Carl T. Holscher fights for the customers.

Day: August 22, 2014

Text expansion makes support a breeze

I’ve used various apps to expand snippets into full words or blocks of text for years. It’s made my work in support roles easier and saved me from retyping the same things constantly. I’ve not written much about it until now. I read a post from Chase Clemons on the Be Snappy blog and left a comment there.

For instance, when I don’t have a customer’s name, I use the snippet “`ht” to trigger “Hey there!” I use snippets even down to days of the week and months. Instead of typing out September, just put that as a snippet with “xm9.” Every few seconds you save adds up.
My Best Email Support Tricks and Tips : Snappy

Chase offers some good advice for snippets to make customer support email quicker. I have some tips of my own. While I do less general support now that I’m supporting one application, I have my list of snippets to make my life easier.

Snippet Basics

For TextExpander(Mac) and Breevy (Windows), both of which I use and love. They sync over Dropbox, or via snippet export/import for environments where Dropbox isn’t allowed.

It’s good to choose a trigger character. This is something you’ll type to indicate you’re starting a snippet. It’s not required. But it does prevent words from being swapped for snippets when you don’t want them to be.

I use “Z” as my trigger character so everything starts with Z.

zname is my full name.
zphone is my phone number.
zmail is my email address.
zadd is my full address.

I have zdphone and zdmail for work since I work at the Department of Labor.

How many times do you type these out?

About the 50th time I mistyped Thank You I turned that into zty.
I also use zgm and zga for Good Morning and Good Afternoon.

What about filling in forms?

I also have a snippet that fill in an entire page to book closed captioning for events I run since most of the information is the same. (Shout out to Caption Colorado! Those guys seriously rock!)

Here it is in action:
Closed Captioning snippet

What questions do you often ask?

I have a snippet I use when I’m planning an event. In my current role, I support WebEx. I need some basic information to schedule an event with the desired options.

For this, I enter zplanning because it’s easy to remember. It expands to:

Name of Event:
Will you be using a Webcam?
What will you be sharing? Video? Slides?
Will you be taking Questions/Chats from the remote participants?
Are we recording the event?
Do you need Closed-Captioning?

I send this out along with any specifics for the event. I never have to worry about forgetting to ask something and I have it all listed out in one easy-to-reference place.

Email templates

I get a lot of email questions. Many of them are asking the same questions, so I’ve put together some stock replies.

How do I silence the beeps when people join a conference call?

I respond with zzbeeps.
This expands to:

Dialed in with the Leader code press the following.
*9 – to bring up the menu
3 – turns off the beeps
* – to rejoin the conference

WebEx won’t let me share my Word/Excel/PDF using Share File, but _____ can do it?

I respond with zzwdl.
This expands to:

To get all other files besides PowerPoint files to show up with the Share File option in WebEx you’ll need the WebEx Document Loader.

The application is found here:
It’s listed under WDL Installer/Uninstaller
Direct download link:
You will need administrative rights to install it.
You can verify it installed properly because you’ll see a printer listed as WebEx Document Loader.
Once it’s installed, start a WebEx session and share any files you like and it will work.

Part of my role is to reset passwords and manage accounts. As a result, I sent a lot of password reset emails or messages informing someone of a new or transferred account.

Please setup a new account for John Doe.

I respond with znewebex.

For this, I use some advanced features which I’ll walk through.

First, I need a subject line.

Your new WebEx Account%(Key Tab)

This gives me the subject of Your New WebEx Account and the %(Key Tab) is telling Breevy to press the Tab key.

Now I’m in the body of the email.

%fill%%| tells Breevy I want to enter something before the rest of the snippet runs. I type my greeting, then I press Tab to have the snippet continue.

A WebEx conferencing account has been created for you. Please use the information below to use your account:
Username: %clipboard
Password: Welcome!23 (you will be required to change your password on your first log-on)

Username: %clipboard tells Breevy to input the contents of the clipboard. Before I activate this snippet, I copy the username to the clipboard so it’s inserted automatically.
The password is always the same.

I have requested an integrated audio conferencing account as well. Once created, I will send you the account information and instructions to link your audio account with WebEx. You can still use WebEx with another audio account if you already have one until we get an integrated audio account set up for you.

To learn more about WebEx:
1. Log into your WebEx account
2. Click on Support (located on the left navigation bar)
3. Click on “Training”
4. Select the platform you would like to learn about (Meeting Center is the main platform and widely used). You will have a list of topics to select from for tutorial.

Feel free to contact us via Support Email if you have any questions.

Thank you,

Here is how it looks when I’m using it in Outlook.

New WebEx Account Example

Do you fill out weekly status reports?

I have a snippet for those too.

%A, %B %d, %Y Status

The %A, %B %d, %Y turns into the day and date. When I run it, the snippet looks like this:
Status Report

Finally, I close most of my support emails with zppp which expands to Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns.

These are some of the snippets I use to work better. I highly recommend getting Breevy or TextExpander. These applications will pay you back in saved time many times over.

Excellent Snippet Resources

Shawn Blanc has posted A Quick Guide to Common Miscapitalizations of Tech Names
. If you write the names of Apple products or other tech products like AirPlay, iPad, or TextExpander it will put the capitalizations in the proper places.

Brett Terpstra has an excellent collection of TextExpander Tools. I particularly like the iOSMarkdown and Characters collections.

I would also recommend looking over the TextExpander posts Brett has written. Brett is a wizard with a computer. By subscribing to his blog, your computer life will improve immeasurably.

David “MacSparky” Sparks has solved the problem of pasting text without formatting or styles. Pasting text with TextExpander. This simple trick will take anything with funky Microsoft Office formatting or a mix or bold or italics and convert it into pristine plain text without formatting.

Dispatch from the trenches #6

If you’ve never needed the welfare system, consider yourself lucky. If you’ve never needed to have strangers pour over your bank balances, had to pester your landlord for a letter about your bills, your friends and family to document their financial support, or had to face the stigma of trying to buy groceries with a food stamp card, you are lucky. Next week, if things turn for the worst, you could be waiting in line to have the same process happen to you. That’s the biggest problem of all: so many people are willing to support the welfare system when they need it, but when someone else does, they don’t—especially if that somebody is black, a single mom, or both. You can’t have it both ways.

A View From Inside the Welfare System

Soul-crushing read. I’ve worked in government for years at various levels and while government is viewed as good or bad, it’s all people. It’s made up of smart, hard-working people.

As Richard says, they’re overworked and underpaid and there’s no hope of that changing soon. I’ve seen the same thing. Budgets are cut. Money is sent elsewhere. The job of 5 people is now the job of two. Or one.

It’s not just like this in the welfare system. It’s like this everywhere.

Even if you did go see it, you may have still missed it. The moment is fairly small but it’s completely deliberate. In the denouement of the movie, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “Trench” and Jet Li’s “Yin Yang” are canoodling at the team’s favorite bar when Sylvestor Stallone’s character tells them to “get a room.”

There are myriad reasons why this moment is noteworthy and they’re all worth mentioning: one of Hollywood’s biggest action stars being depicted as gay, a gay couple being a part of a crimefighting team, and also the subtle way the inclusion is slipped in — not a plot point, just a fact of life.

Yes, There Was a Gay Couple in ‘The Expendables 3’

I thought was interesting. It’s not a theme of the movie, but it’s there and under the radar. It’s a part of life. I like that it was treated as such.

Don’t simply focus on what you’re shooting — focus on why you’re shooting.


I’ve thought a lot of photography lately. I’ve resisted the call of new, better cameras. I shoot with an iPhone 5. I like shooting with it because I can capture what I want, without screaming **Look at me! I am a photographers!* I’m working on a daily photo project and another smaller set of photos.

I’m terrible about posting and sharing what I shoot, even when that’s my intention. But I’ll get it together because I really like what I’m doing because it’s fun.

I’m not great. I don’t pretend to be. But I’m having a lot of fun. My short-lived Bethesdoors project was born from the same idea.

Shooting something different and having fun with it.

If everyone starts calling themselves a gamer, the stereotypes will die out, the societal stigmas will fade and the dearly needed changes to games themselves and gaming culture will start to happen more rapidly. Let’s do this.

Let’s ALL be gamers, OK?

Games are fun. Play games to have fun. It shouldn’t be a hostile place.

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