Lifehacker text expansion Linux

The Best Text Expansion App for Linux  March 7, 2016 – 05:03 am

The Best Text Expansion App for LinuxLinux doesn't have very many choices in the realm of text expansion, making the go-to app for the platform—AutoKey—our choice for the best.

Platform: Linux
Price: Free


  • Type a short snippet that can expand to text of virtually any length
  • Create collections of phrases in folders, and assign a hotkey or snippet to display a popup menu for that folder
  • Create more advanced scripts with the built-in Python scripting engine, letting you accomplish nearly any task that you could perform with the keyboard
  • Filter windows by title or class to exclude snippets from expanding in certain programs
  • Access scripts, phrases and folders from the notification icon menu

Where It Excels

AutoKey is more than just a simple text expansion app. In fact, it straddles the line between text expansion and full-on keyboard macros like AutoHotkey for Windows (though not quite as powerful). Because it has a built-in Python engine, you can do a lot with your snippets—as long as you can handle a little coding.

Where It Falls Short

AutoKey's biggest strength is also its biggest weakness. Because it uses a Python scripting engine for its more advanced tasks, that means you'll need some coding chops to do anything beyond very simple text expansion. If you want to insert clipboard contents, for example, you need to write a pretty advanced script—where other text expansion programs for Windows and Mac would provide a simple pre-written macro. This really makes AutoKey less inviting to newbies, though sadly there aren't many alternatives.

The Competition

The only real alternative we could find to AutoKey was previously mentioned Snippits. Snippits is a bit more difficult to install than AutoKey, and it doesn't even have a GUI—though some of its more advanced scripts are a bit easier to put together (though not by much, and it can't do nearly as much as AutoKey). If you try AutoKey and it drives you up the wall, you can try Snippits, but it's unlikely to provide you anything that AutoKey doesn't. It's just another alternative.


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