15 Alternatives for Textexpander to Speed Up Typing
Elsewhere on this site, I covered a variety of different hacks and tricks you can implement using a tool like Textexpander. Textexpander is one of many text replacement tools available on the web. They all have varying capabilities and pricing levels, but they all do basically the same thing; they allow you to type a short word or key-phrase and have it automatically replaced with a full block of text.
At the most basic level you have an autocorrect feature that capitalizes words and acronyms for you. Higher tier usage allows you to use common commands to add symbols you’d otherwise need to look up and copy-paste into a document. Many people also use preconfigured text blocks to insert things like your name, address, and phone number, turning a full NAP block into something as simple as typing [nap] and hitting Enter.
Textexpander is a good app, but it’s not the right choice for everyone and every purpose. That’s why I’ve put together this list; fifteen different options for text expansion apps you can use to put those clever hacks into use.
15. Phrase Express
Phrase Express is one of the more robust entries on this list, with a ton of features that make it great for personal and for business use. In addition to a huge array of snippets, you can sync snippets across platforms and even share them with team members. One of their more clever features is the ability to translate entire phrase trees into different languages for cross-language work.
In addition to a free limited version, they have three versions licensed for commercial use with escalating ranges of features. Pricing ranges from about $50 to about $200, one-time fees for lifetime licenses, with additional costs for “maintenance”, which includes program updates.
14. Auto Hotkey
Auto Hotkey is one of the more popular text expanders for Windows. Unlike Phrase Express, it is not cross-platform, which is unfortunate, because it’s extremely powerful. AHK is open-source and is basically a free scripting language that can do, well, basically anything. I’ve seen people use it for simple text expansion and replacement, and I’ve seen people use it for automating entire tasks to the press of a button.
While it’s free and extremely light-weight, AHK is also a scripting language, which means you need to actually learn the basics of how to use it for scripting. If you’re not a code junky and just want something you can configure in a few seconds, this probably isn’t for you. On the other hand, if you’ve literally ever written a line of code before, you can figure out AHK pretty quickly. I highly recommend that you give it a try if you can.
Auto Hotkey is a very powerful scripting language, but it’s also tricky to use if you’re not script-savvy. Fortunately, since it’s open-source, other developers are able to build their own platform using it as a base. That’s what FastKeys is; it’s essentially a GUI for AHK. It is, specifically, built to make the text expansion features of AHK much more accessible. You can still create complex macros and scripts that include mouse movement and other advanced features, it’s just all made a little easier.
Of course, this accessibility comes at a price. Open source software is typically free, but the apps built on top of it don’t have to be, and this is no exception. FastKeys is a $19 license to bring you all of the benefits of AHK with none of the need to learn scripting.
Typinator is a relatively cheap, but not free, text expander program. One of its primary benefits is that it comes with a lot of basic autocorrect features built-in already, so you don’t need to set up snippets for individual typos and basic mistakes. Anything from double capitals, to sentence capitalization, to basic HTML works out of the box.
Typinator is a little bloated with some additional features you don’t really need in a text expander, which is a little unfortunate and makes the app a bit larger than it really needs to be. For example, it can do currency and unit conversions and basic math, in case you really need math done without tabbing over to a calculator. Overall, it’s still pretty good, though.
Alfred is a text expander that has a free version and a paid Powerpack full of additional features for a one-time license fee. It’s also limited to Mac, because it has a lot of additional features beyond text expansion. It works as everything from a launchpad for your programs to a remote control that syncs via your phone. It includes everything from app search, web search, and a calculator to remote commands, clipboard history, and workflows.
Calling Alfred a text expander is dramatically downplaying its features. It’s way, way overkill if all you want is a text expander, but if you can make heavy use of the advanced features and remote access it gives you, it’s well worth the relatively small license fee.
This is a free Google Chrome extension that handles text expansion for you within your browser. It’s very simple, it doesn’t cost you money, and it handles both regular text and rich text. It has some more advanced features, including custom cursor placement, expansion inside sub-windows of Chrome like the address bar, and macros that can paste whatever is on your clipboard currently.
On the other hand, since this is a Chrome extension, it’s only available in Chrome. This means you can’t use it in a word processing app unless you’re using a web app, you can’t use it in other browsers, and it won’t work within business apps. That might be perfect for you, or it might be a deal-breaking limitation, that’s up to you.
Not to be confused with Phrase Express, Phrase Expander is a Windows app that is aimed at a specific professional niche. Specifically, this app is aimed at doctors and medical professionals. What this means is that it has a built-in dictionary of medical terms, which are often complex words with obscure Greek roots that can be a pain to have to type out repeatedly, and can cause issues in medical software if they’re typed in incorrectly.
In addition to the dictionary, it includes a template engine that allows you to customize the fields you want added to a notes document, including fields for symptoms and chief complaints. It’s all very well put together, if you’re in one of the industries that wants it. Otherwise, it’s probably not for you.
Breevy is an odd app. It looks simple when you’re glancing at its website, and in fact the website makes it look like one of those old Windows XP programs with website design that hasn’t been updated since 1995. Under the hood, though, it’s actually a surprisingly deep text expander. It has a good basic interface and allows you to import snippet data from other text expanders, or even sync to the same library to use different expanders in different places.
If the website design turns you off, don’t worry too much. They could probably attract a lot more attention with a modern design, but they don’t need to; they have people like me writing articles like this to include them when we find them. Breevy costs $35 as a one-time fee to use it forever.
Not related to Firefox in any way, FastFox is a text expander that includes keyboard shortcuts and macro support. It’s available on both PC and Mac. The app works a little differently under the hood than other text expanders, working directly with text rather than sending keystrokes rapidly to replace what you had typed, but in practice that difference is minimal.
What sets FastFox apart? Primarily, they have a pseudo-learning feature that will monitor your typing behavior and can suggest snippets as you write. Over time, you can build up a library of custom snippets based on the most common phrases and corrections you need to make, dramatically speeding up your writing.
Unfortunately, FastFox is a little expensive for the limitations it has, including a lack of custom cursor placement, delimiters, and some other advanced features. It’s $70 for a license.
At first glance, I almost mistook this app’s website for a parked domain. They don’t really go all-in on their homepage design. Unfortunately, that lack of emphasis on design carries through in their app as a whole. They are a sort of “engineer’s solution” to text expansion.
What they have is powerful, and it works everywhere. It has custom scripts and complex commands, can you can do everything from launch programs to sending emails with it. You just have to take a while familiarizing yourself with the app and how it works. It’s obtuse, it’s not very user friendly, and it doesn’t spoon-feed you its advanced features. If you can’t learn it through use, you’re going to have a hard time with it. It also has an annual fee rather than a one-time license, so it will be more expensive over time.
This is another Mac-based text expander with a bunch of advanced features you can make good use of as you go. It works with cloud-based syncing for snippets, so it’s cross-device. It has automatic corrections for capitalization and spelling, including double capitals. You can add images and formatted text in any Mac program you’re using. One of the more useful features is actually just the fact that it works in virtual machines.
It may not have all of the most robust features of an automation engine, and it may not have the best developed user interface, but it’s perfectly serviceable for the price, which is a whopping $5. Give it a try and see what you think.
TypeIt4Me claims to be “the original” text expander for Mac, which I’m not sure is entirely true, but I don’t know enough about their history to disprove it either. It does standard text expansion, phrase replacement, contact information, and even pictures. You can set up your snippets with point and click menus, which works well enough. It’s only available for Mac and, while it has a free trial, does require a license to keep forever. It’s a mere $20, so it’s not a bad fee, but it’s not free.
One added bonus of TypeIt4Me is that they have a Touch version for iOS devices. You can find it available on the app store here.
CanSnippet is intended to be an assistant for coders looking to save snippets of code they use frequently. Whether for reference or repetition, having that code available can be quite handy. Of course, under the hood it’s still a service that uses simple keyboard shortcuts to replace short phrases with snippets. One of the more useful features is simply the ability to highlight text or code and save it as a snippet directly, instead of having to copy and paste a snippet into your editor.
CanSnippet is free for up to 10 snippets, which isn’t very much. The $10 version adds more features, including language recognition, syntax coloring, dark themes, and customization of keyboard shortcuts, all of which are quite useful.
Keyboard Maestro is one of the more robust Mac text expanders. In addition to text expansion, it has help documentation, a machine learning and macro production set, a MIDI support system, touch bar support, the ability to send SMS and iMessages, and a whole lot more.
Seriously, their feature list is huge. Obviously it’s overkill if all you need is a text expander, but if you want something more dev-oriented than Alfred but with similar capabilities, this is a great choice.
One of the most common use cases for text expansion is simply crafting unique emails based on common phrases and information, without needing to use templates. Emailmate is a powerful tool that allows you to do just that. Think of it like a cross between a text expander and a template engine, with many of the best features of both. I highly recommend you try it out.