Enterprise Software

Review: PhraseExpress can boost productivity

Derek Schauland reviews the productivity application PhraseExpress, which can speed your typing with autotext and text-prediction features.

Whether its emails, PowerPoints, business cases, or routine documentation, we all end up doing a lot of typing. Typing can also be frustrating if you never really graduated much beyond the hunt-and-peck system. What if there were a way to use acronyms to speed up the typing process? This is where PhraseExpress comes in. It creates macros to insert custom text when a string is entered or a configured hot key is pressed.

Have you ever wondered what typing a certain phrase, like "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog" a bunch of times in a row might cost you? Depending on your job, there might be a bunch of phrases, text snippets, or project-related information that you repeat over and over. PhraseExpress  will prove your productivity gains by providing statistics that calculate the number of times it replaces a phrase and compare that with your hourly rate (which you can enter into the application) and compute how much savings you will see by using auto-strings.

Specifications

Supported operating systems:
  • Windows XP
  • Windows Vista
  • Windows 7

Who's it for?

The writer or computer professional who does a considerable amount of typing will find some benefit to this program. Not only does it convert custom strings like "TR" into TechRepublic, but it can also open browser windows or other applications when a string is entered.

For example, when I enter # then tr, PhraseExpress opens techrepublic.com in a browser window. Other things I use are company names or product names like "Windows Server Update Services" could be #wsus.

What problem does it solve?

PhraseExpress improves speed while typing. Sure dictation software like Naturally Speaking can virtually eliminate entering text on the keyboard, but there are still times when typing is useful.

PhraseExpress is freeware for personal use; pricing for Phrase Express is as follows for commercial use:

Feature

V7 Easy

V7 Standard

V7 Professional

Commercial Use

Yes

Yes

Yes

Expert Mode

No

Yes

Yes

Macros

No

Yes

Yes

Text Prediction

No

Yes

Yes

MS Word formatted phrases

No

No

Yes

Floating Phrase Menus

No

No

Yes

Input Forms

No

No

Yes

Price (US)

$29.95

$49.95

$139.95

Standout features

The big features for me are custom string creation from selected text, which allows me to select a string and press [Alt]+C to open the new phrase dialog box. I can then assign an auto string and click OK to create a new custom string for abbreviated entry.

The URL feature is also a great tool. Suppose you visit a particular group of sites while doing research. You could create an autotext to open all of those sites in a browser right from your document.

PhraseExpress can also be limited to a specific application by auto-string. So if I want to use the #string to enter sample text only within Word, I can do that.

As noted above, the personal use edition of PhraseExpress is free, but for more features and/or commercial use, there is a professional edition. Two more features that I love are auto correct and text prediction. With Auto correct, which a number of applications have built in, I can get PhraseExpress to fix spelling only within Word and maybe my email, but not in a browser. Being application-specific is very helpful.

Text prediction works to complete phrases that the application knows about. For example, I have a phrase stored to turn "# + dpan" into "Diskeeper Performance Analyzer for Networks." When saving a document with a similar title, the text-prediction feature populated that string within the Save As box.

Figure A

PhraseExpress  application window (click to enlarge)

Figure B

PhraseExpress  Hot Key settings (click to enlarge)

What's wrong?

There is a bit of a learning curve with this application. I have yet to figure out the folders organizational system within the application, but am catching on.

Competitive products

Bottom line for business

PhraseExpress would be a great tool for any business or IT professional who creates a lot of documents. Because the personal use edition is free ,it is certainly worth a look. Having tried a few of the competing products, I had a hard time thinking this would be different, but it seems to have the setting s I found useful in other solutions without any of the guessing about how a setting would behave from one program to the next.

About

Derek Schauland has been tinkering with Windows systems since 1997. He has supported Windows NT 4, worked phone support for an ISP, and is currently the IT Manager for a manufacturing company in Wisconsin.

Editor's Picks