Text expansion, sometimes called snippets, are a great way to speed up your writing workflow and avoid embarrassing typos.

These apps are rather simple. They automatically expand abbreviations, like ’brb into be right back.

My job involves writing about a lot of acronym-heavy subjects, and our style guide calls to spell these out on first reference. So rather than having to write out something like secure access service edge (SASE), I can just type ‘SASE, and the text expander will type the rest for me.

I’ve been using text expansion apps on and off for the last five years, and I’ve always found TextExpander to be one of the better options out there. TextExpander is great because it automatically analyzes your writing and suggests new snippets. While a phenomenal feature, the company shifted to a subscription model a couple of years ago, and I can’t see myself paying $3.33 a month for it.

Thankfully, if you don’t need TextExpander's more advanced features like snippet suggestions, you can replicate its core functionality for free. In fact, it’s baked right into MacOS.

Get started with text expansion (snippets) for free

Simply head over to System Preferences > Keyboard > Text. In the left-most section, you’ll find the snippets editor.

Press the + button to create a new snippet and enter the shortcut and what you’d like to replace it with. I recommend inserting a symbol like in front of the shortcut to avoid accidentally triggering it while writing.

Creative Snippet MacOS

By default, you can only add one line replacements from inside System Preferences. If you’d like to add longer replacements, like your email signature, you’ll need to copy and paste it from something like Text Edit.

Now any time you type the shortcut, it will be replaced with the desired text. Super simple and better yet, no subscription required.

Snippets in MacOS

Further Reading

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Early in my career as a journalist I learned an important lesson about computersand writing. I’d just gotten back to the office from an interview when my editorconfronted me about a story strewn with seemingly misplaced words. It’d been a long week, but not that long, but sure enough it was as if…

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments below:

  • Do you use text expansion or snippets in MacOS?
  • If so, how do you use them? Any good tricks?
  • I don't have access to a PC right now. Is there anything like this for Windows?
Main image credit: Alexander Shatov