This article originally appeared in TidBITS on 2015-05-28 at 10:27 a.m.
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TextExpander 5 for Mac Makes Snippet Suggestions

by Michael E. Cohen

The smiling folk at Smile [1] (and, yes, they really do tend to smile [2]) have released updates to their text expansion apps, TextExpander for the Mac [3] and TextExpander touch [4] for iOS, which bring with them snippet suggestions, compatibility with iCloud Drive, expanded snippet search power, and new scripting capabilities.

TextExpander 5 for Mac has been completely revised to take advantage of the look and capabilities of OS X 10.10 Yosemite, and, in fact, it now requires Yosemite. Those using previous versions of OS X need not feel slighted: Smile keeps versions of TextExpander available that can run on versions of OS X all the way back to 10.4.

Aside from adopting the look and feel of Yosemite, TextExpander 5 also includes a number of new and useful features. Most obvious of the new features is Suggestions, which watches what you type and, when it sees words and phrases that you type repeatedly, lets you know that these might be good candidates for snippets. The suggestions come both in the form of notifications that appear briefly at the top right of your main screen and as items that appear in a Suggested Snippets folder in your TextExpander snippets library. To make a suggestion into a snippet merely requires clicking the Keep Suggestion button in TextExpander and assigning an abbreviation to the snippet.

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TextExpander 5 also notices if you type something for which you already have a TextExpander snippet, and it reminds you with a notification: useful if your snippet library has become so extensive that you no longer remember all of your snippets.

You need not be worried that TextExpander 5 is monitoring your every word and reporting back to shadowy figures in some secret surveillance center. Its internal record does not persist between restarts of the app, and the app doesn’t even store what you have typed; instead, it creates a numeric “hash” of your typing that is similar to the way passwords are encoded in many apps. You can also turn off both kinds of suggestions if they bother you.

TextExpander 5 also provides another, possibly even more useful, way for you to get at snippets you no longer quite remember: inline search. As you’re typing along, if you press a hotkey combination, this feature summons a search window that appears near where you are entering text and attempts to find a snippet that matches the last thing you typed. You can also enter different text into the search window as necessary.

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JavaScript has been added to TextExpander’s support for script snippets, joining AppleScript and Unix shell scripts. You can create snippets that execute standard JavaScript scripts [7] (such as those you might use on a Web page for text manipulation or math operations) and snippets that use Apple’s JavaScript for Automation, with which you can write scripts that perform tasks on your Mac (such a snippet, for example, might create a message in Mail, complete with boilerplate content).

If you use TextExpander on more than one device, you can now share your snippet library among them via iCloud Drive. Or, if you are more a Dropbox sort of person when it comes to cloud-based data sharing, TextExpander 5 incorporates enhanced capabilities with that service, allowing you to specify where in your Dropbox hierarchy you want to store your shared snippet library.

This latter feature comes in handy if you also use TextExpander touch for iOS, since Smile has updated that app as well. Like its older sibling, TextExpander touch 3.5 can now share snippets via iCloud Drive or Dropbox, meaning that your Mac and iOS devices can share snippet libraries with either cloud service.

TextExpander touch 3.5 also provides a new snippet search capability and the capability to execute standard JavaScript snippets (though not those that use JavaScript for Automation). And, because some snippets you make on your Mac might not be suitable for iOS, you can also specify folders in your shared snippet library that TextExpander touch will ignore.

TextExpander 5 (as well as any of its predecessors, if you need one) is available directly from Smile [8] for $44.95 and is a free upgrade for those who purchased TextExpander 4 this year; TextExpander users who purchased the app earlier can upgrade to TextExpander 5 for $19.95. Because of Apple’s sandboxing requirements, TextExpander 5 is not available in the Mac App Store. As with many other essential Mac apps, TidBITS members can save 20 percent on new copies of TextExpander 5, dropping the price to $34.95 — click through from your Member Benefits [9] page.

TextExpander touch 3.5 is a free upgrade to owners of TextExpander touch 3; new users can purchase it from the iTunes App Store [10] for $4.99.

Also note that I am revising my “Take Control of TextExpander [11]” book, which currently covers TextExpander 4, to cover all the new features of TextExpander 5. Anyone who purchases the current book as of today is eligible to a free upgrade to the next edition.