71: Pasting with TextExpander

TextExpander claims that it keeps great statistics on how much time it saves you while typing. (I've found this to only be partially true; its usage graphs show what seems to be spurious data, based on my own sense of how and when I use my snippets.) One statistic I'd like to know for certain is what my most-used snippets are. I have the feeling that as I've come to rely on TextExpander for more and more things that fall outside of the narrow definition of "typing" or "text expansion", that balance has shifted.

What even is that x-axis, Smile?

What even is that x-axis, Smile?

I use TextExpander's advanced capabilities for all kinds of wacky purposes, like popping up a fill-in form which then runs a grep search on a 60,000-line CSV file. But the one nonstandard feature every TextExpander user should learn to love is inserting the clipboard. I honestly believe that my number one snippet simply contains the special tag %clipboard and nothing else.

You're probably asking, "Why not just use ⌘V?" I still do, when it gives me the result I want. But often my clipboard contains extra text formatting. An example: I was putting together a trip-planning document and needed to paste in a phone number from a winery's website. I wanted plain black text, not the lovely 18-point, light brown serif font their web designer chose. Yes, there's a keyboard shortcut for that too, but it's ⇧⌥⌘V, a real claw-masher, and it's not available in every app.

Thus began the evolution of my snippet's abbreviation. It was originally "vplain" — "v" for paste, and "plain" for no formatting. At six characters, it wasn't saving me much time. What would be a handy mnemonic for "just paste" that wouldn't trigger anywhere else? Eventually, I realized that a safe combination is "vvv". (The only conflict I can think of is the video game "VVVVVV", but it's capitalized, so I'm good there too!) In fact, my paste plain snippet is so fast that I sometimes prefer it to ⌘V.

That's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to clipboard snippets. As I hinted, my use of TextExpander is more as a text processor than an automatic typer. All of my clipboard-based snippets start with "v", making them easy to remember and hard to accidentally trigger.

And finally, there's the nut that TextExpander can't crack: the times you need to paste something and can't. TextExpander uses a simulated paste command to enter its text (even when it's not coming from the clipboard). Sometimes an app or web form has disabled the ability to paste, but not to type. Keyboard Maestro to the rescue, since it has an action "Insert text by typing".

Instead of TextExpander's instant "bloop!", a stream of characters pours onto the screen. All of this requires some initial setup, but once it's in place, it's very quick to paste text any way, anywhere.