🔤 Text Expansion for Windows

Simply put, text expansion on Windows makes me sad. Microsoft offers AutoComplete so I guess people think that’s good enough. AutoComplete, or AutoCorrect, are nowhere near as powerful or useful as text expansion. And that doesn’t help when you’re in someone else’s app.

Text expansion on the Mac works out of the box. It’s part of the OS and is an integral part of getting work done efficiently. All you need to do is go into the Keyboard shortcuts of System Preference and set up what you need.

If you need more options, bigger lists, prompts and date insertion – there are multiple apps to choose from like, TypeIt4Me, aText, Rocket, Rocket Typist, and Typinator. Once you’ve set up your expansion sets, they can be shared across machines. I have TypeIt4Me sets stored in iCloud, so as soon as it was installed on my 2013 Mac Pro, the expansions were ready to use. I have hundreds of TypeIt4Me trigger keywords, so text expansion is pretty important to me.

Why should I type in my email address hundreds of times, when I can type in p@?
Why should I remember my work address when I can type in the word work?
Why should I fill in a form when I can get the computer to do it? That’s what they’re for.
Why waste time entering tedious information, only to get it wrong and start over?
Why break my concentration and flow to look up the date and time, when I can get it by typing one or two letters?

Typing in shortcuts for “Talk to you later” or “On my way,” are cute, but trivial. I can type in a letter and get multiple words of text. I can type in a word and get multiple lines.

But when it comes to Windows, the text expansion situation is different and basically non-existent. Microsoft offers AutoComplete, and AutoCorrect within their apps, which people seem to think is good enough. But for me, AutoComplete falls way short of the mark.

The options are pretty limited on Windows, but I’ve made progress using BeefText, which is a terrible name, but is a pretty decent tool for keywords triggers, multi-line text expansion, date and time functions. It also has some advanced features like delays between lines, so you can string a set of commands together for the Command Prompt.

It’s a good tool, and it’s free, but it doesn’t work across all apps. Either the app or Windows itself blocks its functionality, which means there are dozens of places where it doesn’t work. It fails in Katalon, and SQL Management Studio. It works fine in a text editor, but that’s kind of limiting. Useful, but not good enough.

Because text expansion is crucial to the way I work, I went hardcore and got Macro Toolworks. It’s far more than a text expansion tool being closer to Keyboard Maestro than TypeIt4Me.

Macro Toolworks can do simple functions, like changing a typed keyword trigger to a different word, or typing long lines of text. It’s far more reliable for working in Katalon and SQL. Macro Toolworks can even populate templates text using variables and its own coding language, if you want to go that route, which I have.

I currently have Macro Toolworks expanding lines of code for Katalon tests, and populating JSON code to send to an API. Populating a template is more than text expansion, it’s actually variables and arrays, but Macro Toolworks is more than a simple text tool.

I impressed with how it works and can definitely say that Macro Toolworks has helped me test more efficiently and get more done. It’s a solid tool, but the price is a bit of a shock – it’s on par with Keyboard Maestro in functionality, but holy crap it’s expensive! It costs three times as much as Keyboard Maestro.

It’s disappointing that you have to spend so much to get such basic functionality under Windows, but I guess it’s a necessary evil for anyone who actually wants to get work done.

AutoHotKey was another solution I looked into, but it felt so damn clunky compared to what I’m used to, I simply gave up. I think BeefText is a good starting place, although there are limitations. Macro Toolworks is pretty badass and is really helping me out, but damn, the cost of admission is painful.

But seriously, why is this feature so lacking on Windows? Why isn’t it integrated, it’s 2023! Or am I being stupid and it’s buried in the mire that is Windows Control Panel?

It's bad luck to be superstitious.
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