Text expander for linux
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Texpander is a simple text expander for Linux. It is sort of like Autokey, except it works off of text files that you put in your ~/.texpander directory. Texpander is a bash script that uses xclip, xdotool, and zenity to let you type an abbreviation for something and it expands to whatever you have in the matching text file.


  1. Put texpander.sh somewhere on your system, perhaps your ~/bin directory.
  2. Create a keyboard shortcut that calls ~/bin/texpander.sh
  3. Create a ~/.texpander directory where you store text files for expanding abbreviations

Texpander relies on a couple command line tools:

  • xdotool
  • zenity
  • xsel

If those aren't already installed on your system you can probably grab them from your distros package manager without any trouble. For example for Ubuntu you can get what you need with the following commands.

sudo apt install xsel 
sudo apt install xdotool 
sudo apt install zenity


The text expansion files reside in your ~/.texpander directory and can be organized in subdirectories. Name the files in the format of abbreviation where the filename is the thing you want to type and the content of the file is what you want to have pasted into your document.

I have crtl+space assigned to run ~/bin/texpander.sh. So, if I'm typing an email, it doesn't matter if I'm in gmail (using Firefox, Chrome, Opera, or Vivaldi), Thunderbird, Vim, or Nylas, the workflow is the same. I have a couple different email signatures that I use. If I am writing to somebody about Cart66, the WordPress Shopping Cart plugin, I'll use my Cart66 signature. I have a file ~/.texpander/sig66.txt that has all my contact info and so forth for Cart66.

Texpander - text snippets for Ubuntu

Setting Up Custom Keyboard Shortcuts

This process may be slightly different for you depending on what desktop environment and Linux distribution you have. For Ubuntu running Unity, here is the process.

Open up the System Settings panel

System Settings Panel

Click the Keyboard icon to enter custom keyboard shortcuts

Custom Keyboard Shortcuts

Define a custom shortcut by clicking the + icon at the bottom of the Shortcuts panel

Custom Shortcut

Assign a keyboard shortcut to launch Texpander by clicking as shown here

Set keyboard shortcut

How To Use Texpander

After setting up the keyboard shortcut to launch Texpander, to use Texpander:

  • Start writing an email to somebody (or start editing any document)
  • Put your cursor where you want your email signature to be pasted
  • Type ctrl+space (or whatever keyboard shortcut you set up)
  • A zenity window will appear asking for your abbreviation
  • Type in sig66 and hit Enter (or click "OK")
  • The contents of ~/.texpander/sig66 is pasted into your document

If I'm not in a web browser I'm in the terminal working in Vim. I've got some texpander files that I use in Vim. The terminal works a little differently from other GUI apps in that you have to type ctrl+shift+v to paste stuff. In texpander.sh there is a check to see if the active window is a terminal. If so, it will paste using ctrl+shift+v if not then it will paste normally as ctrl+v


  1. Fork Texpander
  2. Create your feature branch: git checkout -b my-new-feature
  3. Commit your changes: git commit -am 'Add some feature'
  4. Push to the branch: git push origin my-new-feature
  5. Submit a pull request :D


Version 2.0 - November 24, 2017

  • Change: Replace xclip with xsel because xclip tends to strip newlines when pasting into certain application like Gmail on Firefox.
  • Change: Use shift+Insert to be compatible with more programs for pasting rather than trying to figure out if the current app should use ctrl+v or ctrl+shift+v.
  • New: Add an optional type mode so if pasting doesn't work, the xdotool can type (rather than paste) text into the active window.

Version 1.1.1 - November 22, 2016

  • Update: Look for "terminal" pattern anywhere in proc name to match names like "gnome-terminal" for pasting text into terminals.
  • Update: Update README with instructions for the new selection list functionality

Version 1.1 - November 7, 2016

  • New: Using zenity list to show abbreviations. You can still just type the abbreviations and then hit Enter, or select your choice with the mouse and click OK.
  • New: The value in the clipboard is preserved so it is not overwritten when expanding an abbreviation
  • New: Add pasting support for the terminator terminal emulator pasting
  • Update: Use the focus window rather than the active window as the target for pasting

Version 1.0.1 - June 23, 2016

  • New: If the active window is a terminal paste with ctrl+shift+v

Version 1.0 - May 17, 2016

  • Initial release


Written by Lee Blue


General Public License v3.0