Using TextExpander and Notational Velocity for fast, efficient writing

I’ve talked separately about TextExpander and Notational Velocity in the past, but it’s worth noting that the two really go well together. My primary use of Notational Velocity is drafting blog posts and other articles. For me, it’s basically a stripped down, no-nonsense word processor. A better term would be word-taker or word-holder. I write, and it quietly listens without tempting me to do a bunch of fancy formatting.

TextExpander lubricates the writing process even more by instantly expanding longer chunks of text that I would otherwise have to mindlessly pound out over and over.

I think it’s always best in life to focus on creating new, unique things and not spin your wheels performing tasks that are better handled by things without a cerebrum. TextExpander is a great way to automate repetitious writing. By putting it in charge of the rote and the mundane, you free up your fingers for more creative expression.

Here are a few simple ways I’m using TextExpander with Notational Velocity…

Faster note creation and search

If I’m starting a draft for this blog, I always start the note title with “draft [pe]”. Since I have Notational Velocity set up to store notes as individual text files, this lets me sort my notes alphabetically to see all my drafts at a glance in Finder or make use of Spotlight and LaunchBar to search and retrieve files outside of Notational Velocity.

The [pe] part essentially creates a unique tag that lets me search only for practically efficient posts in the Notational Velocity search field. The term [pe] is not likely to appear in the body of any other notes; it’s only in the title of my practically efficient posts. I got the idea of creating unique text in note titles after seeing Merlin Mann's q trick.

I’m a big believer in minimizing the friction between thinking and doing. So I use TextExpander to create that first little bit for me. If I type dpe, it expands to “draft [pe]” and I can then type a quick title for my note. This is much faster, and more importantly, less distracting than having to fumble for the [] keys.

More efficient web writing

I’ve talked about MultiMarkdown in other posts. Since I write almost exclusively in MultiMarkdown in Notational Velocity, I naturally take advantage of TextExpander to make the process even more efficient.

Here are a few examples of TextExpander snippets I use for MultiMarkdown syntax along with what they create:

  • mma1
    [%|][]

    Creates a MultiMarkdown anchor (link) using the [] syntax and positions my cursor in the first bracket.

  • mma2
    [%|]()

    Creates a MultiMarkdown anchor (link) using the () syntax and positions my cursor in the first bracket.

  • mmap
    [%|](%clipboard)

    Creates a MultiMarkdown anchor (link) using the () syntax, pastes my clipboard between the (), and positions my cursor in the first bracket. I use this one constantly. It lets me quickly create a link if I’ve already copied the URL to my clipboard.

  • mmimg
    ![alt text](/path/to/img.jpg "Title")

    Creates the MultiMarkdown image syntax.

  • mmlinks - This one creates a vertical list link numbers:
        [1]:
        [2]:
        [3]:
        [4]:
        [5]:
        [6]:
        [7]:
        [8]:
        [9]:

I usually put them at the end of a draft in which I’m using the [][] link syntax (e.g. [My Link][1] for a cleaner “foot note” style. This lets me quickly add up to 9 links before having to type out more numbers. The MultiMarkdown HTML converter will ignore any of these at the end that aren’t in use.

Update... here's another:

  • mmc
    [%clipboard](%|)

    Often, I want to hyperlink a word or phrase I've already typed in my text editor. I use this TextExpander snippet along with LaunchBar's clipboard history to mimic the process of inserting a hyperlink in a blog editor like WordPress. The steps I follow are below. It's actually really fast once you do it a couple of times. Your fingers never leave the keyboard.

  1. Copy the URL from your web browser (or wherever it is).
  2. Highlight the text word you want to hyperlink in your text editor.
  3. Copy the word with CMD+C.
  4. Type mmc over the highlighted word. This will replace "your word" with [your word]() and put your cursor between ().
  5. Finally, bring up LaunchBar's clipboard history with CMD+\ and arrow down to the URL you copied. Release the keys to insert the URL between the ().

Other HTML

I also use the predefined group of HTML snippets that comes with TextExpander to quickly expand other HTML codes if necessary.

Please share your own tips and tricks for using TextExpander with Notational Velocity or other general writing.