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    A look at the TextExpander keyboard for iOS 8

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    I've used TextExpander on my Mac for years and it has saved me hours of typing time. If you frequently use TextExpander on your Mac or if you used it on your iOS device before iOS 8 allowed third-party keyboards, you are in luck. TextExpander touch now comes in handy keyboard format for iOS 8! How does it work? Read on.

    If you're unfamiliar, TextExpander looks for character sequences and then triggers an "expansion" of text whenever and wherever you need it. You could set "haddr" to expand with your home address, for example. TextExpander can even insert current dates and times. On the Mac it can save you hundreds of keystrokes a day, especially if you answer a lot of the same emails or do anything that involves repetitive typing. Previously on iOS there was a separate app, but you had to copy/paste your expansions, which made its usefulness limited.

    The TextExpander touch keyboard, however, brings that expansion capability to iOS 8 in an easier form, although in testing I found that, as a keyboard, it has some drawbacks.

    As a TextExpander tool, there's just no comparison. Upon installing and enabling the app and keyboard, I was able to sync my previously-stored TextExpander "snippets" stored in Dropbox. I was able to immediately go into any text app and use my snippets as I would on my Mac -- which is super handy when your brain is old and forgets things.

    Unfortunately, as a plain old keyboard, TextExpander was my least favorite in iOS 8 testing. That includes Swype, SwiftKey and Apple's new predictive text. TextExpander doesn't give predictive text or autocorrect, and I found the key mapping reminiscent of iOS 7, as I kept accidentally hitting backspace instead of "m" and other common blunders I accrued over time as Apple tweaked its own touch targets. The keys seem smaller, and more importantly the choice of font will be too small for some to read.

    If you need pre-written responses or frequently find yourself typing certain phrases, the TextExpander keyboard (currently at US$4.99) will suit you admirably. However, it comes at the cost of a faster keyboard for regular typing, so balance this in your purchasing decision.

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