Save Time in Your Job Search with TextExpander

TextExpander from Smile Software

TextExpander from Smile Software

When you’re applying for jobs, you find yourself entering the same information into online forms over and over again: work history, contact information, names, etc. A few forms allow you to import information from an uploaded resume or from your LinkedIn profile, but even these don’t always get all of your details correct. It isn’t easy to stay motivated during the job search, and entering the name and phone number of your supervisor from seven years ago for the 50th time doesn’t help any.

This is where I use TextExpander to save time and stay focused.

What is TextExpander?

TextExpander does what its name says: expands text. At the simplest level, the program allows you to create custom shortcuts — called snippets — for text that you have to type repeatedly. For example, I have a snippet for my cell phone number. I can type:


anywhere I need to type my cell phone number, and TextExpander changes the string into my number. Not only is “ccell” shorter than my 10-digit number, but it also takes less time to type on my non-number pad-equipped Macbook.

There are more advanced features — I’ll cover one of them below — but you can read more at the TextExpander website.

Note: TextExpander is a Mac-only program, though there is an iOS version for iPhone and iPad. There are similar programs for Windows, and if you use one that you recommend, tell me about in the comments.

Basic Examples: Work History

How does this work in practice? Let me share a couple of actual examples that I use for entering my work history. Perhaps this is more helpful to me than to other people, because I have a history of long job titles at organizations with long names. Let’s take one of my former positions as an example: Director of Foundation Services at the Cincinnati Better Business Bureau.

When I type:


TextExpander expands it to “Cincinnati Better Business Bureau.” (The period at the beginning is a trigger that distinguishes the Snippet from the initialism CBBB.)

A couple more common snippets related to my CBBB position. The following two:


expand to “Director of Foundation Services” and the CBBB’s main phone number, respectively. You get the picture. Snippets can expand to much longer text, too, so I could create Snippets for the CBBB’s address, my job description there, or even my full resume.

Advanced TextExpander: Cover Letter Templates

Now for a more advanced example. One of my deep dark shames is that I hate writing cover letters. Actually, that’s not quite accurate. I really don’t mind writing one cover letter, but by the third or fourth or twentieth, I’m a bit weary of the procedure. So I’ve created a cover letter snippet that saves me a great deal of time and mental energy. All I have to do is type:


and a small pop-up window appears.

TextExpander Window

Click for a clearer image.

Notice the blanks in the text. This is a generic cover letter, with spaces for the address, salutation, and some custom language about my experience and expertise. (Today’s date is automatically generated by TextExpander.) When I’ve filled in the blanks, I click “OK,” and the new text is inserted into whatever program I’m using.

I’m still not done with the cover letter, as this is only a template to help get me started. But the hard work of getting to a first draft is done. Now I can revise, reword, and craft the cover letter to fit the specific position, much faster and much more easily that if I were starting from scratch each time.

TextExpander is one of the three apps I immediately install on a new Mac. It syncs with Dropbox, too, so that my snippets travel with me from computer to computer. TextExpander offers several pre-defined snippets (e.g. special characters, HTML coding), and smart people like Brett Terpstra and David Sparks have created bundles of TextExpander snippets that are much better than anything I could come up with. TextExpander also allows scripting within snippets, enabling even more powerful shortcuts. One of my current favorites is a script snippet from Brett Terpstra that pastes in the current URL from Safari.

Do you have any tips for speeding up job applications? If you use TextExpander, do you have any favorite tricks?

The First 3 Apps I Install on a New Mac

Yesterday, I finished replacing the hard drive in my wife’s Macbook (which I also use at home) and reinstalled Mac OS X Lion. [BTW, if you ever need to do the same, bookmark these two articles on downloading the Lion Installer from the Mac App Store and creating a bootable flash drive.] So, last night, I had a fresh, clean installation of Lion.

I’m 99% sure that I heard Dan Benjamin describe this same set-up on the Back to Work podcast, but I’ll go ahead and say that I was doing it already, which I doubt is true. On a brand new Mac, here are the first programs I install, before I do anything else.

  1. Dropbox: Partly because Dropbox is awesome, partly because Dropbox can store/sync the data for the next two apps, and partly because I can simply save to Dropbox any files I want to transfer from my old computer and — voilà! — they appear on my new computer. (FYI — use this link to sign up for Dropbox and I get some additional storage. Yay!)
  2. 1Password: If you don’t have 1Password, you need to get it. How many passwords do you have to use or remember? What about account logins? Credit card numbers? Software licenses? 1Password stores all of that for me, plus allows me to access it from my browser or my phone, plus generates new passwords for me when I need them. And, because 1Password syncs via Dropbox, all of my passwords show up automatically on my new computer. (App Store link, iPhone app)
  3. TextExpander: If you’re like me, there are things that you type over and over and over again — your name, your phone number, your email signature, the generic response to someone who wants you to do something, and so on. TextExpander lets you create shortcuts so that you don’t have to type all that out. Over the years, the app has also added some great features. I use TextExpander so much that I often find myself trying to use my typing shortcuts while I’m writing longhand. And, just like with 1Password, TextExpander syncs through Dropbox, which means that all of my saved text expansions show up on my new computer. (App Store link, iPhone app)

After that, I have started following Dan Benjamin’s advice and only install applications as I need them. That way, I don’t carry over from my old computer any obsolete programs, apps I used to use for old job functions that I don’t do anymore, or other stuff that’s just been laying around.