Evaluating Text Expanders for Genealogy Source Citations

Writing source citations can be time consuming. While it’s dangerous to rely on templates for source citations, being able to type a few letters and have a basic template for a frequently used collection simplifies the process.

Text expanders are tools which allow the user to enter a keyboard shortcut and insert a larger block of text. A few months ago I decided to look for a text expander I could use with Microsoft Word. My requirements were simple:

  • Easy to add citation templates.
  • Formatting options such as italics
  • Not subscription based

My preference was for an expander which prompted me to complete a small form using variable data rather than a template where I had to type over labels like First Name, Last Name, Title, etc.

Text Expander MicroReviews

TextExpander:

A great tool with everything I need, but $40/year.

Espanso:
Open source, cross-platform. Formatting not supported yet. Interesting project, but not for this purpose.

Beeftext:
Open source, Windows. No variable data or rich text options.

atext:

Microsoft and Mac, $4.99. Has variable text options and formatting but it is painful to set up source citation templates. Adding a template with variable options requires a lot of unavoidable pointing and clicking. If I could cut and paste or upload a CSV file, I would seriously consider this.

Breevy:

Windows. Requires using % for variables and formatting which makes entering templates tedious. Formatting is not consistent. Saved changes do not persist.

Auto Text Expander:

Windows. Easiest to use but does not seem to be available anymore. The link to buy is broken and a Facebook review from 2018 suggests the company no longer responds to messages.

fastkeys:

Windows. Great documentation, only $19. Text expansion is just one feature. Entering citation templates is not easy but not too bad. Includes variable text and rich text formatting options. This came with a lot of presets I had to disable.

In the end, none of these solutions satisfied me. There’s a reason many tools don’t support formatting. Developers have to stay on top of the latest Office¬† updates. The $40/year cost of TextExpander seems more reasonable in this context.

Entering citation templates was an extremely tedious process in most of these tools. I worried I would need to do it more than once if there was some kind of breaking update.

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