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How to automatically insert commonly used text--and sync those snippets to the cloud

Newly updated PhraseExpress supports cloud synchronization, meaning your shortcuts can be shared across all your PCs. And it's still free!

You haven't got all day. And yet you're typing the same text over and over again: email addresses, street addresses, signatures, boilerplate, and so on.

That's why I continue to be a big fan of PhraseExpress, a text expander that organizes and auto-completes frequently used text snippets.

For example, to quickly insert, say, your email address, you could type "em1" (as in "email address #1"), and PhraseExpress would instantly paste in the complete address.

Likewise, you could type "sig" to insert a custom email signature (complete with images and/or HTML code) at the end of emails.

All this auto-texting works in any program (word processor, email client, blog tool, etc.), and PhraseExpress can even scan your documents and emails to find frequently used text to add to its auto-complete list. (It can import existing AutoCorrect entries from Word, too.) Of course, you can define your own entries as well.

The program includes a global spell-check feature and a clipboard history tool, which stores all recent clipboard entries, not just the most recent one. Plus, it can recognize and correct your most common typing mistakes.

Developer Bartels Media GmbH just released PhraseExpress 9.0, which adds such features as Windows 8 support, password protection for "sensitive phrases," application-specific phrase menus, and, perhaps best of all, cloud synchronization: the program "detects if boilerplate templates are stored in a Dropbox, SugarSync, SkyDrive or GoogleDrive sync folders and automatically merges any edit change into the shared phrase file."

In other words, if you use PhraseExpress on more than one PC, now all your custom phrases can stay synced between them. That's seriously handy.

It wasn't immediately clear to me how to make that work, but if you search for "cloud storage" in the PhraseExpress manual, you'll find pretty straightforward instructions.

All told, these new features make an already indispensable program even better. Amazingly, PhraseExpress is free, as it always has been. If you're not using it, you're missing out on a major time-saver.

Contributing Editor Rick Broida writes about business and consumer technology. Ask for help with your PC hassles at hasslefree@pcworld.com, or try the treasure trove of helpful folks in the PC World Community Forums. Sign up to have the Hassle-Free PC newsletter e-mailed to you each week.

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