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TextExpander available for iPhone/iPod touch

TJ Luoma, @tjluoma
TextExpander for the Mac has been one of my favorite utilities for several years. The ability to define "snippets" of text which expand into words, phrases, sentences, or even the outline of entire documents has been invaluable.

When I heard that TextExpander was coming to the iPhone/iPod touch, my first reaction was "WHAT!" and my second reaction was "How?"

On the Mac, TextExpander sits in the background, waiting patiently for you to type some set of characters which matches an abbreviation that you have previously defined. For example, when I type "/address" TextExpander jumps into action and replaces "/address" with "10 Main St." If I type "!phone" TextExpander will automatically replace that text with my work, home, and cell phone numbers.

On the iPhone, third party applications are not allowed to sit in the background, even if they promise to wait patiently. That's a limitation of the iPhone OS, and whether you think it's a smart move by Apple or an unnecessary one, the reality is that TextExpander touch can't do everything that TextExpander for the Mac can do. SmileOnMyMac has posted about this on their blog and has even released an SDK for iPhone developers who wish to integrate TextExpander's technology into their iPhone applications.

Let's just take it for granted that most of us who use TextExpander would love to see it running on the iPhone like we do on the Mac. That said, there is still a lot this app can do.

When launched, TextExpander for iPhone gives you a "Compose" window where you can type a message and have it expand your shortcuts, and from there you can: "Send to Mail" (which will put the text into a "compose" window in Mail), "Copy All Text" (which does exactly what you'd expect), or "Send To Twitter Client" which will send the text to a Twitter client (which you have to choose in the app's preferences).

TextExpander for iPhone supports the following Twitter apps on the iPhone: Twitterrific, Twitterrific Premium, Tweetie, Twittelator Pro, TwitterFon, and TwitterFon Pro.

Before TweetDeck and Birdfeed users form an angry mob to march on SmileOnMyMac headquarters, let me direct your attention to the TextExpander touch FAQ which explains that:

Some Twitter clients, such as TweetDeck and Birdfeed, do not support a URL schema such that they can be launched by TextExpander along with message content.

If you're not familiar with the phrase "URL schema," it means "There's no way for one iPhone app to send text to these apps, unless these apps are updated to offer the kind of programming 'hooks' which are present in the supported Twitter apps." Or, to put it another way, imagine TextExpander doing its best Han Solo impersonation saying "It's not my fault!" So please, save your torches and pitchforks for the inevitable zombie attack.

TextExpander is all about saving time, so you'll be glad to know that you won't have to re-type all of your favorite "snippets." You can sync all of the TextExpander shortcuts that you have defined on your Mac, so they'll be at your fingertips when you move over to TextExpander touch. I have some "snippets" that I use when responding to emails which I've been unable to answer on my iPhone. Now I can use those same responses easily and not have to worry about forgetting about them later.

TextExpander touch is now available at the App Store. The introductory price will be $1.99 until September 9th. After that it will be $4.99.

Although obviously held back by the restrictions imposed by the operating system, TextExpander looks like a great utility for sending messages through your iPhone. Longer messages don't have to take a long time. I hope that some industrious Twitter client developer will look at integrating the TextExpander touch SDK.

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