It’s a widely-known fact that communication these days relies heavily on email exchange.
Whether you run your own business or work at a company office, chances are you’ll end up spending a chunk of your day writing emails to clients, suppliers, co-workers, and so forth.
Some of those emails will be quite repetitive, barely changing in terms of their content.
For example, if you are a freelance translator you’ll have to reply to new enquiries from customers over and over again, either to say you are available to take on a new project or to inform them you’re currently unavailable.
This certainly applies to most office-based professions nowadays. You’ll find yourself typing more or less the same sort of emails numerous times on a daily basis – a repetitive process that is time-consuming and not particularly exciting.
But what if there’s a better way to do this?
Thankfully, you can drastically speed up this tiring process in a very simple and effortless manner. All you need is a text expander.
What is a text expander?
A text expander is a piece of software that allows you to carry out any writing-related task (including emails) in a matter of seconds.
Put simply, it allows you to:
- Create and store email templates in the software’s memory.
- Attribute a short code, abbreviation or combo (different tools use different names for the same thing) to each template.
- Finally, whenever you need to use a template, you just need to type the short code and the text expander will populate your email body in less than a second.
E.g.: Instead of painstakingly typing an email such as the one below every single time
Dear Project Manager,
Thank you for your new enquiry.
I confirm my availability for this project. My rates are XXXX and I can deliver by XXXX at XXpm.
Should you wish to proceed, please kindly confirm in writing.
I look forward to hearing from you.
you can simply type a1* (or whatever code you decide to choose) and the above email will ‘magically’ appear within your content.
Here’s an example of this time-saving productivity hack in action:
What text expander should you use?
There are so many options out there it would take forever to cover all of them.
So, to make things simple, I will focus on 4 of the best text expanders available on the market (3 of them premium and a free alternative). Those are PhraseExpress, PhraseExpander, TextExpander and Beeftext.
I’ve used all these tools throughout my career and I can no longer imagine doing my daily tasks without them. I hope this post will help you save time and become more productive.
One of the most powerful and complete text expanders on the market, PhraseExpress is fully oriented to time saving and productivity improvement.
You can store your templates and attribute them any code you wish, organise them by categories and have full control over its settings (including your preferred trigger key.)
One of its greatest features, and an absolute clincher for me, is the fact it generates a quick access menu on your computer’s toolbar. You can navigate through all your templates in a matter of seconds and click on the one you want to use to trigger the text.
This feature comes in handy particularly when you start having a considerable number of stored text templates, as it saves you from having to memorise every single short code or even print a sheet to help you remember. It makes everything so much smoother and more practical.
Interestingly, it also give you an estimate of how much money you’ve saved by using PhraseExpress (you know, time is money). The only downside is, it’s not fully clear how exactly that figure is calculated.
Despite being a premium tool, there’s a generous 30-day free trial for you to get acquainted with the software. After that, the standard version only costs £48.98 for a lifetime license (one-off payment), which also includes 1 year of maintenance.
For teams, note there is also a server edition: if you’re a business owner or project manager, you may give your team members access to the same, centralised corpus of templates.
All that makes PhraseExpress arguably the main go-to text expander for single users. Not only it offers some of the best features, it is also quite affordable.
Here’s a sum up with some of the best features PhraseExpress has to offer:
|✔️Free 30-day trial|
|✔️Affordable, one-off payment|
|✔️Includes a 1-year maintenance plan (minumum)|
|✔️Intuitive and user-friendly|
|✔️Great for teams (Pro and Enterprise plans)|
|✔️Includes productivity calculator|
|✔️Easy access menu|
|✔️Portable edition available|
Surely one of the best alternatives to PhraseExpress on the market. Not only PhraseExpander offers most of its main competitor’s features, it also comes with a number of additional functionalities that make it one of the most powerful tools of its kind.
The software is intuitive and easy to use. It allows you to store your texts and templates, create abbreviations, and trigger them instantly on any text editor (including emails.)
It comes with an integrated spell check tool and allows you to use macros and rich text with your templates.
Its exclusive autocomplete feature (SmartComplete™) is particularly beneficial if you want to improve your typing speed: it shows you a number of template suggestions as you type, thus saving you time. Another amazing net result of this feature is the fact you don’t need to memorise your abbreviation codes: just start typing and the software will present you the relevant templates, which you can easily insert to the text by hitting the ‘shift’ key:
Of all text expanders listed on this post, PhraseExpander is likely to be the most powerful in terms of the amount of functionalities included in the standard license.
The software costs $59.00 for a single lifetime license + 1 year of upgrades and support, but you may grab a 10% discount if you use my affiliate link.
It’s also highly recommended for teams, with its professional license costing $149.00. It does not require any server installation, which makes it particularly straightforward to set up in comparison to PhraseExpress.
Note: there’s a 30-day money-back Guarantee on your PhraseExpander purchase, so you can’t go wrong with it.
Another market leader, TextExpander is a complete and flexible solution for freelancers and team leaders.
A significant difference when compared to other text expanders is the fact it requires you to create an online account (you’ll be asked to sign in with your account details the first time you install the software.)
Because the app is linked to your TextExpander account, you can gain access to and use your snippets (i.e., text templates) from any device. That’s possible because the tool automatically syncronises your snippets and snippet groups with your online account on their website:
This also means a backup is automatically created if for some reason you uninstall the software or if your computer breaks down – you’ll be covered in either scenario.
The tool also makes it very easy for you to share your snippets, or just a specific group of snippets, with your colleagues – which perfect for small teams.
The Life Hacker plan is priced at a very reasonable $4.16 per month ($3.33 if billed annually.)
Being a recurring payment, over the long run it may seem it turns out to be more expensive than PhraseExpress and PhraseExpander’s one-off fees… but not necessarily! That’s because, unlike its competitors, support is included in TextExpander’s plan and doesn’t need to be renewed after 1 year. Updates are also free.
In the end, it all comes down to what features you value the most and how you plan to use the tool. If you’re looking for instant synchronisation across multiple devices or if you’re leading a team, TextExpander is likely to be the best solution on the market.
Arguably the best open source text expander, Beeftext is a free alternative to PhraseExpress, PhraseExpander and TextExpander.
This was the first expander I’ve ever used, some years ago. While it was already a perfectly functional piece of software back then, there have been some major improvements meanwhile.
One of its main weak spots is the lack of html formatting (rich text.) That’s a common issue with free tools: many only allow plain text, which is a massive limitation. Still, the software works great and is also very intuitive and user-friendly.
[Note: Beeftext did allow html formatting in the past, but the functionality has been discontinued in 2020]
Despite losing to its premium counterparts (no rich text allowed, limited support, no way to syncronise your combos across multiple devices, no quick access menu, no automated backups, no real integrated solution for teams, etc.), it’s nonetheless a remarkable piece of software considering it’s open source.
Improving your email response speed will benefit you as a freelancer in a number of ways, so make sure to use a text expander. They’re easy to use, extremely affordable and will save you lots of time over the long run.
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