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43Folders.com is Merlin Mann’s website about finding the time and attention to do your best creative work.

Mark Hurst reviews "Typeit4me"

This is a bit of a milestone day for 43 Folders. In addition to our new 43folders.com domain name more or less working (finally), it’s also my honor to present our first guest post, brought to us today by Mark Hurst.

About Mark

Mark Hurst first appeared on my radar screen about 4 years ago when I happened across his brilliant “The Good Easy,” a very practical—but polemical for its time—manifesto on setting up your OS 9 Macintosh. It turns 5 next month. “The Good Easy” was my first exposure to a UNIXy, streamlined approach to using a Mac—to strip away unnecessary cruft and uber-apps to increase productivity and simplify workflow.

Mark’s done a lot since then, including his outstanding “Email Management Report” and the thought-provoking essay, “Bit Literacy.” You probably know him best for the instructive and often hilarious "This is Broken." He’s also given me a little bit of back channel on some upcoming stuff he’s working on that I know will make you guys all giddy, but for today, let’s have a look at his review of Typeit4me, an OSX productivity tool I’ve just recently started using again myself (used to love it back in the day on OS 9).

Review of Typeit4me

By Mark Hurst - http://www.goodexperience.com

If you're not an avid, constant user of typeit4me, you're not really getting things done. I'd go further and say you're hardly using your computer at all until you include typeit4me in your daily computer usage.

Typeit4me (typeit4me.com) is a Mac-only shareware app - it costs $27, 25 euros, or £16 for a single user. (For Windows users, ActiveWords - www.activewords.com - offers similar functionality, though I haven't used it.) Typeit4me works across every application, OSX and in Classic mode: BBEdit, Safari, Finder - even MS Office apps bend to its will.

Here's how it works: you define abbreviations and associated expansions in typeit4me. When you type an abbreviation and then hit the trigger (usually the space bar; or any punctuation mark, depending on your preferences), the abbreviation instantly gets replaced with the trigger. For example, if I type "cg" and hit the space bar, "cg" instantly turns into "Creative Good". The abbreviation-expansion function is all typeit4me does, but that one function has enormous ramifications for every computer user on the planet.

Consider the many uses of typeit4me:

  1. Corrects misspellings: "teh" becomes "the". "taht" becomes "that". I can type a lot faster now, since I don't have to worry about common misspellings slowing me down. Over the years, I've added all of my most common misspellings, so now I can blaze on the keyboard and watch in amusement as Typeit4me instantly fixes the misspellings in my cursor's wake.
  2. Expands my custom-defined shorthand: Some words are both common and lengthy. I use the word "experience" a lot, but in typeit4me I just type "ex". Similarly, "ce" becomes "customer experience", "env" becomes "environment", and so on.
  3. Types in long URLs: My e-mail management report has a rather long URL: http://www.goodexperience.com/reports/e-mail/email-report-goodexperience.pdf. Rather than dig it up every time I need to paste it into a message, I just type "emu" and it pastes it in. Similarly, "geu" leads to http://www.goodexperience.com, "cgu" leads to http://www.creativegood.com, "tbu" turns into http://www.thisisbroken.com, etc.
  4. Types in HTML phrases: I've defined "ahr" to yield "<a href=""></a>". Whether I'm in BBEdit, or in a TypePad form within a Web browser, I can get these key HTML strings out quickly and error-free.
  5. Manages passwords: My wsj.com password is stored as "wpw"; my half.com password is stored as "hpw"; you get the idea. This way, as I define the abbreviations for each password, all I have to do is remember the abbreviation - much easier than keeping track of a million different passwords.
  6. Types short phrases: This is great in e-mail. I've set it up so that "tf" becomes "thanks for"; "tfy" becomes "thanks for your"; "tvmfy" becomes "thanks very much for your"... and so on. You can be as polite as you want, and optimally efficient, at the same time.
  7. Types long messages with multiple paragraphs: For those messages that I send to multiple people at different times, I write it once, define a Typeit4me abbreviation, then have it available on an expansion any time. This works great when you e-mail the same (or similar) message to people on occasion.

The key to typeit4me is to start slow - define a few abbreviation-expansion pairs each day, and see what "sticks." Which do you naturally remember? Which do you use a lot? It takes some time to get really effective with typeit4me, but like any sound investment, the returns compound over time. I have been using typeit4me for over nine years now, and my file has 1,167 expansions inside. I use most of them every month - whether through a misspelling, a URL, a password, or any other reason. My typing is fast

But here's the key: I still add new expansions, almost every day. I am determined to continue getting faster, more accurate, and more efficient in my bit-creation at every opportunity. Typeit4me isn't a shareware that you install, define a few things in, and then call it a day. No. Typeit4me is a bit-lever - one essential component of bit literacy - and as such it requires an ongoing commitment toward mastery. Efficiency isn't something you accomplish in a day; it's something you grow into. It's a way of life.

Finally, a word of warning: if you use Typeit4me diligently for a few weeks and begin to realize its benefits in your efficiency, you will NEVER - read me, now - you will NEVER want to go back to a machine that doesn't run it. You will curse every Internet cafe PC that stupidly requires you to type every character; you will mutter under your breath on your friends' machines; you will be spoiled for life. But you will have seen the light - isn't that worth it?

Bill Brown's picture

I would definitely suggest not...

I would definitely suggest not storing passwords in TypeIt4Me, as convenient as they might be. They're more or less accessible to anyone at that point and are probably in plaintext in the application itself.

Apple makes a great utility called Keychain that works very well at this task. The integration with Safari and OmniWeb is seamless. It's also just as portable as the TypeIt4Me idea—practically not at all.




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