sure that you’re not making mistakes. For example, the phone number, if I have to type my phone number all the time, there’s the likelihood at some point, I’m going to type it wrong.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve spelled productivity because it’s one of those words that’s hard. I need to have that in here because otherwise, I’m going to misspell it. I am a little bit quick to do things and I’ll hit send. This way, it gives me some assurance that I know what I’m sending has been proofread.

Speaking of typos and misspellings, there is a public group that we have that you can subscribe to that has many common misspellings. What happens when you have that group installed, when you do the typo for the word, it automatically corrects itself.

I didn’t know about that.

If you go to TextExpander.com/support, you’ll see an option in there for public groups. Look for the TidBITS AutoCorrect group. They’re free. You can subscribe to it. It’s automatically added to TextExpander for you. It’s thousands of words that have common misspellings and those have all been turned into snippets, so they autocorrect for you on the fly.

TBT 115 | TextExpander

TextExpander: If you have a little bit of coding understanding, you can take JavaScript snippets that other people have written and work with those.

 

You’ve got a lot of different categories. It enables you to set up different categories.

These are groups. I have several groups that have created for myself. I have some groups that other people have shared with me. We have a lot of groups that are for TextExpander as a company. I have those public groups that I’ve subscribed to, like the TidBITS AutoCorrect. This is a crazy long list of words.

That’s going to already save me. I’m getting that.

This is one of the snippet groups that has helped boost me up to 49 hours saved already.

With these groups, you can have company snippets. You can have team snippets. That also helps you with time-saving, fewer mistakes, and branding issues, to make sure that if your company, if you have people who are marketing, the common message is getting out so that you’re consistent.

This is also a place where our support team has found to be incredibly valuable because the common support questions that come in, we can have those answers set up in TextExpander. If something changes, maybe a procedure changes with a software update and there’s a new way to do something, we can have one person go and update the support snippet for that answer. Since we’re using the team’s version of TextExpander, everyone that’s using that snippet, automatically has the new content. They don’t have to worry about going and manually updating their snippets to make sure that they have the right content and the right answers to give to our users. It’s there for them automatically and you don’t even have to think about it.

What I love about the tool is that it works across all of my applications. It’s not like it only works in email. It’ll work in all of my applications.

If you can type, that’s where TextExpander will work. There is one exception and it’s an important exception. I’m glad it’s there and that’s if you’re using a password manager, which you should be. Your password manager will block TextExpander while it’s doing its thing.

That’s fair enough. I haven’t tried it on that. There are other tools for that.

If you’re using a password manager, be aware, that’s a thing. That’s not a bug. That’s a security feature for you.

Is there anything else that you wanted to share here around these groups and team use?

I realized that this could give me an opportunity to show you something else that I do with TextExpander. I’ve set this up for websites that I go to commonly instead of using bookmarks. I have an abbreviation that I’ll type and it gives me a window where I have my URL TextExpander.com, then a pop up for the path on the website that I want to go to. It takes me to that page. The great thing is that I’m not having to keep tons of bookmarks for all of these different pages that I go to. I can have the main URL and a pop up with all the other locations. Public groups, select that. There are some nice autocorrect groups in here. The one that you’re looking for, the one that’s going to be the most inclusive is the one from TidBITS, which is an online publication that’s been around forever.

Star Trek quotes. It is funny, the things that people have put as the public groups.

Star Wars quotes.

It’s funny that you scrolled by and it said, quotes. I haven’t check out these public groups. I’m going to do that. I was also thinking about quotes and how quotes would be a good thing to have that you can bring up at any particular time when you wanted to access that, whether they’re your quotes or famous quotes.

Shakespeare’s quotes.

Quick question for you in that, let’s say in my email, I wanted to have a footer that has a quote, but I want that quote to change every day, how dynamic is TextExpander to do that or to include two options? Can it do that? If not, can it include in that pop-up list another group so that it would be included that at least I could choose it from that group?

The short answer is yes. The longer answer is, it depends on how automated you want this to be. If you want it to have a group of quotes and you’re going to be adding and removing different quotes over time, you could set those up as snippets. After that, have that nested and then choose the ones you want in that parent snippet. Since you’d be changing the nested snippet over time, then that’s changing on its own for you and then you choose the one you want. The more automated answer would be, you set something up using JavaScript. The reason I’m saying use JavaScript is because that’s cross-platform. You can use it on Mac and Windows. If you’re using a Chromebook with our Chrome extension, you can use it there too. Otherwise, if you’re on a Mac, you could do it with AppleScript. Let’s say JavaScript is for cross-platform compatibility. Set up a JavaScript that is randomly selecting these quotes for you. It’s hyper-automated. You expand your snippet and the JavaScript will do the part that grabs the quote for you.

What if somebody doesn’t know what AppleScript or JavaScript is? They’re not a programmer, they don’t know how to do that stuff and it would be the select from the group that’s provided.

You would select from the group that you’re making yourself. There are options.

There are developers that you can hire to do that snippet for you with a JavaScript and then it’s there for you.

If you have a little bit of coding understanding, you can take JavaScript snippets that other people have written and work with those.

I’m a total hack like that. I have enough developer background. I can do that. I’m going to play with that.

There is a snippet group that I subscribed to that is my Lipsums. This is a JavaScript. What it does when you expand the snippet is it creates Lorem ipsum, gibberish filler text for you. There’s something like this, you can look at this and figure out enough if you’re comfortable and happy with other people’s scripts.

Anything that can help you organize is going to help you do it more efficiently. Click To Tweet

It’s not for everybody. For those people whose eyes are rolling across and have passed out, please don’t worry, you don’t need any of this. TextExpander is the easiest tool to work with, with new plugins that we talked about picking the first name, picking a field or adding the date easy. This is for your more advanced user who wants to play around a little deeper.

That’s the long version of the yes for you.

Is there anything else that you want to tell us that we need to know before I ask my final questions that are away from the tool itself?

It’s like you got a mini webinar. I suppose I’m throwing a pitch out here.

That’s okay. Throw your pitch.

We do free webinars every month. I do two beginner webinars a month. Some months I’ll do an advanced webinar as well. We’ll throw-in other webinars throughout the year. We have these webinars where you can come and learn more about using TextExpander and they’re free. Show up and you get an hour of my time where I’ll show you a bunch of stuff. You can ask questions.

If you are doing command-line work, if you’re a developer, IT person, then the command line stuff that you do repetitively, you can put that in TextExpander as well, which is cool. There are a lot of support teams in companies. They have a help desk system that they’re using like Help Scout, Zendesk or something like that. They are supplementing their support answers with TextExpander because all of the systems will let you put some text in so that you can have some canned responses. I don’t like using that word. How about if we say, “Compared responses?” Those are fine, but a lot of times you need to have more flexibility. They’ll augment what they’re already doing with TextExpander.

Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge in TextExpander as a tool. What are the other apps if everything were to shut down? Are there any other apps that you’d say, “Those would be the first things that I would install on my computer.” TextExpander is one of them. What would another 1 or 2 be?

The top three apps that I have to have to be able to function are TextExpander, 1Password and Dropbox. Once those three are installed, then I can start building out everything else. My next tier would be, I have to put PDFpenPro on so that I have my PDF viewing and editing tool and then Slack because that’s the standard communication platform, not just companies but there friend groups and special interest groups that are all in there. I have switched from using Chrome as my primary browser to using Microsoft Edge.

How come you switched?

I switched because Edge is performing a little faster for me than Chrome was. Microsoft is taking some efforts to make Edge do less tracking of your activity than Chrome does. That seemed like a good thing to me.

Thank you for that. I appreciate it. Anything else you want to share before we close down?

This is cool to get to hang out with you and talk about cool apps and productivity.

Geeking out together.

Now that I’ve tossed out some of the apps that are must-haves for me, I’m curious, what are your must-have apps?

I shared with you last time we spoke, but I’ll share it with the group here. I did an interview with somebody who was involved with Platstack. I have to say, that’s one of my new favorites because Platstack helps you to group, organize, and share your link. If I’m working on a research project and I’m doing a new presentation on a different topic or I want to look for some stats or create an infographic or something like that, I may go and look at several different sites as resources. As it would have it, maybe I’m not able to finish that in one session. I’m able to shut everything down, to put it into a Platstack into a group or even in subgroups of that and then I can open all of those links at once. I could say, “I want to get back my research on some promotional marketing thing that I’m researching.”

I hit the button and maybe ten resources will open up automatically. That saves me a lot of time in getting my desktop organized. It’s a digital organization. That’s become one of them. TextExpander is one of them. I’m not huge into a lot of apps either. There’s a few that you need to have and that’s pretty much it. I also use Dropbox for sharing and communication. I use Google Forms. I use a lot of, not that I need to separately install that but when I’m doing my automation projects, often I’ll have somebody come and fill in a form and then I’ll take that using an integration tool like Zapier. I’ll have that form brought into a whole workflow process. I also use different types of tools like Trello to manage different types of lists.

Trello is cool. I thought of two other apps that I have to install all the time.

What’s that?

One is OmniOutliner from Omni Group. It’s an insanely powerful outlining application.

When you say outlining, you mean like Mind Mapping? That’s one of my core ones, Mind Mapping. Is it a Mind Mapping tool?

It’s a literal outlining tool. It’s incredibly powerful. It’s powerful that when I started creating an outline for the book I wrote several years ago, I did it in OmniOutliner. I had written a book in OmniOutliner.

Anything that can help you organize is going to help you do it more efficiently.

Fantastical.

TBT 115 | TextExpander

TextExpander: TextExpander works across all applications.

 

I don’t know that one. What’s that?

It’s a calendar app. It’s for Mac and iOS. It ties into the calendar database that Apple is already making. It gives you an easy to use interface from the menu bar. It gives you natural language control over creating events. You could use some of that in Apple’s calendar app, but this goes beyond that.

I’ll check it out. I use Apple. Jeff, thank you so much for being here. As usual, it’s awesome. I’m happy to geek out with you anytime.

Thank you for having me on. I am happy to geek out with you anytime as well. This has been a cool package because we got to talk about productivity stuff, which I love. We got to talk about other cool tech stuff that I love as well. This is an awesome package deal for me. Thank you.

Thank you. We’ll have you back and we’ll talk about something completely different. I know that you’re passionate about productivity. I know you’ll have some additional tips for people as well.

I am in. You tell me when and I will be here.

Thank you all for geeking out with us. Some of our shows are a little bit more technical, tool oriented, some are mindset oriented. Whatever it is, we’re here dedicated to help you to be more productive and to work smarter. My name is Penny Zenker and this is Take Back Time. See you in the next episode.

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About Jeff Gamet

TBT 115 | TextExpanderJeff is Smile’s TextExpander Evangelist and has been making and expanding snippets for years. He’s also a podcaster, public speaker, writer, and technology fan.

 

 

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