TextExpander: Tom's Mac Software Pick

Automatically Expand a Snippet of Text Into a Body of Work

Courtesy of SmileOnMyMac

TextExpander 5 lets you type more using less effort, or at least, fewer keystrokes. TextExpander is a text substitution app that can take small snippets of text, abbreviations if you will, and expand them into simple or complex entries in any app where text is expected, such as word processors or forms. Just about anywhere you can enter text, Text Expander will work.


  • Can create snippets from selections.
  • Creates snippets from the clipboard.
  • You can use Text Expander to correct your common spelling mistakes.
  • Complex snippets can expand to include current data, current time, and other variables.
  • Snippet libraries are easy to access and organize.


  • Snippet suggestions via the Notifications Center are annoying.

TextExpander can easily become one of your favorite apps, or at least a can’t-do-without app. That’s because TextExpander fills a need that just about every Mac user has. Its main job is to expand an abbreviation you create into a much larger chain of text and images. TextExpander calls these abbreviations snippets. An expanded snippet can be as simple as your email address, or as complex as an event invitation that includes dates, times, and images.

Apps like Text Expander are often associated with power users who need to produce content quickly and accurately. But TextExpander actually works for anyone who has a recurring bit of text they use over and over. Instead of having to remember a phrase, a complex URL, or a long address, you can use a snippet, and always end up with exactly the right text written out. And because snippets can be configured to expand automatically, you can use TextExpander to auto-correct the silly spelling mistakes that always occur. I tend to type "teh" instead of "the." With TextExpander, I don’t worry about it, knowing that my typing errors will be corrected for me.

Using TextExpander

Installing TextExpander is as easy as dragging it to your /Applications folder; that's all there is to it. Uninstalling TextExpander is a bit more complicated, but only a bit. Before you drag TextExpander to the trash, be sure to open the app's preferences and uncheck the Start at Login option. Once you've done that, you can quit the app and put it in the trash. For a complete uninstall, you can delete the snippet library that is located at hidden user ~/Library/Application Support/TextExpander.

Text Expander provides both a menu bar item for quick access to snippets and a standard windowed app for creating and editing snippets. Otherwise, TextExpander is actually rarely seen in use, since all the magic happens behind the scenes, and snippets are expanded on the fly in whatever app you're using.

The snippet editor is made up of multiple panes. The left pane is a list of snippets you've already created; the top right pane is where you enter the text and images that a snippet will expand to, and the bottom right pane shows a preview of what the expanded snippet will look like. Expanded snippets can include formatted text, plain text, and images, as well as variables, including time, date, nested snippets, key press, current clipboard content, custom fields, and cursor position. Both extremely complex entries and simple ones can be created in the same snippet editor, without having to jump into ‘Advanced’ features, as I've seen in some competing products.

TextExpander 5 is very straightforward to use, and its built-in ability to create groups of related snippets makes it easy to find snippets you haven't used in a long time. The menu bar entry is one of the features of TextExpander that I really like. If I haven’t used a snippet in a while, I'll probably forget what text invokes the snippet, but I can find out with a quick glance at the TextExpander menu bar.

My only real complaint about TextExpander is that it always wants to make suggestions for new snippets based on my typing. But I have to admit that once I turned the suggestion feature off, I found TextExpander to be a nice, unobtrusive partner.

TextExpander is $44.95. A demo is available.

See other software choices from Tom's Mac Software Picks.

Published: 6/13/2015