Need a laptop? Our Back to School series is brought to you this year by Intel. We’ve teamed up to bring you the HackCollege Laptop Chooser. If you share the Laptop Chooser, you’ll be entered to win a Samsung Series 9 Notebook!

Taking notes in class can be  stressful. A lot of brain power is required to simultaneously listen to the professor, observe the blackboard or projector, integrate the stimuli and transcribe notes onto a literal or figurative page. I’ve always got my eyes open for any tool that’ll make taking notes during lectures a little easier. Recently, I discovered TextExpander, a small Mac utility by Smile Software that expands abbreviated words into any kind of text.

I’ve always admired the students that can write in shorthand, it makes sense to replace common conjunction words with single letters and symbols, but I just find the fractured text difficult to read after the note has been taken. Using TextExpander is kind of like typing in shorthand, except the shorthand words you type are automatically replaced by snippets of text that you setup in advance. Efficiency gurus often use TextExpander to insert long pieces of text that they type frequently by simply typing a single word and allowing TextExpander to handle the rest. For example, to type your full address you could type hhome and have TextExpander expand it for you. The beautiful thing is that you can make your own snippets for anything that have to type often.

So how do you put TextExpander to work in a lecture environment? Perhaps there’s a word that is used frequently in one of your classes, but it’s long and you can’t spell it to save your life. Personally, I find typing atherosclerosis super difficult, so instead of racking my brain on the word, I just type asvd and let TextExpander take care of the hard work for me. With respect to = wtr, low socioeconomic status = lses, you get the idea.


TextExpander can take some time to integrate into your note taking arsenal. For one, you have to remember to use it in the first place. Typing is a pretty mindless task that is reliant on a fair bit of muscle memory. You’ll need to train your hands to type in snippets, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll be able to keep up with the professor and relax a little in class.

TextExpander is $34.99 in the Mac App Store, but as part of our Back to School Week, we’re giving away three TextExpander licenses! To enter, simply tweet the word you stumble on the most when take notes in class followed by the hashtags #HackCollege and #TextExpanderGiveaway. The contest closes at 12PM EST on Sunday.