Turning inner space into outer space

July 2, 2021

espanso is a great app for expanding text

There are plenty of recommendations for text expansion apps for the Mac, but neglected in the reviews is quite possibly the most awesome of them all — espanso.

A text expander, for the uninitiated, is an app that allows you to create shortcuts that expand into longer words or phrases as you type them. If you're tired of having to type the same set of words over and over again, a text expander is a godsend.

There is a limited expander built into your Mac that can be set up in the keyboard system preference under the text tab. There are also several good apps you can buy — do a search on Mac text expanders and you'll find them.

You might have a little difficulty finding the unheralded espanso, so let me tell you more. One: it's free. Two: it has a ton of features that keeps growing. And three: it's available not only for Mac but also Windows and Linux.

I was at first turned off because you need to use Terminal to install it. I had been getting the dreaded command not found error in Terminal, which made the thought of installation even more off-putting.

Anyway, I finally got my command not found woes cleared up, thanks to OSXDaily. espanso is now installed and doing great things.

Let me be clear: it has a lot more going for it than being free. (The developer does ask for donations, so please make one if you can afford it.)

There is a ton of stuff you can do — the documentation is massive. My favourite so far is a clipboard trigger you can use to create HTML links. You copy the URL you want, type in the trigger (:a), and there it is — a link with the URL in it and the cursor sitting between the tags.

Plus, there are packages of text triggers you can install so you don't have to make your own. They range from emojis to HTML utilities. I installed one that creates a shruggie text emoticon because why not? So far I've resisted the temptation to install one that generates random dad jokes. You can pitch in by creating and uploading your own package using YAML.

And not to be overlooked is the espanso community, where you can get help from other espanso fans.

All this might seem like a lot of uber-geekery just to save some typing. But digging into the Terminal and doing a bit of coding is what makes computing fun.