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Want to increase your productivity instantly? Did you know that a text expander tool can save you a tremendous amount of time?
A text expander app speeds up your typing. It enables you to use pre-defined text snippets for practically any type of text. You can use it to encode phrases, links, special characters, code blocks, email signatures, and longer copy.
When I became obsessed with productivity, I tried out every single productivity app I could get my hands on. And TextExpander was one of the tools that I came across in my early days.
I was blown away by how much time I could save with this text expander software.
The only problem was that TextExpander targeted Mac users, lacked a portable version, and it was a bit pricy at that time.
And then I discovered PhraseExpress, the best TextExpander alternative for Windows. I’ve been an advocate of PhraseExpress ever since.
Since then, however, the landscape of text expander tools has changed. TextExpander introduced a more friendly pricing tag and targeted Windows users. PhraseExpress, in turn, developed tools for the Mac and improved its interface.
So, it’s the best time to figure out which tool is the best time-saver in 2020. Read on to find out who wins the TextExpander vs PhraseExpress battle.
Getting started with TextExpander and PhraseExpress
Look & feel
Both tools offer a smooth user experience. It doesn’t take much effort to learn the basics. Thanks to the easy-to-search user guides and video tutorials, getting started with these tools won’t be a bottleneck in your journey.
PhraseExpress has a feature-rich interface, which might be intimidating at first sight. But it doesn’t take a diploma to quickly figure out how things are working. It feels like you were working with a Microsoft tool.
The logic behind using text snippets is very similar in both tools. You can easily access your snippets in a quick menu and work with them with ease.
These tools work reliably according to my experience. And if you set up your triggers with due care, they won’t conflict with other apps on your computer. (More on that later.)
Let’s see how they work.
Anatomy of snippets
Snippets are at the heart of text expander tools.
The snippet anatomy is quite similar in TextExpander and PhraseExpress:
- Content: this is the text or longer copy you want to execute.
- Label: here, you can assign a name to your snippet.
- Abbreviation: this is the abbreviation that will trigger your content. Either it will expand immediately or upon typing a default delimiter. It’s a good idea to come up with a naming convention upfront and label your snippets accordingly.
Consider beginning your snippets with a special character like a semicolon or “x” to avoid conflict with your typing.
Let’s see an example. Say, you want to execute a simple phrase as an autotext. Here’s what it looks like in PhraseExpress.
By beginning my snippet with an “x”, I ensure that simply writing down the targeted word won’t trigger my text expander app.
Building up your snippet library
Building up a snippet library from scratch was never easier. It works the same way as working with any other application. You can create a new folder (in TextExpander, it’s called a group) and populate it with snippets.
You can drag-and-drop your snippets across folders in both tools. Unfortunately, TextExpander doesn’t support subfolders.
While PhraseExpress has a classic word editor-like interface, TextExpander comes with a cleaner design.
TextExpander allows several sorting options. Unfortunately, it doesn’t support custom sorting (i.e. manually sorting your snippets). PhraseExpress, on the other hand, enables you to manually sort your snippets, albeit it lacks the ready-to-use sorting options.
Both tools support importing snippets from other tools.
Correcting your spelling mistakes
You can easily set up a snippet library to autocorrect your spelling mistakes.
Just create a single snippet with the typo in the abbreviation section and enter the correct form into the content section. Next time when you type the wrong form, TextExpander will automatically correct your spelling.
You can easily do this with PhraseExpress too.
Both tools have a built-in library of misspelled words. If you are a non-native speaker, however, you won’t make much use of this feature.
PhraseExpress goes one step further: it has a unique algorithm (TypoLearn™) that learns your individual spelling mistakes.
Let’s dig into some of the more advanced functions.
Date & time functions
Both tools support displaying the current date and performing basic-to-advanced date and time calculations.
It comes handy, for example, when you want to show a deadline that is dependent on the current date. Below is an example of how this works in real life.
With PhraseExpress, you can go one step further and calculate the number of workdays, weekends, or weeks between two dates.
This is when things get interesting. Fill-in forms make it easy for you to customize your email templates.
Here’s what you get in TextExpander:
- Single line field: comes handy for addressing people in emails
- Multi-line field: allows displaying multiple lines of text
- Optional section: you can decide upon expansion whether you want to show this section
- Popup menu: use this function to display a popup for multiple selections
On top of the above-mentioned functions, PhraseExpress has some more advanced solutions here:
- Calendar form: display a calendar form in your template and pick a date you want to show
- Numeric slider: display a slider with a predefined range of numbers
: displaya checkbox to select a binary outcome
- And more …
Jumping between fields in TextExpander
This is a very useful feature when you’re filling in web forms where you should tab between required fields.
You may want to leverage this function with emails as well. Just select a key from the list and insert it into where you want to tab to the next field.
Here’s an example of how it looks like. (You can do this with PhraseExpress too.)
Extra features in PhraseExpress
PhraseExpress comes with some extra features that go beyond text expansion (which is the scope of this review):
- Clipboard manager: it stores your clipboard contents, which you can display with a keyboard shortcut. You can then select your items and get them inserted with or without formatting. You’re one click away from opening folders and files that are stored in cache or sending an email to a recipient.
- Programming: supports conditional statements (if-then-else functions) and more.
- Automation: you can open webpages, create emails, open files, execute applications, or use a macro recorder.
TextExpander has a clipboard function, too, which allows you to use the clipboard content as a variable in your snippet. The only difference is that PhraseExpress provides access to all clipboard content, while TextExpander is restricted to the last used item.
It’s time to see where the rubber meets the road …
Plans and pricing
TextExpander has been developed by Smile, a company that proudly serves the Mac community from San Francisco.
PhraseExpress, in turn, is owned by Bartels Media, a German company dating back to the early 90s. They happily serve medical doctors, lawyers, and other professionals with their productivity solutions.
These companies serve a bit different niches both in terms of location and customer base. And that’s reflected in the functionality of their products.
They also work with completely different pricing models. While TextExpander has a subscription-based model with a 30-day free trial, PhraseExpress offers lifetime licenses only.
TextExpander has three plans beginning from $3.33 per month (billed annually). Its Life hacker plan is for personal productivity, while the Team plan (charging $7.96 per user per month, billed annually) is perfect for companies. They also offer a third, company-wide solution.
You get everything you need in their basic plan:
- Create unlimited snippets
- Use TextExpander on all your devices
- Import and export snippets
- Get free updates & email support
If you purchase PhraseExpress, you get a lifetime license, which is valid for a single user. If you want to get software updates, however, you should upgrade your license (with a discount). Unfortunately, you should purchase separate licenses for Mac and Windows, although licenses can be moved within platforms.
PhraseExpress comes in three editions and offers different prices depending on the length of the maintenance period.
A standard edition with a lifetime license and 1 year of maintenance costs $49.95. That’s comparable to TextExpander’s annual basic plan (charging $39.96 per year).
The standard edition includes the basics but lacks the Clipboard manager, the input forms, and the Macro Recorder, among others. PhraseExpress Pro costs $139.95 (includes 1 year of maintenance). It features the input forms and the Clipboard manager. Not all features are supported on a Mac.
PhraseExpress is free for personal use with some restrictions. Here’s the disclosure:
“If using features reserved for one of the commercial editions, or if PhraseExpress is used in professional environments, license reminders are shown after 30 days.”
Importantly, PhraseExpress delivers a portable version as well, which is a nice solution if you don’t have full admin access to your computer at the office.
Ready to see the outcome of the battle?
TextExpander vs PhraseExpress: the verdict
I have the very same mixed feelings with these tools just like I have with Asana vs Nozbe. You have two excellent tools, and there’s no right decision.
Here’s a quick comparison that should help.
- Automatically syncs your snippets between all of your devices (Mac, Windows, Chrome, iOS)
- Clear interface
- Very good user experience
- Lacks portable version
- Subscription-based pricing model (no lifetime license)
- Lacks some advanced functions
- Best value for money with its lifetime licenses and free offers
- Feature-rich—offers much more than a simple text expander tool
- Portable version included
- Requires separate licenses for different platforms
- Syncing your snippets is a bit tedious
- Advanced functionality comes at the expense of user experience
The bottom line
If you need advanced functions (and maybe have a PC), go with PhraseExpress. If you like simplicity (and maybe have a Mac), pick TextExpander. Both tools are great products and excellent ways to increase your productivity instantly.
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