Review of PhraseExpress

Review of PhraseExpress - Save Tons of Typing Time

(Originally published in the American Bar Association GPSolo eReport)

By Wells H. Anderson, J.D., CIC

PhraseExpress has the potential to improve your productivity on a computer more than any other utility program. Professionals and other office workers generally do not appreciate how much time an excellent text expansion program can save.

Essential Functions

PhraseExpress organizes frequently used words and phrases and inserts them where you type in any computer program.

The essential functions are:

  1. You type abbreviations that automatically expand, becoming words or terms.
  2. You type a code or press a hotkey to automatically insert a boilerplate phrase or paragraph.

These functions save you time and improve your accuracy. You may watch a video to see how a variety of PhraseExpress features work.

Effective in All Your Programs

I have tested PhraseExpress extensively with MS Word, MS Outlook, web browsers, LexisNexis Time Matters and many, many other programs. It handles them all beautifully. That is not true of many other competing text expansion programs I have tested.

Various software programs have their own text expansion features. MS Word has AutoCorrect with its "Replace text as you type" feature. LexisNexis Time Matters practice management software has AutoTXT that does the same thing. These features differ from Spell Check by automatically changing what you type into something longer without your having to click or confirm anything. But each one is limited to its own program. That is a big limitation.

Investing Time to Save More Time

If you invest time in creating abbreviations to save you time, you want them to work everywhere in your computer. PhraseExpress not only does that, but it allows the people in your office to share a set of common abbreviations by using the network edition of PhraseExpress. You don't pay a premium for the network edition. It costs the same per user as the single-user edition.

The longer you use PhraseExpress and the more abbreviations you add to your collection, the more valuable it is. I like taking advantage of the feature that automatically expands an abbreviation immediately without requiring that I press a special key. For example, as soon as I type "tcw" PhraseExpress expands it to say "teleconference with."

Many of my autotexts are based on abbreviations to which I add the letter j. The trailing j's differentiate my abbreviations from letter combinations that appear commonly in words. For example:

  • ltj - legal technology
  • pmj - practice management
  • tcw - teleconference with (no "j" needed since tcw doesn't occur in other words)
  • tyfy - thank you for your (no "j" needed)
  • waj - Wells Anderson

This approach works well for me. There are other styles of working with PhraseExpress that also work well. You can define a key to press after entering an abbreviation in order to expand it. You can create a folder of your own frequently used abbreviation and assign a hotkey to display the folder. Or you can set up a floating palette with a menu of choices. That feature can be used to create a library of stock paragraphs, contract language, questions and other reusable text.

Reducing Stress

Spelling errors create a special kind of stress. Before you finalize a document or send an e-mail, don't you sometimes wonder whether you failed to catch all the typo's? PhraseExpress can automatically correct spelling errors as you type. You can even import the spelling dictionary from MS Word, including any additions you may have made to it.

Typing can stress your fingers, wrists, arms and shoulders. The less you have to type, the less the wear and tear. Every time you type an abbreviation, such as "addrj" for your address or "sigj" for your signature block, you feel the satisfaction of not having to type out multiple lines of repetitive text.

Multiple Clipboard

Built into PhraseExpress is a multiple clipboard feature. Each time you copy or cut some text, it goes into a History list in PhraseExpress. By pressing a hotkey that you assign, you can bring up the History list anywhere else in any program and paste one or more items from the list. This feature is especially useful when composing e-mails to clients or doing any sort of extensive writing. You can draw on multiple sources, including webpages, documents and e-mails, without having to jump back and forth repeatedly between screens to copy and paste each phrase or paragraph.


Currently the price of PhraseExpress is $49.95 for the Standard version or $139.95 for the Professional version that includes document assembly features. The network module is included at no extra charge when you buy the network edition of the software. It has the same price per user. PhraseExpress keeps track of how much time and money you save as you use it. Even using a modest hourly dollar value, the program pays for itself easily within a month.

PhraseExpress products are available for purchase and download from:
You can download a trial version for free. It is limited to personal use.

Document Assembly

PhraseExpress Professional can also serve as a document assembly tool. You can:
(1) Save formatted MS Word paragraphs and documents
(2) Create pop-up, fill in the blank forms that insert names and other text
(3) Use floating phrase menus

For example, starting in MS Word you could select a Power of Attorney document from the floating phrase menu. A pop-up form would prompt you for the required names and other fill-in text. The resulting text appears immediately in MS Word.

You may also create "phrases" that include graphics and formatted text to insert into MS Word documents.

Learning PhraseExpress

The developers of PhraseExpress have done an excellent job of presenting both step-by-step instruction and instructional videos on their website. You can access these aids instantly by clicking on Help in the PhraseExpress program.

There are simpler text expansion programs that compete with PhraseExpress. But the problem with less powerful software is that you can rapidly outgrow it. You don't have to use all the power available in PhraseExpress in order to derive significant savings in terms of time and stress. It is certainly worthwhile to learn the program's basics.

Text Prediction

You can set PhraseExpress to watch what you type and identify phrases that you use frequently. It automatically memorizes them. After you have used the same string of words multiple times, PhraseExpress will prompt you the next time you start to type the same words. It will display the text you typed previously and give you the option to confirm entering the rest of the phrase.

Of all the great features in PhraseExpress, text prediction is the only one that I haven't liked. Perhaps it is a matter of setting the sensitivity. In the Options, you can set the minimum number of words that you need to repeat in order for PhraseExpress to add them to its Text Prediction collection.

Automation via Programming

For advanced user who like computer programming, PhraseExpress can automate menu sequences in programs that don't have programmable buttons. For instance, in Adobe Acrobat I often secure a document so that it can be opened and read but not changed (at least not without the password).

To do this, press Ctrl-F11 when you are in an Acrobat document. The Properties dialog window, sets appears. The security options are automatically set to allow viewing and printing the PDF document but not changing it or copying from it. If you have included the text of a password, or part of one, to the end of the above code, you have a shortcut and time-saver. It spares you from having to enter a long passphrase but give you strong security.

Here is the code for the Acrobat Password macro:

{#SLEEP 100}{#CTRL -chars d}{#SLEEP 2000}{#HOME}{#RIGHT}{#SLEEP 100}{#TAB}{#SLEEP 100}{#DOWN}{#SLEEP 300}{#TAB}{#SLEEP 100}{#TAB}{#SLEEP 100}{#TAB}{#SLEEP 100}{#SPACE}{#SLEEP 100}{#TAB}{#DOWN -count 2}{#TAB}{#DOWN -count 3}{#SHIFT {#TAB}}{#SLEEP 100}{#SHIFT {#TAB}}

The "SLEEP" commands insert short delays so that Acrobat has time to make a selection and bring up the next menu or window. This macro works in paid versions of Acrobat.

The Value of PhraseExpress

The most basic feature of PhraseExpress, replacing abbreviations with words, delivers the most value. PhraseExpress performs this task instantaneously and with excellent, time-saving refinements. For example, by default when you can type an abbreviation in lower case it will expand into a lower case word. If you capitalize the abbreviation, it will expand into a capitalized word. Alternatively, you can make abbreviations case sensitive.

To add an abbreviation to PhraseExpress, all you do is select a word or phrase on the screen, press a hotkey (that you have defined), and type the abbreviation. These refinements, plus the ability to operate universally in any program on your computer and on your network, make PhraseExpress a joy to use.

I am no longer happy working on a computer without PhraseExpress. It saves so much typing. Whenever I type a long word or a phrase I expect I'll need to use again, I add it to PhraseExpress. So be forewarned, once you start using PhraseExpress, you too may not want to use a computer without it!

Wells H. Anderson, J.D., CIC ( works directly with small firms and solos across North America via virtual meetings to implement Time Matters practice management software and Billing Matters timekeeping and billing software. Through his website,, he regularly publishes technology tips and articles and hosts a monthly Webinar open to all. Anderson serves on the Technology & Practice Guide Board of the ABA GPSolo Division and is a winner of TechnoLawyer awards, including Legal Technology Consultant of the Year.