Windows Text Expanders & Launchers

Windows Text Expanders & Launchers

Software Development
Tips & Tricks
December 10, 2022
Randall Hand
Several years ago, back when I was predominantly a Mac user, I fell in love with Text Expansion. It’s such a simple thing, but being able to type ddateand have it replaced with today’s date, or and have it automatically drop in the upcoming Friday is such a time saver. Plus, using it to automatically expand arch to architecture or correct common spelling errors is a huge benefit. On my Macbook, my preferred tool for this was Alfred. In addition to text expansion, it was also a great tool for search and launching of applications, that has saved me hours over the years.
When I switched back to Windows a few years ago, I looked around for tools that could do similar things to Alfred, and I found two that got close to my major asks:
Both were pretty barebones, but they got the job one. Until this week.

Problems and Features

Over the last week or two, aText has updated from “Freemium” (It worked, but some advanced features were locked behind paid upgrades) to a full Paid application. Now, it will only run a limited number of expansions until it just shuts down, and starts throwing popups every time you try. The cost isn’t ridiculous, but the way it was implemented just really rubbed me the wrong way ..
At the same time, Launchy has started to fall apart a bit. Looking over their sourceforge page, you can see the last “stable release” was back in 2010. I don’t understand why, but some apps it simply won’t launch so I have to go back to the start bar. I’ve been looking around off and on for alternatives, but never found one I truly liked.

Text Expansion

After searching around through dozens of “Top 21 Text Expansion apps for Windows” types of articles all over the internet, I finally found one that hit my main requirements:
  • Fast & systemwide text expansion
  • Support for minimal macros (for dates & times)
  • Free or Cheap.. Open source is a plus.
The tool I found is Espanso. It’s a Rust app that works on Windows, Mac, and Linux and supports all of the above. The only downside is that it basically has no UI configuration, everything is done via Text Files (yAML). However, I was able to achieve the basics of what I want with a configuration like this:
- trigger: "ddate" replace: "{{mydate}}" vars: - name: mydate type: date params: format: "%A %B %d, %Y" - trigger: "xds" replace: "{{mydate}}" vars: - name: mydate type: date params: format: "%m-%d-%y" - trigger: "ttime" replace: "{{mytime}}" vars: - name: mytime type: date params: format: "%r" - trigger: "arch " replace: "architecture " - trigger: "mgmt " replace: "management " - trigger: ":shrug:" replace: "¯\\_(ツ)_/¯" - trigger: ":+1:" replace: "👍" - trigger: ":+!:" replace: "👍"
I am amazed at how fast it is for replacements. For basic additions and spelling corrections I can’t even see it do anything.. It’s like it was always there.

Launching with Fluent Search

I’ve tried a few alternatives over the years and never could find anything with the scope or features of Alfred. Basically, I wanted something that:
  • Pop up with a simple keystroke (Usually Alt+Space or Ctrl+Space)
  • Search both Applications and common Files
  • Support some limited app integration (Search contacts or Evernote, now Notion)
  • Reflect system updates fast - I don’t want to wait for a 10 minute reindex to launch the app I just installed.
Now, Windows has something pretty close to this built in. MacOS has Spotlight, Windows has their own built in to the start bar now. Simply press Command-Space on Mac, or the Windows key on windows, and start typing and you’ll get pretty close on basic launching. But there is limited ability to extend it.
Enter Fluent Search. It not only looks like Alfred, but searches everything I listed above as well as things like Open Tabs and more. It’s fast and responsive, and free and open-source on github!


I’ve been using these two tools for about a week now and Loving them. I still have to do some work to tune in Espanso (Just typing this article it keeps turning “Search” into “Searchitecture” due to the arch expansion), but the simplicity of the tools and their capabilities is really a big step up from where I was previously.