Weekend Upgrade 33: Expand your text

published5 months ago
4 min read

Happy Saturday!

Templates = Efficiency & Accuracy

I’ve written about templates several times over the last 32 editions of Weekend Upgrade, most notably when I introduced the Last Predictable Step concept in edition 18.

Templates take time to make, but save more time in the long run. They prevent errors, and they’re easy to update when they need to be changed.

But there are two cases where templates are hard to implement:

  1. When the tool you’re using doesn’t allow you to save reusable work, and
  2. When you’d like to use the same content in more than one tool.

I’ll explore three examples of those cases in this newsletter.

💡 Type 3 letters, save a thousand 💡

👆 That’s your weekend upgrade.

Typinator & Text Expander

Text expansion tools are a great solution for “unsave-able” or “cross-app” templates. Typinator, a Mac tool, is one I use many times every day. The aptly-named Text Expander is a similar tool I used before I moved from Windows to Mac, and covers the same functionality.

To use a text expansion tool, you create a text template along with an abbreviation that you will use to trigger the expansion. The text template can contain prompts, logic, autofilled placeholders, and even randomness, which allows you to address many different possible uses.

Below are three examples of how I use Typinator to streamline my day.

Happy Birthday wishes

A few years back, I committed to wishing every one of my Facebook friends a Happy Birthday. Part of my daily startup routine links me to the Facebook birthdays page. Once I’m there, I type the abbreviation “hbd”, which triggers this Typinator snippet:

The field for “?Name” brings up a prompt for me to enter the person’s name. The long bit that starts with “{/Choose” randomly selects from a predefined list of adjectives (and their appropriate articles “a” or “an”).

The result might be “Happy Birthday, John!! I hope you have a fantastic day!” or “Happy Birthday, Jane!! I hope you have a wonderful day!” (As an additional bonus, I typed both of these examples using my “hbd” abbreviation!)

This is a mundane example, but remember two things. First, it saves me 5 to 10 seconds per person, which over the course of a year (and ~2,000 friends), is 3 to 5 hours. Run that over a decade and I’ve saved a full work week.

Second, the concept here is easy to extrapolate and extend into more elaborate templates. Prompts and randomness have many uses.

Two last considerations:

  1. This is a great candidate for Typinator because Facebook has no template functionality.
  2. If someone is a close friend, I type a more personal message. The template helps me stay connected with my acquaintances (and reminds Facebook’s algorithm that I want to see their posts), but I can always not use the template, or add more to it, for my closest friends.

BNI meeting requests

I’m in a local chapter of BNI (Business Networking International), and part of that process includes meeting with fellow chapter members regularly.

I use a scheduling link for most meetings, and I want to be able to send them accurately, so a template is a good fit. Plus, I might want to send this via email, text, or Messenger, so it’s not a template that can live in one tool. Instead, I type “bni121”, and this snippet is triggered:

You’ll recognize the “?Name” prompt from above. I actually delete that if it’s sent via text or Messenger—it’s weird to address someone by name in a text message!

The rest saves me quite a bit of typing, ensures I say everything I need to say, and most importantly, guarantees that the URLs (which I redacted here) are accurate every time.

ChatGPT video transcript summaries

I make a lot of video content for courses and cohorts in my Action-Powered Productivity community (which you can join—APP Free or APP Pro). For shorter videos, I use ChatGPT to create summaries of the video transcript.

Here’s the workflow. I use OBS Studio to make videos. Then I edit them in Adobe Premiere Pro—which takes about 30 seconds per video, due to keyboard shortcuts and my (lazy?) refusal to edit out when I stumble over words. I export both audio and video versions, and I immediately upload the audio into Otter. Once the transcript is done, I export it to the clipboard.

Here’s where Typinator enters the workflow. Rather than typing a new prompt for ChatGPT every time, I type “,vt” (which means “video transcript” to me) and this Typinator trigger appears:

The “{clip}” at the end enters the text from the clipboard, which in this workflow is the transcript from Otter. Once ChatGPT finishes its summary, I copy and paste it under the video.

It’s worth noting: although you can’t save templates in ChatGPT, you can if you use the GPT playground. The playground is actually cheaper, but I use the ChatGPT functionality for a lot more, so it’s easiest for me to use it for this too. Because of that, having the template in Typinator makes sense.

What do I do next?

(1) Take 2 minutes and answer this question: What’s one thing I learned in this newsletter that I can put into practice right away?

By committing to a specific action, you make it much more likely you’ll do it.

(2) Identify two or three templates that would make your life a little smoother.

Then check out Typinator, Text Expander, or another similar app and see if they do make your life a little smoother!

If this was valuable for you:

Share the newsletter with someone you think would also get value from it! https://rjn.st/weekend-upgrade-newsletters

Until next time, friends:

You can expand your horizons when you expand your text!


P.S. The framework of the last three newsletter sections are also a Typinator template for me.

Weekend Upgrade (by R.J. Nestor)

Weekend Upgrade provides tools to improve your productivity and communication, especially if you use Tools for Thought like Roam Research, Amplenote, Logseq, or Obsidian.

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