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Type less, write more with PhraseExpress

Ian Harac | July 11, 2012
PhraseExpress is a utility ($50 for commercial use, free for personal use) that helps automate the typing of commonly-used text or phrases

PhraseExpress is a utility ($50 for commercial use, free for personal use) that helps automate the typing of commonly-used text or phrases, such as "Please check before forwarding me another urgent message, Mom." While many word processors have such features built-in, PhraseExpress is universal; it will enter the text in any application that accepts text, including browser forms, spreadsheets, and so on. Thus, users need to set up their text only once, and have it available in any context.

There are several ways to get the text. The first is to assign an autotext letter sequence that PhraseExpress will look for. For example, you might assign the phrase "Sincerely, John Smith" to "SNC." Whenever you type SNC and hit a defined delimiter key, such as space or enter, it will expand the text. You can filter this by application, so that PhraseExpress does not activate in some contexts.

The second way is to define a key combo, such as Alt-Win-F, or whatever might work for you. This method requires you to remember the keys, of course. PhraseExpress also can detect reserved key combos, and will warn you if you assign one it knows is in use by another program. One of the useful features of this method is that you can assign a key combination to an entire folder of phrases within PhraseExpress, allowing you to bring up a set of them and then select your desired text.

The third method involves clicking the tray icon, which brings up a list of all defined phrases, in their folders. This is the slowest, because it requires you to leave your app, go to the task bar, click, and select. The Professional version of PhraseExpress includes a feature that allows you to tear off a floating window containing phrases, which you can then drag-and-drop from. (The lack of a right-click menu for PhraseExpress is due to the desire for universality; it would need to be coded for each specific application in order to insert itself.

PhraseExpress contains a simple, but effective, system of macros that allow for more than literal text insertion. You can, for example, define a phrase which includes a macro to ask the user for text; this text is then placed into the phrase as it's entered. The macro functions can be powerful and can automate a lot of processes. A particularly handy one will perform math calculations in-line, so you don't need to bring up a calculator--just type the equation and it is replaced with the result. (Obviously, you want this turned off if you're trying to write out the equation itself.)


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