How to type faster on your iPad or Mac

Today, academiPad welcomes its first guest author post! I know Bryan Sippel from my first year at Queen’s, and he was a productivity ninja already back then. Nowadays he sharpens his skills as a consultant, working with higher education institutions implementing, upgrading, and supporting the Oracle Campus Solutions software product. Thanks Bryan for bringing our typing up to speed!

Do you like to save time?  If you spend a lot of time typing on a Mac or iOS device, TextExpander is an application guaranteed to save you time.  TextExpander allows you to configure “snippets” of text that will expand to additional text when you type them in any application. Think of a long word, phrase, or paragraph that you often find yourself typing.  If you can think of a short snippet for it, TextExpander is something to consider.  For example, I have configured a snippet  “ddate” which expands to the date written in full (e.g. Thursday, February 2, 2012).  Another snippet is  “ttime” which expands to a time stamp (e.g. 1:30 PM).

Your snippets can expand to short pieces of text like these examples, or longer phrases and even paragraphs of text, which is when you will really start to see some time savings.

If you have multiple Macs or iOS devices, TextExpander allows you to use Dropbox or MobileMe (not sure about iCloud support) to sync your snippets across each computer/device.  At work, we use a lot of abbreviations and codes which often are not meaningful to people outside of our project team.  The investment in time of configuring snippets for the various abbreviations and codes allows me to save time when typing to others and ensure that my spelling and descriptions are always consistent.  The app tracks the time saved based on your words per minute typing speed which is more rewarding than you might think.

One caveat for TextExpander on your iPad (or iPhone) is that TextExpander touch cannot work in the background because of iOS restrictions.  Unless you are using one of the currently 124 apps that have TextExpander-integration built-in, you must first compose your text in the TextExpander touch Compose screen, and then transfer it to another app.

TextExpander is available in the Mac App Store for $34.95 and the iTunes App Store for $4.99.

Tip:  To take advantage of some of TextExpander’s features for free, on any iOS 5 device go to Settings > General > Keyboard.  At the bottom you will see a button for Add New Shortcut…  You can then configure Shortcuts that when typed will expand to a particular Phrase.  One I use all the time is “myb” which expands to “message you in a bit”.

If you use TextExpander already, leave a comment with your recommendations for snippets.

Follow Bryan on Twitter @bsippel where he shares other helpful tips and tricks.

Disclaimer: Image by Matthew Stibbe. Please consider sharing this article if you found it useful.

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  1. Cool blog! Is your theme custom made or did you download it from somewhere?
    A design like yours with a few simple tweeks would really make my blog shine.
    Please let me know where you got your design. Thanks

  2. Jo says:

    Bryan converted me to be a TextExpander user. Thus, I can contribute my own examples now: I use snippets to fill in all kinds of forms. For example, I use the snippet “;qemail” to spell out my lengthy Queen’s University email address. Another use for me is to quickly insert code while working on academiPad.

    Writing standard emails is when TextExpander really shines. For example, I use some standard emails to recruit participants for my studies. Before using TextExpander, I had to open MacJournal where I saved this standard text, copy it to my clipboard, and then paste the text into the email. Not any longer! Now, all I have to do is to type “;HNRrecruit” – bang!

    So here is where I add something to Bryan’s great post: He presented TextExpander as a wonderful tool for saving time, and it is! But it is more than just for saving time: TextExpander keeps me calm and relaxed, because I don’t have to jump around different apps and search for the bit of text I need.

    I should also mention that TextExpander is part of a Productive Macs bundle right now that runs until December 1st, 2012. More details at

  3. Jo says:
  4. Ekant says:

    GExam = Good use of examples throughout the assessment
    BExam = Your use of examples could be improved
    GDepth = I was impressed by the depth of analysis in your assessment and it offered excellent insights
    BDepth = Although some of the theories used were of use, the lack of depth has held your mark back. Offering greater insight through increased depth of analysis would be recommended…

    Oh, this could make me very, very lazy at assessment (or hugely efficient)

  5. Bryan says:

    As a follow up, I would highlight recommend the podcast Mac Power Users (

    Here is a link from one of the co-hosts about using Text Expander
    with the task manager OmniFocus.

    Check back for an upcoming academiPad guest post on OmniFocus.


  6. Jo says:

    Thank you, Bryan, for this post. I can see lots of opportunities to save some time in the academic workflow. For example, when I am giving feedback on course projects, I often find myself given similar responses regarding lack of citations or not explaining claims in enough detail. Everybody who has ever graded essays knows what I am talking about…

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