Expand Your Command Line Mind with TextExpander

November 23, 2010 - by christopher

As a member of the support staff, I probably spend most of my time in front of a terminal and a web browser during my typical work day. I actually have a bet with myself that I can probably work with just browser and terminal, but I've yet to try it.

One of the apps that my iMac can't live without is TextExpander.  I discovered it a few years ago but have only really started using it a lot in the last year or so. With TextExpander, you can create text "snippets" that get expanded automatically. So for instance you can use it to automatically create that snappy signature you perhaps spent a little too much time on at the end of an email by just typing "sig" once you hit space or return. They have video tutorials if you want to get a better sense of what it can do.

What got me hooked is realizing I can use it with the Terminal app in OS X as a replacement for bash aliases and the like. As a really simple example, I can type something like this in Terminal.app:


and the moment I press space or return, bam:

ls -Ahp

I have a whole bunch of these setup for things that back in the day I would have created an alias for. When you're logging into 10-20 servers a day like I regularly do, this technique doesn't scale, but my aliases are always there. Even better, TextExpander it expands to the full command, so I can always look back at my history and see exactly what I did. Neat huh? The trick is creating a group of snippets and then adjusting the group settings so that they only work with Terminal.app — this prevents unwanted expansions in other environments.

I forgot to mention that it also has DropBox support which allows for syncing snippets between Macs. Very cool!

So, what apps are on the top of your mind lately? Any great tips to share?