- The Washington Times - Monday, October 10, 2005

There are few things as impressive as the power of word-of-mouth advertising: It can turn an unknown product into a superstar, or at least it can raise the profile of a product other people might not know about.

A good example of this is Textpander, a neat little add-on for users of the Macintosh computer, particularly those running Tiger, the latest version of OS X. Textpander was developed by Peter Maurer, a doctoral candidate at the University of Frieburg in Germany. The software, Mr. Maurer’s Web site explains, “is a utility that helps you type more efficiently and more accurately. Textpander listens to what you type and inserts predefined text snippets on the fly whenever you enter their corresponding abbreviation.”

Yes, it does that, and quite nicely, thank you. Instead of typing “The Washington Times,” I can invoke it with a four-letter combination. Ditto for my name, or for “Very best regards,” a complimentary close I use in letters and e-mail. You can get rather fancy and add pictures or text in a certain font; it’s a great way, it seems, to add a “real” signature to e-mail and faxes.

Textpander, though not the greatest invention in the history of software, definitely is helpful. You can find it at https://tinyurl.com/axypq. If you like it, Mr. Maurer accepts online donations.

So far, so good — it’s your average software utility story. Well, not quite. I first heard about Textpander from Guntis Bukalders, a friend of mine and fellow Mac user in Riga, Latvia. He swears by the program.

The next day, it popped up in a note at https://www.MacOSXHints.com, a very useful Web site run by Rob Griffiths, who is on the staff at Macworld magazine (https://www.macworld.com). Mr. Griffiths knows his software — not to mention OS X — and his recommendation reinforced what my friend Guntis suggested. So I downloaded the program and have been abbreviating happily ever since.

There might be one or two shortcomings. If you become a heavy user, moving to a machine without your abbreviations could be annoying. And there doesn’t seem to be an easy way (or any way) to back up the Textpander file, so if your system crashes, it’s back to the drawing board.

But these might be minor annoyances, and Mr. Maurer might correct the latter deficiency before long. If you’re a Mac user who pops in standard phrases on a regular basis, this might be something to get, and quickly.

Avery.com offers printing online

Sometimes you don’t even need software to do a job. When I need to print a CD label, I click over to www.avery.com, and select “Avery Print.”

There, label maker Avery Dennison has placed a range of templates for their lines of labels, business and post cards, and other products. Select a design, fill in a few details, click a button and you’ve got an Adobe PDF file of the final product. Download the file, fire up the free Acrobat Reader and you are ready to print.

The finished product looks quite professional. It’s not the same, of course, as doing the design yourself from scratch, and, yes, dedicated software products offer more flexibility. But for “quick and dirty” tasks, the Web site can’t be beat.

Such online goodies are worth telling someone else about. It’s the original “peer-to-peer” network, you might say, and it’s often a good way to get a line on a great computer product.

• E-mail [email protected]aol.com.


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