How to Use Text Replacement to Power Through Your Daily Rituals and Repetitive Projects


Joe Williams of Zen Optimise came up with this really cool way to work with repetitive content in WorkFlowy. It’s so slick, we’re probably going to build something like this into WorkFlowy. We asked him to write a guest blog post and make a demo video. 

Don’t pay attention to the annotations in the video above. Just watch what he’s typing, and notice how typing a few letters instantly creates a whole list.

Super Fast Templates

If you have tasks that you repeatedly do, over and over, you’ll probably be looking for ways to save time and energy. WorkFlowy is great for this out of the box as you can easily setup project templates that you can copy, paste and reuse.

But imagine if you could do all that without the need to find the project or copy and paste. Instead, you could simply define a short (and easy to remember) text snippet to pull in several repetitive tasks that make up a daily ritual, a repeatable project or anything else that you do over and over. This has the potential to save hours of time if you do a lot of process oriented work!

You can do this by combining WorkFlowy’s new import plain text feature and a text replacement software of choice.

Text Replacement Software

There are quite a few on the market but below are the ones I have either used (and liked) or heard good things about:

For Mac

For Windows

That’s it, a nifty way to boost your productivity for repetitive tasks by 100% or more! Please pop in a comment to let us know of other text replacement software you’ve found useful or another way to save time with repetitive tasks.


Workflowy replaces your notebooks, stickies and bloated apps with a simple, smooth digital notebook that makes it easy to get organized and be productive.

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20 Responses

  1. Good idea! I’ve been using ClipMenu (more of a clipboard manager than text expander) because I’m bad with remembering the expansion text. With ClipMenu’s “snippets” I just hit Cmd+Shift+B to pull up the Snippets menu, then use arrow keys to select the snippet I want to paste.

  2. Awesome! This also works with Typinator on Mac.

    And chance of adding support for TextExpander touch on the WorkFlowy iOS app? That would support this trick on mobile, as well as being super useful in general!

    1. Don’t forget Linux users! Works great with AnyKey on Fedora 21. It’s free and in the default Fedora repos.

  3. We, are sorry not to be included in the discussion. ActiveWords does radically more than the products cited, and we do it a lot better. We don’t run on the Mac, but we run on Windows, which is 92% of computers that ship. We also launch apps, navigate to websites, have a complete scripting language and also work with Touch in Windows 8&10.

    I know the others don’t. Try us, you will never go back!

      1. You obviously have no idea what AHK is, for you to make that claim. It is a complete automation and scripting language. It is not an “app”. I can safely say whatever your “app” does, it doesn’t compare.

    1. Yep. In AutoHotkey, this is called a “hotstring”. The syntax for that is:


      So for this example, you would use:

      ::`;wrtl::Finances{enter}{tab}Process Xero etc

      The semicolon ; is a comment character in AHK, so it is escaped with the tilde ` char

      For longer replacements, you can put literal text surrounded by parens:

      Process Xero
      Reconcile transactions
      Process invoices

      Hopefully those {tabs} get preserved above, its a shame wordpress comments done have some type of markdown formatting.

      Lastly, because AHK is a complete programming language, you can do even more automation such as this:

      Sleep, 1000
      MsgBox, Please wait until the page has fully loaded then press OK
      Send, ^{end}
      Send, {enter}Finances
      Send, {enter}{tab}Process Xero
      Send, {enter}{tab}Reconcile transactions
      Send, {enter}Process invoices
      MsgBox, Done and ready to go

      Its kinda weird to use a hotstring to trigger that, so instead of having to type ;wrtl you could instead make a hotkey, where you press Ctrl+Win+O (or whatever combo you want). To do that, change the ::`;wrtl:: line to ^#o::

      Finally, I don’t really see why this should be added as a built-in feature to Workflowy. It seems out of the scope of the project.

      1. I think a quick, keyboard driven way to use templates is in the scope. We wouldn’t do it exactly this way, it gives you the idea though.

  4. Phraseexpander might be overkill if this all you want to do, but it can be extremely powerful because you can use natural language to activate phrases without messing with your everyday typing.

    Anyway, I have an affiliate code for 20% off the program if you are interested. It is “Milford”

    I might also suggest using a Google Chrome extension for this (free)

  5. Christoph Dollis: Couldn’t agree more. That and the default ability to choose colors for # and @ tags.

    You could also do text expansion type stuff in Keyboard Maestro on the Mac if you already have that installed.

    But what I’ve been doing is using a MS Word and an add-in called simpleprompter. Text expander has some fill-in the blanks kind of prompts now, but it’s not as full-featured as simpleprompter. In SP, any text in [brackets] becomes a fill-in prompt. There are different kinds of prompts, like fill-in text, drop-down lists, and choosing boilierplate.

    The same dude also makes a different add-on called Dataprompter, which is even more powerful, but only works on PC.

    In any case, I create the templates in Word (most of them are templates I created for use in Omnifocus, which has a great Templates Applescript that a user made).

    These templates are also pre-tagged with @ GTD context tags. When I actuate simpleprompter, I get prompted to fill in info that’s specific to the particular iteration of the template (e.g., project name, document names, client names, etc.). Many of these prompts are pre-tagged as # hashtags.

    Then, once that is filled in, I paste the text into Workflowy and it’s mostly good to go. That said, find and replace would make it much easier to tweak things and colored tags would make it easier to see things.

    Of course, some sort of reminder system would also be a big help. Those are the big things I’d like to see. Currently, it’s shame that the stand alone Workflow app doesn’t seem to work with some of the Chrome extension folks have developed to add color to Workflowy. They’re aren’t great in every way, but are a step in the right direction.

    I’d also love to have the ability to filter a particular search down to just line items that have a particular tag, so you just see a flat list of those items.

    A lot to like about Workflowy. It’s really improved in some great ways since I tried it a year or so ago. It wasn’t really useable for me then. Now, it’s not perfect, but it is at least useable.

    I’m playing with it because it’s cross-platform and Omnifocus isn’t. But coming from OF is definitely an adjustment. I find it easier to see the info in OF, although in some ways it’s easier to navigate the same info in WorkFlowly, and obviously it’s not quite as structured an environment, which can be good or bad depending on the context.

  6. Don’t forget the shortcuts feature on iOS. I use it all the time, whether in WorkFlowy or not 🙂

    1. Me, too! I run most of my repetitive tags and single-line entries from the main keyboard screen that way: ,h becomes @home; ,o becomes @office; .wm, #watchMovie; y3 becomes 2015-03. I use “,” for @ phrases and “.” for # phrases.

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