Windows has a number of text expansion apps, but none of them are perfect. PhraseExpress is the best option we've found, though, due to its high configurability and low price.
- Type a short snippet that can expand to text of virtually any length
- System-wide spelling correction in more than seven languages
- Smart learning feature that monitors oft-typed phrases and predicts them as you type
- Built-in clipboard manager for quick access to your most recent clipboard contents
- Launch programs or open folders with text snippets
- Import snippets from TextExpander for Mac and AutoCorrect entires from Microsoft Office
PhraseExpress is pretty powerful, and does a lot more than just simple text expansion. Apart from just expanding the snippets you manually create, it can watch everything you type, learn your own individual style, and start autocorrecting phrases for you as you type. It also has a huge dictionary of oft-misspelled words so you get autocorrect in any app on your system. Some may see this as a plus, though it can also create some issues. It also has a ton of advanced settings that let you really dig down and tweak how you use text expansion, which is great for power users.
PhraseExpress is kind of a pain to use. Sure, it's highly configurable, but there are some simple things that it just doesn't do right. For example, if you have a rather long snippet, you'll need to use the "clipboard" method of text expansion if you want it to move faster than a snail. However using the clipboard method means you can't paste clipboard contents within snippets (even though Breevy seems to handle this just fine). You can get around this by setting different expansion methods for longer snippets, but it's workarounds like this that just make it annoying to use. Still, it's free, and if the alternative is a $US40 program, most of you are probably willing to do a bit of tinkering for these special situations.
Furthermore, the extra built-in features can sometimes get in the way more than they actually help. If you don't want system-wide autocorrect, or you don't want it to track everything you type, it'll probably annoy you more than anything. However, it's all very easy to turn off, so if you don't like it, with a few checkboxes you can turn it into a simple text expansion program.
If PhraseExpress is a bit too complicated for you, Texter is much simpler. Written by our own Adam Pash, you just type in your snippets, give them a trigger key if desired, and you're off to the races. It does have a few quirks (you'll probably need to turn it off when gaming), but it's a simple, free alternative if PhraseExpress isn't doing it for you.
If you're willing to pay, the $US40 Breevy is probably the most stable, easy-to-use option without sacrificing features. It would probably win our pick for best if it weren't so expensive, so if you've got money to blow it's a good option — but with a few tweaks, PhraseExpress will work just as well.
These aren't the only apps on Windows, but they represent the best that Windows has to offer. If you have a favourite we didn't mention, let us know what it is and why you love it in the comments.
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