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ATPM 15.08
August 2009


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Software Review

by Linus Ly,

Typinator 3.5.1


Developer: Ergonis Software

Price: €20 (about $28)

Requirements: Mac OS X 10.4. Universal.

Trial: Feature-limited (five shortcuts).

Computers are supposed to make us work faster and more accurately. However, there are times when we find ourselves typing the same text over and over, slowly and tediously. In some cases, it is possible to avoid the redundant work via templates. In other cases, mail-merging skills or fancy programming know-how are needed. Luckily for the casual user, in some situations specialized software like Typinator is all that you need.


Installing Typinator means mounting the disk image and dragging the application icon into the Applications folder, or wherever you want to keep it. Typinator’s documentation consists of a PDF file that also shows up on the disk image. (Too bad it’s not built into the application.) My personal preference is to create a Typinator folder and keep the PDF and the application itself in that folder. Once you enter the license number, you are no longer restricted to having only five abbreviations. Lastly, you’ll probably want to select “Automatically start Typinator at login” from the Preferences window.


I use my Mac mostly for e-mail and Web surfing, with some dabbling with Photoshop and other specialized software that makes photos artsy. Until recently, I was lucky not to have to deal with repetitively typing the same blocks of text. Late last year, I became involved with my high school’s reunion committee and all of a sudden found myself sending the same e-mail messages to many people. It has been over 24 years since I graduated, and even though the many social networks out there are useful, not everyone keeps the same name since high school. Many of the women took on the husbands’ last names while others, perhaps for fear of identify theft or running away from the law, have names that don’t match the yearbook. I would tell these people about the reunion, then ask them what their names were in high school. Reaching out via the social networks means filling out some Web forms, so using mail stationery is out of the question. Typinator comes to the rescue!


Define an abbreviation then Typinator will save you keystrokes.

To use Typinator, you first setup an abbreviation, say NHS, short for “Newtown High School.” As shown in the screenshot, I enter the text equivalent of the abbreviation in the Expansion box and the type of expansion to plain text. The next time I need to reach out to someone who might be interested in the reunion, I would go through the usual mouse-clicking to get to the e-mail Web form, just typing “NHS” and the whole form would be filled with the expanded text. Typinator has been lurking in the background watching every keystroke and pounces when a recognized abbreviation is seen.

To be exact, I could have entered “nhs” and the expansion would still happen because I selected “Case does not matter (~)” in the Typinator window. Note also that I checked off “Whole word,” so that should I try to type the abbreviation for Nathaniel Hawthorne State University (a name I just made up), the “word” is “NHSU” and not “NHS,” so the expansion won’t happen.

Another nifty feature of Typinator that I made use in our example is the placement of the cursor. After the introductory greeting, I had the special code {^}. I didn’t type that but rather chose Cursor from the pop-up menu to the right of the expansion text. Not only is the text inserted, but the cursor is also placed after “Hi ” so I can type in the person’s name. Other options are pictures, formatted text, and clipboard, although for my simple need of filling out Web forms they were not used. Typinator wisely supports the use of prefix and suffix to indicate when to expand text.

Back to my example, to avoid expanding text whenever I type “NHS,” I enabled the use of the forward slash (/) as a suffix, so that “NHS” no longer inserts any text, but “NHS/” does. Prefixes and suffixes can be applied to any one entire set so you don’t need to update each entry manually. If I want to have a one-time suspension of Typinator, I can choose Pause from its icon in the menu bar.


Use Prefix or Suffix to avoid having text mistakenly expanded.

You can have multiple Abbreviation Sets, and Typinator comes with a few predefined sets, too. With these extra sets, Typinator not only functions as a text expander but also as a system-wide spellchecker. There are AutoCorrection sets for American English, British English, French, and German. For those who type in English, there is also the TidBITS AutoCorrection set in American and British English. The standard AutoCorrection sets contain only 831 entries. With 2,302 entries, the TidBITS set greatly reduces the chance of making common typing mistakes, like entering “10-BaseT” instead of “10Base-T” or “anser” instead of “answer.” If you already use a text expander like TypeIt4Me or TextExpander, you can import sets from those applications


With Predefined Sets, Typinator can serve as a system-wide spellchecker.

Crowded House

The market that Typinator is in is a crowded one. Features and price play an important role in influencing the buyers. Price-wise, Typinator holds its own well against TextExpander and TypeIt4Me. Typinator can be bought alone for €20 or about $28, at the time of this writing. Both TextExpander and TypeIt4Me cost in the neighborhood of $30 as well. Typinator can also be bought as part of the Mactility Bundle, which runs at €44 or about $60. The bundle includes KeyCue, PopChar X, and Typinator. Depending on how you value PopChar X and KeyCue, Typinator may cost less than the competition. I just reviewed PopChar X in the July 2009 issue of ATPM.

While Typinator runs bug-free, has a decent set of features, and is well-documented, what it really needs is a way to expand text by selecting from a list. I only use a few abbreviations so I have no problems memorizing them. If I use multiple sets with each set having many entries, I am sure I will easily lose track of what the abbreviations expand to. I would need to bring the Typinator window forward to read the abbreviations and their definitions, but then would go back to my document and type the proper keystrokes. Why not just allow me to click on the entry and carry out the expansion right from the Typinator window? TypeIt4Me already has the feature. While it may be true that Typinator has other advantages over TypeIt4Me, for Typinator not to have clickable expanding is a serious omission.


Typinator works well as a text expansion utility. Creating abbreviations is easy, and Typinator is flexible in executing the expansions. It can be case-sensitive and can detect whole words. The use of prefixes and suffixes means you can change all the abbreviations in a set together and not have to edit one by one. The inclusion of predefined sets like TidBITS AutoCorrection is a plus. Unfortunately, Typinator is in a crowded market and lacks a crucial feature that a competitor already offers, namely the ability to expand text by clicking on items in a list. The best rating I can give Typinator is Good.

Reader Comments (5)

Eric Durbrow · August 3, 2009 - 02:39 EST #1
Can someone confirm that Snow Leopard will have a preference pane that expands abbreviations? I am wondering if this and other utilities will shortly become obsolete or of less value.
Paul Walters · August 19, 2009 - 08:42 EST #2
Where may one find the "Mactility bundle"?
Linus Ly · August 20, 2009 - 00:07 EST #3
Paul, the Macility Productivity Bundle can be bought from Ergonis at
Paul Walters · August 20, 2009 - 07:34 EST #4
Oh, it's "Macility"; I misread. Thanks!
Dave B. · September 28, 2009 - 23:20 EST #5
How do you fill out web forms? I can't get it to switch to the next box by adding a tab.

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