Most of us end up doing a lot of typing when we use our computers. Whether it’s word processing, creating emails or chatting over social networks. One thing you are quite likely to do, is type common phrases or blocks of text more frequently than others which makes repeatedly entering the same thing again and again a waste of your time and possibly money. It can be quite annoying knowing you have already typed the same thing in multiple times and perhaps in different applications as well, and now you have to do the same again.
If you’re a Microsoft Office user, there is a function called Autotext which can insert a common phrase or string of text as you start typing it in, saving a bit of time and keyboard tapping. Unfortunately this is only available when you type common phrases into Word so you have to look elsewhere for a feature like this to be available in all applications.
PhraseExpress is a utility that can do a similar thing to the Autotext function and a lot more besides. It can create macros and text snippets to insert custom text when a specific string abbreviation is entered or a configured hotkey is pressed. It also has an Autocomplete feature that monitors what you type and offers to complete any phrases it recognizes you are frequently typing. There is also a number of Text Templates which can be downloaded and imported into the program enabling extra functionality. These include a special functions calculator which can work out sums for you as you type, and a system wide spelling corrector which works with any application. Other notable functions include a Clipboard Manager that remembers multiple entries and can remove any text formatting from the contents, and a management tool if you are someone who uses signatures in your emails. Last but not least, there is the ability to launch a specified program or folder by using a single keystroke or by typing an abbreviation. There’s quite a lot this program can do.
PhraseExpress is free for personal use, and has a setup installer which can integrate with the context menus and start with Windows, or a dedicated portable USB version. When the program is run, it doesn’t open a window, but sits as an icon in the system tray. Simply click the icon and Settings to get to the main window. The left half of the main window contains a tree structure where you can manage all the phrases that have been created including creating, deleting and moving. The right side is where you create the phrases to use.
As a simple get started, the example below will create a new phrase when you enter a couple of autotext keystrokes.
To create a new phrase click the New Phrase button;
1. Give it a name.
2. Enter the phrase content which will be the expanded text after you have typed in the abbreviation. Any text currently in the clipboard can be inserted if you look under ‘Clipboard Cache’ in the phrases and folders tree.
3. Designate a hotkey if you want one by selecting the qualifier key and picking a hotkey from the dropdown list.
4. Finally, enter the autotext which is shorthand for the phrase in the content box. Obviously you need to pick an abbreviation which is not too common otherwise the program will try to insert the phrase far too often and in places you don’t want.
Now the phrase has been set up, the autotext will expand into the phrase when you type it into a program or press the shortcut key.
The program can do a lot more than insert ordinary text strings. Clicking the dropdown Add Macro button will bring up a large list of additional items that can be accessed or executed when the hotkey or autotext is triggered. These are potentially quite powerful and range from inserting the date and time and advanced text manipulation, to opening web pages, executing applications and copying to or pasting from the Clipboard. For a full list, refer to the Macros section of the documentation. Even if you don’t want the text expansion features, Phrase Express is still versatile enough to be considered as a useful Clipboard manager or Shortcut key creator.
If you want to be selective in choosing which phrases can be made available to which programs, pressing the Expert Mode button brings up some additional options. Ticking the Execute only in certain program’ option lets you select which software the phrase can be used in and also any software to specifically exclude.
There really is a massive amount of options and functions available here, and it will take a bit of time to get things set up and configured to your liking. A good read of the Documentation is highly recommended to get the most out of Phrase Express, and there are a number of videos available to demonstrate various functions.