Way to use text 'placeholders' (such as "***") that can be 'tabbed' through?

Overlong preamble: I am a Canadian developmental paediatrician and use electronic medical records (EMR). One element of EMR that I liked was the ability to create templates that can import data (e.g., height, weight, vitals, labs, history, diagnoses) from the chart, saving the trouble of collecting it or writing it from scratch. That was before discovered automation…and many, many hours of Sparky screencasts and strange coding rabbit holes later, I am hopelessly hooked. I have been using TextExpander extensively, and I have used it to re-create (and improve upon) many of the templates from my EMR. I now see that it is much better to create and use my own templates outside of the EMR and just copy the final report or letter in when ready. Moreover, I will eventually return home to practice in northern Canada, where multi-million dollar EMR is not available.

Issue: What I am looking to do is create ‘wildcards’ that can be tabbed through in any document. In the EMR I use (Epic), these are called ‘SmartPhrases’ and can take the form of “***” (might not be good with Markdown). Those serve as single-field fillable text that become highlighted when pressing F2 (by default; they can be any shortcut you choose). This is handy for moving through a chart template during the chart review and encounter components of a given assessment (especially in my case, as neurodevelopmental consults are quite detailed). I recognize that TextExpander has many great tools (i.e., fill-in fields, pop-up) that are similar to what is available in EMR, but they are not ‘static’ and need to be ‘expanded’ at the point of using them.

Question: Is there a way to use a ‘wildcard’ like “***” or “zzz” as text placeholders that can be ‘tabbed’ through?

Sorry that I am not able to articulate this more clearly. I have not been able to find the answer myself, so any advice you have would be most appreciated!



Well, I’m a little hesitant to answer because I don’t really understand the scenario that you’re describing, so I’m not sure how to suggest that you proceed.

I’m thinking that you may want something more like Keyboard Maestro than TextExpander, because KM can just do so much more and has much greater flexibility.

In fact, you can create a KM macro so that it has a whole bunch of fields and then fills them all in, but I think I really need to ask more about the workflow.

When you’re talking about placeholders and tabbing through, are you pressing F2 (or whatever) to move between each “field” and you need to enter some information into each field, or are you trying to create something where you fill in one set of fields and then it goes into the program and adds the info for you?

Maybe if you could walk through an example of what it would be like from start to finish using fake data?