If most of your work is done on the keyboard, Text Expansion apps can come in handy. For instance, I usually type around 8-10 hours a day and most of the phrases are repetitive. So, setting up text snippets within a text expander app saves a lot of time. Previously, I used Breevy for a long time on Windows before making the switch to Ubuntu. Hence, I wanted a similar alternative but turns out text expander apps for Ubuntu are quite limited. So, here are some of the best text expander apps for Ubuntu.
4 Best Text Expander Apps For Ubuntu
Texpander is a minimal text expansion script written in bash. Surprisingly, it neither has a GUI nor a command line. It’s a single shell script file and the setup requires a lot of configuration. Foremost, you need to manually create text files under the “/home/ubuntu/.texpander” directory. The name of these files has to be the abbreviation and the content of the file has to be the phrase. For instance, if you want DND to be expanded to “Do Not Disturb”, go ahead and create a text file in the “.texpander” directory. Name the file as DND.txt and the file contents will be “Do Not Disturb”.
Alternatively, you can also create the abbreviation files using the following command. Just, replace “Do Not Disturb” with your required text phrase and “dnd.txt” with the intended abbreviation.
echo "Do Not Disturb" >> ~/.texpander/dnd.txt
Next, you have to move the downloaded “texpander.sh” script file to “/usr/bin/” directory. Post that, you need to set up a keyboard shortcut within “Keyboard preferences” to open the file when you hit a specific hotkey. For instance, I have mapped the Ctrl+Shift+Space to open the shell script file. Once you set up the keyboard shortcut, you can trigger the app within any application.
Texpander is quite a minimal text expander app and would suit the needs of most of the users. However, if you want your text phrases to have dynamic data like the current date, time, you would be disappointed.
- Works in every app, browser, website
- It doesn’t auto-detect your abbreviations
- Requires a huge setup and multiple text file creation
- Limited option for power users
Espanso is another minimal text expansion app and it would really appeal to you if you are a code ninja. The app is minimal and doesn’t have a GUI. All the configurations need to be done via the command line. You have to input all your shortcuts in the Espanso “default.yml” configuration file in the following format.
- trigger = "dnd" - replace = "Do Not Disturb"
The best thing about Espanso is that it works on every app, browser, website that you use. You just have to type a colon(:) followed by the abbreviation and the text will get replaced. It keeps running in the background with minimal interference.
Although Espanso app has a steep learning curve, the official website has fantastic documentation to guide you through the process. The only problem that bugged me was that I had to restart the app every time I made changes to the configuration file.
- Works in every app and browser irrespective of the environment and interface
- Supports macros, shell scripts
- Pre-built packages which provide support for smileys, Italian letters, Greek Letters, etc
- Cross-platform compatibility
- After you make changes to the configuration file, Espanso needs to be restarted for changes to take effect.
Autokey is by far the most powerful text expansion tool available for Linux. It is more of an automation tool that allows setting up macros with your keyboard but it can also double up as a text expander app. Autokey has a GUI wherein you can set up text abbreviations and phrases. As you soon as you type in the abbreviation in any app, Autokey replaces it by the text phrase. Alternatively, you can also hit Ctrl+Alt+F7 and you will get a pop to choose from your list of saved text phrases.
Apart from text snippets, you can also manipulate hotkeys to change app launches. For instance, I use Mozilla Firefox in Linux and I am so used to the Incognito mode being triggered by Ctrl+Shift+N that I still hit the same hotkeys. Hence I used Autokeys to remapped the Incognito mode to be triggered with Ctrl+Shift+N.
Autokey has a steep learning curve and slides smoothly in your typing routine. However, it has its own set of problems. I experienced random app freeze and crashes in Ubuntu 19.10. I further tested it in Ubuntu 19.04 with slightly better results but it wasn’t flawless. Maybe, it’s more tried and tested for the 18.04 LTS version.
- Works in all apps, browsers, webpages, etc
- Additional options to add macros, python scripts, etc
- Option to set up abbreviations that auto-trigger the phrase
- Ability to modify keyboard shortcuts to remap app launches
- Rare crashes in the newer version of Ubuntu
- No option to include shell scripts
sudo apt-get install autokey-gtk
If most of your typing work is done within the browser, it’s better to resort to a browser extension. While there are free browser extensions, most of them don’t function well. Hence, you can use a paid extension called TextExpander. It is one of the few extensions that are compatible with most of the websites. In my testing, I found it to be working seamlessly on Gmail, Slack, WordPress, Sticky Notes, Google Keep, etc. However, due to the rapidly changing Chromium environment, it has stopped working in Google Docs and other of the GSuite apps.
TextExpander is a good app but the only problem is you cannot opt-out of cloud storage. There is no single user option and you would have to shell out $3.33/month. TextExpander is not available for Firefox and the closest alternative you can try is Auto Text Expander. However, it doesn’t work within Docs, Gmail, WordPress.
- Works within the Omnibox or URL bar
- Supports macros and HTML tags to include dynamic data
- Supports importing and exporting of your macros in JSON, CSV.
- Auto-Sync between Chrome browsers on different machines via Google Login
- Doesn’t work within Google Apps like Gmail, Docs, etc
Download TextExpander (30-day trial)
If you are looking for a minimal text expansion app, you can try Espanso or Texpander. Both of them work on standalone as well as web apps. I ended up using Autokey as it provides a variety of options like Hotkey remapping, macros, text expansion, etc. For more issues or queries regarding text expansion apps, let me know in the comments below.