Ben Chinn

Slightly nerdy ramblings and linkage

Problems with TextExpander

Dissatisfaction with TextExpander Touch recently spilled into an thread where folks despaired of being able to use the tool barring a major upgrade for iOS 7. I think this is a bit unfair. The app does work where supported and though the UI could use a refresh it was never what made the app great.

TextExpander is one of those apps I wouldn’t know how to do without on my Mac computers or my mobile devices. if you’re not familiar with the app it stores snippets of text and allows you to insert them anywhere through typing much shorter strings. In fact you can do much more than just insert text including inserting images, running scripts and inserting text with more complex “fill-ins” that let you mix predefined text with content you specify at the time of insertion.

On the Mac all this works flawlessly in any application (unless you’ve got a login form open in a web browser). On iOS it’s a different story since applications have limited ways of interacting with each other. First of all, iOS apps need to build in support for TextExpander for you to be able to use your snippets in those apps. If the app you’re using isn’t one of those apps you’re out of luck.

It gets worse: TextExpander has had to play whack-a-mole with how iOS allows apps interact. By my count TextExpander has had to implement this three different ways as iOS has been updated and the current implementation is only supported by a handful of apps sadly not including two of my favorite writing tools, Editorial (which at least has its own snippet functionality) and Writing Kit. Byword seems to have incomplete support, expanding snippets but not able to deal with fill-ins.

I can only hope that all these issues get worked out soon. TextExpander was a game changer in how I use my computer every day and could do the same on mobile devices given a chance.