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Monday, October 6, 2008

Play It Again – An Intro to Text Expanders

First published 4/8/08

Text expanders are probably the single best way to increase your productivity as a transcriptionist. If you're not already utilizing them in your daily work, you could be saving yourself a ton of wear and tear on your hands, as well as increase your speed dramatically. If you're an old pro at using shortcuts, check back often, because we'll be posting lists of shortkeys frequently that you can add to your repertoire.

By definition, text expansion is basically utilizing a shortcut that will expand into a word, phrase, sentence, or even paragraphs. For example, when I type the letters "bc" they expand to form the word "because," or if I type "idk" it expands to form the phrase "I don't know." As you can see, these shortcuts could add up quickly to save hundreds or even thousands of keystrokes in a single document.

You don't need any fancy programs to get started doing this. You can utilize Microsoft Word's Autocorrect or QuickWords in WordPerfect. To add entries to your AutoCorrect list, click Tools>AutoCorrect Options. Enter your shortcut in the "Replace" box and your word or phrase in the "With" box. To add entries to QuickCorrect, type the word you want to add and click Tools>QuickWords. Type your shortcut in the "Abbreviated form" box. However, there are a couple of drawbacks to using these methods. One, you can only use them in either Word or WordPerfect, and you will have to build up your lists in both programs if you switch between them. And two, the AutoCorrect/QuickWord files have been known to become corrupt if you build up an extremely large number of entries. For more information on this issue, check out this article on the Microsoft website here.

There are many third-party text expanders out there. Frequently used programs include Instant Text, Shorthand, and ShortKeys. ShortKeys is the preferred program that Mandi, Shaina, and I use for a number of reasons. It's fairly inexpensive and easy to use, and my favorite feature is that it works in just about any program, so you can use your shortcuts to type IMs, emails, message boards posts, etc., in addition to using them in Word or WordPerfect. Another great plus is that you can create multiple lists, so you can create custom lists for each of your clients.

So there you have the basics for incorporating shortcuts to increase your productivity. Stay tuned for tips on creating systems to help you remember your shortcuts, suggested lists, and much more!