PhraseExpress text replacement

Because I am a bit of an automation junkie and sometimes a bit lazy - at least in the sense of why type two words when two characters will do, I have been drawn into PhraseExpress again. This time in the version 15 beta. In the first afternoon or so of using the application to insert text, I think I am off to a good start.

What is PhraseExpress?

PhraseExpress is a text replacement application. In recent iterations it has gone from Windows only to Mac and mobile devices too - I am still just using it on Windows as the last test of the mobile app for iOS was not quite what I was looking for (but that may be for another time). When I type a shortcut, PhraseExpress replaces it with the text I intended.

For example, if I enter the text msft PhraseExpress will replace it with Microsoft. This happens anywhere I enter the abbreviation configured for an item within my Phrase file.

Note: This can be difficult to shoe on the screen, as was the case here - any time I entered the abbreviation, the text was substituted.

Common uses, at least for me are many - from common misspellings to large blocks of regularly typed things or even my email address.

For the longest time, I would be typing along and find that when I wanted to type a word like Microsoft I would incorrectly spell it as M-i-c-o-r-s-o-f-t, adding the incorrect spelling (minus the dashes) as an autotext item for the phrase cleaned this right up and got me the correct spelling. Another thing I replace a lot is my email address which is quite long, using a phrase, PE can quickly interpret this as my actual email address and insert the text I want.

An example of this might be that I have an email address I don’t like to type - [email protected](dot)com - last . replaced just incase Bob actually exists ;). If I do lots of business with Bob and frequently need to provide his email address to my purchasing department or give it out for any reason, typing all of that will lead to typos, bounced email messages, and less chance that email intended for Bob reaches him.

So I create a phrase with the autotext of _beml and PhraseExpress will output Bob’s email address on the screen - easy peasy.

Why the special character?

This is something I tend to do just incase my phase is some word I might actually need to use - beml in this case is not that, but if I had an entry with an autotext for my phone number, phone perhaps, things might get weird when trying to use the word phone in an email or anywhere else - the _ on the front can help with that. Shortening the autotext to something related to the text I am expecting is handy too - in the event there are many email addresses I hope to replace, using eml as the shortcut gets tricky.

PhraseExpress can interact with many facets of your computer, for instance, I created a phrase that will prompt me for the name of a blog post and create a file configured and named as I like for posts going to my blog. This one was the first test of teh file creation and I think I should have done this a long time ago.

What if I do not want text replaced in every application?

This is also supported. The best part is, the program restriction feature is per phrase - so if I want to ensure the signature block for email is only used in Outlook… I an configure just that. This way you wont need to think about phrase replacement for this particular item outside of email messages. Not a stellar example, but the idea is that the application is extremely flexible.

Another feature that is really useful to me, that has been in the application for sometime, but only crossed my thought patterns today is the Print Phrases option. Why would I want to print my phrases you ask? Because as your phrase file gets larger and has more and more phrases in it, the ability to remember all of them is a bit harder as well. Having a PDF copy of the phrases you use most often can be a lifesaver. This way you can look at a sheet of paper or a file to know which things will work for replacement rather than constantly needing to open the file and check what the shortcut is. Until recently, keeping the file open and replacing text was hit or miss and sometimes did not work at all, but that is all solved with a cheatsheet.

I also tend to leave the PE window open in the background, just behind other things - this way as the mood strikes I can add new items. Not necessary since the app is always sitting in the tray (assuming you choose to start it with Windows) just a handy way to ensure that you do not forget about your new buddy Phrase Express.

Can I share this with my team?

You bet - there are licensing options to use a SQL backend for phrase storage or a PhraseExpress Server to house the phrases used by your organization so all users can use the same set of phrases. In addition, there is a portable version of Phrase Express, where the application writes everything to external media and runs the executable there as well. This is great if you change machines a lot or need to use a computer at the library - assuming USN access is available, your phrases can travel with you. Currently, I am using the portable version in a more permanent way - I run the exe and store the phrase file on removable memory that does not get removed often.

You can also push your phrase file to a cloud drive (one drive, google drive, icloud) for access from anywhere - including other computers and your smartphone. I am not going to review the mobile versions of the product for smartphones today, but phrases can be shared with these as well.

These are the basics, the things I find useful about the application - when I remember the shortcuts that is. I am currently working on a fairly sizeable writing assignment and have found the things I repeat to make great phrases. I do not know how many times over the past few weeks i have typed “Login to the Azure Portal (https://portal.azure.com)” over the last few weeks, mainly because I forgot the shortcut, but having a three or four character replacement string for that is a lifesaver. The more I use what I put in my phrase file, the less likely I am to forget them, but that still takes training and muscle memory.

How do I get PhraseExpress?

If you visit http://phraseexpress.com you can see more about the features of the application and pricing info. Please note that I do not work for Bartels Media or anything like that - I just dig this application and want to share more about it. One thing I can say about the Bartels media Phrase Express team - these guys are great at responding to questions - if the question is common, they might even have a youtube video explaining it and if they do not, you will likely get a detailed answer in reply.

Written on April 25, 2020