Typinator, Popchar X and KeyCue

Ergonis Software develops productivity software for every Mac user, but particularly for those who type a lot. Typinator is an abbreviations tool that enables users to enter shortcuts for phrases, words, and even pictures. Popchar X is Character Palette on steroids and KeyCue shows you which keyboard shortcuts are available in your current working application.Of the three utilities Ergonis sent me, I was least impressed by KeyCue—I didn’t find it particularly helpful, but perhaps that is because I tend to learn by heart very quickly and easily. People who don’t have a memory like an elephant may think that it is the best thing since sliced bread.
However, I grew quite fond of both Typinator and Popchar X. Without furtrher ado, let’s explore Typinator. When you have installed Typinator, there are a couple of default abbreviations that you can expand. These default abbreviations are grouped in a default set. Typinator supports different sets of abbreviations for different purposes, and that’s a good thing as it would otherwise become quite overloaded.

Typinator has some intelligence, or rather, it depends on your intelligence to expand only abbreviations, and not words that look like abbreviations. When you enable the “Whole Word” option for an abbreviation, Typinator will only expand when the next typed character is neither a letter or a digit. Typinator works very well in this mode. It will only expand abbreviations when you type a space or a tab.
But Typinator does more. For example, you can have it react only when the abbreviation you type is exact, including its case. This further narrows down the mistakes when using Typinator. Of course, the application will act differently if you select “Formatted Text” instead of Plain Text or Picture. And its most powerful feature is probably the ability to add Clipboard contents and insert your cursor in-between text.

Typinator finally comes with an Auto-Correction set built-in. This set works with English, German abd French, and will correct the most common typing errors in those languages.
What I missed the most in Typinator, was a feature that would copy my ad hoc abbreviations from my current application using a shortcut key. On the other hand, the good news is that you can import abbreviations from TypeIt4Me, Textpander, and from text files in tab-delimited format.
Popchar XPopchar is the second utility of Ergonis Software that I think is worth more than its money. Popchar existed before Mac OS X’s Character Palette and you might think Character Palette is all you need now, but then you could be wrong.

Popchar does duplicate a number of features that are available from Character Palette, but not all. For example, you can insert characters just like with Character Palette, but Popchar’s “As in Document” is more useful than Character Palette’s “Insert with Font”. The latter is more prone to you making the mistake of inserting the wrong font—resulting in time lost instead of time saved.
With Popchar, “As in Document” makes it perfectly clear that you’re going to insert the character using the font of the document you’re working with. Makes perfect sense to me.

Selecting fonts in Popchar is easier with “As in Document” selected too, with Popchar also recognising the font setting for each application you’re working with. This results in the most probable font being displayed when working in BBEdit, Pages, or other applications. The pop-up menu further fine-tunes the tool’s responsiveness to your project settings.
Popchar X For Layout DesignersPopchar makes a difference between ASCII and Unicode. In Character Palette you immediately take a plunge into the Unicode character set of each font, making it harder to see what you really need. In Popchar, you can easily limit the number of choices by selecting ASCII if you’re not going to use those US-alphabet foreign characters anyway.

Finally, there are a few details that make working with Popchar easier than with Character Palette. For example, you can set the panel to go away when you leave the Popchar window with the mouse. That saves a lot of time (relatively speaking of course) in contrast with having to go to the closure pastille in the top left of the window. Another time saver is the “Recent Characters”, which will show you the latest characters you’ve inserted. A HTML insertion mode makes Popchar extra useful, especially for web coders who don’t like to learn HTML-entity codes by heart.
Another big difference between Character Palette and Popchar X is that Popchar will show you the keyboard key combination for keyboard-foreign charcters.

As a note I should add that I couldn’t make Popchar type in QuarkXPress 7. This might be a bug, but it happened on an Intel Mac, and with QuarkXPress 7.2, so it may also be due to changes in the latest version of the layout application.


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