As a fan of the social networking site Plurk I have been waiting for an iPhone/iPod Touch App to navigate it.  You can use the mobile page for Plurk, but it is quite simplistic.  For those who don’t know, Plurk is like Twitter except the comments are threaded and everything is displayed on a timeline.  The comment threads are the best part of Plurk.  In Twitter there is no connection between Tweet and reply and you can’t have a conversation as easily as you can on Plurk.

Now if you don’t know what Twitter is well it is difficult to explain.  Kind of a micro-blog limited to 140 characters per posts (called Tweets) where people Tweet everyting from heading to the dentist to passing links to sites on the internet, etc.  A boring thing to explain, but quite addictive once you get immersed.

As for iPlurk app I must say I am a bit dissapointed.  It provides three tabls for All, Unread, and Private to select in a list the various Plurks.  The Plurks are then listed vertically along with the Avatar and informaton about responses including unread responses (nice touch).  Click on the right side of the entry to read the comments.  To reply click on an icon in the top right and then enter via the standard keyboard.

In operation this is much better than the mobile version of Plurk, but it is also quite miminmalistic on features.  For one I would much prefer also having a horizontal view in addition to the standard horizontal view.  I really prefer the horizontal especially for replies and being able to use the easier keyboard.  The font used to display the Plurks is not very large at all and for me somewhat difficult to read.

There are some settings you can set at the preference pane that allows highlighting to make beginning words look like they do in Plurk.  Rich Text I believe gives you the ability to see emoticons.  Poll interval specifies how often it looks for new Plurks/replies. I am not sure what Timeline paging which I think allows you to easily move down 4 Plurks at a time (I like this).

I do hope they maintain this app to add more features.  It would be nice to be able to graphically select emoticons like you can in Plurk.  It would be nice also to have a mechanism to select commenter names to reply to. Right now clicking on their name will bring you to their timeline.

One nice thing is that if you click on an entry you prevoiusly Plurked you can choose to edit it, delete it, or reply to it.

So final verdict is that I will be using this app since it is an improvment over over the mobile page for Plurk for the most part since it is easier to read through and reply to Plurks.  It costs $1.99 so it won’t set you back much, but like I said I hope it is maintained and updated with new features in the future.

Here is their web page which has screen shots of iPlurk.

iTunes App Store link.

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I have always been a reluctant laptop user and always more of a desktop kind of guy.  Sure laptops can be quite useful for there portability, but they always feel like so much compromise when using them.  Over the years I have used multiple laptops associated with work and pretty much always attached external keyboards and mice to them.  The interface to use them is what really gets in the way and you kind of defeat the portability purpose when you have to carry external peripherals to go with them.  Some time back I had a Dell Duo-Core machine with a good amount of memory and a 17″ screen, but I just hated typing with it and using the trackpad and trackpad button was always a chore.  It just never melted into the interface background.  My wife’s 17″ inch HP laptop is much the same and the trackpad would drive me to frustration in short time as the cursor would seem to go pretty much willy-nilly.  The actually processing of laptops have though quite advanced over the years and there is much less compromise in this area.

Having given my Dell laptop to my daughter a year ago I have been without a laptop and would just resort to using my wife’s when I needed one.  But using that HP trackpad has me offering it up in short order.  So last week while at the Navy Exchange I decided to look at getting one of the new Mac laptops.  I had originally planned on getting a middle-0f-the-line MacBook.  I was trying to exercise the virtue of prudence by thinking that all I needed was a MacBook and not a Mac Book Pro. Though I have to admit that just adding Pro to the model name made it more desirable for me. But I was all set to go with the MacBook, the only problem was is that they had it sitting right next to the 15″ MacBook Pro.  This is where all of the rationalizing started to kick in.  First I noticed that the MacBook Pro and the MacBook I had wanted had less than a $400 price difference.   Plus a 15″ screen suits my tastes much better than as 13″ one.  So the rationalizations continued as I thought “hey I plan to keep this machine for several years so why not get the one which has Firewire and and Expresscard/34 slot which the Mac Pro does not.  Throw in the fact that it has two (count em two) video cards the $400 price difference quickly becomes moot or so I justified.  The one nice thing about being able to shop in a Navy Exchange is that the prices are slightly lower than in an Apple Store and it is tax free.

Now onto the review.

The  Mac laptop line now uses the aluminum  unibody enclosure (except the white MacBook). This gives the laptop a real solid feeling while at the same time being quite thin.  The magnetic latch is an improvement over previous MBPs.  Since it was carved out of a solid block of aluminum the solid feeling is more than skin deep.  The LED-backlit widescreen display is really quite beautiful and the colors quite vibrant.  The glossy screen can be disconcerting at first, but I had already grown use to a glossy screen on an iMac and so now don’t even think of it and in fact now prefer it.  When it comes to aesthetics it is hard to surpass Apple.  The machine looks more like a piece of art with the metal body, black keys, and glowing white Apple log.  But the reason to have a computer it to be able to do something with it.

The true test for me was usability when it came o the the keyboard and trackpad.  I must admit to being rather shocked at how fast I was able to use the keyboard and to type at normal speed.  I have used plenty of laptops with full sized keyboards, but they just never felt right.  For me the MPB keyboard is just about perfect, though this is quite a subjective area.  What blew me away was the trackpad. Apple has gone to a larger trackpad with no buttons where the whole trackpad is a button that you can click.  This is a trackpad that I was able to use immediately with hardly any learning curve at all.  Now I realize Steve Jobs mission to remove every possible button to excess and when it came to Apple mice I always considered this a fault.  This no button trackpad is simplicity itself, but actually usable.  I can scroll by using two fingers anywhere on the trackpad.  I can right click by pressing down with two fingers (or clicking in a selected bottom corner).  Then there are the variety of other multitouch gestures to zoom, rotate, bring up expose, etc.  I love this trackpad so much that I actually want a keyboard with a trackpad for my desktop machine.  While if they had such a keyboard I would still use the regular mouse, I would also use the trackpad a lot.  I tried out the beta version of Firefox 3.1 which supports multitouch and it really was a great way to browse.  I had been a been a reluctant laptop user, but the MPB is really a joy to use.  Plus the fact that the keyboard is backlit is quite a plus in many situations.

The hardware inside includes and Intel Core 2 Duo running at 2.4 ghz with a 1066MHz frontside bus.  2GB of DDR3 SDRAM memory which Apple says is expandable to 4, but some have gotten 6GB to work fine (though others with problems).  A 250GB hard drive along with a NVIDIA GeForce 9400M and a 9600M GT with 256 MB.  The dual video chips are pretty cool since if you are running on battery you can switch to the less capable card to preserve battery life.  Though it is quite annoying that to switch video chips you have to go to the preference panel to do so and then log out and back in.  This should be made much easier and hopefully software can address this in the future.  The MPB is also available with a 2.8 GHZ chip, but I did not see the price tradeoff/benifit as worth it.  Other standards include 802.11n draft specification, Bluetooth, and Gigabyte Ethernet, but this is pretty standard for modern laptops.  A bottom cover allows you to easily access the battery swap out the hard drive or add memory.  This is an improvement over previous generations of the MBP where changing the hard drive took much more disassembling and was not for the casual user.

As with previous Intel Mac laptops the MagSafe power port is use.  The power connector uses a magnet and quickly attaches to the side of the laptop.  I have already found this to be a great feature since it easily disconnects if you trip over the cord and it won’t bring the laptop down crashing along with the cord.  Plus there is just the juvenile fun of connecting it and having the magnets pull it together.  One nice bit of design is that the power brick end  of the power has a couple of ways of connecting to electrical power.  The little white brick itself has 2 prongs that pop out to plug in.  You can pop this off of the power brick and connect a longer 3 pronged cord to use instead.  I found this invaluable to use in a hotel room to be able to connect up farther away.  Nice bit of design for portability and having the ability to add an extension.

One real surprise was the sound quality.  On either side of the keyboard are speakers with hundreds of tiny drilled holes for the grill.  Best sound I have ever heard come natively out of a laptop.  Though as you would expect there is not much bass sound.  The new 17″ MBP is probably even better since they have allowed even more space for the speakers.

So the hardware is quite capable and previously PC Magazine had rated the last generation MBP as the fastest Vista machine available.  No doubt the latest MBP would also make quite a capable Vista machine, but I wanted a Mac laptop primarily to run OSX in the first place.  When my wife and I would go traveling and we would take a Windows laptop I felt like I had lost so much capability.  There are so many Mac programs I have grown to love that just don’t have a Windows counterpart or an inadequate one.  I am not a MS Windows hater, it is just that I actually enjoy using OSX and the Mac shareware community turns out some really amazing software.  I find this laptop to be speedier and more responsive than my iMac which also had a 2.44 GHZ core duo.  So I definately do not feel like I have lost power when using this machine.  Though I will probably add more memory later just so that I can run VMWare Fusion and Windows 7 or Ubuntu when I need to as a Virtual Machine.  The MacBook Pro can easily be a desktop replacement machine.

Since I started using this machine I have been using Spaces a lot more.  Spaces is a virtual window program that is part of OSX Leopard and really makes handling multiple windows a snap.  I don’t use Spaces on my main machine simply because 3 monitors provide quite enough screen real estate. But for a laptop Spaces is quite excellent.  I setup programs to always run in a certain space so I always know what Space a loaded program is in and makes switching between windows quite easily.

Now I come to the part of the review where I come out of Apple fanboy mode into a more critical mode.  When it comes to ports Apple seems to be always looking for the next best thing, unfortunately they do it before anybody else heads that way.  To hook up an external monitor you need to use the Mini DisplayPort.  Yes Apple could not even use the fairly small DisplayPort connector that is slowly being adopted, they had to make it smaller.  While Apple has said they will license this smaller port for free to other manufacturers it has quite a long ways to go before it will be supported by monitor manufacturers.  To add insult to injury Apple does not include a Mini DisplayPort to DVI adapter which you have to buy separately.  I guess they want to encourage you to buy a $799 24 ” Apple Cinema Display that supports Mini DisplayPort (along with pretty much acting as a dock ).   This annoys me even though I am unlikely to hook up an external monitor to the laptop anyway since I have the Mac Pro desktop.  The machine also has only 2 USB ports which is less than most Windows laptops you will find out there.  The fact that there is only 1 Firewire 800/400 port doesn’t bother me though and the number of USB ports is not a concern for me  either.  Right now I can only foresee using USB for a backup hard drive and a thumbdrive anyway.  Apple goes quite minimal on ports, but considering just how thin the MPB is it is amazing how much they do manage to get what they have in.

When I had previously gotten an iMac it came with an Apple remote which I came to use quite often.  So does the MPB come with one?  Why of course not.  After forking over the money for a MBP in the first place you have to buy a $19 Apple remote separately. Apple does this sort stuff all the time.  The iPod use to come with a dock and a little powerbrick to charge the iPod using a regular socket.  With each generation of iPod you got less and less external peripherals which of course are sold separately.  Come on Apple what does the Apple remote cost to make – 2 or 3 bucks?  Or how about a year of MobileMe with the purchase of a new Mac or at least at a discounted price? How about iWork with a Pro machine. Apple at times wants to nickel and dime you to death after you have already put out some serious cash for a Mac.  Though on the bright side OSX with iLife really provides a lot of capability and software that you would have to pay extra for in the Windows world.  Not only that you don’t get all the crapware that comes with almost all Windows machines.

So I am quite happy with the Mac Book Pro and find it the first laptop that I can really enjoy and most of all can use constantly without feeling the laptop compromise.

A couple of days after I bought this machine Apple announced at Macworld the new 17″ Macbook Pro.  At close to $900 dollars more than I paid for the MPB I bought, I am not feeling any buyers remorse.  Plus I think the 15 inch is just the right size for both portability  and still having sufficient screen real estate.  The 17″ does come with slightly faster CPUs and can handle 8 GB of ram.  The new technology battery is suppose to get 7 to 8 hours of battery life (whatever that is in the real world), though it is not user replaceable.  I must admit that the 17″ MBP is a pretty serious machine for those who need the size and it is pretty amazing that is is only 6.6 pounds which is only 1.1 pound more than the 15″ model.

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This is my current setup and a setup I will be using for the next couple of years at least.


Obviously a Catholic geek setup.  The monitors are mix and match.  A Samsung 19″, Samsung 24″ Widescreen, and an HP 22″ Widescreen.  The microphone is a Blue Snowball. Computer is a 2008 Mac Pro along with a 2008 15″ Macbook Pro.  Though the laptop is only in the picture since I was transferring data and it normally resides in the bedroom.  Wireless Logitech keyboard with Mac keys.  Logitech 5.1 sound system, though nothing fancy. Behind the monitors is a DirectTV DVR which I play through a EyeTV Hybid USB Tuner.  And yest I spend way too long in front of this setup.

Catholic stuff includes.  Sacred Heart Statue, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Statue. St. Thomas Aquinas Statue.  Divine Mercy picture.  Sacred heart Picture, and a picture of the Blessed Virgin Mary (associated with the Miraculous Medal I believe), plus of course a crucifix.

The Guitar is a red Ibanez SG knockoff, also nothing fancy – but I just dink around with it in the first place when in the mood.  Alas my dreams of heavy metal guitarist are beyond me.

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This weekend while at Costco I noticed that they had LED flood lights.  In the front of my house I have use for two flood lights that come on at nighttime.  I had read though that LED lighting for the time being is fairly expensive.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that these LED flood lights were $16.  While that is 2 to 3 times more than a normal 100 watt flood lights I thought it would be much more convenient considering that having to change these bulbs required dragging out the ladder and they never seem to last much more than six months to a year.

The fact that they only use 5 watts a power might mean that they might actually pay for themselves over time in energy saving and they are rated for 30,000 hours.  So for the time they would be on that is close to almost seven years of use.  Though these hour ratings in real life might be much different.  CFL bulbs are often rated for five to six years of use, but in experience I find that in reality it is much less.  While some of them might actually survive that long, I seem to replace them much more often than I should have to.  Though LED’s being solid state should be their very nature last much longer than  previous bulbs.

So I bought two fo them to try out to see if they would give enough light to illuminate the front of the house at nighttime. I was quite happy with how well they did illuminate the yard with a much whiter light than other bulbs.  Quite amazing that they only use five watts of electricity for the amount of light they give.  Now I am a global warming skeptic, but am more than willing to use devices that use electricty because I am not a skeptic when it comes to the electric bill.  I have enough electronics drawing current that I am like an energy efficient device.  If I get three years out of these bulbs I will be happy, if six years or more ecstatic.

Now just waiting for affordable indoor LED lighting.

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Around midnight Pacific time last night, 30GB Zunes began restarting and locking up at their boot screens. Reports have swamped official forums and fan sites, and Microsoft has yet to officially comment on the reason for this pre-New-Year’s Zune apocalypse.

I guess all part of the coming Zuneday apocalypse that all the Zunesayers have been predicting.  As someone who has owned multiple mp3 players all the way back to a Rio MP3 CD player before there were any solid state or hard drive mp3 devices up to a couple of iPods I find this kind of funny.  Instead of the Y2K bug it is YZK. Welcome to the social, oops never mind.  Good to see that the blue screen of death has a Zune equivalent.

Though there is the Simpson’s bully saying “Ha, Ha” over the misfortune of others that is not right.  iPod owners having a laugh at fellow mp3 owners having their devices go dead on the last day of the year is not exactly charitable.  But people do like their cliques and the Microsoft/Apple divide is just another way we like to divide ourselves.

Actually I would like to see the Zune become an even better player. It has certainly come a long way since it’s first release and the software has improved with more features (except this new “feature”).  In any market you really want to see at least two or more dominant players (pun accidental, but I like it).  When you have such competition it keeps prices down and usually gives us more choices and better products.  The iPod is so dominant and other mp3 players only have a minor market share in comparison.  Though the different iPods have certainly steadily improved and Apple seems to be a company not all that concerned with market forces when it comes to prices.

Plus having different players can continue the pressure that downloadable music be free of DRM. We have come along way in that regard with the Amazon MP3 store being totally DRM free and Rhapsody, Napster, and others having the same thing now.  The iTunes store is only partially DRM free, but that is because music publishers for some reason want to punish iTunes for being succesful and have not made the same deals with them as of yet that they have done with others.  Having device independent music formats is extremely important.  Somebody could be quite happy with iTunes with their iPod now, but who know in five or ten years what will be the best player?

Oh well, for you 30gb Zune owners may they patch this one quick.

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I have followed the Netbook craze with some interest and it is rather fascinating how fast this part of the marked developed with more and more companies putting out small notebooks with 12 inch and under screens with predominately Atom processors. While these machines are decidedly underpowered compared to most notebooks, there purpose is as the name suggest used for web browsing and other tasks that don’t require much power. Many of the Netbooks have some form of Linux installed on them (or Windows XP) so they do make good use of the processor power and fairly small memory they do have. Their main appeal is having a small and very light computer at your disposal.

They are though not a Techtemption for me since the idea of having such a small display and less than full sized keyboard is less than appealing to me. Though I can understand their appeal by others. I am more of a desktop person wanting full power and lots of display space, so my idea of a laptop is one with a full sized keyboard, lots of power and and 15 or 17 inch screen. This is pure prejudice since the things I would do on a laptop fit within the Netbook’s area of expertise.

The quest for ever lighter notebooks has reached a point that bothers me. Now as someone who use to carry around a Zenith Supersport 286 laptop that I am sure made one arm longer than the other, I can appreciate that carrying around a heavy machine is burdensome. But when we complain about carrying around a five or six pound notebook it just seems overboard to me. It sounds to me like telling your grandkids “I remember having to lug around a six pound computer” as if the weight is something so excessive. I can just imagine arms atrophying over time. Now the footprint of the computer can certainly be a concern depending on where you need to use it, but the whole weight thing just seems a trifle excessive to me.

Maybe the largest factor of why a Netbook is not tempting to me is that I use my iPod Touch pretty much like I would use a Netbook. I can check email, browse the web, use an RSS aggregator, monitor and update Facebook/Twitter/Plurk etc. The fact that the iPod Touch’s display and keyboard is even smaller than a Netbook only shows that I have an irrational prejudice against them.

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Since I had some gift cards burning a hole in my pocket for Best Buy I ended up browsing three Best Buy stores until I settled on something.

I ended up getting a Samsung BD-P1500 Blu-Ray player.  Since the Blu-Ray/HD-DVD format wars had ended I had been wanting one, but it was still rather pricey last time I checked.  Low end players cost about half as much as they did last year. They had an insignia one for $199 but it really looked like a piece of crap.

So we selected the Samsung one which was $50 dollars more knowing that we could always return it.  I was not stupid enough to buy a HDMI cable for it at Best Buy because that is for suckers.  A digital cable is a digital cable and will either work or not work. No reason to buy fancy Monster cables or other high priced brands.  It’s only a cable.  I would suggest for low priced HDMI cables.  Regardless you want an HDMI cable since component video cables that come with it will not display full resolution to the TV because of copy protection concerns (I so hate DRM which only punishes the consumer).

We bought one Blu-Ray movie Hellboy II to test it out with.  Movie manufactures are wondering why Blu-Ray isn’t catching on all that fast.  Well they might want to take a look at 25 to 29 dollar movie prices.  This is the old trick media companies always pull on us.  When they went from record to cassette they increased prices. When they went from cassette to CD they increased prices even though manufacturing prices went down. Now they are doing the same thing with Blu-Ray.  If you want a faster adoption rate make them the same price as regular DVDs.  Yeah the resolution is much better, but that just means that they were selling us movies before that were at a lower resolution.

So we decided to get a NetFlicks account since they have Blu-Ray movies and this will be a much cheaper way to watch Blu-Ray movies.  The next model up for the Samsung Blu-Ray player included the ability to stream movies from NetFlicks built in, but at a hundred dollars more for that model I am more likely to stream them to my computer instead.

Hellboy II was a good movie to test out Blu-Ray. Quite stunning visually and actually a pretty good movie and a step up from the first one.  The resolution is excellent and the picture is so much sharper and clearer and without the normal soft blur that we get use to.  Really is quite worthwhile over regular DVD.

Most Blu-Ray players have upconverters that will play regular DVDs at at higher resolution and I certainly wanted a player with this feature.  I was quite pleased with how it displayed a regular DVD and it is a significant improvement.  Though you can’t compare it to Blu-Ray since the software is making guesses to upconvert and so it is nowhere as crisp, but still a major improvement.

As a geek I love the fact that more and more consumer electronics allow a firmware upgrade.  This is especially important with Blu-Ray devices.  I was able to easily download the latest version of the firmware and install it via a USB thumbdrive by inserting it into the USB connector in the back.  There is also an ethernet port to do upgrades and enable some of the advanced Blu-Ray features.

So far I am quite pleased with the Blu-Ray player and having some gift cards was a good incentive to make the plunge.  Though one annoying thing is that while my TV has an HDMI port it only has one and it is being used by my satellite receiver.  Maybe one day I will buy an HDMI switcher, but I found it just as easy to unplug the HDMI cable from one unit and then plug it into the other along with the optical cable used for the sound system.  A bit of an annoyance, but for weekend movie watchers not that big of a deal.

So if you are a movie lover and have an HDTV it is a pretty good time to take the plunge with Blu-Ray.  Though of course players will get cheaper over time, but good players are no longer at only a premium price.

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Back in October was my one year anniversary as a Mac user from when I first bought an iMac as an experiment into the Apple world. For me as for many the iPod was the gateway drug into Apple and Intel Macs made it easy for me to make the transition.

I did love my iMac, but as a one piece computer it had it’s drawbacks.  At one point I had three USB harddrives hanging off of it for backup and for Windows programming I do for work.  It certainly worked fine, but the lack of upgradeability on the iMac is limiting.  Because I love screen real estate I wanted to add another monitor to give me a total of three and the solutions for doing this on the iMac are less than optional.

So in October I took the plunge and bought a Dual Quad Core 2008 Mac Pro.  This isn’t just a computer, like most Apple products it is a work of art.  I loved how easy it was to add 3 more internal hardrives to it and another video card all without needing any tools.  What amazes me is just how quiet this powerful machine is.  I wouldn’t even know it was on if it wasn’t for the power LED and of course the signal to the monitors.  It has power to spare and even when I have multiple virtual machines running it is hardly taxed at all.  I bought 8 gigs of third-part ram and was pleased to find that I could still use the 2 gigs it came with to give me a total of 10 gigs of ram.

It use to be if I was working in Visual Studio in a virtual machine I couldn’t really run another program that was cpu intensive.  I love to convert text to audio to create audiobooks using the built in voice Alex, but my iMac to reduce to a crawl when I did so.  The Mac Pro does it effortlessly even if I am running Visual Studio and watching a DVD or EyeTV at the same time.

Power to spare which is a good thing because I hope to make this a machine to last 3 or more years. Now I admit to being a hardware junky and I use to build a new Windows machine every year to year and a half to get the most power I could. Plus I love the fact that the Mac Pro is so upgradeable in that I could add a Blu-Ray burner later even if Steve Jobs calls Blu-Ray a bag of hurt.  If Apple had made a Tower similar to an iMac I would have been happy with that, but then again as a geek just saying Dual Quad Core makes me smile and the Mac Pro is built to last.  One thing I have been suprised about in the Apple world is the number of users that can use older machines and the fact the later OS releases will run just fine on them and in fact can even improve performance.  Something that never happened in the Windows world where each new OS ideally needed new hardware.

After three months of using the Mac Pro the honeymoon is over, but I still love the machine. Now I can hardly wait for Snow Leopard to come out which will make its number of cores more efficient and more powerful.


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Brought in the posts from my old Mac Switcher blog and making this a general tech blog with a Mac focus. Plus I wanted to play with WordPress since I normally use Movable Type. My switcher blog was on the free, but it was too limited and didn’t allow JavaScript.

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There are a number of text expanding utilities available in OSX such as TextExpander that let you define keywords that are automatically expanded after you type them so that repetitive phrases can be rapidly entered.  While TextExpander has lots of options it costs $29.95.

I really don’t like to pay that much for a utility and so was happy to come across a utility that does text expansion and is free.  Kissphrase is a preference pane and as the name implies it really does “Keep it simple stupid.” No fancy features you just enter your keywords and their matching phrases and when you enter the keyword it automatically expands after you also enter a space, tab, return, etc.

One caveat is that it does not seem to work if the very first thing you enter at the beginning of a line or text box is a keyword.  But as long as you have any characters (including a space) preceding the keyword the phrase expands just fine.

This is great for those often used phrases and for snippets of text such as URLs or HTML tags.

Update: I found Kissphrase too buggy.  I later went ahead and bought TextExpander when it was on sale along with 1Password.  I have found TextExpander to work perfectly and to be quite the timesaver.  Once I setup the shortcuts to use I found that I used them often.  Especially great for working with html code and TextExpander includes a bunch of default shortcurts for html code.  The annoying thing is that when I go to work with a Windows machine I so miss having TextExpander available.

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