Note: This review addresses v7 of the software.
I often find myself typing the same things over and over, and not just in online debates. PhraseExpress simplifies this process, allowing me to hit just a few keys to insert an oft-used expression. More mundanely, it can greatly simplify a lot of business writing which relies on boilerplate text sections, such as “We eagerly await your reply,” “We thank you for your business,” or “Vinnie The Knife and ‘Crowbar’ Jones will be by on Monday to discuss your past due accounts.”
PhraseExpress is one of the most feature-rich programs of these sorts I’ve seen. It has a powerful macro definition language, allowing you to create such tools as the (included) automatic buzzword generator, which will automatically produce such gems as “deploy collaborative networks” and “brand innovative vortals.” To generate that, all I had to do was type “buzzw” and hit tab. The tab key is the default ‘action’ key for PhraseExpress; when you type the start of a word or phrase it recognizes, a small window will pop up with the suggested completion. Hit tab to accept, or just keep typing to keep going. If you type quickly and don’t watch the screen, you may well type past the suggested text; however, this is infinitely preferable to hanging the program while you manually dismiss any unwanted input.
The real power of PhraseExpress comes in binding keypresses to text phrases, allowing large blocks of text to be inserted at once. Even more usefully, the same key combination can be bound to multiple expressions. For example, let’s say you have four or five “Greeting” lines, from “Dear Valued Customer” to “Dear New Client” to “Attention Deadbeat.” You could bind all of them to ctrl-alt-G, and choose the one you want. You can use the macro function “#input” to get text from the user, so you can create text fragments which include placeholders for a name, a location, and so on.
PhraseExpress goes even beyond this, though. You can launch applications by typing a keyword (which is then erased from your document after the application is launched). By nesting macro commands, you can even do such things as asking a user for numbers, feeding them into the Windows calculator application, and pasting the result back into the document.
As with a lot of utilities of this type, the value you get out of it depends on how much you put into it. Learning a whole bunch of new key combinations, or setting up phrase completion to work for you, can be time-consuming. Over the long haul, though, if you write a lot of similar text, PhraseExpress will save you time. (I can see a use for this in many programming environments, as a means of inserting commonly used boilerplate code.) Phrase Express 7 even includes a feature which calculates how much money you save using it, by comparing your typing speed to the number of characters it types for you. My editor informs me she’s saved over three thousand dollars after having used Phrase Express across several versions.
PhraseExpress 7 is free for personal use. For-pay Standard and Professional licenses, each with more functions, are available.