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How often will you type these or similar words: “Please contact me if you have any questions”? “Please find attached”? Or “To receipt and review of letter”? Or citations similar to this: “Family Law Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. F-6.”?
What if I told you that …
Wouldn’t that terrifically increase your typing efficiency?
Well, it’s easy to do (and in some cases free). It’s called text expansion software—and it’s like shorthand for your typing. It can free you from tons of repetitive typing and also ensure that much of your keyboarding is error-free. The downsides are minor—the small price of the software in some cases and, in all cases, the need to memorize the expansion triggers.
All text expansion software operates on the same basic principle: Assign a series of keystrokes to a phrase, sentence or block of text, along with an assigned “trigger” to expand the keystrokes to the desired text. It’s that simple. The trick is to come up with a pattern of keystrokes that works for you.
My pattern is to use the first letter of the first three or four words of the text I want to expand (this helps me remember what I assigned). Others use a word with a hash tag (#) or some other symbol in front of or following the keystrokes. It’s crucial that the keystrokes not be a word by themselves (i.e., without a symbol right before or after), or else you’re going to be unhappy when you really want to use that particular word and not the expanded text.
If you’re working with Microsoft Office, especially Word and Outlook, you already have tools at your disposal in Autocorrect and AutoText (QuickParts). That’s right, Autocorrect isn’t just for correcting your common typos—it can be nicely manipulated to expand text, too. In addition to the advantage of already being on your computer, it can also format expanded text. Its disadvantage? It only works within Microsoft Office products and not uniformly across all of them. Here are some other options.
You’re not left out in the cold, Mac users. Text expansion software can be yours, too. Macworld has a nice roundup of Mac text expanders here. (Ed. Note: At Attorney at Work, we use TextExpander, which has an app for iPhone and iPad, too, for phrases, email signatures and even images.)
If you still need some convincing about the merits of expansion software, David Pogue, New York Times tech columnist, expressed his text expansion software love in this short column. He’s right—what’s not to love for people who do a lot of keyboarding?
Don’t build up a library of abbreviations too quickly, or you’ll just forget them. Build them up slowly, over time, starting with your most used phrases. Work with them first until your fingers remember them, then add another small group until you’ve customized your own personal keyboard shorthand.
You won’t regret it.
Vivian Manning is the IT Manager at Barriston Law LLP in Barrie, Bracebridge and Cookstown, Ontario. Prior to moving into IT, Vivian practiced law at Barriston LLP primarily in the area of Municipal Land Development, with a total of 17 years in private practice before switching to the IT side of the law office. She currently indulges her love of teaching tech through her blog Small City Law Firm Tech, where she provides “tips of the day.”
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