Even my dog understands when I give him certain commands. Shouldn’t my computer be at least that smart?
I'm always on the lookout for software that promises to reduce repetitive tasks and save time. Lately, I’ve been using PhraseExpress from Bartels Media. With it, my computer behaves the way I want it to, and acts smarter than it did before.
The range of things you can use this tool for is mind-boggling. In this review, we’ll cover three main features: Text Replacement, Predictive Typing, and Task Automation.
Typing Less Is Typing Better.
First things first … the obvious use of PhraseExpress is to create shortcuts for commonly used words and phrases.
There are certain phrases that you probably type over-and-over again. Some of them are short, like your name; others are little longer, like the name of your website or the way you sign your name at the end of an e-mail. Then there are phrases that are considerably longer than that, yet are still something that you end up using considerably more often than you like typing it. Well, it turns out you don't have to type it anymore.
For example, if I type "fyit", PhraseExpress replaces that with "for your information, I thought you might want to see this …" and then adds my signature. Another one I use often is “ttc”, which expands to "Thank you for your time and consideration." Realize, though, that you can add whatever phrases work for you. During the course of a week, PhraseExpress saves me thousands of keystrokes and a considerable amount of time.
A related feature is to create replacement text to correct certain words that I commonly mistype or misspell. My fingers don't always go where they should, but at least I'm consistent about it. That means if I somehow transpose a letter, the correct spelling ends up in the document without me having to slow down, backup, or lose focus.
It Starts Saving You Time As Soon As You Install It.
PhraseExpress works as soon as you install it, because it comes with thousands of pre-built text replacements and phrases. The real power, however, is that you can add your own information and customize what's there as much as you want.
In addition to the phrases that come with the software, Bartels also offers several free add-on modules for you to download and install. One of these allows you to do math. So if you type “20+80 =” that will pop up a box letting you replace that with the answer — or you can ignore it and keep typing. Another feature can translate date math; so, "two days from now" could convert and insert the correct day and date into your document. I created a phrase so that "dd" inserts the current date; frankly, I use that considerably more than I thought I would. For practical puproses, your imagination is the only limit.
I See You, I Know You … And I Can Guess Your Command.
The second major feature that PhraseExpress offers is a predictive text capability that remembers what you typed before, and suggests a word or phrase that you've typed several times in that situation.
At first, I was skeptical that I would appreciate that feature. Now, it's something I look forward to and appreciate each time it pops up. The predictive text feature continues to get smarter the more you use it. Here is an example captured while using e-mail.
Taking Automation to the Next Level.
Another PhraseExpress feature worth noting is its surprisingly full-featured scripting language. This allows you to automate a repetitive task, even if it contains multiple steps. It can be as simple as forwarding an e-mail to a certain group of people, or something that reduces a series of tasks that used to take me close to half an hour – but with the PhraseExpress script now gets done in about a minute without any intervention on my part.
Another way I use scripting is to add a random thought to ponder to my e-mail signature. Any time I see a quote or idea that I want to save, it only takes a few keystrokes to add it to my collection. And then a simple script allows me to randomly add one of those "thoughts to ponder" to my e-mail signature.
Words Are Powerful.
Words are powerful, and they're easier to remember than complex commands like “Control-Shift-F5”. So, I like that I can assign short words or phrases to trigger the actions I want. I'm way more likely to remember it, and that means I'm way more likely to use it.
Here is a video I made highlighting some of the ways you can use PhraseExpress.
Is It Worth Using?
You can use the basic version of PhraseExpress at no cost. However, a quick trial will easily justify the purchase of a more powerful version.
The best thing about PhraseExpress is that I forget it's there … and it continues to work saving time, money, and frustration. Another great thing about it is that it's easy to add phrases or customize the way it works. After it is broken in, it naturally fits you and the way you work. Finally, I appreciate how responsive the company has been in providing support and listening to feature requests.
Bottom-Line: PhraseExpress is a terrific piece of software. It is a very well designed and intuitive program that removes many of the frustrations you face sitting in front of your computer each day.