aText: A Great Text Expansion App That Won’t Break the Bank

I went for years not even knowing what a text insertion or text expansion app was, and when I finally did learn, I was so put off by the high prices of some of the big names on the market that it took awhile before I even found out what the big deal was. Once you’ve started using a text insertion app, though, it’s hard to imagine those days of yore, when you used to actually type things. The memories still haunt me.

But man, are those apps expensive, right? Not necessarily, and today we’re going to take a look at aText, a great text insertion app with a tiny price tag. But does that mean it’s also going to be small on features? We’ll check it out!

Getting Snippy

There are a few default snippets included with aText, and they’re fine. You probably type the date several times a day, and it’s nice to create a little shortcut for that or to be able to pull the time out of thin air, just by typing “%time.” As cool as it might be to hear the text insertion pop and see your snippet appear, though, this isn’t going to be your money maker when it comes to real time savings. For that you’re going to need to create your own snippets.

Click the new icon up top to get started. First, decide on the content of your snippet. If this is your first time using a text insertion or expansion app, you might not be sure where to start. The best place is probably with the sorts of things you type most and get really tired of, the phrases you can’t wait for your browser to autocomplete for you.

Create a snippet of text you'll use often.

Create a snippet of text you’ll use often.

When you’ve decided what you want in your snippet, choose an abbreviation. You’ll want it to be quick to type, or else what’s the point, but you also want your abbreviation to be something you won’t ever type anywhere else, or you’ll end up inserting your name and email address all over the place unintentionally. Good ideas are brief codes like name% or email%. If that’s still too long, try pairing your initials with a number or special character.

Make It Work for You

So you can get your home address in the text of an email lickety split. So what? That’s still not going to make you work any faster or be any more productive. We need to go further with aText.

Let’s say you send almost the same exact email everyday. Maybe it’s a request for information or response to feedback. Sometimes you even copy and paste the text from the previous day’s correspondence into a new email window, just switching some stuff around or changing the recipient’s name. Wouldn’t it be easier to type “form-email%” and have all of that magically appear. Yeah, you know it’s easier.

Create templates to improve your workflow.

Create templates to improve your workflow.

aText even allows you to insert blank fields to be filled in later. For instance, if you’re addressing an email, aText will pop open a blank field so you can type out the recipient’s name before it actually inserts your text. You don’t have to make your snippets bland and unspecific, nor will you be forced to hunt and peck for all the places you left blank and have to fill in. aText is also great to create templates for applications like Evernote, where you may be managing text files that at the end of the day look a lot alike, except for the details you change.

Create fillable fields to be completed before aText inserts your snippet.

Create fillable fields to be completed before aText inserts your snippet.

Organization and Sync

Organize your snippets by creating groups. If you want to create a new group for your snippet, click that icon, and give your group a name, then drag your snippet to the right spot in the list. Groups are great for keeping your snippet list tidy, and I’m about to blow your mind, but you can add a snippet to another snippet from the Insert menu. If you’re using groups, it makes it a lot easier to find what you’re looking for in the menu when everything is organized.

If you’re already using another text insertion app, you can import all of your snippets from the other app. Click the Data icon at the top, and browse to the correct location of your synced data. aText will create a new group for your imported snippets and call out any that are in conflict by highlighting them in orange.

Sync your snippets to your Dropbox.

Sync your snippets to your Dropbox.

aText backs up to an Application Support subfolder in the Library folder, but that’s not the only way you can protect your aText snippets. Hop over to the Sync tab in Preferences, and choose any cloud storage folder on your hard disk, including Dropbox, Google Drive, or SkyDrive. Your snippets will automatically be synced to whichever service you choose.

Final Thoughts

Coming in a whopping $30 under TextExpander’s hefty price tag, aText is a real contender on the text expansion and insertion front. With added support for cloud sync and text insertion that works like a champ, aText can really move to the fore. What aText is missing, though, is a companion mobile app, and without that, what’s the point of syncing your aText snippets, anyway? Maybe you’re doing a bunch of text expansion on the three or four Macs you own, sure, but what you really want is to be able to create all these great snippets to use on your main computer, and then turn around and not have to type out a bunch of stuff on your iPhone, either.

Still, even without a mobile app, aText gets the job done on the Mac just as well as its more expensive counterpart, TextExpander. Create snippets, big or small, and aText will take it from there. It’s really one of those apps that once you’ve started using it, you wonder how you ever got anything done before.


A less expensive text expansion app to rival the more expensive competitors.