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I love Chrome extensions.
As a Chromebook user, I live in the Chrome World. Anything which adds to the efficiency and productivity of my browser and the Chromebook, is welcomed by me.
At the time of writing this article, I have 41 extensions downloaded on my Chromebook out of which 15 are actively running – I manage my extensions using another useful extension “Extensity”.
I am on a continuous hunt to enhance my productivity and online surfing experience with the help of a smart set of practical and useful extensions.
If you are one of those who want to make the best use of available tools to increase your efficiency and online productivity, I am sure you are aware of “text expanding” concept. Sometimes also called as auto text or auto correct etc.
These text expanders are not new.
I have used many when I was using Windows as my main operating system. I am also aware that there are solid options available for Macs as well however when it comes to the Chrome OS, the option are not many.
I am going to share one of them with you in this article.
The one that I found the best out of the three I tried at the time of writing this article.
In their simplest form, these little programmes allow the user to type a short-cut in their text which automatically gets replaced with a bigger or more complex block of text to save typing.
These short-cuts are predefined and allocated to their respective full length blocks in the programme interface and are normally of repetitive nature.
For example, I use short-cuts “w@” for my website address, “e@” for my email address and “n@”for my full name. As they are frequently occurring text phrases for me, whenever I need to use them, I use these two-letter combinations to get the required text inserted in the desired location.
You can use bigger blocks of text (including formatting) as well.
More on that in a minute.
Over a period of time, you develop a library of your commonly used text blocks or phrases with their respective short-cuts. In your day to day surfing, you use these blocks regularly and by using these text-expander apps, it saves you a significant amount of time in typing.
Finally, if you use these programmes regularly and to their full potential, it will be difficult for you to live without one of them.
I have got one of them constantly available to me through my Chrome extensions bar on the top right hand corner.
It is not strictly for Chromebooks only.
In fact this extension can be downloaded by anyone using the Chrome browser to install and use. However, as Chromebooks are primarily browser-based machines, Auto Text Expander is more important and useful for Chromebook users.
For the users of other platforms such as Windows, Mac and Linux etc., I would personally not recommend this app as there are other better options available which extend the functionality of the programme beyond the boundaries of the Chrome browser only.
So you have decided to give it a try on your Chromebook.
Just head over to the Google Web Store and download the extension.
It will appear in your extension bar with a small (unattractive) icon. This means the extension is running now.
Once the extension is installed, you need to click on the icon and have a quick view of a simple “settings page” provided by this extension.
Nothing to worry about, it is not complicated at all.
It is basically a place where all your short-cuts and their associated text blocks are stored. This is where you add your required text phrases (blocks) and associate them with something short and sweet so you can remember easily and use them frequently when required.
I am going to paste the full settings page snippet below and then I will run through very quickly about some basics.
1I will start with the bottom section first where you can see the text fields.
On the left hand side are the short-cuts and on the right hand side are the commonly used text blocks that I have allocated to them. It is as simple as that. This is your section, allocate any text that you want to any short-cut that you prefer to remember and use. There is a limit of 510 blocks of text due to Chrome browser’s memory limit and quota.
You can associate bigger blocks of text as well such as commonly used email introductions, email signatures, standard queries with the same text, home and work addresses and any other similar information which remains pretty standard and used frequently.
When you have defined and set-up a few short-cuts, time to test them.
Come out of this settings page and go to Gmail (as an example). Start typing and try to use a short-cut that you have defined in the Auto Text Expander settings.
Use as many short-cuts as you want and make your typing faster and be more productive. One niggle worth mentioning is that this extension is not compatible with Google Docs at present time.2Next comes the text area. This is where you can use different formatting in your text blocks.
For example if you want your text block to include paragraphs, bold text, italic text and a link to a website, all this can be done in this section. Create your required formatting and use this tool to generate a “code” and assign it to your short-cut.
As an example here is what you can create for your email signature.
And assign all of this block as “emailsig” (as an example).
Next time you reach to the bottom of writing a new email, just type “emailsig” and this block will appear.
You got the gist.3Finally, let us talk about the backup and import/export options. Remember you are working within a Chrome browser environment so make sure that you understand where your short-cuts and associated text blocks are stored.
- Backup option only backups the local copy of the current set of data (your short-cuts and text blocks). This gets wiped out when you uninstall the extension or log out of your account. Hence it is better to use the import/export option.
- Import/Export options let you save a copy of your short-cuts and text blocks to your hard drive or cloud so you can retrieve it and use it in the future. This is the case if you change your Chromebook, uninstall and reinstall the extension, or log out of your account.
This is it really.
A simple extension but something that can become a part of your daily routine and working on your Chromebook. Something that has a potential to save you time and make you more productive.
I don’t know if this is going to make a difference in your online working habits or not.
I am also not sure if you consider this as significant or not.
For me personally, I am using the text expanding feature more and more. It is saving me time and it is making my typing faster. My database of shortcuts and text blocks is in-sync between any Chrome browser where I log in with my credentials.
I want you to try this extension.
Try to build it into your daily routine and Chromebook working environment.
See if it makes a difference.
If you have something else (another extension or app) which serves the same purpose but more versatile and functional than the Auto Text Expander Chrome Extension, share it with us here in the comments below.
As a Chromebook fan, if anyone from Google is reading this article, I ask them to consider an option to include this feature as a default in Chromebooks.
If any developer is reading this article, I can tell you that there is a scope here to give us a useful extension or app which serves this purpose – better and further refined.