Monday, August 7, 2017

Creating New Snippets

Dr. Drang:

I returned to TextExpander for two reasons. First, I have an iPad and want to do more writing on it. I didn’t realize how much I relied on expansions—even those that don’t run scripts—until I didn’t have them. TextExpander is the only solution that works on both the Mac and iOS.

TypeIt4Me does work on iOS, but its keyboard extension is much less convenient than the TextExpander SDK, which many apps have integrated.

I noticed in the past year that I haven’t been making the sort of throwaway snippets I used to make regularly in TextExpander to help me write reports that require the repeated use of technical phrases or product names. This meant more typing and more editing, because misspelled product names and inconsistent terminology kept creeping into my writing. This isn’t a knock on Keyboard Maestro—it’s a more general tool that just doesn’t have streamlined methods for creating new text substitution macros.

I have been using LaunchBar, and here’s how you can easily create new snippets with it:

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I don’t know why there is no mention of Typinator (Ergonis). I’m using Typinator for many years and I always found it clearly superior to TextExpander, also in the years before TextExpander went subscription.

It doesn’t have an iOS counterpart though. For me this is not a thing since I’m typing 80% on the Mac, and I’m writing in different languages, so the iOS keyboard works quite well, and I’m not sure if TextExpander (which comes as a Keyboard on iOS) will work similarly well for multiple languages.

Anyway, the interesting part of this post is the LaunchBar-Snippets thingy:

Since I got my new MBP (7 weeks ago) I started to try to replace Typinator with LB’s snippets.

Main reason was that I wanted to reduce the number of background processes (battery) and since LB is my #1 first install on any Mac it was obvious to try to “soak” up the Typinator functionality with LB’s snippets :)

Another reason is that macOS’ text correction has improved significantly, which makes that part of Typinator (or other typed-text expanders) almost superfluous.

And I have to say, it goes pretty well.

The main difference between LB and Typinator/TextExpander/TypeIt4Me is that LB does not offer real typed-text triggers. You cannot type something like “;as” and have it expand to “AppleScript”.

Instead you have to define a shortcut or – way better – a Modifier Tap for your snippets. (You do this in LB’s prefs.)

My Modifier Tap is ⌘ (the Command key). That is, to invoke LB’s snippets list you single tap ⌘ and then you can forward-type to your snippet/abbreviation.

This sounds complicated but effectively it doesn’t take more keystrokes than with a defined abbreviation in Typinator/TextExpander/TypeIt4Me that includes an “opening” character like “;”.

The contrary. It has advantages: While the typed-string triggers in Typinator/TextExpander/TypeIt4Me are fixed, LB is constantly learning your habits.

Defining snippets in LB:

Probably I misunderstood Michael’s description, but it’s way easier:

You are in your text editor.
You type the text you are going to save as a snippet.
You select the text and send it to LB via your Instant-Send key (for example Control, or Control remapped to Caps-Lock).
You type “as” to invoke “Add Snippet”, and hit Return.
That’s it. You hit Return again or you adjust the name of the abbreviation and then hit Return.

Well, the whole replace-Typinator-entirely-by-LaunchBar-thingy is still experimental and I will see how it turns out. 

BTW: For the cursor position in your LB snippets use the “<|>” placeholder.

– Tom

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