Text Expander for the Mac


Textexpander logo

I finally started using TextExpander about a week ago or so.  I had bought it on sale for half off at some point, but never got into it until just then.  And I’m loving it.  I’ve saved over 5000 keystrokes already, and I know that because TextExpander keeps track of such statistics.

For those who haven’t heard of it: It’s a Mac app that you can buy in the Mac App Store that will automagically auto-expand something you type into something bigger.  People use it to set up things as large as form emails, or as small as signature files or email addresses.  I’ve used it for that latter piece, using a different four character shortcut for each of my four email addresses.  Anytime I have to fill in a web form now, I save a bunch of repetitive typing.  I type ’emgm’, for example, and it auto expands out to my Gmail.com address.  ’emoo’ expands out to my OptOnline.net email address.  But I also have shortcuts for typing out the image captions on AugieShoots.com, so all I have to do is input four numbers (for ISO, aperture, shutter speed, and focal length) and TextExpander handles the rest.  I have shortcuts set up for writing Pipeline to make it simpler to include links, or to put my standard header at the top of each column.

Not a night goes by in using my computer where I don’t think of another way to simplify my life with this application.  The only bad news is that the full program will run you $35 at the App Store, so I encourage you to try the free trial download direct from SmileSoftware.com first.  The SmileSoftware.com website has a bunch of links to tutorials, books, videos, etc. where you can learn more about the program and how people are using it.

Good news for those of us stuck on PCs at work: There’s an app that the TextExpander people work with called Breevy.  It will import your snippets (the ‘technical’ term for shortcuts) from your DropBox.com account to be used on your PC.  If you can install software on your computer at work and they allow you access to DropBox, you’re good.  Of course, it’ll run you another $35 there.


Mindmapping with MindNode

I tried something new this week in writing my weekly comic review column.  I used MindNode, which is billed as a mindmapping program.  Yes, I’m a hipster now.

Basically, it lets you make lists in graphical ways.  I often take notes while reading a comic that I might want to review.  I’ll write them in small bullet points lists: First, a set of art notes, then some writing notes, and maybe some packaging notes. I’ll draw lines here and there, write footnotes, or whatever it takes to tie in some tangents or supporting statements.

Basically, I’ve been “mindmapping” for years without fancy software to make it color-coded and PDF-enabled.

But since the app was free in the Mac App Store, I thought I’d give it a shot. MindNode is very simple to use.  I didn’t read a line of directions or instructions. It’s all pretty obvious.  You start with a node. Give your mindmap a title there.  Then click and drag from the “+” button next to that to start a new node.  Create subnodes as you wish.  Each tendril off the root node will be automatically assigned its own color

Your work is saved in a MindNode file format, but you can also helpfully export out to a PDF (or PNG, or a few other formats) for those times you won’t be on a Mac but want to read it.

It also has the convenience of not being on a small scrap of paper that accidentally gets thrown out when I clear out my pockets at the end of the day.  I can keep it in DropBox as a PDF so it’s accessible everywhere.

I used it for Pipeline this week.  This is what the final output looked like for my review of “John Romita’s Amazing Spider-Man: Artist’s Edition”:

Mindmap used for this week's Pipeline

Mindmap used for this week's Pipeline

I didn’t cover everything in there, but I did get the vast majority of it.  When it comes time to apply butt to chair and write, you realize that some parts aren’t all that necessary. They just bulk up the writing at the expense of the reader’s attention.  That’s not something a mindmapping piece of software will teach you. That’s experience and ‘feel.’

Was the software necessary?  No, I could have just used pen and paper like I usually do.  But if MindNode feels more “fun” or interesting to use, then it’s worth it.  I made mindmaps of the next three books I read, at least two of which will see reviews in February.  We’ll have to check back at the end of the month to see how this goes. During that time, I’d also like to read more of the documentation to see if I’m missing some obvious feature that would make all of this even better.

If you’re not organized and scratching out bullet point lists on your own – whether on a scrap of paper, the back of an envelope, or your simplest text editor of choice on your iPhone or computer – then this might be a handy program for you.   It’s free, so what do you have to lose?  (There is also a “Pro” version of the software, which lets you add all sorts of funky stuff, including importing pictures, and even finer grain control.  It’s $20.)